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Ask a Music Lawyer: How to Actually Hire a Lawyer

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Categories: Articles, Music, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

By:  Erin M. Jacobson, Esq.

This article was originally published on Sonicbids.com.

I’ve previously discussed what to consider when hiring an attorney and how to find the right attorney for you. Some questions have been asked about what the hiring process actually looks like once you have found the attorney with whom you want to work. Overall it’s fairly simple, however, the process can be filled with uncertainty if you’ve never hired an attorney before. Procedures vary slightly between attorneys, but here’s an idea based on the general landscape and my own personal experience.

1. Speak with lawyer about fees, how those fees are paid, and make sure you are able to pay those fees

As I discussed in a prior article, attorney fees typically range from $250 to $1,000 per hour. When you pay an attorney hourly, you’re paying for that attorney’s time and skill provided during the time spent on your matter, which usually includes phone calls, correspondence, and advising you, in addition to drafting or reviewing an actual document. The attorney will usually use a timer or other program to keep track of the exact time spent on your matter.

Some attorneys will charge certain tasks on a flat fee or charge on an overall percentage basis. While hours are not tracked under these models, the principles of paying for the attorney’s skills are the same. Percentage clients are usually those making sizable incomes and receiving large advances, as otherwise the attorney would be putting in a lot of time in exchange for pennies.

Hourly and flat-fee models will often require an upfront retainer, which is an advance payment of fees by the client. The attorney will then consider the funds “earned” after completing the work covered within that month’s billing cycle.

If there are still funds left in the retainer, those can be carried over to future work or refunded to the client. Some attorneys do still allow for payment after the work has been done, but that has become rare. Attorneys working on a percentage are usually paid by the client’s business manager.

2. Sign the engagement letter and complete any attorney paperwork

When you’ve communicated to the attorney that you would like to hire him or her, the attorney will most likely require you to sign an engagement letter or fee agreement.

This letter is an agreement between the client and the attorney and is there for the client’s protection. The letter usually explains what services the client is hiring the attorney to perform, the agreed-upon fee, an explanation of billing practices and other charges, as well as office policies. You have the right to have this letter reviewed by another attorney.

Other attorneys require some other forms as well, such as information forms to keep a client’s contact and other relevant information on file for convenience. The attorney will let you know what forms are required and how you should submit them.

3. Send contracts/agreements

Once you’ve officially hired the attorney, you can then send whatever contracts or other information you need the attorney to review. The attorney can also start making phone calls or otherwise acting on your behalf.

The exact actions will vary based on your matter, but the gist is that the attorney cannot do any work for you or act as your representative until officially hired by you.

4. Introduce the attorney to other team members

If you have a manager, agent, or other team members you work with and they haven’t already been introduced to your attorney or know that you have hired a particular attorney, they should be notified and introduced to your attorney. Ideally, this would have already occurred so you could have made sure everyone on the team would work well together.

5. Be respectful of the attorney’s time and business practices

Most attorneys keep fairly regular business hours, and in the music business that usually means about 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. Be respectful of your attorney’s time and don’t expect him or her to return your phone calls or emails outside of these hours unless you know that your attorney keeps a different schedule or is on-call 24/7.

Also remember that you’re not the attorney’s only client, so allow a reasonable amount of time for the attorney to respond to you before following up. Also, don’t assume the attorney’s phone number is a cell phone, so don’t text your attorney unless you know it’s okay to do so.

In addition to being respectful of the attorney’s time, be respectful of your attorney’s payment policies. For example, if the attorney requires a retainer, don’t fight to pay only after work has been completed.

Also, be mindful of how you are being billed (hourly, percentage, flat fee) and what you are being billed for (phone calls, emails, drafting, hourly minimums) so there are no surprises later.

6. Be professional.

Your relationship with your attorney is a professional one, so act accordingly. Attorneys are allowed to be friends and socialize with clients, but don’t make sexual advances towards your attorney, call your attorney names, telephone your attorney when intoxicated (unless you need to be bailed out), or exhibit other non-professional behavior.

