As you continue to grow in the music industry, there will be a time when a record label, manager, or agent approaches you. You may start jumping for joy, but be careful, there’s a reason music generated $43 Billion in 2017 and musicians like yourself only received 12% of that. Guess who stole the other 88%? That’s right, labels, managers, and agents! In this article, I will explain typical commisions and fees paid by the artist with real life examples, so you understand how to not get robbed.
In the past managers were an essential part of your career but in recent years they have been the complete opposite. Here’s a true story. You may be familiar with Cardi B. Her song Bodak Yellow is certified 6x Platinum, and she won Best New Artist during the 2018 Video Music Awards. As she started rising to stardom her manager’s bank account started growing as well. The reason being he was stealing from her and Cardi B was still paying a 20% manager fee on top of that. He was caught lying about her earnings by telling her she was making half of what she earned then he would pocket the money for himself. Cardi B finally caught him, and she fired him immediately. He turned around and sued her for $10 million!
Cardi B isn’t the only one. Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, Alanis Morissette, Elvis Presley, and TLC are just a few additional artists who experienced manager issues. You can see by the list of names that scamming managers are nothing new. The problem is in every genre, and has been since the start of music! How do you avoid a bad manager? Use technology such as Wave Bot and other advancements available to you. You don’t need a manager to succeed, the only thing you need is fans that support you. Business managers can still be beneficial if you are not good at keeping track of money, but many free apps can do the job.
Why are lying agents worse than scamming managers? They steal from your highest grossing revenue source and your number one way of connecting to fans, your shows! Let’s get to the story. A man by the name of Octaveon Woods lied about being the agent of Migos, Lil Yachty, and others. During this time Octaveon booked multiple shows that the artists knew nothing about and made fake websites where received payment for the events by the venues. Luckily he was caught by authorities and sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay almost $1 million in restitution. Octaveon’s actions hurt the reputation and trustworthiness of the artists he claimed to represent.
To avoid a situation similar to the one I described above it’s best to book your shows and plan your tour. Doing so saves you the 10% agent booking fee, and you keep control of your events. Finding and scheduling events is simple nowadays. You can use a service like Wave Bot that finds and send your booking venues every week in a city of your choice, or you can quickly start locally by growing your fan base and booking in person. Working with more prominent artists is also a great idea. They are all always looking for opening acts which will expose you to a broad audience.
The example for this section will be a positive one about an indie artist who made the Forbes list all by growing one fan at a time. Before I get into the story, I’ll discuss the disgusting and unfair commisions carried at significant record labels starting with royalties. Typically a new musician signing to a label will have low negotiating power and likely have to pay out 90% of their royalties to the label. That means if you sell one song on iTunes you’ll only get 10 cents! Even worse you’ll barely see a check from streams the reason is you get a fraction of a penny per stream, and the label takes 90% of that.
Not only do they take royalties they also steal money from every part of your life, even the things that have nothing to do with music. Have you heard of a 360 deal? Think of it this way; the record label is taking a piece of your entire pie that makes a 360-degree circle. Labels fee that they deserve percentages of all your income since they “boost” you to fame. They also do things like forcing you to work with other companies they own so more money comes in from all angles. When a label signs you to a 360 deal you can expect to pay them 35% of your from all of these categories:
That’s ridiculous, and you don’t have to do that. Multiple artists have been extremely successful without the help of a record label. These artists include Chance The Rapper, Macklemore, Zoë Keating, and others. The main artist I’ll be using in my example is Tech n9ne. He is fully independent and thriving. Tech n9ne got his start in 1991 and has been around ever since. He has sold over two million albums worldwide and has had his music featured in film, television, and video games. He performs over 100 times a year, and in 2018 he released his 20th studio album “Planet, Forever M.C.,” and you can usually find him on the Forbes list.
Record labels, manager, and agents need you to be successful; you don’t need them. They cannot make money without you, and the entire music industry relies on you to thrive. Take back control and do not allow these people to take from you. Wave Bot and other technologies were made to protect musicians and give you the power. Be heard and be paid in full!