INDUSTRY 101: Artist Management & Talent Agency Contracts: What You Need to Know.

If you are an artist or a performer in the music industry, chances are you will need the help of a professional to manage your career and find you work. That’s where talent agents and artist managers come in. These are the people who can guide you, connect you, and represent you in the entertainment business. But before you sign any contract with them, you need to understand what they do, how they get paid, and what terms are fair and beneficial for you.


Talent agents and artist managers have different but complementary roles in an artist’s career. Here are some of the main differences:

Role in artists’ careers: Talent agents focus on helping an artist find work. They seek out employment opportunities, represent the artist in contract negotiations, and ensure the artist is paid.

Talent managers have a more varied role. They help shape and develop their clients’ careers. They provide services such as managing their clients’ daily business and financial activities, assisting with marketing, referring artists to agents, business managers and publicists, and aiding in talent development.


States usually regulate agents more extensively than managers. For example, New York and California state laws require anyone who solicits and arranges employment for others to be licensed and registered by the state. An agent’s compensation is also restricted. These rules do not apply to managers. However, both agents and managers do owe fiduciary duties to act honestly and in the best interests of their clients. In addition, agents may be subject to guild and union rules, which may establish fees, provide form contracts and require a franchise license. Managers are not regulated by guilds or unions.


Both agents and managers are paid on a commission basis. However, agent commissions are typically subject to legal, union or franchise rules, while a manager’s commission is not. Often, a 10% commission applies to agents, but this is not universal. How commissions are paid may also be regulated for agents. Furthermore, most states prohibit agents from charging an advance fee.


Once an artist finds an agent and/or manager, the artist is typically asked to sign a contract. Good legal representation is important because artists usually have less experience and leverage in negotiating and may find it difficult to judge whether an agreement is fair or not.


Duration: This is how long the contract will last. It may be for a fixed term (such as one year), or for an indefinite term (until terminated by either party). It may also have options for renewal or extension.

Scope: This is what kind of work the agent or manager will handle for the artist. It may be exclusive (meaning the agent or manager is the only one who can represent the artist) or non-exclusive (meaning the artist can work with other agents or managers). It may also be limited to certain territories (such as specific countries or regions) or certain fields (such as music, film or television).

Services: This is what the agent or manager will do for the artist. It may include finding and negotiating employment opportunities, advising on career development, handling business affairs, marketing and promoting the artist, referring to other professionals, etc.

Compensation: This is how much the agent or manager will get paid for their services. It may be a percentage of the artist’s gross or net income from any source related to their work (such as fees, royalties, merchandising, endorsements, etc.), or a flat fee per project or per month. It may also include expenses (such as travel costs) that the agent or manager may incur on behalf of the artist.

Termination: This is how the contract can be ended by either party. It may include conditions for termination (such as breach of contract, non-performance, mutual consent, etc.), notice requirements (such as written notice or a certain number of days), and consequences of termination (such as payment of outstanding commissions, return of materials, etc.).


Do your research: Before you sign anything, do some background check on the agent or manager you are considering. Look at their reputation, track record, clientele, and affiliations. Ask for references and testimonials from other artists they have worked with. Compare their terms and fees with other agents or managers in the industry.

Know your goals: Before you enter into a negotiation, know what you want to achieve from the relationship. What kind of work are you looking for? What kind of career do you want to have? What kind of support do you need? How much are you willing to pay? What are your deal-breakers? Be clear about your expectations and priorities.

Be flexible: Negotiation is a give-and-take process. You may not get everything you want, but you should also not settle for less than you deserve. Be open to compromise and creative solutions. Listen to the other party’s perspective and interests. Try to find common ground and mutual benefit.

Get it in writing: Once you reach an agreement, make sure it is written down in a clear and detailed contract. Review the contract carefully and make sure you understand every provision. Ask questions if anything is unclear or ambiguous. Have a lawyer review the contract before you sign it. Keep a copy of the contract for your records.


Not reading the contract: This may seem obvious, but many artists sign contracts without reading them thoroughly or understanding what they mean. This can lead to unpleasant surprises, such as hidden fees, unfair terms, or unwanted obligations. Artists should always read the contract carefully and ask questions if anything is unclear or ambiguous.

Not getting a second opinion: Artists may not have the legal expertise or experience to judge whether a contract is fair and beneficial for them. They may also be pressured or persuaded by the other party to sign quickly. That’s why it’s important to get a second opinion from a lawyer, a mentor, or a trusted colleague before signing anything.
A lawyer can review the contract and advise on the legal implications and risks. A mentor or a colleague can offer insights and tips from their own experience in the industry.

Not negotiating: Artists may think that they have no leverage or choice when it comes to signing a contract. They may accept whatever terms are offered to them without trying to negotiate a better one. However, negotiation is a normal and expected part of any business deal. Artists should not be afraid to ask for what they want and deserve, such as higher fees, more creative control, or more favorable conditions. Negotiation is a give-and-take process that requires flexibility and compromise, but it can also result in a win-win situation for both parties.

Not protecting their rights: Artists may sign contracts that infringe on their rights as creators and owners of their work. For example, they may sign away their copyrights, their moral rights, or their right to terminate the contract. They may also sign contracts that do not protect their rights in case of disputes, breaches, or damages. Artists should always be aware of their rights and ensure that they are respected and protected in any contract they sign.

Not planning ahead: Artists may sign contracts without considering the long-term consequences and implications for their careers. For example, they may sign an exclusive contract that limit their opportunities to work with other agents, managers, or clients. They may also sign contracts that are too long or too short for their goals and needs. Artists should always think ahead and plan for their future when signing a contract. They should consider how the contract will affect their artistic vision, their income, their reputation, and their relationships.

Talent agents and artist managers are valuable partners for artists in the music industry. They can help artists find work, develop their careers, and handle their business affairs. However, artists should also be careful and informed when signing contracts with them. Artists should understand the differences between agents and managers, the key provisions of their contracts, and the tips for negotiating them. By doing so, artists can protect their rights and interests, and enjoy a successful and rewarding relationship with their agents and managers. Good Luck  and stay savvy our there!