Be organized and make sure the attorney has the information needed to do the work for you. Not only does it make the work flow smoother, but it cuts your costs because the attorney doesn’t have to spend his or her time chasing you for information.

Remember, information you give your attorney is confidential. It is important to be honest about all information with your attorney, as your attorney cannot adequately represent you or handle a situation for you if you withhold information.

If you don’t know how your attorney wishes to handle something, what your attorney’s particular policies are, or if there’s something else you don’t understand – ask! As in all relationships in life, honesty and communication are the best policies.

7. Value your attorney and the contribution he or she makes to your career

Your attorney has had years of rigorous scholastic training and experience in the real world. In the case of the music industry, attorneys needs to have a deep understanding of a very complex set of laws (intellectual property, contracts, etc.) in addition to the business and intricate payment practices of a very unique industry.

When you hire an attorney, you’re getting the benefit of the attorney’s vast amount of knowledge and experience. You’re not just paying for a physical product like a contract, you’re paying for the attorney’s expertise and the ability to handle a complex issue effectively and efficiently.

If there’s a legitimate problem with the work or a bill, then by all means address it, but don’t ask your attorney to handle a matter and then complain about what it cost, as it’s insulting to the attorney and the service he or she provides to you.

Overall, just use common sense and be respectful. Your attorney is there to look out for your best interests and is one of the most important relationships of your career.

 

Disclaimer: This article is for educational and informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. The content contained in this article is not legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific matter or matters. This article does not constitute or create an attorney-client relationship between Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. and you or any other user. The law may vary based on the facts or particular circumstances or the law in your state. You should not rely on, act, or fail to act, upon this information without seeking the professional counsel of an attorney licensed in your state.

If this article is considered an advertisement, it is general in nature and not directed towards any particular person or entity.

 

Erin M. Jacobson is a practicing music attorney, experienced deal negotiator, and seasoned advisor of intellectual property rights. She protects clients ranging from Grammy and Emmy Award winners to independent artists, record labels, music publishers, and production companies. Ms. Jacobson also owns and oversees all operations for Indie Artist Resource, the independent musician’s resource for legal and business protection offering template contracts, consultations, and other services designed to meet the unique needs of independent musicians.

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Don’t Get Screwed Over : 3 Scenarios Where a Handshake Deal Isn’t Enough

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Categories: Articles, Law, Legal Issues, Music, Music Contracts, Music Industry, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Get It In Writing - Erin M. Jacobson, Esq.

Musicians often ask me when they need to “get it in writing” as opposed to just having a verbal agreement or handshake deal. The real answer to that question is that you should always get agreements in writing, but there are three frequently occurring scenarios where it’s essential. Doing so will provide you with much needed protection later on when money or fame create unanticipated problems. Here’s how to handle each situation.

1. Co-writing songs

When co-writing songs with others, it’s imperative to have a songwriter split agreement. This is a short agreement listing the writers of the song and in what percentages they are sharing ownership and royalties. There are longer versions of this agreement that lay out more terms, but a songwriter split agreement is the minimum that you should have in place.

This agreement is important because it offers some proof if someone who’s not a writer tries to claim he or she is owed a credit or portion of ownership or royalties on a song. Here’s a story of an actual situation that happened to a band several years ago.

A new band wrote some songs for their first album while in the studio. As is fairly common, the band had some friends and band members’ girlfriends in the studio with them. One of the songs the band wrote that day in the studio ended up being a huge hit for them that produced a large amount of royalties. The band never completed a songwriter split agreement.

A short time after the song became a hit and the money started rolling in, a girlfriend – now ex-girlfriend – of one of the band members contacted the band and said that the band had promised her 10 percent ownership of the song for contributing a certain line. The band said that they never promised her anything, but she threated to take them to court. The ex-girlfriend had no proof she actually contributed to the song, but the band had no proof that she was lying.

In order to avoid an expensive lawsuit, the band had to give her the 10 percent she wanted. While a written agreement doesn’t prevent someone from making a claim, if the band had completed a songwriter split agreement at the time the song was written, they would have had some sort of proof that the ex-girlfriend was not one of the writers of the song or owed any ownership interest in it. They could have potentially avoided giving up 10 percent ownership and income to someone who didn’t earn it.

