Artist management in the music business has a lot of grey areas and a lot of “secrets”. Some of this is by design and some of this flows from the, frankly, sketchy origins of the music business over 100 years ago. Mike tried to alleviate a lot of this mystery when he published (for free! get it now!) The Music Management Primer. But the book is a PRIMER, and not a comprehensive look at the profession. It’s meant to help those wanting to work with a manager and those who want to be a manager.
We received a GREAT question recently via email from one of our students about one of those great mysteries. The answer to this question should be useful to you whether you are on the manager side of the table, or the client.
I was a student on the Release It Right/Unleash It Right course and I’ve got a question regarding artist management.
One of my artists has generated digital royalties from streaming/downloads over the last quarter and these royalties are recouping money they owe to their label.
Are these royalties commissionable, or not?”
Every manager is different and some are going to have contracts stipulating different ways they want to work it. But I trust the best, and the best is Mike Mowery. Mike keeps it very simple for him and his clients.
ARTIST MANAGEMENT GETS PAID WHEN THE ARTIST GETS PAID.
This means, the artist manager doesn’t earn a commission on royalties until the artist has recouped.
But it ALSO means, the artist manager gets a commission on any advances paid by the label (or publisher, or agent, or anyone else).
This does NOT mean the artist manager gets paid the NET – meaning, the manager does not get paid a percentage of the income after expenses. The manager gets a commission based on the gross paid to the artist. This can sometimes mean an artist could tour for weeks and gross thousands and yet come home with nothing while the manager gets a percentage of the gross paid by the promoters.
As artist management you can choose to defer some payment – but do this sparingly and ALWAYS get the loan in writing. Because that’s what this is – a loan. In the early part of an artist / client relationship you need to balance the need to establish the management commission as an anticipated expense with the need to finance the early part of the artist career.
As an artist you need to closely track your expenses and make sure you deduct your artist management commission and booking agent commission before determining how much you can spend on things like transportation and lodging and stage production and even food. Both Mike and I come from the DIY scene of the 90’s – the opportunities to make money in music were greater than they are today on the road but we still crashed on the floors of fans, ate food bought in bulk, and dragged beatup vans around the USA rather than buses. All to come home with a little bit of money in our pocket at the end of it.