Musician-Manager Relationships: Legal Guide

Updated August 15, 2023
14 min read
Musician-Manager Relationships: Legal Guide


Behind every great musician, there's typically a hard-working manager who oversees the business side of music, doing what's necessary to keep the musical dream alive. The partnership between a manager and a musician is precisely defined by a crucial contract between a musician and a manager.

Every contract between the musician and manager is unique, tailored to both parties' specific requirements and aspirations. This crucial document delineates duties and even includes preparations for potential complications. You wouldn't want your musician-manager relationship to run into trouble, would you? A well-drafted musician contract template can provide clarity, establish clear terms for responsibilities and compensation, and protect rights, thus guiding the smooth functioning of the professional relationship between the musician and the manager.

Establishing the Musician-Manager Relationship

Forging a strong musician-manager relationship is akin to nurturing any essential partnership. It requires a firm foundation, clear expectations, and a defined estate of responsibilities. In the music industry, a contract between the musician and manager plays an indispensable role in laying this groundwork. This contract provides an indispensable roadmap to guide both parties as music careers evolve and new opportunities arise.

For example, let's consider a clause that's common to manager-musician contracts in the U.S., the "Sunset Clause." This stipulates that a manager will continue to receive a certain percentage of an artist's earnings on a decreasing scale for a defined period after the contract's termination.

Key elements to consider when creating a musician-manager contract

In building a contract, the devil is truly in the details. To that end, let's lay down some key elements in a standard U.S. contract between a musician and a manager. 

  • Financial arrangements: This element defines how the manager will be paid — usually in the form of a percentage of the artist's income. According to U.S. norms, this could be between 10% to 25% based on the artist's and the manager's stature.

  • Term length: The length of the contract between the musician and manager varies, but in the U.S. music industry, it typically ranges from one to three years.

  • Roles and obligations: The artist creates and performs music, while the manager handles business and promotional elements.

  • Termination clause: Things don't always work out. The contract between the musician and a manager outlines the steps needed to end the relationship. A famous case from U.S. court archives is when pop star Kesha sought to terminate her contract with producer Dr. Luke citing personal and professional grievances.

  • Exclusive agreement: The contract between a musician and manager often includes an exclusive agreement clause, indicating that the musician cannot hire another manager within the term. 

  • Dispute resolution: If conflicts arise, the contract between the musician and manager defines how to resolve them. 

Defining Roles and Responsibilities

A contract between a musician and a manager serves as the backbone of their professional relationship. A principal aspect of this contract surrounds defining the roles and responsibilities of each party. 

By clearly laying out these roles, the contract between a musician and a manager streamlines the relationship and operations, fostering a greater sense of harmony and cohesion. Its presence is crucial to set the tone of the cooperation and to ensure a united front as gigs are lined up, albums are recorded, and promotional events are attended.

Outline of a manager's standard tasks and duties

A manager wears many hats, from booking gigs to negotiating contracts. Yet, each contract between a musician and a manager should distinctly outline these duties. 

  1. Career strategy: The manager helps devise and execute a career strategy for the musician, ensuring their path aligns with their goals and aspirations as outlined in the contract between the musician and manager.

  2. Booking shows: As part of their responsibilities, the manager organizes live performances and tours, coordinating with event promoters and venue operators to secure suitable gigs for the musician as stipulated in the contract between the musician and manager.

  3. Negotiation: When it comes to negotiating contracts, whether it's a recording contract with a label or individual gig contracts, the manager takes charge, ensuring favorable terms and conditions for the musician as detailed in the contract between the musician and manager.

  4. Networking: Recognizing the importance of connections in the music industry, the manager actively facilitates the musician's engagement with key industry figures, including record labels, promoters, and other artists, as agreed upon in the contract between the musician and manager.

  5. Publicity: Effective coordination with publicists is crucial for the manager to ensure that the musician's work receives the attention it deserves across various platforms, in line with the promotion and publicity obligations outlined in the contract between the musician and manager.

  6. Financial management: A manager's role extends to financial management, including budgeting, accounting, and even tax filing, ensuring the musician's financial health aligns with the terms established in the contract between the musician and manager. They closely monitor revenues and expenses to uphold the financial obligations outlined in the contract between the musician and manager.