2. Working with a producer

Musicians often come to me with problems they’re having with a producer. Often, the producer isn’t turning over the masters because there was a misunderstanding between the parties, or sometimes a producer’s claiming more ownership or income share than he or she should.

The source of these problems is usually that the band didn’t get the terms of the agreement with the producer in writing. As a result, the parties had different understandings of what they each thought the agreement entailed, important terms hadn’t been discussed and left to work out at some later date, or someone changed his or her mind because he or she didn’t have anything in writing to dispute the new terms.

Producer agreements are really important because the creator of the music is bringing in a third party who contributes (some more significantly than others) to the masters and sometimes to the compositions. Producers sometimes have claims to master ownership or require a songwriting credit when they haven’t written part of the song. Producer fees and royalty structures can vary based on genre, stature of the producer, and whether there’s a record deal involved. So, again, having the payment clearly defined is essential.

A band came to me recently after working with several producers on their album, with no written contracts. After spending a lot of money on recording, the band had allowed the main producer on the album to dictate terms of compensation with all the other producers. When the album was finished, the band was left with only 10 percent ownership of all compositions and masters on the album when they were the main songwriters and only performers.

I asked the band why they didn’t seek my counsel or other assistance earlier instead of waiting until this point, and their answer was that they had hoped things would improve on their own. Had the band sought advice on this situation earlier and gotten producer agreements in place with fair terms, this situation could have been avoided.

3. Forming a band

Band agreements are also really important because every band is different. In some bands, everyone writes and all members share equally in royalties, and in other bands, only the main members share credit and royalties while other members are treated more like employees. Bands also have unique issues regarding the band name and who can use or perform under that name if the band breaks up or a member leaves.

The time to create a band agreement is right in the beginning stages of the band when all members are still on good terms with each other. The conversation about the issues covered in a band agreement may seem uncomfortable at first, but ultimately clarifies expectations and protects everyone in the band. If certain band members are unreasonable or cannot agree during this initial conversation, that’s a red flag you’ll be glad you discovered sooner rather than later.

Although being in a band is a creative and fun experience, what many musicians forget is that it is also a business, and needs to be run as such in order to stay organized and find success.

Here’s a story about why having a band agreement is important: I received a call from a musician whose band was in the process of breaking up. The band had been together for several years, and this musician wanted to know if he could continue earning income from the band’s songs and whether he could use the band name in the future.

I learned the band didn’t have an agreement and hadn’t discussed ownership of compositions, masters, artwork, the band name, or how any of these things would be treated if the band broke up. The relationships between the members had turned contentious, and there was no way any of them were in an emotional state to agree on anything.

Because the members weren’t talking, it would have taken a lot of investigation or possibly litigation to figure out how the material should be split and who could use the name going forward. It was very probable this musician would no longer be able to profit from the hard work he had contributed to this band over the last several years.

Had the band created a band agreement in the beginning, they could have discussed these issues and decided how all of their material would be treated in the event of a breakup. While the agreement wouldn’t have prevented a breakup, it would have clearly explained how the material was to be treated and how the members could proceed when the event occurred instead of potentially stripping the members of the proceeds of their contributions.

How and where do you get it in writing?

The best option is to hire an experienced music attorney to draft these agreements with language and terms specific to the situation at hand.

If you cannot hire an attorney due to the cost or other reasons, you can download high-quality contract templates drafted by a music attorney at Indie Artist Resource. Each template covers the most common issues faced in those situations by musicians and comes with instructions to facilitate easy completion of the agreement.

If a formal contract is still not possible, having some evidence in writing is beneficial. You can follow a verbal conversation with an email saying, “To recap the terms of what we discussed…” and then briefly summarize the terms so there is a written record of it. While it is not the same as or as strong as having an actual signed contract, it does help to leave some trail of proof if things go wrong down the line. This is a good idea especially for situations where contracts aren’t always used, like casual agreements with venue talent buyers or promoters.

