by: Brandon Countee
The entertainment industry is one where you are constantly hearing from people how dangerous the industry is when it comes to losing your money and getting the short end of the stick. The stories are abundant and if you simply do a Google search you will find page after page of stories— so I won’t give you a long drawn out introduction to it. I will share my top advice on how not to get screwed in the entertainment industry.
1. Have a contract
Half of the horror stories that I have been told from talent managers or entertainers regarding getting screwed all started with the contract (legally enforceable agreement). I can’t stress how important the contract is because it does 3 things: States what is the responsibilities of the parties. What happens when someone breaks the contract. What is being agreed upon (financial spit, termination of contract, etc). Those 3 things are essentially important when it comes to doing business in the industry. I bet when you do a search for managers or artists who got screwed at least 1 of those 3 things are mentioned as the cause. I learned the hard way about 10 years ago when I was trying to develop an artist. We didn’t have a written agreement, but we had shook hands and worked constantly. After about 3 months, I realized that it seemed that the development deal became very much a personal support deal. I was paying for things that had nothing to do with the client as a entertainer, but was for their rent and cell phone bill. Worse yet the client missed several meetings and wasted hours in the studio by being late. I know what you are saying, "Why not just walk away? Well for one I had invested money and wanted to at least get paid what I had put in. To add I didn’t have anything on paper that stated that the money I had invested was reimbursable.
2. It’s always business
The best advice that I ever received was from a boxing promoter when I first got into boxing. It applies to everything in music and it’s never “fall in love with your client”. They may be friends, damn near family, but never fall in love with a client. Like any relationship when you fall in love, emotions override logic and decision making. A client may be good to you and you to them, but realize that your relationship is manager and client. Think about when you see a record label drop an artist after 10 years of musical bliss (and millions together) and one year of a failed project. Labels know that as much as they may like you, at the end of the day your relationship is built on business. Treat your clients the same.
3. Know when to quit
Like every sunrise there comes a sunset and with every beginning there comes an ending. Some business relationships ,while maybe great at first or beneficial, turn into a headache and leaves irreparable damage. Sometimes you change desire and motivation and sometimes the client no longer agrees with your vision of them. Sometimes you just get tired of each other. A consultation that turned into a management deal a few years I think is a good example. The first 6 months we were flowing and getting some things done with their music. But the following 6 months after that we hated each other. Why? He wanted to go a way that I knew was going to end disastrous and I honestly ran out of ideas of what to do next. I can admit it now that I should have ended the deal when I ran out of ideas because we both just forced ourselves to continue to work together miserably. Know when to see that it’s time to sever ties and walk away. If you have to force yourself to stay with the client, then you have decisions to make.
Brandon Countee is the founder and Chief Design Director of Majestic Raven (MR). He specializes in branding and marketing, along with artist management and artist development.