The relationship between a band and a manager is the most important business relationship either will have. It's crucial that both artist and manager work together as a team toward the same goals and see the artist's career in the same way. When it works, it's great - but when it doesn't, it can be hard to shake. Many bands stick with managers that aren't really working out for them simply because they don't know what else to do.
How DOES a musician part ways with their management? It's never easy, but it's critical to make the right decisions for your career, even if they're difficult. However, before you actually decide to part ways with your manager, make sure you're not jumping the gun and dropping a great manager because of misunderstandings or unrealistic expectations. There's a difference between a manager who is working hard but not getting a lot of results and a manager who isn't getting a lot of results because they're not treating you like a priority. It's easy for musicians to find the the slowness with which the wheels sometimes spin in the music industry frustrating - that's understandable - but that doesn't necessarily mean your manager isn't doing their job or that they're not capable of accomplishing anything for you. In particular, breaking a new artist is time consuming work that is often thankless and fruitless for a stretch of time at the beginning. That's normal - and if your gut is telling you that your manager is working hard for you, despite the results on the table, you may not need to fire them - you may just need to settle into the process.
On the other hand, if you feel like the results aren't there because you're priority 327 for your manager, or if you feel like they're pursuing career goals for you that aren't what you want for yourself, then it may be time to look for a new team member. If you're thinking of severing ties with your management, here's how to get it done in the way that is most fair to everyone:
Check The Contract: If you have a contract with your manager, that contract certainly stipulates the acceptable ways and reasons you can back out of your management deal. Like it or lump it, you're stuck with it, and you'll need to abide by it. If you really feel like you can't meet those terms, you can try to work another agreement out with your manager - if they're as done with you as you are with them, they may agree. If you're on the cusp of making some money, they probably won't, and you may need to get a lawyer involved. If you're firing a manager who has been working for you right before a big payout, be prepared to share that wealth. It may be a price worth paying if you just want out of the deal and to move on.
Discuss Finances: Chances are that your manager spent money on your as an artist, and if they haven't made any back, be willing to discuss that outstanding balance. Likewise, if they worked on deals that may come to fruition after you've parted ways that might not have happened without their initial work, discuss compensating them fairly for that income.
Discuss Presentation: People in the industry are going to know that this relationship has gone belly up. Even if things are a little ugly behind the scenes, there's rarely a good reason to trash anyone's reputation - something that often happens in anger after these kinds of splits. No one really needs to know your business or what happened between you and your manager. A manager that didn't work for you isn't necessarily a bad manager - and you certainly don't need them going around telling people how difficult you are. All anyone needs to know is that they're not the contact for you anymore, and who to contact instead. Try to reach an agreement about how you'll answer questions about the end of your business relationship - an agreement that shows some mutual respect and professionalism. You can vent to your friends, but in your professional life, well, keep it professional.
Firing a manager is always going to be rough, and it's likely there may be some hard feelings at first. Make an effort to be financially fair and personally respectful, but also be confident in making sound business decisions for yourself. It's OK to surround yourself with a team with which you are comfortable and that feels like the right fit for your band.