Get Signed Here: GetSigned!
Music Industry Form Contracts
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Management -- SMP Hot Links Supreme
The principal is held legally liable for acts performed by the authorized agent. For example, a songwriter must allow the use of his song where it has been lawfully licensed by his representative agent. Or, an artist is financially responsible for purchases made by his road manager agent where the agent is acting to facilitate the artist's concert tour. Or, a record company is responsible for the actions of a producer who they have hired to produce a record. See Cross-links: AGENCY, MUSIC ATTORNEY, MUSIC PUBLISHER, MECHANICAL RIGHTS SOCIETY, PERFORMANCE RIGHTS SOCIETY, ATTORNEY-AT-LAW, MIDDLEMAN, BROKER, COMMISSION, ESCROW, POWER OF ATTORNEY, PRINCIPAL, DEALER, ASSIGNEE, TRADE ASSOCIATION, STOCK under "Stockbroker," MANAGER, MANAGER-A CLOSER LOOK, LICENSED PROFESSION, CONTRACT under "Personal Service Contract," "Implied Contract," and "Express Contract."
Any person or company who is a bona fide representative of an artist. An agent may be hired as a manager, booking agent, business consultant, contract negotiator, use rights licensing agent, promoter, publicist, tax agent, etc..
Individual artist agents often work for
talent agencies that are specialized to accommodate certain markets
or to handle certain types of entertainment. Some talent agencies
operate locally, others regionally, and some are large international
agencies that are vary diversified. These large talent agencies
may provide offices in major cities throughout the world. Departments
of a large agency may include club booking, concert and college
booking, publicity, film and video, television,
product endorsements and merchandising. And, they may represent
a wide range of clients to include recording artists, entertainers,
actors, TV personalities, producers, directors, comedians, sports
figures, authors, composers, choreographers, screenplay writers,
circus acts, and other novelty acts.
Large talent agencies rarely sign unknown
acts. When an artist becomes a lucrative "commodity"
and is signed, the agent who first signs him is his principal
representative and is called the responsible agent (RA). The RA,
however, will also rely on other agents in the agency (such as
departmental heads) to handle his artist where the agency has
internally delegated responsibilities.
When the agency is a large scale enterprise, it will attempt
to maintain close interdepartmental coordination in order to promote
the artist in a wide range of endeavors. Having this wide scope,
for example, can speed up connections between a multi-talented
artist's publicist, booking agent, and his perspective film producer
or screenplay writer. Since these large agencies represent such
a wide variety of entertainment specialties, they are better able
to serve a recording artist if he wants to expand his career.
Career expansion may include other artistic and income generating
endeavors such as acting or doing commercial spots. This "power
to package" is one of the major advantages of a large talent
When a large agency signs an artist they
will have the artist sign a group of contracts to include: The
AF of M Exclusive Agent-Musician Agreement, The AFTRA Standard
Exclusive Agency Contract, The AGVA Exclusive Agency Contract,
and other contracts that would cover matters not included in these
union contracts. There could be 10 or more contracts in all.
By appearance, it would seem that the talent agency is in control
since they have the artist sign the contracts. However, this is
not the full picture. First of all, the content of the contracts
are basically controlled by the artist's unions, since the contracts
are theirs. Second, the artist can negotiate, depending on his
clout in the industry, for additional safeguards and other specifics
that are not specifically controlled by the unions.
The base of control is the point. Since most artists are union
affiliated, the talent agencies must go along with the union and
use their contracts if they want to represent any union artists.
To enable the talent agent to use the union contracts and represent
union artists, the unions grant the agents "franchise certificates."
Also, the length of time that the agent can represent the artist
is limited to from one to three years. This allows the artist
a favorable option to renegotiate. (Note also that termination
or suspension of the contract could happen via various other situations
that may occur, for example, the artist or agent may become injured,
or unforeseeable catastrophes may occur (acts of God), or the
enactment of laws that have retroactive dimension may occur, or
the agency could go bankrupt, or the contract may be declared
illegal or void by the courts, etc..)
The unions also try to protect the artist from a number of
agent practices that are unethical and/or unlawful to include:
kickbacks to agents from talent buyers, the misuse of the franchise
to exploit a novice artist, the "black listing" of an
artist, the misappropriation of an artist's funds, the failing
to keep separate accounts for the artist's monies, the unauthorized
collection of artist's monies, and the wrongful withholding of
the artist's commissions.
The agents, on the other hand, in an attempt to minimize the
control of the unions, have formed their own association-the Artists'
Representatives Association (ARA). This association represents
member agents in their negotiations with the unions.
From the talent agent's point of view, the union contracts
also protect him in that they bar union artists from dealing with
agents that are not "franchised agents," and also provide
that franchised agents are entitled to exclusive representation
of the signed artist. Under exclusive representation, other agents
interested in acquiring the act would have to go through (pay)
the exclusive agent.
From the artist's point of view, these exclusive contracts
should have performance levels, allowances for partial releases
under certain circumstances, and termination provisions spelled
out so the artist is not put in a straight jacket. This is because
exclusive contracts can lead to problems where the agent becomes
unable to handle an artist's expanding needs. For example, a regional
agency may not have the ability to book national tours. If the
regional agent has exclusive representation rights to an artist,
the agent could deny a partial release and thereby severely hamper
the career of a rising star.
A talent agent usually works on commission for the life of
the contract plus renewals. The franchised agent's commissions
and pay schedules are also regulated by the unions' agent/artist
contracts. The agent's commission may range from 10 to 20 percent
of the artist's gross per contract secured. For example, AFM franchised
agents are allowed 10 percent of the gross for three day or longer
gigs, 15 percent for two day engagements, and 20 percent for one-nighters.
AFTRA and SAG have a 10 percent rate for all engagements and this
commission must pay both the agent and manager.
For complete details and contract copies call the respective
union organizations. Their current telephone numbers can be acquired
by dialing information for Los Angeles, New York City, or Nashville.
See Cross-links: TRADE UNION, TRADE ASSOCIATION.
On another front, it should be noted that talent agents may be regulated by various jurisdictions and types of statutory laws
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