This article was originally published on Sonicbids.com.

Disclaimer: This article is for educational and informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. The content contained in this article is not legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific matter or matters. This article does not constitute or create an attorney-client relationship between Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. and you or any other user. The law may vary based on the facts or particular circumstances or the law in your state. You should not rely on, act, or fail to act, upon this information without seeking the professional counsel of an attorney licensed in your state.

If this article is considered an advertisement, it is general in nature and not directed towards any particular person or entity.

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June Music Legal and Business Roundup

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Categories: Copyright, Infringement, Legal Disputes, Legal Issues, Music, Music Industry, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

cowgirl, lasso, roundup

Image via freeimages.com

Here’s a recap of my article’s this month:

 

The most talked-about topic in the music legal world this month was certainly the copyright infringement case where band Spirit is sued Led Zeppelin over allegations that “Stairway to Heaven” infringed on Spirit’s song “Taurus.”  The good news is that Led Zeppelin Wins ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Jury Trial!

Here’s a recap of the week’s trial coverage:

What was also exciting is the recent push by artists to urge online content providers like YouTube to #valuemusic.  This call to action also involves the request to reform the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which allows safe harbor provisions for YouTube and other online content providers.

In other news, those on the other side of the spectrum are filing lawsuits to force certain musical compositions into the public domain so that they don’t have to pay the license fees for them.  This is one of a few lawsuits to follow the “Happy Birthday” case.  This is certainly not a way to #valuemusic.

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Key Clauses in Management Agreements Part 4: Key Man Clauses

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Categories: Articles, Management, Music Contracts, Music Industry, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. - Key Man ClauseIn the last set of articles regarding management agreements, I have explained the term, commissions, and sunset commissions. In this article, I will explain what is known in the industry as the “key man clause.”

A good music attorney representing the artist will make sure there is a “key man clause” in the artist’s management agreement.

What happens if you sign with a management company and then your manager leaves the company? What if the other people at the company don’t understand your artistic vision or image, don’t jive with your personality, and/or don’t advocate for your career? I bet you’d wish you could continue working with the particular manager that has left the company, right? Right.

The scenario described in the paragraph above is exactly what the key man clause protects against. While it won’t be labeled as a “key man clause,” a good music attorney representing the artist will make sure that there is language in the agreement ensuring that if the artist’s specific manager leaves the company, the artist has the right to also leave the company and follow the manager wherever (s)he goes.

This language does not obligate the artist to leave the management company. If the artist feels there are others at the company who can manage the artist’s career just as well (or maybe better) than the leaving manager, then the artist is free to stay with the company. However, the artist does have the option to leave and follow the leaving manager at that point to protect the artist against being stuck in a management arrangement without someone that advocates for the artist.

Many management agreements don’t include this language and many artists (and some attorneys!) don’t know to ask for it.

If you need a management agreement drafted or reviewed click here to contact me now.

If you need a DIY solution in the form of a template agreement, get one from Indie Artist Resource ( CA residents click here  and non-CA residents click here).

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Are You Sure You Own Your Masters?

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Categories: Articles, Business, Music, Music Contracts, Music Industry, Record Labels, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. - Master Ownership

What are Masters?

Throughout the music business, master recordings or “masters” are typically regarded as to as the original or official recording of a performance fixed in a tangible medium like tape, ProTools file, or even mp3, from which copies can be made. Masters are usually recorded in a recording studio or similar setup and these are the original tracks that get mixed and mastered (another sound processing step using the same term but with a different meaning than a master recording). Released recordings purchased on a CD or digital download are not masters, these physical goods are copies of the original masters.

Who Owns the Masters?

Common sense and matters of principle usually cause most independent artists to feel they should own their masters because they are the ones that contributed the performance and are often paying for the recordings. However, oftentimes other owners can be involved as master ownership can vary based on law as well as contract.

Some important aspects in copyright law refer to joint authorships and contributions to collective works. True joint authors that meet certain requirements will co-own a copyright and will be able to exercise the same rights in regard to that copyright. People other than the artist who were involved in the recording of the masters can make the argument that their contribution to the recording counts as a copyrightable contribution and thus makes them joint owners.

