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Preoducer/Engineer Managers
Old 29th September 2005
  #1
Gear interested
 
JFK Chopper's Avatar
 

Thread Starter
Producer/Engineer Managers

Hi Michael,

You have style and you have grace....Your mixes put a smile upon my face...https://www.gearslutz.com/board/newthread...ad&f=56#Thanks again for all you advice and opinions.

I am currently being courted by a Producer Manager and my questions are with regards to you and your manager.

1) What are the Pros and Cons that we should look out for in the event that we are approaching or being approached by a Producer/Engineer Manager? huge rosters, high percentage's,Big gold chains, leisure suits, etc, etc.? https://www.gearslutz.com/board/newthread...ewthread&f=56#

2)Where there any particular pitfalls or success's that you've experienced that we could learn from?

3) Also when you first started working with a Manager did your clients ever feel like they couldn't talk to you directly anymore. If they did how did you handle the situation?

4) How do you draw the line between friendships and business in the studio. I understand that you naturally refer clients and potential clients to your manager now, but was there ever an awkward transitional time where, people still insisted on negotiating with you directly?

5) And finally, How difficult was it for you to give up control to someone else. Or better yet what level of control do you maintain. Do you consider it a complete partnership or more of an Employer (you) & Employee (manager) type of relationship or vice versa?

I realise some of the answers could get a bit personal so I'll understand if you don't feel comfortable answering all of them. But your advice and experience on the subject would be greatly appreciated. Thank you again in advance for your invaluable insight and another thanks for showing all of us Slutz that it's still cool to shake yer ass while we're workin'. Don't lose your moves...

Cheers,
JFK.
Old 30th September 2005
  #2
Past Guest Moderator
 
Michael Brauer's Avatar
 

This was the big question I was waiting for, and it’s appropriate that we save the best for last. The questions are well written, thank you.

I’m going to tell it to you the way it is. It’s my opinion, my time on this forum and one topic where I’m not holding back any punches.

At some point many of you will be or are already spending most of your waking hours working on projects. How do you find the time to invoice and follow up on bill collection? How do you keep business separate from music when you’re negotiating with the very people that will be in the studio with you? How do you keep business out of the studio if you are still negotiating the deal during a project. Most deal memos are agreed upon prior to the start of a session but some get very intense and fighting over clauses continue throughout the course of the recording process. How do you find the time to pursue projects and how do you put yourself in the mix when other managers are working hard to get the project for their client? How do you deal with problems during the course of a project that are non-music related? If none of these questions pose a big problem for you, then you don’t really need a manager.

I’d been through so many managers, until a few years ago, that I might very well be in the Guiness book of world records. Were they all bad? Is it their fault? No, it’s my fault for picking managers that weren’t right for me. It took me a painfully long time to realize how they could best work for me. Once I owned up to it, I realized that I had to be running the show and be responsible for the direction I wanted them to head in.

So we begin. First of all, let’s look at what draws a manager to you. My guess is, the quality of your work and the projects you’ve completed recently have drawn attention to the fact that you are good, professional and can handle the pressures of making a project successful. You probably have some established clients that are a steady source of income and are loyal to you. Being busy and having a repeating clientele will attract a manager. It’s a no-brainer. The foundation work has already been set for them.

What can a manager offer you?
Ideally, a change for the good. They will have your best interest in mind when representing you. They will use their years of experience and contacts to bring you new clients, high-level projects and attempt to keep you busy with the goal of you becoming in great demand. They will also negotiate better deals for you that will translate to increased income and, depending on your value, royalty points on records. They will take care of invoicing, collection and chasing down outstanding receivables. They’ll check your royalty statements for accuracy. In return for this service, they’ll demand 15%-25% from all your income related to whatever your expertise is. That is what they can offer you in an ideal world.

Now, welcome to the real world. They promise you all this but they will never say they guarantee to keep you busy. The only guarantee is, you will be paying them a commission on everything that comes to you. They have every incentive to get you work, that’s the business they’re in and, unless you’re just one of several business they have, no work for you mean’s no money for them.


