Business, Legal Drama

How to Negotiate an Artist-Manager Contract (The Manager)

By far the most common relationship present in Nigeria’s (Naija) music industry is the Artist-Manager relationship. Only a handful of artists are signed to record labels but when it comes to managers, almost all artists seem to have managers. Indeed it is not uncommon to hear artists say, “talk to my manager” or showoff that they have managers. Because this relationship is so prevalent, it only makes sense I lead off my review of the numerous kinds of music contracts with the Artist-Manager contract.

I cover both perspectives and how to negotiate regardless of what hats you wear.

Start with the Important Basics
Remember my previous article on the basics of a contract? Read the article and include the basics.

How to Negotiate an Artist-Manager Contract – The Manager
While it is common to see managers take artists for a ride, artists do the same, although not as much. So, how do you negotiate your artist-manager contract as a manager?

  • “Be careful who you get in bed with:” Don’t be so quick to want to commit. Test the relationship out, first. Personality clashes and “shady artists” are some of the risks you run into as a manager. Plan for anticipated and unanticipated risks by limiting the length of your engagement to one year. If after a year you find you have a compatible working relationship with your artist, then feel free to extend the relationship for more than a year.
  • Spell Out your Services. You are the Manager NOT the “errand boy”: As a manager, your primary role is to advice, counsel, direct and guide your artist to help further her career. You should have your own identity and life independent of your artist. YOU ARE THE MANAGER NOT THE HO– USEGIRL, BOY OR DRIVER. Too many times, managers go beyond the scope of their services and become more of the errand guy/girl. DON’T! Stick with the plan. Be professional and yes do relax but not to the point where your artist thinks you are the errand guy or girl! If you do not heed this warning, don’t be surprised when the artist you thought will never leave you, dumps you for a more professional manager. To make matters worse, she does it after she becomes famous.
  • Get a Limited Power of Attorney: You can’t do much as a manager if you cannot negotiate and sign on behalf of your artist. A “limited power of attorney” permits you to execute binding contracts for your artist’s personal services as a performing artist. Include the “power of attorney” (POA) clause in your contract and have the accompanying POA form signed and executed. Also be sure you make clear the artist cannot undermine your power of attorney by directly negotiating or signing contracts herself.
  • Cover Your Butt: A limited power of attorney is a necessity but it can also mean “wahala.” UNDERSTAND THIS. If your artist fails to perform on the contracts you signed on her behalf, then you the manager could be liable. For example, imagine you signed a contract with the Calabar Carnival organizers for your artist to perform at the Calabar Carnival 2010. The performance day arrives and your artist is nowhere to be found. You have 50,000 people waiting for your artist and you simply can’t find her! What do you do? How do you protect yourself? This is something foreseeable i.e. something you should have thought and anticipated before it happened. Anticipating this problem, your job is to shift the liability for such failure to perform to your artist, where it belongs.

Include in your contract a clause that absolves you of any and all liability relating to the failure to perform on contracts signed on behalf of your artist. Yes, the fans and event organizers will be angry with you, but if they come knocking at your door with lawsuits, dem no go find you. They will find your artist who will be solely liable as a result of her lack of performance for any monies they lost.

  • Make it a Non-Exclusive Contract: Artist “gotta eat,” and so do managers. As such, you should not tie yourself down to one artist. Your contract should clearly state it is non-exclusive and you can represent other artists including those that might compete with your artist. EXCEPTION: If your artist can pay you money that justifies retaining only her as a client, then make it an exclusive contract.
  • Artist Covers all Expenses: There is no freebie in the music business and good music managers understand this. Make it clear in your contract that any artist you represent must cover all of his/her expenses. You are not father/mother Christmas to pay for partial/all expenses. It will leave you broke and is bad for business. What are typical expenses artist covers: publicity costs, promotional costs, fees, travel and wardrobe expenses, your reasonable costs etc.
  • Is there a time when a Manager covers expenses? Yes. Such situations do arise. If you believe that will be applicable in your case, then include a clause in your contract that calls for prompt reimbursement when you cover expenses. Put a time on it for reimbursements, for example 7, 15 or 30days. The better strategy would be to get a lump sum upfront for expenses and then charge against it, asking for more money when it depletes. Keep good records and invoices for yourself and your client, the artist.

Whatever you do, for both artists and managers, be flexible and tailor your contract to what suits your situation.

Now go make it happen!


Africa Music Law™

AFRICA MUSIC LAW™ (AML) is a pioneering music business and entertainment law website, livestream and podcast show empowering the African artist and Africa's rapidly evolving entertainment industry through its brilliant music business and entertainment law commentary and analysis, industry news, and exclusive interviews.

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Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Uduak Oduok (Ms. Uduak) is a fashion and entertainment lawyer, speaker, visionary, gamechanger, trailblazer, and recognized thought leader, for her work on Africa’s emerging global fashion and entertainment markets, and the niche practice of fashion law in the United States. She is also the founder of ‘Africa Music Law,’ an industry go-to music business and law blog and podcast show empowering African artists. Her work in the creative and legal industries has earned her numerous awards and recognitions, including an award from the American University Washington College of Law for her “legal impact in the field of intellectual property in Africa." She has also taught as an Adjunct Professor at several institutions in the United States. For more information, visit her at

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  1. […] Law – I have specifically addressed Artist-Manager contracts in the […]

  2. Grace Okpole Esq says:

    Most enlightening . Thank you.

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