Contributors

Independent producers and engineers

These contributions can include influencing the sound whether by musical contribution or other direction, recording techniques, microphone placement, etc. Some producers and engineers are more involved than others. With engineers, it’s mostly about the recording and/or mixing techniques used. In the case of producers, they might just be advising on the sound and encouraging the best performances from the artist, or they might actually be playing instruments on the recordings or co-writing the songs. Producers and engineers may be able to argue partial master ownership based on their contributions, but many independent producers are also using contracts to ensure they own all or part of the masters in an attempt to build an income-producing catalog in addition to their producer fee and royalty. For some producers with great influence in the industry, this may be a requirement for artists to work with that producer, however, I always advise artists to make sure that giving up this ownership is actually worth the success this producer will add. Do not give up ownership (or at least not a large portion of it) without being certain that it will be worth it from a career standpoint.

Performing musicians

The contribution here is usually singing or playing instruments, but in either case it is considered a performance and the performer has rights in and to his or her performance. In some cases the vocalist or musician may simply be singing or playing exactly as instructed, and in some cases may be contributing riffs or other variances adding to the work. In either instance, just paying the vocalist or musician for services rendered may not prevent them from coming back to claim rights in their performances later. Having the vocalist or musician sign an agreement making sure they are giving up all rights to their performance and any contributions they have made is essential.

Recording Studios

Recording studios sometimes say that they own the masters and they will then release the ownership to the artist once the bill has been paid. Studios argue this because the masters were recorded on studio property, with studio equipment, and studio employees. While these arguments have been successful in past cases regarding photography, success of these arguments from a music industry standpoint would depend on the actual circumstances of the situation. While the studio does have an argument based on this contribution, these tactics serve mostly as a way for the studio to make sure it gets paid.

Most artists think because they may have paid these other people for their services, that their ownership rights are covered. However, paying for something doesn’t always mean ownership of it, especially under copyright law. Section 202 of Copyright Law says “Ownership of a copyright, or of any of the exclusive rights under a copyright, is distinct from ownership of any material object in which the work is embodied.” So while you may have tape (or hard drive) in hand, that won’t stop someone from claiming an ownership stake of the copyright.

Record Labels

Usually, a recording agreement will provide that the label will own all master recordings recorded by the artist during the term of the agreement.

“Work made for hire” is another buzz word that artists (and labels) think applies because there was payment for services – and because mostly all recording agreements include this language. A work made for hire must be made by an employee under the scope of his or her employment, or in the case of independent contractors, must be specifically commissioned by the party seeking to own the work and fall within certain categories listed in the law. In most situations where artists are recording music, the parties involved (whether it be artist v. label, artist v. recording studio, artist v. producer/engineer, etc.) are independent contractors, so the employee provision will not apply. Sound recordings are also not included in the specific categories that copyright law lists as eligible for work made for hire status. Most labels make the argument that record albums are collective works (one of the allowed work made for hire categories), but this ambiguity leaves masters open for joint ownership without a proper copyright assignment.

In the Real World

A recent example occurred where A&M Records sued a recording studio claiming one of the studio owners had rights to the master recordings for the album “Temple of the Dog”, by the band of the same name, a side project between musicians Chris Cornell (Soundgarden, Audioslave) and Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam). The label claimed it bought the masters and the rights from the studio and had an agreement to prove it, but those on the studio side said that not all owners of the studio had signed the agreement and the owner who had not signed the agreement had not given up his rights to the recordings. The lawsuit recently settled out of court, and the tapes were returned to Chris Cornell.

 

What should an artist to do to ensure master ownership?

Artist intending to fully own their masters should have written agreements in place with everyone involved in the recording process — the studio, engineers, producers, and hired musicians. These agreements should clearly state that the artist owns the masters and include language whereby these contributors will transfer their rights in the masters to the artist.

