You’ve met a talent agent, and you think it might help your entertainment career. Unlike a talent manager whose principal duty is to advise and manage your career, an agent’s role is primarily focused on helping you find work. Agents also assist in making connections and negotiating contracts. Typically, the agent will require you to sign a talent agency agreement. Before you do, keep these tips in mind before you sign on the dotted line:
Know the maximum percentage an Agent can charge as a fee
Each state treats key parts of the agreement in different ways. For example, in New York, agents can charge a maximum of 10% of the talent’s compensation as a fee. However, if you are in New Jersey, the agent submits a percentage range to the state for approval. Industry customs tend to dictate the fees in California, where the maximum is set at 20% (but union agreements usually bring this down to 10%). Agreements in Florida require that a talent agent pay the artist within five business days after receiving payment from the employer, though most other states are silent on such a requirement. Knowing the law is the first step in deciding if the agreement you have been asked to sign is legal and fair.
Furthermore, pay attention to what the fee applies to. It may be a percentage of all gross income you earn in the entertainment industry (ideal for the agent) or a percentage of income from only the jobs procured by the agent (ideal for the talent).
Make sure that the term of the contract is reasonable
Is the agent representing you exclusively or nonexclusively? Can you terminate at any time? Fee provisions are not the only important provisions; you should also look at how long the proposed agreement will last. The duration of most initial agreements is between one and three years. Specific guilds, such as those representing directors and writers, put the initial term at a maximum of two years. Most renewal periods will be, at most, three years long—anything longer likely runs contrary to industry standards.
Watch out for agents looking for an advance fee
Most states agree on one thing: talent agents cannot charge an advance fee. Consequently, you shouldn’t sign an agreement that contains a requirement for any up-front payments. New York takes this a step further by prohibiting employment agencies (which includes talent agencies) from advertising their services if an advanced fee is part of the agreement.
Understand what your agent is supposed to do for you
Finally, all agents owe certain duties to act honestly and in the best interests of their clients. This is implied in all agent-client relationships, a reflection of the high level of trust necessary for a successful arrangement. The agent is required to keep the client fully informed and to diligently review potential employment opportunities on behalf of clients. For example, New York requires that agents investigate potential employers to determine whether they have a history of overdue or missed payments to previous employees before securing work for a client with that employer. Any agreement that tries to limit or remove this essential duty is not fair to the client, as is any conduct that shows that an agent has neglected this duty. Make sure that the agent you sign with is going to do her/his best to protect your interests and find you quality work for which you will be timely paid.
If you are interested in signing with a talent agency, you may want to consult with an experienced entertainment attorney first. Your lawyer can walk you through the terms of the agreement and help clarify or negotiate certain terms.
This Blog is made available by Romano Law PLLC for general informational and educational purposes only, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this Blog you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and Romano Law PLLC or any individual contributor. You should consult a licensed professional attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.