What do you look for in a manager?
Start with the basics, human nature. Can you trust them to have your best interest in mind? This person has to give you the feeling they are genuine and can be trusted. You want to feel you can relate to them easily. Go with your gut instinct on this. It’s no different than meeting someone in a non-business related situation. You get a vibe from this person or you don’t. Watch their body language. They will give you plenty of nonverbal clues about themselves. You must be confident this is the person you want representing you. If you’re not comfortable with the way they dress or their arrogance is overbearing, notate it. If too many things just don’t feel right, walk away.
Do your research. You need to answer some questions about this person. It’s an important decision that must not be rushed. How do A&R react to him and how well known is he among the record companies. (A&R assistants know all the regulars) What is his reputation like on the street? Is he a deal breaker? What do his own clients think of him? Do you need them to be traveling to bring in work? Is your source of work, local or International. Where does he live? Are you on one coast he on another? Should that be a concern for you? Is he cheap or too greedy on deals? Is he fair and flexible? A&R can answer that one. Hang out in the clubs they frequent, you can find out everything you need to know over a beer.

You want a manager to build a relationship between you and the record company. It’s about your future, not his or his relationship with them. An insecure manager isn’t going to allow that. He’s going to be the middleman and keep you out of the loop. If they have their way, you’ll never have a phone conversation with the record company. It’s not healthy, because this approach is not in your best interest in the long term.

Of course, a manager should be doing all the negotiating for you. But you should be completely informed on every deal and you have the final say on everything. Do not discuss business with producers or record companies, refer them to your manager, that’s what you pay them to do. Just talk music. You are the good guy, always. Nothing is a problem for you. You just want to make a good record. There are instances where someone might try to get you to sidestep your manager and negotiate you down. Bad move on your part. It’s not your place to negotiate. But, it must be clearly driven home to your manager that when you want to do a project, they must work within the budget. It may come down to, do you want the project or not?

Managers can kill a deal without you ever knowing about it. I’ve run into someone at a club and I’ll jokingly ask how come they don’t love me anymore and their answer is “I wanted you for a project, you were perfect for it, I sent you the music but your manager said you were too busy and didn’t really like the music and pushed one of his other guys on me.” I’m standing there like an idiot with no knowledge of any of this having taken place. That would not have happened if he knew he could just pick up the phone and talk to me directly about a project he had in mind.

Sometimes they forget that it’s supposed to be fun. It’s about music and together you can go further than if they try to control you. It’s really about keeping it creative and not making it like a rent gig or obligation.


Should you go with a manager that has a phone book for a roster or someone that has just a few select clients?
I’ve had both and frankly, it doesn’t matter. They both have their faults and they both have their assets. They can both work to your advantage if you take a firm stance on who’s the boss. You are the boss, and you’re paying them a handsome commission, so make them work for you. Take control of what and how you want your goals achieved. Set small goals for them that must be met on a timely basis. Acknowledge their hard work. Who wants to work for someone that is unappreciative and bitches at every detail? If a manager is getting lazy, nip it in the bud. Keep them focused on your mission and objectives. Don’t lose track of the goals you’ve set for them or yourself. Don’t be intimidated by their reputation or their BS, it’s your career you’re dealing with here. If something doesn’t feel good, address your concern and resolve it. Don’t complain and whine later when your career is spiraling down and suddenly “it’s all their fault”. No, it’s your fault for letting it get this far and continuing to put your trust in someone that no longer has your best interests at stake.

Some managers love the hunt for the sake of the prize. Once they have it, they’ll go gangbusters for about three, maybe six months and then they lose interest. You’re another horse in the stable. Soon, they’re back out hunting again.

Most large management companies will include both engineers and producers in their roster. Say, that’s pretty cool. In fact, that can be great because they’ll just put their engineers together with their producers and everybody is working and all life is good. Hmm, wait a minute. Isn’t there a potential for a conflict of interests? Are you sure they’re going to be able to have you’re best interest in mind when they represent both parties? Double dipping and keeping it incestuous seems more like what is best in their interest to me. Say you’ve been given a huge advance and you fall out with the producer in the middle of the project. Is your manager going to side with you or with the producer? Are they going to demand you give all your money back? Feeling very alone are you? Do they also represent A&R? Wow, that’s great, now the record company calls the producer that calls you to record and mix the project. Life is good… but wait, what if you end up having a big problem on a project and the company is pissed, who’s side is the manager going to take? IF, he takes the company’s side, you are going to be left all alone to deal with the situation and you already know how the producer fits into this little scenario. It’s no fun. It’s complicated and there’s a potential for someone to come out a loser. What happened to having your best interest in mind? Does anger and betrayal come to mind as you are writing them that commission check they’re entitled to? Even if you were the screw up and you were totally in the wrong on a project, your manager must stand by your side. Once it’s resolved, they have every right to drop you as a client or kick the sense out of you, but they can not leave you hanging in a time of need.

