Talent managers, agents, publicists, business managers and entertainment lawyers can all play different, yet very important, roles in the cultivation and maintenance of artistic careers. Those new to the entertainment industry often wonder what the varying entities and individuals are responsible for, and if (or when) they should be engaged to provide services. One common question among artists is, “what exactly is a ‘talent manager’ and how can I hire one?”
The responsibilities of talent managers can vary depending on the industry. However, talent managers typically assist in shaping, guiding, coordinating and elevating the careers of their clients. Their services may include:
- Managing day-to-day business activities;
- Educating clients on the entertainment industry and business development;
- Assisting with marketing and social media efforts;
- Developing career plans and suggesting goals and targets;
- Referring clients to agents, business managers (accountants) and publicists;
- Aiding in talent development (finding classes, coaches, etc.);
- Refining the artist’s professional reputation;
- Assisting clients with personal finances;
- Producing and releasing promotional materials; and
- Providing general creative guidance.
Managers v. Agents
For some, the distinction between managers and agents can be difficult to determine. Managers often provide a variety of services, like the ones listed above, and coordinate many of their client’s business, financial and personal activities. However, the agent’s role, among other things, is to seek and secure employment opportunities for their clients.
In New York, any person who procures, or attempts to procure, employment or engagements for motion pictures, television or other entertainment performances, must obtain a license. Accordingly, individuals in New York are not permitted to charge a percentage of their clients’ earnings in exchange for actively seeking or securing employment opportunities, without being registered and licensed as an employment agent.
As with any arrangement for the rendition of services, it’s good idea to get the understanding in writing. Without explicit terms and conditions governing the management relationship, the parties’ obligations, including those for payment, may be unclear and therefore, a catalyst for dispute.
Additionally, many Management Agreements are in effect for an extended period of time. According to Section 5-701 of the New York General Obligations Law, any agreement that is not in writing is void if, by its terms, it is not to be performed within one year of the making. If not in writing, the parties may find themselves in a situation where they can’t enforce the terms of their agreement.
Management Contracts contain many important provisions. Among them are those concerning compensation, term and exclusivity:
Compensation. Managers are typically paid for their services on a commission basis (i.e. they get paid if/when their clients get paid). Commissions generally range between 10-20% and can vary based on the status of the artist and the reputation and experience of the manager. The contract should stipulate the commission payable and all relevant terms of payment.
Sunset. A “sunset clause” typically allows a manager to continue to collect commissions after the term of the agreement has ended. With this provision, managers can collect payment on projects that were secured during the term of the agreement, for a set period of time or as long as such projects are generating revenue.
Term & Exclusivity. Managers and artists usually structure deals for a period between 1 and 5 years. The agreement can also provide for automatic renewals or extensions of the initial term. Unless the circumstances warrant otherwise, both parties generally prefer to have an exclusive relationship. This way, the manager is primarily responsible for the artist’s affairs (without compromising or conceding to another manager’s opinions) and the artist need only pay one party for management services.
Whether you’re an up-and-coming artist or an experienced entertainment professional, understanding the role of a talent manager and management agreements may be important to the growth of your career.
Contributing Editor: Stephanie Westerman