You’ve met a talent agent, and you think it might help your entertainment career. Unlike a talent manager whose principal duty is to advise and manage your career, an agent’s role is primarily focused on helping you find work. Agents also assist in making connections and negotiating contracts. Typically, the agent will require you to sign a talent agency agreement. Before you do, keep these tips in mind before you sign on the dotted line:
Know the maximum percentage an Agent can charge as a fee
Each state treats key parts of the agreement in different ways. For example, in New York, agents can charge a maximum of 10% of the talent’s compensation as a fee. However, if you are in New Jersey, the agent submits a percentage range to the state for approval. Industry customs tend to dictate the fees in California, where the maximum is set at 20% (but union agreements usually bring this down to 10%). Agreements in Florida require that a talent agent pay the artist within five business days after receiving payment from the employer, though most other states are silent on such a requirement. Knowing the law is the first step in deciding if the agreement you have been asked to sign is legal and fair.
Furthermore, pay attention to what the fee applies to. It may be a percentage of all gross income you earn in the entertainment industry (ideal for the agent) or a percentage of income from only the jobs procured by the agent (ideal for the talent).
Make sure that the term of the contract is reasonable
Is the agent representing you exclusively or nonexclusively? Can you terminate at any time? Fee provisions are not the only important provisions; you should also look at how long the proposed agreement will last. The duration of most initial agreements is between one and three years. Specific guilds, such as those representing directors and writers, put the initial term at a maximum of two years. Most renewal periods will be, at most, three years long—anything longer likely runs contrary to industry standards.
Watch out for agents looking for an advance fee
Most states agree on one thing: talent agents cannot charge an advance fee. Consequently, you shouldn’t sign an agreement that contains a requirement for any up-front payments. New York takes this a step further by prohibiting employment agencies (which includes talent agencies) from advertising their services if an advanced fee is part of the agreement.