321 Artists Meets Alex Cole
As a an aspiring musician or industry professional, it’s easy to focus on the exciting parts of the jobs and it’s not until you get deeper into the role that you realise there’s a lot of admin involved that sometimes can seem very complex and overwhelming. But this admin is really important to get right and can get you out of some sticky situations.
Whether it’s an artist management contract, a contract for a gig or sync placement agreement, these are really important to have, and it’s even more important that these are read over properly before signed.
As a Music and Entertainment Lawyer, this week’s guest Alex Cole has huge experience in reading over contracts for musicians, including emerging artists.
Alex: In a sense, the advice is the same as with any artist/management relationship. These can unfortunately go sour and friends/bandmates are certainly not exempt. It’s always best to make sure everyone is in agreement from day 1 about the basis on which they are working together. That said, any artist should be aware that a written management agreement largely benefits the manager, not the artist, so I would always caution them against rushing into signing one. If a manager insists on a written agreement at the outset, the artist should ask for the right to walk away if things aren’t working out after e.g. 6 months.
We should also mention that a lot of artist managers who begin managing emerging artists often have no prior experience in artist manager, so it can be overwhelming for them to be expected to write up a management contract, and ensure it includes everything necessary.
Alex: I would advise them not to! Management agreements are frequently litigated and quite technical so, at the risk of sounding self-serving, it’s always best to have an experienced lawyer draft the contract – especially if the manager hasn’t been through the process before. They should also insist on the artist having their own independent legal representation. If legal advice really isn't an option, the parties are probably better off clearly setting out the key terms in email correspondence rather than trying to express them in legalese. Key points to think about are: activities covered; term of manager's engagement; rate of commission; and post-term commission / sunset.
For an emerging artist, finding a management can be nerve wracking, as it can be difficult to pass over that control and invite someone else into the project. It can also be difficult to trust a manager to have the same passion and enthusiasm towards the project.
Alex: An artist shouldn’t wait around for a manager. If they can build up some steam on their own, they will attract interest from managers and by that stage will hopefully be better placed to assess a prospective manager’s credentials. When it comes to actually deciding who to go with, experience and connections are important but remember that managers come in all different shapes and sizes – the most important thing is trust and mutual understanding. Lastly, as I mention above, an artist shouldn't rush into signing a written management agreement.