Setting Up Your “Dream Team” Part 1
If you watch a lot of award shows, you’ll notice that the winners usually thank their “team.” Usually they’re referring to their artist manager, talent agent or record label because any artist that gets to that level, appreciates the fact that they did not get there all by themselves! Behind any successful artist, there’s a “dream team” of people behind the scenes who are responsible for the artist’s career being successful or not.
In putting together your entertainment career “dream team,” here are the important key players:
Artist Manager: It’s not an exaggeration to say that behind most, if not all, successful artists is a great artist manager or management team! An artist manager’s primary job is to advise, counsel and negotiate deals on behalf of the artist. However, another definition of a great manager is someone who has a vision for your career that either coincides with the vision you already have for yourself or they have a vision for your career that you don’t yet have for yourself! In addition to being your advisor, a great manager will often play the role of a “parent,” “your sister,” “brother,” “psychologist,” “investor” and “best friend.” (Note – one role your manager should not play is that of your lover! It usually ends badly if you’re banging your manager! Word to the wise!). However, finding a great artist manager can be a “catch-22” situation because it’s hard to get an established and successful artist manager to represent you if you’re not already generating income that he or she can commission. Remember, artist managers get paid a percentage of what you earn so if you’re starting out and making no money, they usually won’t take you on.
In that case, hiring an artist manager that maybe lacks experience, but believes in you so passionately that he or she is willing to put in the work to move your career forward might be the next best thing. These “novice” artist managers need to be fast learners and have great relationship skills since the Entertainment Industry runs on relationships. Remember, there’s no course book on becoming an artist manager so the right person with the right enthusiasm and hustle might just be what you need to propel your career forward! Suffice it to say that a good manager is a key part of your “dream team.”
Entertainment Lawyer: This is also a key member of your team because even if you’re super-talented, it means nothing if your business isn’t on point! A good lawyer is not enough if he or she does not specialize in entertainment law! Too often, I’m retained to try to “fix” a bad contract that was negotiated by a criminal lawyer or a lawyer that just graduated from law school and doesn’t have a clue as to how the entertainment business works! If you wouldn’t go to a foot doctor to undergo brain surgery, likewise make sure you don’t retain a criminal lawyer to negotiate your entertainment contracts, to negotiate instead of an entertainment lawyer that specializes in music or film law.
Also, check out the entertainment lawyer’s background, client base as well as references from other artists to also make sure that they’re knowledgeable about recent changes going on in the Entertainment Industry. I once negotiated an exclusive artist recording agreement with a so called “entertainment lawyer” who had no clue what a 360 deal or ancillary rights agreement was! Shocking, but true!
As a new artist, it may be outside your budget to hire the services of a major entertainment law firm, but there are many knowledgeable, experienced and competent solo-practitioners and smaller law firms that are more reasonable with their fees and will provide you with more personalized attention and care. In other words, they’ll probably return your call a lot faster than the “big wig” lawyers! These entertainment lawyers will also be more flexible in the fees they charge especially if they feel you may have a lot of potential to be successful. Some entertainment lawyers may decide to reduce or eliminate their upfront retainer fees (don’t hold your breath!) in return for being paid a percentage of any agreements or deals they negotiate for you. The percentage they may charge can range from 5% – 10% (or higher) of the total gross dollar value of any agreement or deal they negotiate on your behalf. Other entertainment lawyers may charge either an hourly fee or a pre-agreed flat fee per matter. Shop around for a great entertainment lawyer and for the fee arrangement that best suits your particular situation.
In the next article, we’ll discuss two other key players on your entertainment career “dream team,” the talent agent and business manager.