How Music Managers Negotiate Contracts

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Negotiations are tricky in any industry. For music managers, there are a few key things to keep in mind when negotiating a contract with a new artist. How much a manager makes is directly related to how well their artists do. We can see from the success of Calvin Harris and his manager Mark Gillespie that a good relationship and shared vision between artist and manager can have incredibly far-reaching results.

Whatever the agreement is, it needs to work for both artist and manager. It’s important to both protect yourself and conceive an agreement that fairly represents both of your interests. Let’s take a look at a few key points to consider when negotiating contracts as a manager.

Define Your Term

The term of an agreement generally refers to the length of time the agreement will exist for. Agreements can be as short as a few months to as long as several years. A manager will want to negotiate for a term as long as possible.

Up and coming artists are going to be searching for shorter term contracts. This makes sense, if their careers are just starting they may not be making very much money. Managers will benefit from long term contracts as this ensures a commission for a longer amount of time.

After all, managers will be putting in an enormous amount of time and effort to push their career forward. The two parties will need to compromise on a length of time that feels worthwhile on both sides.


Managers make money on commission. This means that they take a percentage of their artists earnings after expenses. So, if an artist makes $10,000 to play a gig booked by the manager and it costs $4,000 to pay the musicians and crew, the manager would make a commission on the remaining amount.

When artists are starting out, it’s common practice for managers to take a higher percentage. Usually, this is around fifteen to twenty percent. This is because initially, an artist is not going to be making very much money. Once the artist gets off the ground, the manager’s percentage will usually drop to around 10% when the deal is re-negotiated.


Like the term of agreement, the idea of exclusivity is a security practice for managers. It means that the artist cannot seek out other management and only you can manage their careers. The problem that arises here is whether the manager can effectively support all aspects of the artist’s career.

Many artists today are multi-talented and may require someone who has skill talking with film and production executives as well as venues, artists and labels. A manager who can operate on all these levels will retain clients and artists at a much higher rate.

Hire Lawyers

At the end of the day, make sure you have solid legal representation to deal with all the boring but necessary details of the contract. Not only does this cross t’s but it will legitimize your negotiations and ensure that your interests are represented in the agreement.

Contract negotiations are tricky and take practice. Knowing your interests and industry standards ahead of time will help an aspiring manager feel prepared and confident.

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