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A person or company, usually licensed by the state (call your State Attorney for licensing information), who acts for or represents another (who is called the principal) by implied or express permission. For example, an agent may act to secure work for an entertainer, or provide talent to those who are buyers of talent or provide persons with expertise to people in need of those expertise.

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."

Artist Agent:
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..

Agents with Talent Agencies

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, commercials, and 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.

Artist Signing

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 agency.

Contractual Control

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."

With franchise and contractual control, the union provides that the agent must adhere to its regulations that provide safeguards for the artist. For example, under union contracts the agent's professional activities are limited by denying him the right to engage in activities where he would receive incomes from management, publishing, record production and distribution (sales). The reason this is done is to protect the artist from possible conflicts of interest.

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.

Statutory Control

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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