A masterclass on music contracts
Attorney Steve Gordon is running a fantastic series on Digital Music News about music contracts — 11 different kinds of music contracts, to be exact.
Each article in the series dives into one of those types of contract (record deals, synch licensing, band agreements, management deals, etc.), and starts with the premise that there is no such thing as a “standard” agreement, but that negotiations tend to begin with a form set of terms.
Often, there are two versions of a form agreement: one that represents the best interests of creators, including artists, songwriters, and producers, and one that represents the best interests of the companies that do business with them, such as record labels, publishers, and managers.
It’s important to understand whose interests are being protected in every aspect of your contract because, in Gordon’s words, “these parties typically have adverse interests.”
The management contract
In one of these posts, Steve Gordon breaks down two versions of a management contract (you can actually scroll through the contract and view his point-by-point commentary): the pro-MANAGER management contract and the pro-ARTIST management contract.
In “the old days” (the 20th Century), a manager’s primary goal was to get a band signed to a label (hopefully with a big advance), and to then act as a liaison between the label and the artist (advocating for the interests of the band).
Now that labels are way more risk averse and don’t want to sign acts until they’ve proven they can build a fanbase and earn money, the role of the music manager has changed dramatically.
Manager are now taking on many of the responsibilities of a label (securing distribution, working more closely with publicists, promoters, and booking agents, etc.). In some cases, more responsibilities means more items to negotiate in a contract. And, of course, all the old questions still need to be worked out too: who gets to make the decisions, who gets paid what, how do you hold one another accountable, and how long is the term of your agreement?
These are just some of the considerations to make when negotiating a management contract.
To see the nitty gritty details of a contract in action, check out “The Management Contract That Every Artist, Songwriter, and Producer Should Have.”
Have you negotiated a management contract (from either end of the table)? How did it turn out? What items were you flexible on? Where were you unwilling to bend? Let us know in the comments below.