There are several representatives who can help and guide you through your music career.
A list of the music agents with the most impact on the musician's career might include
Although there is overlap in the functions of these representatives, each one plays a
distinct role in the musician's career. Let's briefly discuss the role of each one.
We'll conclude with some thoughts on negotiating contracts
with these music agents.
A personal manager aids you in molding your music and entertainment career. Typically, the
personal manager works with performing singers and instrumentalists, or those songwriters
who also perform. Musicians who are songwriters only may get a lot of management assistance
from music publishers.
The personal manager's duties are varied and often undefined. At the beginning of your
career, he devotes the most attention to helping you secure a recording contract or
songwriter agreement. He helps you put together a recording package by assisting you in
selecting songs, musicians, vocalists, and a producer that will best showcase your talents
on a demonstration tape. Later in your career, the personal manager plays a similar role
in helping you put together recording packages for albums.
Once a recording contract has been negotiated and executed, the personal manager acts
as your liaison to the entertainment industry. He interfaces with the departments of your
record company such as artist relations, promotion and marketing. He also coordinates
communications among your attorney, record company, talent agent, and other business
professionals. In the ideal personal manager-musician relationship, you and your personal
manager establish the goals and guidelines for your career development. Then, your manager
handles the day-to-day business of managing your career. He is the central coordinator for
the release and marketing of your albums, your tour schedules, and your publicity campaigns.
That way, you have more time to devote to the creative aspects of your career.
Since it is the personal manager's role to guide you through your career, he should have
contacts in the music industry as well as in-depth, behind the scenes knowledge of the
music industry. He should be familiar with standard industry practices and with the
reputations of professionals in the industry. He plays a key role in your securing a recording contract
and songwriting deal and then acts as your liaison to the record or publishing company once
your deals are secured. So he should know in what genres of music the labels and
publishing houses specialize, and understand how those companies are organized.
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If you are a musician who performs live, a talent agent, also known as a booking agent,
arranges live performances for you. The talent agent may also obtain and negotiate
contracts of employment in other areas of entertainment on your behalf.
Since talent agencies are in essence employment agencies, the relationships between
talent agents and musicians are often more heavily regulated than the relationships between
personal managers and musicians. The guidelines for talent agents are set by state labor
laws and by unions. For example, California requires talent agencies to submit a detailed
license application and to file a ten thousand dollar bond. Many talent agents are members
of or are franchised by one of the music unions - the American Federation of Musicians or the
American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. Franchised unions must follow
union-established rules relating to fees and to the length of talent agreements.
When choosing a talent agent consider whether the agent has successfully represented
artists playing your genre of music, and whether the agent likes your music.
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If you are presented with a music contract that lasts longer than a short
period of time, requires you to pay over a percentage of your income or puts you in an
exclusive relationship, you should have an attorney experienced in music law review the
contract before you sign it. That means consulting with an attorney before signing an
extended contract with a talent agent, a personal manager, a record label or a music
No contract is set in stone. Even if you are a new songwriter or performing artist,
the music contracts set in front of you are generally not take it or leave it offers. Even
the musician with very little bargaining power can get the other side to make at least some
concessions in his favor if he knows what to ask for. This is where an attorney familiar
with the common music industry contract terms can help you.
Many lawyers will have an initial meeting with you free of charge. At that meeting
you can discuss your specific legal needs, the attorney's experience in the music
industry, whether the attorney has any conflicts that might prevent her from representing you
on a particular deal, and her fee arrangements.
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The business manager handles the musician's finances so you won't need one until you
have experienced some degree of financial success. She helps you with investment decisions,
tax matters, monitoring income from contracts, estate planning and other financial matters.
Until you require the expertise of a business manager, an attorney or accountant can satisfy
most of your financial management needs.
Your business manager should at a minimum have expertise in accounting and general business
practices. She should also have specific knowledge and experience in the music business
since many music business principles differ from general business principles. If your
business manager will be giving you investment advice, your state may require that she be
licensed as an investment adviser.
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When negotiating contracts with your representatives, there are a number of factors to
be considered. A crucial negotiating point is how you will get out of the agreement
if the relationship with your representative doesn't turn out well. This may seem cynical.
However, the musician's right to terminate a management agreement and the music manager's
right to payment after termination have been central issues in some of the most
drawn-out legal battles involving musicians.
For that reason, you should address these issues at the beginning of the representation
relationship. Negotiating termination rights is most critical in agreements with personal
managers and talent agents. Typically, your agreement with an attorney or business manager
can be terminated at will with minimal complications.
Take a look at the contract negotiation guide for
a personal management agreement to
get an idea of other important issues to be addressed in agreements with your
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Guide Through the Legal Jungle Periodic Newsletter.
Joy R. Butler is an entertainment, intellectual property
and business attorney. (View Joy Butler's full bio.).
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