Talent Agents and Managers: The Basics
Agents and managers typically play an essential part in the careers of actors, models, singers and dancers. While the two play different roles the functions of their jobs are related, which makes it necessary for them to work together. Most professional actors will sign on with both a manager and an agent.
The experience of meeting with agents and managers can be intimidating at times. However, it is important to keep in mind that you are the chief decision maker when it comes to your career. Even if someone wants to take you on as a client you are not required to sign with them. Before you agree to any arrangements you need to make sure that you are going to be working with someone that is aligned with your goals.
Contracts and Commission Structures
Commission structures will vary between agents and managers. While agents only earn a commission on jobs they were directly responsible for helping you book, a manager that you are signed with will take a 10 to 25 percent commission on every job that you complete.
The type of agent you are working with will also influence the percentage of commission owed to them. For example, film and television agents charge talent between 10 and 20 percent. Whereas a literary agent takes between 10 and 15 percent, while the average commission for music agents is 20 percent.
Therefore, if you have a manager, a print agent and a theatrical agent, their cut will be dependent on the jobs you book. So if your theatrical agent books you on television show you will end up paying approximately 10 percent of your pay to your theatrical agent and 15 percent to your manager. As the print agent was not involved in this job it will not be necessary to pay any commission to them.
AFTRA and SAG union regulations support the consistency of agent’s commissions. Managers can charge any percentage that they choose but a reasonable rate will range between 10 to 25 percent. Their rate will be affected by the market in the area and the industry standard for their specific niche in the business. You can look up the standard fee to determine if the commission percentage that a manager requests is fair. An amount that is greater than 25 percent is most likely excessive and unreasonable.
No matter what the requested rate is, you should not sign a contract until you have an attorney look over it to make sure that everything in the contract is clear and agreed upon by both yourself and the agent or manager. If the talent representative pushes you to sign immediately then you should decline to do business with them. If they have a sincere interest in working with you then there is no reason they can’t wait. This is an important decision that can influence your career so don’t hesitate to ask questions and discuss the matter with people that you trust.
Contract Length and Payment Arrangements
The agreed upon length of a contract can vary greatly and can be based on the needs of the talent. The most common range for a management or agency contract is between one and three years. If a contract is designed to exceed three years then problems may arise since many things can change in that length of time. It is not recommended to sign a contract longer than this period of time.
Genuine agents and managers will never ask for money before they agree to represent you. Their pay should always be commission-based and come out of your earnings with jobs that they book for you. Although there will be starting costs associated with headshots, resumes and any necessary training, they should not result in your representative gaining a profit.
Agents and managers will oftentimes recommend specific photographers or coaches that they have experience with but you should not be required to work with these individuals. You always have the options of using another resource of your choosing.
It is never a good idea for family members to take on the role of manager. Mixing business and personal relationships can interfere with the quality of the job and the talent’s career. A relative is usually not the most qualified individual for this role and this type of arrangement will often end badly.
Managers are involved in the process of making sure that everything is running smoothly and will need to coordinate events with their talent’s agents in order to achieve this. If a problem comes up that will affect the talent then the manager should step in and resolve the issue. A large part of a manager’s job is to negotiate rates and contracts for the benefit of the talent. This can be an effective system since the manager is aware of fair rates and will be more experienced than the talent at these types of negotiations.