Do’s and Don’ts: DRAFTING THE RIGHT TEAM
Many of you have messaged me and asked about what qualities you should look for when choosing a manager and other professionals that you may need during the course of your career. First, I think you need to understand their purpose and for the purposes of this legal advice article, we will connect what they do to your attorney’s job.
Let’s take a look at how athletes organize their business. It’s well known that athletes surround themselves with a team of individuals who take care of their business so that the athlete can focus on his/her game. The athlete may hire an agent, publicist, a manager, marketing person, personal assistant, financial advisor, accountant and an attorney. These professionals are the glue to the athlete’s brand and his business, they keep his structure solid and his business thriving. Just like athletes, the players in the entertainment industry (including artists, producers, composers, models, DJs, labels, etc) are a business, YOU ARE A BUSINESS and you should think like one. In order to flourish you must surround yourself with a team of good, professional people. These are the very people that record labels meet before they meet you; these are the people who put your image out to the public; these are the people who make or help you make the music you sell; these are the people who review, negotiate and draft your contracts; these are the people who take care of your personal family issues when you’re on the road; these are the people who fix the messes you make; these are the people who book you business and sell your brand to companies: these people are responsible for helping you make your career profitable. So, choose them wisely!
So why do you need these people on your team? Major labels are looking for these individuals when you attempt to approach them. It shows them you’re your business is in order and that you are truly ready for what you’re seeking. Although you may not start out with an attorney, manager, agent, publicist, financial advisor, accountant or personal assistant, you want to employ them before you end up in a bind and when you need them. Each position has its purpose to your success.
The Attorney: Your attorney drafts and reviews contracts. They may also offer legal advice regarding setting up businesses. Attorneys who like to provide their entertainment clients with a full range of services also handle pre-post nuptial agreements, wills, divorces, child support, and criminal matters.
The Agent: The agent’s primary responsibility is to solicit and obtain employment for their client. Most companies are looking for someone who is soliciting the work for you and not coming directly from the unknown talent. The more business they obtain for you the more contracts the attorney has to review.
The Manager: The manager assists the client/talent in choosing shows, songs, as well as, running the band to taking care of their tours and personal matter.
The Accountants and Financial Advisors: These are the individuals that manage your money, giving you advice on insurance plans, and they make sure that you have money to live off of when you have played your last show. They prepare you for your future. These individuals must be trustworthy and professionals who honestly know how to plan and tell you when to say “NO” when those long lost relatives show up at your door. If you don’t choose this position wisely, you will likely end up going back to your attorney and asking them to help you file for bankruptcy when bills start coming in that you cannot pay and you have no idea of what happened to your money.
The Publicist: They help you make your image. This person is responsible for getting you out there, getting your name, your music, in the media. They also quiet bad matters and fix your image when you get into a fight at a release party or when you get a DUI…with the help of your attorney of course.
When drafting your team, consider the following:
1. Get a feel for the real person before you hire them. You are not necessarily looking for a friend, you are looking for someone that you can trust and one who will have your best interest at heart when they are advocating and promoting you.
2. Get references if possible or if they’re new in their field, ask them what kind of training and/or experience they may have had to prepare them for the new job.
3. Ask them how they are going to help you get to where you need to be.
4. Read the contract that you have with them and then get your attorney to read it as well, so that they can make sure it’s fair and that you understand what you are obligated to do. You are their client, but you are also their boss! Make sure your contract with your agent, publicist, etc. reflects the job that you need them to do.
5. Never pay for their services all up front. Pay a retainer and the balance after the service is completed. Be sure you understand how you are paying these individuals.
6. Communicate often with your team. Be careful! Never be so far unattached to your business that you have no clue of what is going on and what your team is doing. That could be a costly mistake for you.
7. You want a team of professional people and most importantly someone who can adjust to different settings and different types of people. Can your agent, manager, publicist speak on your behalf to the record label executive or meet with your attorney to handle business.
8. Make sure the person who you decide to handle your money is trustworthy and can actually handle money. Are they organized? Will they steal from you? How are they financially? Look into their personal situation for a better look.
9. What kind of industry contacts do they have? Or can they get them?
10. If the person has a huge client list, how do they manage all of them and still effectively promote and service you.
The people you want on your team should go far beyond the call of duty. They make sure your taxes are done, your child support is paid, your traffic violations are paid, your mother gets flowers on her birthday, that your copyrights are filed correctly, that your royalty checks are coming and everything else that needs to be done, gets done. The team you choose helps your attorney’s job go smoothly. They want to make sure that your personal business is going well so that you can focus more on your talent. That’s when you have a solid business foundation and your business is in order.
Written by: Attorney LaQuita Stokes of Corbin Johnson, PLLC (901) 526-1076
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