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I'm An Artist Manager, Can I Also Represent My Client As Their Agent? By: Ed Wimp


An artist manager and an artist agent are two distinct roles in the music industry that carry separate responsibilities and duties. However, their roles are divided by a fairly thin line, leading into an occasional encroachment on each other’s roles. This article will delve into the respective roles of artist managers and artist agents, and also discuss the legalities of an artist manager working within the capacity of an artist’s agent.

The Roles of The Artist Manager

The phrase “music business” can be construed as an oxymoron. Suggesting that art is to be branded and sold for monetary gain, as opposed to being enjoyed for sheer pleasure is difficult for some to digest. The role of an artist manager is to bridge the gap between creativity and business. This is a prime example of “specialization of labor.” The artist is left to perfect and execute their craft, and the manager is left to handle what they do best, which is making a profit.

It is my personal philosophy that a manager is not needed until the day-to-day business tasks are impeding the creative process of making music. However, if the talent is inept in business, finding a manager early on may be in their best interest.

The main goal of a manager is to represent the interests of the talent. The manager will help to brand and shop content to various outlets in the music industry, including radio, retail, publicity, blogs, record distributors, record labels, etc.

A manager should either be well connected, or have a very strong passion and desire for the betterment of the business as a whole. The manager will generally be responsible for assembling a team that can tend to the different aspects of the career.

Once compatibility is met between an artist and a manager, it is time to enter into a contract. The fee of a manager can vary greatly, but most earn a commission on the net, or gross, income of the artist. A reasonable management contract can allow the manager to earn up to 20% of the gross income – including record royalties, merchandising, touring, publishing income, etc.

Often, there will be a “sunset clause” in the contract, which will specify the declining payments that the manager will receive in the event that the two parties cease to work together. This allows the manager to continue to earn payments for a few years from the work that he/she did while the two parties were in a working relationship.

It is important to have an entertainment business attorney review the contract before both parties sign it. In a contract, both the artist and the manager are agreeing to substantial undertakings, including waivers of rights that should be properly scrutinized.

The Roles of the Agent

The main focus of the agent on the other hand is to procure employment for the artist. This means actually booking shows, tours, and appearances for the artist. A general rule of thumb is that a booking agent is responsible for the artists live performance. The agent will be in communication with the artist’s management and label in order to effectively schedule performances and meet budget requirements. Additionally, they will be in communication with each promoter or venue to propose performances at the various establishments. They will also be responsible for making contractual arrangements for pay, rider, guest list, and equipment. An agent generally charges 10 percent of the artist’s income.

Operating As Both Manager and Agent

Most states in America allow for an artist manager to also serve in the capacity as an artist agent, however there are some exceptions. New York and California have enacted laws separating the two roles. New York and California have both required aspiring talent agents to register with the Association of Talent Agents. The licensure requirement is strict, and those found operating as an agent without the license may be required to return earned commissions due to their violation.

The requirements for obtaining a license under the Association of Talent Agents are (copied from website):

1. Completed ATA Application for Membership (can be found on website). 

2. Copy of the required license issued by the appropriate State or City agency in each location the agency has a place of business. Include proof of Bond, as may be required.

3. Bio or resume of each agency owner, executive or financially interested party. Bio/Resume must provide a detailed timeline of work experience, including talent agent/representative experience. 

4. Two (2) letters of recommendation from an owner or executive officer of two separate ATA member companies familiar with the applicant or its principals. Recommendation letters must include how long and in what capacity the ATA member is familiar with the applicant. 

5. Copy of current Guild/Union talent agency franchise certificate or other documentation.

6. Provide proof of an established client trust account and general operating account. (attach copy of voided checks)

7. Provide a copy of the form agency contract(s) in use by your agency with Artists.

8. Application fee of one thousand dollars ($1,000), payable by check. If membership is accepted, such fee will be applied pro-rata to the first year’s dues. If membership is not accepted, the $1000.00 check will be returned.

9. Non-refundable processing fee of two-hundred-fifty dollars ($250.00), payable by separate check. This fee will not be refunded in the event membership is not accepted.

Upon receipt of all required documentation, an ATA Membership Review Committee member representative(s) will contact the applicant(s) to schedule an interview. The Committee member representative(s) will generally seek to ascertain: 

  • Familiarity with applicable State Talent Agency Laws;

  • Familiarity with the Guild/Union Agency Franchise Agreement provisions;

  • If the agency represents Minors are you familiar with the Coogan Laws and other related issues relating to minors?

  • Familiarity with Union/Guilds Basic Agreement with Employers (i.e., TV, Theatrical, Commercial).

  • If the agency applicant has been in business for less than one year, the Committee representative will also ascertain that the applicant is owned, managed or controlled by an individual with at least one year's experience in the agency business or was affiliated with another established agency.

For more information about the Association of Talent Agents, visit their website at http://www.agentassociation.com.

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