“Always go with the person or label you think you can trust the most. Communication is everything and if you don’t have it with your A&R rep then you’ll have a hard time with the label. I think many bands make the mistake of signing with the label that gives them the most dollars. In the long term, unless they also share the belief in your talent and ability, you are going to have a disappointing career.”
Catherine Haridy, A&R Manager, FMR Records
When bands first form there is often someone around who suggests that they could be the group’s manager. This person is probably a friend of a member of the band or a friend of a friend or someone who comes up to you after a gig to offer their services. In most cases these people are no more capable of doing the job of a manager than any member of the band.
A manager is a person who takes away from your act the responsibility of arranging gigs, negotiating fees, signing contracts, approaching record/publishing companies, organising stage equipment/crews, and all the little problems acts are faced with so that you can spend your time more creatively.
For their trouble a manager receives a fee of 10 to 20 per cent of the artist’s gross earnings. That means if you earn $400 for a gig and the manager receives 15 per cent, they take home $60. Then you pay your costs (PA, lighting etc) and split the remainder between band members, which could amount to nothing. Sometimes management commission is reduced for bands that are only earning a small amount of money, or calculated on the amount remaining after deducting the bands expenses from the gross income. It depends what arrangement you have with your manager.
A band member should really be appointed manager unless there is a very good reason why no band member can take on the responsibility of organising group affairs. However, it is also a responsibility that can be shared by all members of the band. For example, you could share responsibility for each of the following areas: artwork, posters, handbills, coordination with booking agents, accounts, equipment, PA, insurance and so on. If more than one member of the band is handling management duties, always be conscious that close communication is vital so that mistakes aren’t made. It’s no good if two band members call the same booking agent twice quoting a different price for the band per performance. Until you are in a position of earning good money from live performances or ready to negotiate a major recording or publishing deal, there is really no need to give away a large part of the money you earn It’s probably better to be self-managed because you’ll learn a lot about the industry and know exactly what your money is doing. This is good stuff to know when you do get a manager.
Seeking legal advice on all contracts
When you do decide it’s time to employ a manager, speak to a few first and make sure the entire band is happy that the person you choose will do their best for your act. Make sure you sign a contract with your manager but don’t sign a contract which ties you to them for five or ten years. Whilst for an established band a management term of three years is generally acceptable, it is recommended that new bands initially seek a trial management contract period of six to twelve months that includes mutually-agreed, realistic outcomes for your manager such as securing a certain number of gigs, publicity opportunities, or providing competent financial management.
Whether your act manages itself or you have a manager, you must ensure that a very accurate account is kept of all earnings and expenditure for the group, with dates, receipts and as much detail as possible. Books with details of expenditure and any incoming money should be presented at band meetings. Such details give you the option of tax concessions if you’re eligible for any. You should call the tax office or an accountant to find this out.
Agents are people or organisations that find you work such as gigs or tours. An agent will take 10 per cent of your performance fee for any gigs they book for you. That is 10 per cent of the gross fee, before you pay for costs. Some venues are linked closely to agents and you may find that when you go around looking for work that a venue will say they only book bands through such and such an agency. Don’t worry, there are other venues.
If you wish to join an agency, you should contact their booking manager and invite them to see you perform. You can also make an appointment to see them and play your demo. An agent will only take you on if they think they can find work for you. If you sign a deal with a booking agency, once again do not sign for long periods of time, and do not pay more than 10 per cent. An agent can also find you support gigs with bigger acts they look after and help arrange tours interstate and overseas. Bear in mind when touring interstate you’ll pay an interstate agent 10 per cent and your local agent 5 per cent. It’s likely that you’ll have to find someone good rather than them knocking at your door. Above all, don’t sign anything until you’ve made sure it’s a fair deal and seek legal advice on all contracts.
MANAGERS & AGENTS – A Summary
- Splitting managerial duties between band members
- Doing research before hiring a manager or agent
- Inviting an agency’s booking agent to watch you play
- Keeping accurate financial records