WHO ARE MY TEAM OF ADVISORS?

A band is often surrounded by what Donald Passman calls the "team of advisors". These include the business manager, accountant, and lawyer.

A business manager, as the name implies, manages an artist's finances. Needless to say, you don't need a business manager until you are receiving enough money to justify the expense. However, when you get to that point, a business manager is a very important individual. A business manager monitors the bands' income, expenditures, budget and insurance. Most importantly, they will be aware of the tax consequences of your career. As all bands realize, the entertainment industry does not take taxes out when they pay you. I challenge the band to find me a show they played where their net pay was $273.54 after taking out social security, state and federal taxes. It just does not happen. When you make enough money, that tax bite can come pretty hard come April 15th.

There are no requirements to be a business manager. Most business managers are CPA's. An accounting degree is not essential, however, be sure that your business manager is skilled at complex financial transactions. Also be sure that he is familiar with the entertainment industry. This criteria is essential because the entertainment industry has many unique aspects which differ from general business. Try to find a business manager who charges hourly as opposed to a percentage of your income. If the business manager insists on a percentage of income, try to include a cap so that if your album goes triple platinum, your business manager does not get to retire. Never agree to pay a business manager more than 5% no matter how much money he says he can make you or save you.

Another important member is an entertainment attorney. The entertainment industry is built on contracts. Lawyers write them and lawyers break them. Before you sign anything, it is advisable to have an attorney look at it. Most attorneys charge by the hour or a flat fee. Some, however, will want a percentage of the band's income. As with all other members of your entertainment team, avoid this if you can. An attorney who takes a percentage of a band's income may create a conflict of interest. Be wary of a lawyer who does this, even if they are merely shopping your tape. Since they are getting a cut, who's interest is she looking out for? I don't know any lawyers who do work before getting paid. It is wise to consider a retainer to an attorney so when you do have a legal question or problem, you can call them up and get advice and apply it toward your retainer.

Another member of your team is the talent agent. This person books your shows. There are different levels of talent agents from those who work only in a particular city to regional to national. Have you ever wondered how a band plays 150 shows across the country or how a band from Georgia plays at a night club in Cleveland? Talent agents book these tours. They have the contacts and they route their bands across the country. A talent agent is almost a necessity if you plan on touring outside of your region.

Talent agencies are generally governed by law and union agreements. New York and California have stringent laws regarding talent agents. Most reputable talent agents are members of various entertainment guilds/unions such as AFM, AFTRA, etc. and abide by their constitutions and bylaws. These guilds have standard contracts between the artist and the talent agency. A standard fee for a talent agent is 10%, but it may go as high as 20%. There are some local talent agents who specialize in getting bands shows in a certain region. They generally prefer bands who want to perform for a living, including week nights. If you want to play only Saturday nights, a local talent agent is not what you need. Getting shows means perseverance. Send your tape to the club and be willing to accept playing any night the owner requests. Don't expect to start out playing Saturday nights. Pay your dues. For the full- time band, however, a talent agent can be a big bonus.

The most important member of your team is the producer. She is the one who makes you sound the way you do on your tape. Since the entertainment industry is driven by recorded music, what you sound like on tape is crucial to your success. A producer can make your sound soar or make you sound like a dull drone. Initially, most producers will want to be paid a flat fee. This is understandable because most bands just don't make it. Sorry to disappoint you, but 95% of bands never get out of their basements. Therefore, it is hard to convince a producer to take a chance and produce your band for future royalties.

When you get to the point of recording an album for a record label, things change. Producers generally want money upfront, which is called an advance, and a percentage of the royalties from the sale of the record, which is called points. Producers almost without exception receive three percentage points on a record contract. The key to picking a producer is listening to her prior work. Find a band whose tape you like the sound of and find out who produced it. It is likely that the producer has a style that you want your music to possess.

All of these people play an important role in a band's development. Chose these people carefully. You should be comfortable with them personally as well as professionally. Check the reputations of the persons you consider hiring since your reputation is also on the line. You will be known by the people you surround yourself with. Each player fulfills a role.

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