The Role Of Artist Managers And Booking Agents

artist managers, booking agentsTo help you understand the functions of the various parties involved in sync licensing deals, here I share a chapter from my book Music Rights Without Fights. In this extract I examine the role of the artist manager, who’s closest to the artist in all aspects of their career. We’ll also look at the booking agent who’s solely focused on live performance.

Artist Managers: Professional advisor, confidante…

As a marketer, you probably understand the landscape when dealing with on-screen talent, whether that be an actor or a model. They have an agent, one person or company, who represents them. There might possibly be a lawyer involved, but essentially there’s one contracting party – the on-screen talent.

In music, it’s completely different as even a solo artist wears many hats and has different representatives for the different aspects of their career:

artist managers

The above is a guide and there will always be exceptions. However, let’s say you want to:

  • Book an artist to play at your brand’s event
  • Film the show and post it on your brand’s YouTube Channel
  • Have the artist do some “meet and greets” with competition winners
  • Have the artist promote the event on their own social media channels
  • Have the artist do a photo op with your CEO which you can post online

The above wish list is not uncommon yet it involves negotiations with all four of the above representatives (label, publisher, manager, agent) and often they have divergent agendas.

In a previous chapter we learned in detail about the roles of music publishers and record labels, so now let’s look at the roles of the artist manager and booking agent:

(i) Artist managers

Artist managers have (or are supposed to have) the artist’s best interests in mind across every element of their career. The artist manager often performs the role of professional advisor, confidante, relationship counsellor, advocate, substitute parent, nanny, mentor and sometimes minder. It’s a very tough job and ultimately relies on mutual trust and respect. If that breaks down, the relationship ceases to work irrespective of any contract.

The manager may have represented the artist since the start of their career – initially working for love rather than financial reward, sometimes for many years. In this role, the manager may have negotiated the artist’s exclusive record and publishing contracts, signing away rights in return for financial advances and marketing support.

Increasingly, emerging artists who sign exclusive recording agreements with major record labels relinquish some rights or sometimes a share of income beyond that from the copyright in sound recordings. However, in the first instance it’s always worth approaching the artist’s manager if you want the artist to:

  • Endorse your brand by appearing in an advertising campaign
  • Become a brand ambassador
  • Create and record a new song for a campaign
  • Create a new cover recording for a campaign
  • Perform at an event
  • Attend an event
  • Promote your brand via the artist’s social media channels
  • Allow their name, image or likeness to be used to promote your brand

The manager is best placed to discuss with the artist whether or not they wish to be involved and also advise whether they can even grant the necessary rights.


It’s not unheard of for managers to claim they can grant all the rights you might need as they want to take all the money on the table. However, from the above wish list it’s likely that:

  • The creation of a new recording requires an artist waiver and master sync licence from the artist’s record label in addition to an engagement agreement with the artist.
  • The creation of a new song requires a publishing sync licence from the artist’s music publisher in addition to an engagement agreement with the artist.
  • If the artist co-writes a song with other another independent songwriter, known as a “co-writer”, the co-writer may have a separate music publisher. If so, a separate publishing sync licence is required for the co-writer’s share of the song.
  • Any live performance may need to be negotiated with a live booking agent (see next section on Booking Agents)
  • Any use of name, image or likeness may require a licence from the artist’s record label; if the label has this right it will be part of the artist waiver, rather than the master sync licence.

It’s also not uncommon for record labels to claim that they can grant a very broad set of artist’s rights, particularly image, brand endorsement, brand ambassadorship and even live performance, when in reality these are not controlled on an exclusive basis.

So, as a brand marketer, you need to be wary and cross check the claims of each party to ensure you are dealing with the actual owner of the specific rights you need. To be one step removed will result in over-payment.

(ii) Booking agents

Once an artist reaches the level of performing in decent sized venues, it’s likely they’ll have a booking agent. By decent sized, let’s assume anything with a 500+ capacity.

A traditional music-industry booking agent will have the exclusive right to book live performances for the artist in specific territories, which usually includes branded events. To clarify, the booking agent can only negotiate the live performance – not any other rights which may be controlled by the artist, their record label, music publisher or any other third parties.

What does this mean for marketers?

  • Booking agents usually work on commission, in the 10% – 15% range
  • So, they’re solely incentivised by the performance fee
  • They don’t care about other promotional benefits the brand brings to the artist
  • They won’t help you secure artist waivers or sync licences if you film the show
  • They’ll try to insist you use their standard booking contract
  • You should insist that the artist countersigns the contract

Beyond traditional music industry booking agents are the much larger uS talent agents who’ve set up shop in the uK. Creative Artists Agency (“CAA”) and william Morris endeavour (“wMe”) are two obvious examples. These agents not only broker deals for artists’ live performances but are also very active in the brand endorsement and partnership market. Their mind set is informed by the representation of Hollywood stars who command top dollar for brand endorsement deals. That said, their rights to broker brand partnership deals for musical artists might not always be exclusive so it’s always worth speaking to the artist’s manager first.

In summary

In this chapter we’ve examined the key role of the artist manager in securing the approvals that brands need to use existing music tracks or to work with an artist. we’ve learned that artist managers:

  • are closest to the artist
  • have 360 degree vision of the artist’s career
  • secure the approvals that publishers and labels need to grant sync licences • may be able to directly negotiate name, image and likeness rights
  • usually negotiate brand ambassador and endorsement rights
  • may try to claim ownership of rights already granted elsewhere
  • may not be fully aligned with the artist’s music publisher and record label

We’ve also learned that most established artists have booking agents who:

  • have the exclusive right to negotiate live performance agreements • are solely incentivised by commission on performance fees
  • have no financial reward from other aspects of the artist’s career

If you have any questions about anything in this blog post, or sync licensing in general, please leave a comment below and I will endeavour to reply as soon as possible. If you think the content would be useful to colleagues or other associates, please share with them!