Management Contracts for Broadcasters:
Read Between the Lines
SAG-AFTRA National Agency Department ADVISORY
Clearly, the news and broadcast business is changing at an alarming pace. One of the biggest areas of change is the growing interest among broadcast members, particularly broadcast journalists, in “Artists Management” and the way that differs from the representation of a “Talent Agency.” Although both agents and managers function similarly at times, a simple distinction between an agent and manager can be made by observing that agents negotiate and service employment contracts, while managers are supposed to engage in career direction (i.e., advising clients on the presentation of artistic talents, introducing clients to agents and casting directors etc.) and management of an artist’s career and business.
In some states, persons who secure employment must be licensed as talent agents by the city or state in which they are doing business. There are some exceptions for attorneys, and certain fields of work are granted exemptions under various state laws (sound recordings in California, for example).
The decision by a broadcast member to use the services of a manager depends on individual needs and preferences. In choosing to employ a manager, please keep the following in mind:
- Unlike talent agents, SAG-AFTRA does not franchise managers. Therefore, SAG-AFTRA cannot regulate the fees they charge. Although your local SAG-AFTRA office may be able to answer general questions, SAG-AFTRA cannot arbitrate or resolve disputes involving managers.
- Be certain that an arbitration clause is contained in your agreement. A long and costly legal battle may leave you financially and emotionally drained.
- The nature of the manager’s relationship with his/her client should be that of a fiduciary - in other words, an implied trust. Be careful of any clause in a contract or action by a manager which indicates otherwise.
- Understand the terms of the management contract. It is recommended that the first time you sign with a manager it should be for a relatively brief term (one to two years), as the parties may not be sure if the relationship will be mutually beneficial. Be aware of termination clauses and automatic extensions of the contract. Keep the expiration date of your management contract in mind when entering into employment contracts.
- Managers may charge anywhere from 10% to 25%, and management contracts often state that all extensions, renewals or renegotiations of employment contracts are commissionable, even after the expiration of the management contract. Should you decide to terminate your contract, or let it expire, you may be faced with a manager who demands commission be paid for as long as you are working for the same employer. The management contract may also contain a clause which states that if you are terminated by your own fault, the manager can collect commission on what you would have been paid had the termination not taken place. No one should receive a fee unless you receive compensation. Carefully read and discuss such clauses with both your manager and attorney.
- Most management contracts state that all work obtained, directly or indirectly, while you are under the management contract is commissionable. What this means is that whether or not your manager did any work, he or she will get a fee. Be careful to ensure that reasonable services are performed in exchange for compensation, and that these services are specifically addressed in the contract. The services should be performed as long as the manager receives commission.
Finally, do your homework!! Be sure to investigate the reputation of the manager, talk with other colleagues in the broadcast industry and check out references. A good manager should understand your concerns.
NOTE: SAG-AFTRA members interested in receiving information on those talent agents who are franchised by AFTRA or SAG should contact their local SAG- AFTRA office or the National SAG-AFTRA Agency Departments at (212) 863-4305 (in New York) or 323-549-6729 (in Los Angeles) or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.