So, it’s time for a breakfast meeting with your future xmanager. What happens at a meeting? I laugh when I think back to those times. It seems like every one of them was, word for word, identical. The same phrases, the same promises and the same feeling of euphoria… or not, as they walk off to an important meeting. It has to come out of a manual titled “how to land a client with these simple-to-use phrases”. It has to.

Look, they’re going to tell you what they can offer you, that’s fine. But many go overboard, and they’ll make promises they have no intention on ever keeping and you will eventually find out, when it’s too late. Some are genuine, some aren’t. The trick is to know how to differentiate between the two. My flag goes up if they tell me they could have had me mix, insert hottest project going, if I had been their client. Or my favorite, “all my guys are always working”. I love that one. It’s pure bullsh*t and it’s got an asterisk attached to it that says in hidden thoughts “WHEN I have work for them, my guys are always working.” Another classic favorite, “You’re getting paid HOW MUCH for your work? I can’t believe it, you’re worth twice that, wow!” ooh, it’s just like it was yesterday. And of course the clincher “That guy that’s getting all the work, (insert name), is so overrated!, you should be doing those gigs and I can make that happen!? Whammo, down to one nail. Now it’s time to exit, stage left. Ooh wait, one small little detail before he runs off, it’s a matter of commission and contracts. What’s their deal?

After much thought, you’ve decided on a manager. It’s time to talk business. There are a lot of considerations to keep in mind when you decide to negotiate a deal with a manager. They have their standard deal, but all deals are negotiable depending on what you bring to the table. How much do you need them and how much do they need you? Are they going to gain more by representing you or is it the other way around?

Let’s say you have a successful business going with a few steady clients. The deals, fees and contracts are always the same. You have always negotiated directly with them and it’s a healthy relationship. Enter a new manager. Should you just hand over a full commission to a manager that has had nothing to do with acquiring this client? Should they take over the deals and attempt to up the price. No, I wouldn’t, not unless you want to take a risk and say bye bye to that client forever. I’d start by identifying the specific clients and exclude them from a commission. It’s not going to go over big but keep in mind, you’re the one that busted your ass getting and keeping this client. He’s yours, fair and square. Let them work to get you new clients.

Be open to the possibility of negotiating a reduced commission for pre existing clients or offer a 50% commission after a period of time that shows good faith on both sides. It depends on the situation, but be firm. Talk to your client and discuss the new manager’s role in your relationship. Make sure your client understands nothing is going to change between the two of you. The deals remain the same, just the paper work changes hands. If any problems arise, they must inform you, and you’ll take care of it.

Should you sign a contract? I’ve done it both ways. There are two sides to this story and I’m not going to side with either. If you don’t sign a contract, I hope you’re both honorable people and you’ll honor your agreements and your loyalty to each other. If things don’t work out, you’ll do the right thing to make the business transition fair for both.

If you decide to sign a contract, make sure your interests are also included. Find a lawyer that can look over the contract and make any necessary changes that seem excessive,

When do you expect to see your career go ballistic with the phone ringing off the hook and you’re begging for a week off in Aruba with your babe?
Not anytime soon. Slap yourself awake and look around you.
A manager needs time to build a person’s career. It doesn’t come overnight and you are not doing them justice if you start bitching three months into it. You must go into a relationship trusting them. You’re going to need to give them a good six months. During that time they will have plenty of A&R meetings set up with their best connections. You should be receiving CD’s of potential projects you’re being considered for. It’s going to take teamwork. Communication between the two of you must be on a regular basis. When he gets you a job, you deliver. Every time you deliver, you make his job of selling you bit easier. The client has to not only like the quality of your work, but more importantly, have loved the experience working with you. If you’re a moody, bitchy and negative person, Aruba is probably not in your near future.

If you are already well established and your name is well respected, you should expect to see new clients coming your way within a few months of employing them. One of the reasons you’ve chosen them is for their contacts.

