Working with Agents
Entertainment and modelling agencies - the rules that apply and the fees they can charge.
Agents used to be known as ‘Mr 10%’ but during my time as pro-musician I have seen the commission level slowly rise from 10% to 12.5% and then 15% with some agents even asking as much as 20% or 25% which is getting well into the realms of management fees rather than just gig fee commission. Some agents earn their commission and are well worth their salt, others not so much. This has created a love hate situation from the artist’s point of view but a relationship with a good agent is well worth striving for and will take the weight off your shoulders when finding and contracting gigs.
From an entertainment bookers perspective, using an agency gives some form of security in the form of professionally written contracts. And, if the booked artist falls ill or is unable to do the gig due to unforeseen circumstances, the agent with their contacts, is in the best position to find a last-minute replacement. Because the agency commission is deducted from the artist’s fee, the use of an agency should not, in theory, cost the booker any more than going direct.
There are lots of myths and gripes surrounding entertainment agencies. The following information about the rules, regulations, and fees an agent can charge is drawn from the government website. It outlines all the information related to running an agency and working with an agent.
Entertainment and modelling agencies
Entertainment and modelling agencies can charge fees for finding someone work but there are rules about who can be charged and when.
Fees or commission for finding work normally come out of the worker’s earnings from the employment the agency found. Terms and conditions of the service and fee must be agreed in writing (eg a contract). Only then can the fee be paid by the hirer or deducted from the worker’s earnings.
Who the rules cover
The rules cover agencies if they find work for:
- Professional sports people
- Actors, musicians, singers, dancers, background artists, extras, walk-on or other performers
- Composers, writers, artists, directors, production managers, lighting cameramen, camera operators, make up artists, clothes, hair or make up stylists, film editors, action arrangers or co-ordinators, stunt arrangers, costume or production designers, recording engineers, property masters, film continuity staff, sound mixers, photographers, stage managers, producers, choreographers and theatre designers
- Photographic and fashion models
Terms and conditions
The terms and conditions must include:
- Details of the work-finding services to be provided
- The authority, if any, the agency has to act on behalf of the worker
- If the agency is authorised to receive money on behalf of the worker
- Details of any fees or commissions the worker will have to pay for finding them work
- Details of how any fee or commission would be refunded
- How the fee is to be paid
- The length of notice the worker has to give and must get from the agency, to end the contract
Promotional fees for performers and entertainment workers (not models)
Agencies can only charge upfront fees for listing the worker’s details in promotional publications or on websites to help them find work.
The worker must be given the chance to see any copies.
Fees for promoting performers
If there is a fee for promoting a performer, the agency can only charge this 30 days after the start of the contract. Promotion includes listing information in publications or on websites and photographs or audio or video recordings.
It covers the following performers:
- Background artists
- Other performers
In that 30-day period the performer can cancel or withdraw from the contract without penalty and won’t have to make any payment.
The performer also has to be shown any promotional photographs, audio or video before its published. They then have 7 days to object to it being used.
They can’t be charged until the 7 days is over or the agency has dealt with any reasonable requirement form the worker, whichever is later.
Fees for other workers (except models)
If there is a fee for promoting a performer, the agency can only charge this 7 days after the start of the contract. Promotion includes listing information in publications or on websites and photographs or audio or video recordings.
This covers the following types of workers: composer, writer, artist, director, production manager, lighting cameraman, camera operator, make up artist, clothes, hair or make up stylist, film editor, action arranger or co-ordinator, stunt arranger, costume or production designer, recording engineer, property master, film continuity person, sound mixer, photographer, stage manager, producer, choreographer or theatre designer.
In that 7-day period:
- They can cancel or withdraw from the contract without penalty
- They don’t have to make any payment under the contract
- The information shouldn’t be included in the publication
Refunds for promotional services
Work-seekers have the right to a refund if the promotional information isn’t made available to potential hirers within 60 days of a fee being paid.
Fees for fashion and photographic models
Agencies supplying photographic and fashion models can’t charge any upfront fees for finding work. This includes putting information about the models in a publication or website.
However, agencies can still charge a fee for:
- Including information about them in a publication or website after they’ve found the model work
- Providing a service to find the model work – these fees must be agreed with them before the agency starts looking for work for them