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News October 27, 2015

TMN Ask A Lawyer: Risk Management

TMN Ask A Lawyer is a semi-regular column where our readers receive expert legal advice from renowned entertainment lawyer Brett Oaten.

In this first instalment, Oaten takes you through the dos and don’ts of artist management.

Q: What are the biggest things an artist needs to consider before signing a band management contract and what are the key things to look for/assess in the contract?

A: As an artist contemplates signing a management agreement, the artist should be looking to achieve two things:

1. The right manager; and
2. The right deal.

In this case, one out of two IS bad.

If you, the artist, have the right manager but a bad deal, it is ultimately likely that resentment will compromise the relationship.

If you have the right deal but the wrong manager, you are highly unlikely to have the career you want to have. In that scenario, the fact you have an advantageous business arrangement will be largely meaningless, like getting a cheap deal on a car that won’t start.

So who is the right manager?

The right manager is someone who understands the artist, who loves the artist’s music (usually – respects the music and believes in it may do, if love isn’t there), who shares the artist’s goals and values and who has the artist’s best interests at heart. The right manager knows that he or she works for the artist, and not the other way around. The right manager has the skills to build the artist’s career and the ability to know what he or she doesn’t know, to admit that and learn. No manager knows everything on day one, but the good, inexperienced managers have the ability to ask questions, learn and grow with their artists. The right manager will be organised and hard working, and not looking to profit where their artist does not.

So, that person should be pretty easy to find, right?

Then there’s the right deal: management deals are too complex to evaluate in detail here, but the keys terms to understand and be comfortable with are:

  • The term (ie how long it goes for)
  • The territory (ie are they your manager for Australia only, or the whole world?)
  • The scope (are you being managed just as a member of your band, or for everything you do?)
  • How much commission the manager is being paid
  • How the commission is being calculated (which is almost always more important than the amount of the commission)
  • What commission you pay AFTER the manager stops being your manager
  • What the manager has to get permission from you to do, before he or she does it
  • How much of your money (if any) the manager can spend without talking to you
  • Under what circumstances you (or the manager) can end the relationship

Your manager will probably be the closest and most important professional relationship of your career so this is all vital.

Oaten established his legal practice during the grunge era, and specialises in music and other entertainment matters. In the music industry Oaten principally represents artists and some current clients include 360, Angus & Julia Stone, Empire Of The Sun, Lorde, and Troye Sivan. Oaten is also a founding board member and life member of FBi Radio.

Submit your questions to [email protected] or tweet them at us: @themusicnetwork

To read more about Brett Oaten and to get in contact, visit his firm’s official website Oaten tweets at: @brettoaten


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