These agreements do involve many components and complex language, so they should be drafted by an experienced music attorney. If the artist’s financial situation prevents him from hiring an attorney (or other reasons prevent hiring an attorney), then DIY templates of the appropriate agreements can be downloaded from Indie Artist Resource (For IAR templates, CA residents click here and Non-CA residents click here).

Disclaimer: This article is for educational and informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. The content contained in this article is not legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific matter or matters. This article does not constitute or create an attorney-client relationship between Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. and you or any other user. The law may vary based on the facts or particular circumstances or the law in your state. You should not rely on, act, or fail to act, upon this information without seeking the professional counsel of an attorney licensed in your state.

If this article is considered an advertisement, it is general in nature and not directed towards any particular person or entity.

This article was originally published on Sonicbids.com.

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Key Clauses in Management Agreements Part 3: Sunset Commissions

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Categories: Articles, Business, Management, Music Contracts, Music Industry, Royalties, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

erin m jacobson, erin jacobson, music attorney, music lawyer, los angeles, music industry, managementLast time I discussed commissions in management agreements, but what may be a surprise is that management agreements often also have another kind of commission involved – one that remains after the term of the agreement is long over and the manager and artist are no longer working together.

Management agreements often have something we attorneys in the business call “sunset clauses,” which are provisions dictating that the artist must continue to pay a commission to the manager after the term of the agreement has ended. The purpose of this clause is actually for the benefit of the manager, to protect him or her from putting in a lot of work on certain projects, only to have the term end (or the agreement terminated) and not earn any commissions from those projects in which the manager invested a lot of time, effort, and possibly money. A sunset provision is not unfair in itself. If the manager has worked on certain projects for the artist, the manager should be able to share in the money earned from those projects. However like anything in life, there are limits and the sunset provision should be fair based on the circumstances.

Sunset commissions can range in the amount of the commission and the duration for which the sunset commission needs to be paid. Often management agreements dictate the sunset commission at the full rate (often 15- 20% as I explained here) and often lasting in perpetuity, which means forever. A good music attorney will negotiate this commission down both in percentage and in duration because an artist should not be paying a manager his/her full commission rate forever when the manager is not currently working for the artist anymore. Chances are the artist is probably also working with a new manager at this time and paying a full commission to that person as well. A good music attorney should also negotiate the circumstances around sunset provision and to what the commission applies.

The negotiated sunset commission may be a certain percentage for a certain period of years and then end, or start at a certain percentage for a certain period of time then reduce to a lower percentage for a certain period of time before finally ending. This is why it is called a sunset clause, because the commission tapers off and fades away just like an actual sunset. The percentage amounts, durations, and negotiated surrounding circumstances vary depending on the negotiating power of the parties and the attorneys involved, which is why you need a good music attorney experienced with negotiating management agreements.

The sunset clause often surprises artists because they aren’t familiar with the concept and become upset when they see it in the contract, or they sign a contract with a sunset provision that is longer and larger than it should be because the artist does not understand the agreement. I will reiterate, that the sunset itself provision is not unfair, and it is fair to compensate the manager on projects the manager helped to make a success. Again, having the contract drafted or reviewed by a good music lawyer experienced with management agreements is paramount to protecting one’s interests.

If you need a management agreement drafted or reviewed click here to contact me now.

If you need a DIY solution in the form of a template agreement, click here (non-CA residents click here).

 

Disclaimer: This article is for educational and informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. The content contained in this article is not legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific matter or matters. This article does not constitute or create an attorney-client relationship between Erin M. Jacobson, Esq. and you or any other user. The law may vary based on the facts or particular circumstances or the law in your state. You should not rely on, act, or fail to act, upon this information without seeking the professional counsel of an attorney licensed in your state.

If this article is considered an advertisement, it is general in nature and not directed towards any particular person or entity.

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May Music Legal and Business Roundup

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Categories: Articles, Business, Legal Disputes, Legal Issues, Music Industry, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

cowgirl, lasso, roundup

Image via freeimages.com

Here’s a recap of my article’s this month:

 

May was actually a little quiet on legal issues making the news.  However, the big news was really a tragic one.  The world lost another amazing artist, Prince.  His death was unexpected and shocked his fans and all of us in the industry.  A great artist who leaves a great legacy.

