Role of managers in music
Debbie Metcalf as manager.
Nobody has proved this scientifically but it is generally assumed that without Debbie opening up the doors for Oliver, he probably would still be where he was 15 years ago.
The people in the street do not take into account the fact that Oliver is a talented man and he could have probably done it on his own given time.
Whether or not Debbie came into Oliver’s life to improve his fortunes becomes a question of academic debate.
Many artistes do their own things such as booking gigs at venues, advertise, record, negotiate performance fees and even go on tours and become successful without the use of a manager. There are many success stories of artistes who manage themselves using the experience of band members to do the job of managers effectively. To the artistes who take the initiative to manage themselves, there are two questions I should ask them:
1. Do you have time to manage yourself?
2. Can you deal with promoters, agents and record companies and effectively continue to write music, record and perform live?
If the answer to any of the two questions above is in the negative, then the artiste needs a manager.
If Oliver was doing all these things by himself without assistance from Debbie, he probably would not have written the smashing hits that he came up with from the year 2001 onwards.
Many young artistes find time and money to go into a recording studio and come out with brilliant albums, but after that they are lost as they do not know what to do with these albums. A lot of them end up either being ripped off or giving away the products of their hard work as they reach a dead end on completion of recording.
At a recent ZIMURA meeting, I was confronted by a rather angry young musician who remarked, “You only write about established musicians, how about us up-and-coming artists” to which I replied, “I don’t even know your name or what you have done in music. Send me your biography.”
His response was, “How do I do that?”
I also have in my possession CDs from gospel artistes: Chipo Mukumbira “Mauya Nenyasha”, Vatendi Vanhasi “Makatendeka” and other scorchers from Sadadz “Manzvakenzvake”, Andrew Mamvura, and Daniel Ngwira “Ku Salon” and “Mutoko Centre”.
But who has heard of these guys? Radio DJs have either ignored them or they are still yet to be furnished with their products.
Their music is undoubtedly out of this world and can be ranked among the top hundred Zimbabwean artistes, but without someone pushing it, it will end up nowhere.
These are the guys who need managers to contact the DJs and to build websites for them as they cannot do it on their own.
Managers have specific roles to play in order to achieve the success of their artistes. Here are a few of those roles:
l Managers need to handle the business side of an artiste’s career e.g. bookings, gigs, live shows, negotiating royalty settlements with record companies and publishers.
l They should also know a bit of administration. That means, looking after the band and liaising with lawyers, dealing with accounts, giving press statements to journalists and talking to A&R departments of record companies.
In brief, they need to guide the artist’s career in the right direction.
It must be noted that there are no hard and fast rules for choosing a manager. Everything is subject to negotiation when it comes to the artist choosing a manager and the working conditions thereof.
The idea behind appointment of any manager is to employ someone who will further advance the artist’s career. It is better to choose someone who has a keen interest in the music of the artist and who understands it as opposed to someone who just sees the band as an opportunity to make money.
Artistes are encouraged to choose someone who will make a difference to their future. They also need to make sure the managers earn their money by relieving the artist of administrative burdens.
The manager should be someone with contacts in the business or someone who is capable of creating contacts.
The artiste should avoid unscrupulous and untalented managers. Wherever possible, it is advisable to get professional legal advice. The job a manager does depends very much on the band and where they are in their careers. For any band, a manager should:
l Send out demo-tapes to radio stations, the print media, and online publications.
l Book gigs and invite labels and the media to the band’s shows.
l Network and talk to people about the band.
l Help book studio time and practice sessions.
l Explore funding opportunities for the band.
l Negotiate financial deals with the label for expenses like touring and recording.
Do managers need contracts?
In a word, ‘YES’. Even if you’re managing an unsigned band made up of personal friends and there is no money involved for now, you need a written agreement.
It doesn’t have to be fancy or even supervised by a lawyer. Just jot down what is expected of both manager and band, what the percentage of income for the manager will be if any money should come in, and what happens if band and manager decide to part ways.
Many new bands don’t want to make their friends sign contracts. Put that out of your mind. When you’re entering into a business relationship with a friend, a contract keeps the friendship safe.
A management contract is a two-way agreement. It should include:
l No impediments such as artist being contracted
to someone else. The manager should make this clear from the beginning that he or she will take care of all of the artiste’s business or a section of it, depending on what is agreed upon.
Some managers prefer to deal with recording only while others choose to do concert promotion only. It is up to the parties to agree on a suitable arrangement.
l Exclusive deal that the artist will perform all contracts entered into by the manager.
l All enquiries for live performances are referred to the manager, even if they come through the band members.
l No negotiation of any contracts without consulting the manager.
l The length of this contract is often three years with escape route in the event that the band is not successful.
Control over money is a decision between the artiste and the manager.
The artiste should never allow the manager to be the sole signatory. It is either him with you or with your accountant. When there is an emergency it might be necessary to set up a second account or provision for petty cash.
This is one business in which the artiste can fire the manager in case of serious misunderstandings.
Expenses should be paid on receipts only. Generally 20 percent on gross income is paid to the manager but this is subject to negotiation. If the band has to pay income tax this must be deducted first.
Only expenses reasonably and necessarily incurred on behalf of the band should be entertained.
Termination of contract comes if manager: goes bankrupt; fails to attend to artiste affairs for more than two months or is guilty of serious breach of contract.
If you think management might be a good fit for you, take a look around you.
Do you know any musicians who could use someone to help organise shows or manage their websites?
Volunteer to help bands you know, even if it means working for free while you’re learning the ropes as most musicians need managers.
l Fred Zindi is a Professor at the University of Zimbabwe and he can be contacted on: [email protected]