Breakdown of a musician's obligations toward their manager

Similarly, musicians have obligations too. As part of their agreement, there are several key areas that a musician is responsible for in relation to their manager:

  1. Communication: It's pivotal for the musician to articulate their ideas, aspirations, and concerns openly to the manager. By doing so, it guarantees that, within the contract between the musician and manager, the role of the manager can be fulfilled effectively.

  2. Participation: Actively taking part in decision-making and planning is an essential duty for the musician. The musician's input plays a critical role in mapping out their overall career path.

  3. Fulfillment of agreements: Adhering to the commitments stipulated in the contract between the musician and manager is an obligation for the former. This typically includes attending gigs, meetings, rehearsals, and participating in promotional activities.

  4. Compensation: The terms in the contract between the musician and manager dictate the musician's duty to remunerate the manager. Compensation could be a flat rate, a proportion of earnings, or a blend of both.

  5. Support: The musician is expected to back the manager's decisions that are in line with the shared strategic plan. Building an atmosphere of mutual trust and support is key to a thriving relationship.

  6. Respect: The musician should always treat the manager with professional respect, as stated in the contract between the musician and manager. This encourages a healthy and productive working rapport.

Negotiating expectations on both sides

To avoid hitting a bum note, both parties need to voice their expectations. Understanding each other's wants is crucial in any contract between the musician and manager. This dialogue helps meet halfway, building a more fruitful partnership. If you doubt whether your contract covers all your needs, you can consult a lawyer specializing in business law.

Confidentiality & non-disclosure agreements

A contract between the musician and manager inherently involves shared private information. To protect this, a thorough Confidentiality & Non-Disclosure Agreement is crucial, as it secures these rights and safeguards sensitive information. To ensure confidentiality and other crucial aspects of your cooperation are covered in your contract, create your unique musician contract template. Use it to draft an agreement that best reflects your unique needs and objectives, ensuring a harmonious collaboration between both parties.

Actual updates
7 pages
17.6K created templates
Create your personalized musician contract template
Create & Download

Licensing & royalties

In a contract between the musician and manager, it's necessary to define the proper credit and payment for creative work. By having comprehensive licensing and royalties terms in the contract, the musician's work is shielded adequately and compensated appropriately.


The contract between musician and manager is no small matter. It serves as a rulebook for how both parties will work together. This agreement outlines each one's responsibilities and what they can expect from each other.

As the musician creates art, the manager can work efficiently to support the artist's career, with every step in sync with the contract between the musician and manager. This document, thus, plays a huge role in keeping the music world harmonious and productive.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does copyright law apply to musicians and managers?

Copyright law is a legal rule that protects original works of authorship, like music. For musicians and managers, it is vital to understand these laws. In the contract between the musician and manager, it ensures that the musician’s creative work is protected and the manager maintains legal and professional obligations. 

Copyright law, as prescribed by the U.S. law, specifically under Title 17 of the United States Code, plays a significant role in protecting original music compositions and lyrics. It acts as a safeguard for creative talent by protecting original works of authorship, like music tracks, lyrics, or scores, providing creators with exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, and perform their work.

In the context of a contract between the musician and manager, copyright law ensures the protection of the musician's creative work. It helps make certain that the musician maintains exclusive rights to their work, thereby obtaining any benefits stemming from their creation, like royalties from sales or performances.

What is a standard musician performance contract?

A standard musician performance contract is a legal agreement that outlines the terms and conditions for a musician's performance at an event. For instance, the U.S. Copyright Law includes provisions that any public performances, like concerts, need licensing. The contract between the musician and manager typically includes these performance contracts to ensure legal compliance and clear communication.


In many cases, the contract between the musician and manager encompasses terms that clarify expectations about performance details and responsibilities. This approach creates transparency and avoids misunderstandings. A notable example from U.S. law is when pop singer Katy Perry was sued by a stagehand over a contract dispute highlighting the importance of laying down clear performance-related terms in the contract between the musician and manager.

What are smart contracts between musicians and managers?

Smart contracts are a cutting-edge approach to agreements within the music industry. Utilizing blockchain technology, they digitize the contract between the musician and the manager. For example, in the U.S., the platform Open Music Initiative fosters the use of smart contracts to streamline royalty distributions and management.


Effectively, smart contracts function by automatically executing and enforcing the set obligations in a contract between a musician and a manager. The requirements stipulated in the contract are programmed into a blockchain, reducing the need for third-party enforcement and minimizing the prospects of breaches.

All these answers may vary depending on the state and should be discussed during a consultation.