Almost all professional artists and songwriters have managers who handle the business aspects of their careers. In many cases, these managers have supported their clients since the very early days, driven more by love than money in the hope of financial rewards from future success. The manager’s role can be wide and all-consuming: advisor, confidant, relationship counsellor, mentor, advocate, substitute parent, strategist, organiser and most importantly, deal broker. In the world of sync licensing, most licence requests are reviewed and filtered by managers before being shared with artists or songwriters for approval. This is especially true for brand campaign syncs.


For sound recordings controlled by record labels, the artist is deemed to be “signed”, certainly at the point the recording was made. Licence requests for the recording are channelled via the record label who in turn liaises with the artist manager. The same model applies to songs or compositions controlled by music publishers. The songwriter(s) or composer(s) are deemed to be “published”, so licence requests are channelled via the relevant music publishers. In some cases, where the artist and songwriter(s) are the same people, the manager can receive parallel requests for the original artist recording of the song, one from the label, one from the publisher. In all the above cases, sync clearance specialists such as Resilient have no direct contact with managers.


For sound recordings that haven’t been assigned to a record label, the artist is deemed to be “unsigned”. In these instances, the artist controls the copyright in the sound recording so licence requests are sent directly to the artist’s manager. The same is true for songs or compositions that haven’t been assigned to a music publisher. The songwriter/composer controls the copyright in the song or composition, so licence requests are sent directly to the songwriter’s/composer’s manager. In these situations, Resilient directly engages with the manager in the absence of any intermediaries.


Where we have direct contact with managers, their mindset can make or break the deal we are trying to broker. Broadly speaking, we see either Transaction or Partnership mindsets which can be summarised below:

Transaction mindsetPartnership mindset
Fee focused
Short term strategy
Slow to respond
Inflexible on terms
Unreasonable on fees
Opportunity focused
Long term strategy
Flexible on terms
Reasonable on fees

In many cases, unsigned artists and unpublished songwriters/composers are in the early stages of their careers. Their professional stature is still growing and commercial opportunities such as brand campaign syncs could be very beneficial. To that end, managers with a partnership mindset are more likely to conclude deals and build strong relationships. This has always been my advice to budding managers when I’ve presented guest lectures to music business management degree students. We can summarise the consequences of the above mindsets below:

Transaction mindsetPartnership mindset
Brand has negative experience
One-time relationship with artist
No on-going fee opportunity
Brand execs move to other brands
Don’t wish to work with manager again
Not interested in manager’s roster
Recommend colleagues to avoid manager
Brand has positive experience
Ongoing relationship with artist
Higher cumulative fee opportunity
Brand execs move to other brands
Wish to work with manager again
Want to know about manager’s roster
Recommend manager to colleagues

Of course we respect that managers are always seeking to secure the best deals for their clients. That’s only natural. However, smart managers have their eye on the bigger prize which may be a long-term relationship with a brand rather than the single deal on the table right now. A Partnership mindset will always pay dividends and brands should seek to work with managers who demonstrate this.

For more information on the role of managers, you can read Chapter 4 in my book Music Rights Without Fights or get in touch with me at