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January 26, 2022 | Contract DraftingFrom the blog

What You Need to Know About Modeling Agency Contracts

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Author(s)
Carlianna Dengel

Associate Attorney

Update: September 16, 2022

Modeling can be an exciting career, but newcomers and professionals alike can be taken advantage of by agencies.  If you are a model, it is important to protect your interests by working with a reputable agency who can provide value to your career.  Second, recognize what your obligations are under the modeling agency contract.  These are often long, dense documents and can be confusing to someone reviewing them for the first time.  It’s important to understand what you can expect from your agency, and what will be expected from you.

What Are Common Provisions in a Modeling Agency Contract?

The specific terms of an agency’s contracts are confidential, but there are certain issues that are commonly addressed.  These include:

  • Compensation.  Agencies typically get a commission on the model’s bookings.  The contract should indicate the percentage that the model pays to their agency.  It should also specify who is responsible for taxes and other expenses.
  • Term.  The contract should state the length of the contract term and any renewals.  Typically, agencies will provide a 1-to-3-year contract that automatically renews unless one of the parties gives advance written notice to terminate.  This can usually be adjusted through negotiation.
  • Termination.  The contract should state any grounds for termination by either party and any procedures that must be followed prior to termination, like giving the other party prior written notice.
  • Exclusivity.  The agency may want to be the model’s exclusive agent so he or she cannot be represented by other agencies at the same time.

Are There Different Types of Modeling Contracts?

Many of the terms discussed above will change depending on the type of contract.  There are four common contracts:

  • Mother Agency.  Models typically start with a mother agency contract with a local agency.  This agent will help build the model’s portfolio and market the model to other agencies in larger U.S. and international markets.  A key contract issue is the payment of agency commissions in the event that the mother agency signs a model to another agency.  Often the mother agency will take a portion of the larger agent’s commission, so the model’s income stays the same.  However, some agreements allow the mother agent to obtain an additional commission on top of what the other agency has.  The term of a mother agency agreement is also important as some may last for the duration of the model’s career.
  • Exclusive.  As noted above, a contract may be exclusive, meaning the model cannot work with another agency during the contract term.  However, exclusivity may be limited by geography (e.g., U.S. only) or type of modeling.  Exclusive agreements are common for high fashion and editorial models.
  • Non-exclusive.  These contracts give models the freedom to work with other agencies.  Models also keep all their earnings if they find work on their own, since commissions are only paid on bookings obtained by an agent.  The downside is that agents may not be helping to guide careers or actively working to promote their models.  This arrangement is more common with commercial models.
  • One-time.  These contracts are for a single booking.  Once the job is done, the contract ends.  It is important that the agreement details key terms such as payment, how photos will be used and for how long, and any restrictions on working for competitors.

If you are interested in modeling or looking to sign with a new agent, consult an experienced attorney to help ensure your best interests.

Photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash
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