A very important person on your successful team is your manager. Finding a good, responsible and reputable manager is not an easy task. If you don’t already have a manager, you may not need one. Experience proves, however, that you can only go so far without one. But how do you obtain a manager if you don’t already have one?
That’s a tricky one. While I have a huge list in my book, “The Indie Guide To Music, Marketing and Money” ISBN 978-0-9746229-4-1, you also need to get references. Once you obtain a list of managers you want to talk to, that are also interested in having a meeting with you, and here is a partial list of questions you should ask a manager to find out if they will be a good fit for your musical career.
o What style of music do you represent?
o How big do you think for your clients?
o Do you consider and pursue corporate sponsorships, etc.?
o What territory do you cover?
o How are you paid – what is your percentage rate?
Before you can even question a manager, you’ll probably have to send them a press kit in order to get your first appointment. As always, be sure to contact them prior to sending out packets. Most unsolicited press kits either end up coming back unopened or are simply thrown away.
If you find that you decide you want specific recommendations for management, contact major record labels and ask the staff who they use. That will help you determine who you should contact for management. At least then you will be dealing with a manager who already has a working relationship with a major label and who can hopefully get you a contract. Most managers, however, who are associated with major-labels, will not accept submissions from anyone other than the record labels themselves or high profile industry contacts.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t or can’t contact the managers the major labels recommended and pitch your music anyway. Someone may say yes! (See Chapter 17 in “The Indie Guide To Music, Marketing and Money” ISBN 978-0-9746229-4-1, for an extensive list of managers that are on the lookout for acts as well as additional questions and policy and procedures. In the book, you will find names, addresses, phone numbers, fax numbers and available email addresses for managers that were recommended to us when researching this book by record labels, and by other industry professionals. Most of the managers in our book accept submissions from artists, but as with any manager, contact them first.)
Most managers will take a percentage rate of any venues or money they are involved in bringing in for you and your band. When selecting a manager make sure your contract is very explicit on this point. You should never pay your manager for income you receive that you developed on your own. Make sure you are not locked into a contract that will compensate them for money or gigs they had nothing to do with negotiating for you.
Steer clear of anyone who asks for money up front or states that they want a percentage of any and all money you earn. I have spoken with some of the largest mangers and management firms in the industry who stated this clearly is not reputable or ethical behavior for a manager. There are no legitimate managers who ask for any money up front, or a monthly retainer/salary. If they do, chances are they are trying to start up their own business and don’t have the level of experience you need to succeed.
Asking for money up front is also a way of stating they do not believe in you enough to take a risk. Why would you want to work with anyone who does not believe in you? And, why should they work for you if they are already getting paid, whether or not they get work for you? The main point is managers only make their money if they make you money. That should be motivation enough for a manager.
Once your package is submitted to a manager, give them a few weeks to review it before following up. When you do your own personal follow-up, make sure you ask them what they thought of your press kit. Ask them if they’ve listened to your CD. Your follow-up can also provide an excellent opportunity for constructive criticism on how you can make the improvements your press kit or CD.
If both parties (you and they) decide you would like to work with each other, you’ll need to sign a contract. It is essential that you get a lawyer involved at this point. You should never sign any contract until you let an entertainment attorney who has the expertise you need advise you.
The same rules apply to booking agencies, as do managers. Never sign a contract until you have had your lawyer look it over and examine it for any hidden clauses. Once I was given a contract that actually stated the booking agent would receive 5% on any and all money I earned, in addition to the 15% that the booking agent would receive for any venues they procured for me. That meant 5% of anything I earned, even if it had nothing to do with music would go to them. Protect yourself. Read your contract even before you hand it off to your attorney for review.
Finally, never sign an exclusive contract. If you sign an exclusive contract, you will not be able to accept any gigs from outside firms. It also means you will not be allowed to follow through on any gigs that you negotiated yourself or already had in place as standing gigs. If you sign an exclusive booking contract you could also wind up with a booking agent who may not even negotiate any work for you and your band. Then you’re stuck.
There are only a few major booking agencies that will require you to sign an exclusive contract. One is the William Morris Agency. Their names will speaks for themselves. You can rest assured that if you sign with on of these agencies your chances are very high for getting work. If an unknown booking agency requires you to sign an exclusive contract, just say NO!