If you were once well respected and have fallen from grace or whatever there is to fall from, it’s going to take time. Be patient. It’s more challenging for a manager because they may have to reinvent you or change people’s perception of you. But they wouldn’t have taken you on if they didn’t think it was going to work out fine for everyone.

Ok, after all that effort and time you’ve put into this new venture, it’s not working out and you want out. If you have a signed contract, it’s time to refresh your memory on the conditions of termination. This may be the time when you wished you’d hired that lawyer I suggested. Like, what’s with this sunset clause?? What happened to all that warm and fuzzy feeling we had for each other when I signed this contract in good faith?

This is a good one. I had a former assistant, now successful engineer, call me to ask my opinion on a contract he was given to sign. His concern was the “sunset clause”. It lasts 5 years, starting from the time he terminates his manager. So for five years, on a sliding scale, his X-manager would be entitled to a commission on everything he does alone or with new management. What new manager is going to be interested in working with him knowing that there is an additional commission taken right off the top that is owed the x- manager? Needless to say, my friend didn’t sign anything. I’ve personally never had a sunset clause included in a contract by any manager.

What is fair for both parties if you decide to terminate your relationship and you have no contract?
First you should give them notice. From the time of termination, they should be entitled to full commission for three to six months. They too may have been busting their ass building up your career. They might have a lot of years invested in you. You might think they’ve done a lousy job in the last year or so but that’s irrelevant. If they were responsible for getting you a major record that went on to become a hit, the indirect work that comes from that is substantial and credit must be given to them for the direct as well as the indirect work. It’s not fair to say, “well you only got me this one gig, and the rest were just taking the calls.” Hay, how did those calls start in the first place? But, if it’s a case where they were totally incompetent managing you, they have not stood up to their part of the deal and they should be dealt with appropriately.

So there you have it. Soup to nuts. Good luck.
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Old 30th September 2005
  #3
Gear Addict
 
johnjm22's Avatar
 

Thanks Micheal, that was awsome. thumbsup
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Old 30th September 2005
  #4
Gear interested
 
JFK Chopper's Avatar
 

Thread Starter
Thank-you

Mr. Brauer,

What can I say. Your advice has helped a budding producer more than you will ever know. I hope (better yet, I know) that some day, I will be in the studio mixing a record with you and I will have the opportunity to tell you personally how much your advice and mentorship, if you will, has meant to me.

Your experiences and knowledge of all things Technical, Professional, and Personal that you have shared with us over the last month here on Gearslutz will be sifted through, torn apart, digested, regurgitated, re-digested, tried, failed, interpreted, re-interpreted, mis-interpreted, disseminated and respected by everyone lucky enough to stumble across it for years to come.

I sincerely wish you all the best, and I truly hope that you continue on your successful trajectory both professionally and personally. I know that one day when you look back on your career, and your life, you will be proud to say that you gave more than you took. Your respect for the little guy, coupled with your willingness to share your knowledge and experiences has earned you more respect than you will ever know.

Thank-you for a truly stunning month on GearSlutz! Please don't be a stranger.

Special thanks also to Jules for moderating this forum so professionally, and also for having the energy to create and maintain this wonderful enviroment of learning and sharing.

With the utmost respect and gratitude, keep on shakin' it like a polaroid picture.

Sincerely,

Jared JFK
Old 30th September 2005
  #5
Past Guest Moderator
 
Michael Brauer's Avatar
 

Thank you.You're very kind. I'm glad I had the chance to help those that needed it.
Old 30th September 2005
  #6
Here is a cat amongst the pigeons..

Say you get a royalty for your work as well as a fee.

Should a producer manager share in that revenue? For ever?

or just earn from the fee?

(NOTE: I have blocked this page from being seen by all the producer managers in the world so please feel you can be candid).. only kidding..
Old 30th September 2005
  #7
Past Guest Moderator
 
Michael Brauer's Avatar
 

a commission is for fee and royalties, for the life of the record in all it's forms. You are not going to give a manager very much insentive to find you work if they don't have a stake in the profits. I suppose, if you have the clout to demand anything, you might be able to negotiate a sliding scale commission after x amount of units sold. But, i'm not aware of such deals because i'm not at that level...yet, and personally I wouldn't do it.( managers are reading this and going, yah, I like this guy!)
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