Here’s the other top stories in music legal and business:

 

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Key Clauses in Management Agreements Part 2: Commissions

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Categories: Articles, Business, Law, Management, Music, Music Contracts, Music Industry, Royalties, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

erin m jacobson, erin jacobson, management commissions, management agreement, contract, music attorney, music lawyer, los angelesIn a recent article I explained the term of a management agreement, and in this article I’ll discuss management commissions; arguably the other most important clause of a management agreement.

The commission is the amount of money the artist will pay the manager under the contract. This is usually done as a percentage of the artist’s gross income. Standard percentages are usually 15-20%, with 15% being more common than 20%.  I have seen the percentages range from 10-25%, but with both extremes requiring special circumstances. Some more creative deals featuring other percentages have also crossed my desk, but again, these deals require other career aspects or services not typically included in management deals.

Aside from the percentage, it is important to know if the commission is being taken on gross or net income, and what gross or net income actually includes. Management agreements in the music industry typically have a list of exclusions on gross income that are specific to aspects of an artist’s career in the music business. This is different than management agreements in other areas of entertainment and in my experience, not all attorneys (even music attorneys) know what to exclude. It is also important to note when, if any, the manager is able to share in other income aside from the main commission.

It is also common for managers to take a commission after the term of the agreement has ended – and I’ll cover that in the next article on management agreements.

Contact me now to draft or review your management agreement.

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New Video: How Much Do Artists Earn from Spotify?

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Categories: Royalties, Streaming, Videos, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I talk about the numbers.

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Key Clauses in Management Agreements Part 1: Term

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Categories: Articles, Management, Music Contracts, Music Industry, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Management Agreement Term Length The Music Industry Lawyer Attorney Erin M JacobsonThe artist-manager relationship is one of the most important relationships in an artist’s career. The manager has to “get” the artist and the artist’s artistic vision, but also needs to have the knowledge on how to translate that vision into something that will generate mass appeal and profits. The manager also has to have the business acumen and connections to generate opportunities for the artist so that his or her career can grow. An artist needs to be able to trust the manager, feeling that not only is the manager knowledgeable, connected, and in tune with the artist’s essence, but also that the manager is at all times acting in the artist’s best interests instead of serving the manager’s own needs.

Management agreements have several important aspects that need attention and often, negotiation.

The first of these aspects is the term of the management agreement. I explained what a contract term generally means here, and for purposes of this article the “term” will refer to the length of the relationship. Traditionally, management agreements have a term between three and five years. Managers typically would want four or five years because, as they often argue, it takes a long time to create the momentum needed for an artist to really start seeing success. From a manager’s perspective, this can be true and also gives the manager the opportunity to still be representing that artist when success comes; that way the manager can receive a full commission rate at the artist’s higher income level instead of earning a percentage of the low (or no) revenues artists usually earn at the start of their careers.

On the other side of this, artists usually want to sign with a manager for the shortest amount of time possible, which allows the artist to get out of the deal faster if the manager is not delivering on promises or things just aren’t working out. There is almost nothing worse for an artist than being stuck in a bad deal that hinders the artist’s career by blocking potential opportunities while the artist waits for the deal to end.

These days I have been seeing even shorter terms on management deals, often one or two year initial terms with at least one option period attached. Both parties really need at least a year to get enough momentum going to start seeing some increased success, but it seems the management deal is following the trend of all deals in the music business by shortening terms to try to reduce risk.

What people tend to forget when thinking about the length of an artist-manager relationship is that terms can always be renewed. If the contract term length is on the shorter side, the parties can always renew the agreement at the end of the term if they still desire to work together. The parties don’t have to part ways just because a piece of paper set a time limit at some point in the past. On the other hand, if the parties feel it is time to move on, they have the freedom to do that knowing they gave it a fair chance during the time period they originally allotted.

Part 2 of this series will cover management commissions.

Contact Erin now to draft, review, or negotiate your management agreement.

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