Music management contracts are possibly the most important documents you'll need in your career.

Music Management: Contracts

Whether you’re an aspiring performer or a beginning music management professional, music management contracts are possibly the most important documents you’ll need in your career. They set the ground rules for your working relationship together, and there’s a reason why so many industry veterans compare entering into a music management agreement with getting married.

Music management contracts should stipulate:

  • How much commission the manager will receive.
  • When the manager will be paid.
  • What products or services are commissionable.
  • What trusted third party will monitor the band’s finances.
  • How much money a manager can spend on a client’s behalf before requiring approval.

Your Prenuptial Agreement

Your music management contract also acts a little bit like a prenuptial agreement. It establishes exactly what each party intends to bring to the table. On paper, it may look a little bit egotistical to state the number of albums a band has sold and the number of fans on a mailing list. However, music management contracts that include these details protect both sides from disagreements later on.

It may sound a little cynical to prepare music management contracts with the breakup of a band and a manager in mind. However, most music management relationships eventually end, and the best music management contracts operate with that end in mind – no matter how optimistic you might be about your own success.

Understanding the Sunset Clause

Music management contracts should include an item known within the business as a “sunset clause.” Especially when working with beginning managers, this clause recognizes that opportunities may arise for an artist to start working with a more experienced music manager, or that a band might decide to move in separate directions.

The sunset clause specifies how much commission should be paid to a manager after the dissolution of the music management contract, in recognition of the work that the manager performed to help their client move to the next level. Typically, the sunset clause provides for a “step-down” of commissions over the eighteen or twenty-four months after a band splits with its manager. For instance, the manager might receive:

  • 15% in the first six months after the split
  • 10% in the following six months
  • 5% in the following six months
  • 0% after eighteen months

Sunset clauses in music management contracts protect music managers from clients that may jump from agency to agency. At the same time, they let managers grow their agencies organically, allowing flourishing clients to step up to veteran managers when the time is right.

Visit Your Attorney

As with all legal matters, you should consult with an experienced entertainment attorney before entering into any music management contracts. While you can find some boilerplate music management contracts on the web and in bookstores, no “fill in the blanks” document will really meet your needs. Your music management contracts should always be written to cover the specifics of your situation.

If you want to start working together as band and client before spending the few hundred dollars on an attorney visit, you can sign a “deal memo” that outlines the basics of your future music management contract, but doesn’t commit you to a long term relationship until you sign the official document.

Learn more about music management contracts in the free sample chapters of my book, Music Management for the Rest of Us.

Joe Taylor Jr.

Editor, Spinme.com

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