A&R and Manager Advice

Music Managers Exploiting Artists

Music Managers Exploiting Artists

In the fascinating yet complex world of music, artists often require a manager to navigate the industry while they focus on their creativity. But when these relationships go sour, it typically leads to music managers exploiting artists. Why does this happen, and what can be done about it? Let's delve deeper into this issue.

The Balance of Power

In essence, artists make the music, and managers commercialize it. However, because the managers handle all the business affairs, they often hold the power. Unfortunately, some may use this power detrimentally, leading to instances of music managers exploiting artists.

Methods of Exploitation

And how does this exploitation come about? It consists of numerous disconcerting ways, such as:

  1. Unfair contracts
  2. Overcharging expenses
  3. Unjust royalty schemes
  4. Manipulating artists for personal gain

Preventing Exploitation

As the music industry becomes more transparent, measures can be taken to prevent exploitation. Artists need to equip themselves with knowledge and understanding of the industry and not just focus on their craft.

Legal Assistance

  • Lawyers: Musicians should consult with an entertainment lawyer before signing any management contract. They can explain the terms and conditions to ensure that they are fair and beneficial to the artist.
  • Contracts: A well-written contract is essential, outlining clear terms, rights, and obligations.

Other Measures

  • Industry Knowledge: Artists should familiarize themselves with the music business, thereby becoming less dependent on managers for information.
  • Publicity: In this digital age, any form of exploitation can quickly become public news, acting as a deterrent for managers.

Music Managers Exploiting Artists Example:

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The Taylor Swift and Scooter Braun Feud

This feud stands out as one of the most visible instances of alleged artist exploitation. Scooter Braun's Ithaca Holdings bought Big Machine Label Group, the label to which Taylor Swift was previously signed. This deal transferred the rights of Swift's first six albums to Braun, much to the detriment and protest of Swift, who stated she was not given the opportunity to buy her own masters.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some common signs of a music manager exploiting an artist?

Some signs include unfair contract terms, lack of transparency regarding finances, unfulfilled promises, excessive commissions, and pressure to make decisions that do not benefit the artist's career. An exploitative manager may also isolate the artist from other advisors and take control over aspects of the artist's life beyond their career.

How can an artist ensure that their manager is reputable?

Artists should conduct thorough research, seek referrals from trusted industry contacts, and check the manager's track record and reputation. It's also beneficial to consult with a lawyer before signing any management contracts to ensure the terms are fair and equitable.

What legal steps can an artist take if they feel exploited by their manager?

If exploitation is suspected, an artist should consult with an entertainment lawyer to review the management contract and explore potential legal actions, which may include contract renegotiation or termination, seeking damages for breach of contract, or reporting unethical behavior to industry bodies.

Is it common for artists to manage their own careers?

While some artists choose to self-manage, particularly in the early stages of their career, many eventually seek professional management. Self-management can be successful, but it requires a good understanding of the music industry and the ability to handle business aspects while also focusing on creating music.

What percentage of earnings is typical for a manager to take?

A standard management fee ranges from 15% to 20% of an artist's gross earnings. However, the specifics can vary based on the manager's level of involvement and the specific terms agreed upon in the management contract.

Can an artist terminate a contract with a manager who is exploiting them?

Yes, but it typically depends on the terms of the contract and the situation's specifics. Artists should consult with a lawyer to discuss their options and ensure that any action taken to terminate a contract is legally sound.

How can artists protect themselves from exploitation before signing with a manager?

Artists should thoroughly review and negotiate any management contract details, set clear boundaries and expectations, seek legal counsel, and possibly consult with industry professionals who can provide guidance.

What are some red flags to watch out for in management contracts?

Red flags include overly long contract durations, vague or undefined terms, excessive commission rates, clauses that limit an artist's creative control or freedom, and any terms that cause financial obligations without clear benefit to the artist.

What role do record labels play in preventing or responding to exploitation by managers?

Record labels may provide guidance and oversight, particularly if they have a vested interest in the artist's success. They can often offer resources and advise on finding reputable management. However, labels may not always intervene in management disputes unless it directly affects their business relationship with the artist.

How can new artists educate themselves about the music business to avoid exploitation?

New artists should invest time in learning about the industry through books, courses, seminars, and by networking with other professionals. Mentorship from experienced artists or industry professionals can also be invaluable.

Are there any resources or organizations that assist artists who have been exploited?

Yes, there are organizations such as MusiCares, the Musician's Union, and the Future of Music Coalition that offer various types of support, including legal assistance and education on artists' rights and protection in the industry.

What are the long-term effects of artist exploitation on a music career?

The long-term effects can include financial instability, damage to professional relationships, legal disputes, loss of creative control, and emotional stress, which can all significantly hinder an artist's career progression.

Should artists ever give away rights to their music to their manager?

Generally, artists should strive to maintain ownership of their music rights. However, in some cases, managers who contribute significantly to the development of the music may negotiate for a stake. It is crucial to consult with legal professionals before agreeing to such terms.

Can an artist still be successful without a traditional manager?

Yes. Many artists have found success by building a team that may include a business manager, lawyer, publicist, and others who handle specific aspects of their career. Success without a traditional manager requires being highly organized and proactive in career planning.

What should a young artist look for in a potential manager?

A young artist should look for a manager with a good reputation, clear communication skills, strong industry connections, a proven track record with other artists, and a genuine passion for and belief in the artist's work.

How often should an artist and their manager review the terms of their management contract?

It's a good practice to review the management contract annually or at significant career milestones to ensure that the terms still serve the artist's best interests and reflect any changes in career trajectory or financial circumstances.

How can artists negotiate better terms in their management contracts?

Artists can negotiate better terms by clearly understanding their worth and career goals, securing legal representation, and being prepared to walk away if a management deal does not meet their standards and expectations.

What are the most important aspects of a healthy artist-manager relationship?

Trust, clear communication, mutual respect, shared vision and goals, transparency in financial dealings, and an understanding of each other's roles and expectations are the foundation of a healthy artist-manager relationship.

Can having a manager be more beneficial than handling one's music career independently?

Having a manager can be more beneficial as it allows the artist to focus on the creative aspects of their career while someone with experience and industry connections handles the business side. However, the benefits depend on the quality and integrity of the management.

What can an artist do if they feel their current success is dependent on a manager who is exploiting them?

An artist should seek legal counsel to understand their options and rights. They could also discreetly build a supportive network of industry professionals and prepare to transition away from the exploitative manager while ensuring the sustainability of their career.

How has the rise of digital music platforms impacted artist-manager relationships?

The rise of digital music platforms has changed the landscape by enabling artists to have more control over their careers and distribution. Managers today must be adept at navigating these platforms, which may alter the traditional management model and how managers and artists collaborate.

In conclusion, the fight against exploitation in the music industry is very much still ongoing. While situations like these are disheartening, they serve as reminders of the importance of awareness, knowledge, and legal guidance. Sharing is caring, so spread the word to protect our musicians and inspire future ones. If you enjoyed this read, check out other guides on Lyric Assistant, and amplify your music journey.

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Unlock the key to your music career. This game-changing resource puts over 3,000 of the most influential music industry contacts at your fingertips.

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About Toni Mercia

Toni Mercia is a Grammy award-winning songwriter and the founder of Lyric Assistant. With over 15 years of experience in the music industry, Toni has written hit songs for some of the biggest names in music. She has a passion for helping aspiring songwriters unlock their creativity and take their craft to the next level. Through Lyric Assistant, Toni has created a tool that empowers songwriters to make great lyrics and turn their musical dreams into reality.

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