Tips for bands: What to consider when hiring a manager

By Juston R. Givens, Director

We’ve all heard stories about the wild lifestyle of a modern musician – days on the road, nights of debauchery, money, fun and more money. But more often than not, we also hear stories of the flip side of stardom, when young bands get stifled because of poor business decisions and bad professional relationships.

small ampFor a band in its early stages, deciding on who to trust and how to make wise choices on the “business” side of show business is critical. Enter the band’s manager: the person who oversees the operations side of the effort. The manager helps assemble a team which can include the road manager, merchandise manager, publicist – and even the band’s attorney.

But how does a band know the difference between a manager who could take them places vs. one who could stall their career before it even begins?

Band managers have incredible influence on the success, direction and partnerships of the band’s business, so finding, retaining and empowering a manager is critical. Here are some issues for a band to consider when hiring a manager:

  • Who’s in charge?
    Remember, your manager works for the band, not the other way around. Even though they may have more industry experience and better contacts, ultimately decisions need to be made with the band’s best interest in mind.
  • Legal advice
    Your manager may be great at managing the operations and logistics of the band, but that doesn’t not make him an attorney. Get good legal advice about any contract your band signs to ensure there is an absolute understanding of the agreement.
  • The Yoko Rule
    When deciding on a manager, beware of bringing in relatives to fill that role (or any other important decision-making function in the band). It’s a common mistake, especially among younger artists. Pitfalls can include a lack of experience in the industry, unrealistic expectations for what the band can and can’t do, and conflicts with members of the band who aren’t related to them. Also, if a relative is your manager and doing a poor job, it’s harder to fire them. So don’t hire them in the first place.

Management agreement red flags

When signing a management agreement, a band ought to keep in mind the ramifications, short- and long-term, that document will have. It’s this moment, more than any other, when a fledgling artist can sacrifice future success because of early, naive decisions.

  1. First and foremost, don’t give away the future just because you can’t imagine it (whether it has great or middling success) or that it just seems too far away. Don’t begin by handing over rights to a manager without an exchange that also has long-term benefits, such as a substantial investment or significant opportunity.
  2. Also when looking at an agreement – and this is where good legal counsel is valuable – make sure you and your band know exactly what the agreement contains and what it means. The more details the better, especially in terms of the manager’s and the band’s expectations and who has decision-making authority over specific areas. You also want to avoid open-ended contracts. Just with typical employment, your manager should have a set period to accomplish certain goals and then be evaluated on their performance.
  3. Finally, to ensure the artistic integrity of everyone in the band, make sure that when you sign a management deal, signing as a band doesn’t prevent individuals from pursuing other projects as a solo artist or upon leaving the group.

Not every band’s story has to be an E! True Hollywood story. With the right forethought in who helps the band in its journey, a band can have a long and healthy career and – possibly – a very happy ending.