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Agency Agreements: Some Key Elements

Aug 5, 2008
In the world of film, art, and music, most artists of significant clout or talent are represented by agents who are charged with the responsibility of trying to find work for the artist. For the new actor, musician, writer or director, an agency agreement can be an intimidating document. This article will try to shed some light on the most important provisions of an agency agreement and what the new artist should look out for before signing one.

1. The scope of the representation.

An artist must first decide how broad they want their agent's representation to be. Does the artist want their agent to represent them just in one area such as filmed entertainment? Or do they want an agent who will shop them around in all sorts of circles, looking for deals in the worlds of television, commercials, theater, and music? Some agents have a specialty and only operate in that medium, but some agents, if given the opportunity, would like to represent an artist across the board. The artist must decide if she wants to have different agents for each medium or one agent across the board.

In addition, the artist must decide if she wants her agent to represent her in respect to one or more of her existing works, or in respect to all of her existing and/or future works. A writer, for instance, may want to hire an agent to represent her in respect to just one completed script, or in respect to all future scripts she may produce. And what about geographic scope? An artist with international appeal must decide whether their agent will be representing them all over the world, or just in a specific country or region.

Overall, it is important for the artist to determine the scope of the agent's representation and to have her lawyer draft these respective provisions accordingly. Generally, the agent will be given exclusive rights to representation in one or more certain artistic mediums (film, TV, music), and one or more geographical regions, and the agreement should define clearly what artistic mediums and what geographical regions the representation covers.

2.Term of the Agreement.

The next important provision addresses the issue of how long the agreement is to remain in effect and whether and when it is terminable by either party. Agents tend to ask for at least a three-year exclusive agreement, sometimes longer. However, a savvy artist's attorney should try to include a termination provision whereby the agreement is terminable by the artist after a certain amount of time, maybe six months or a year, if the agent fails to meet certain parameters. The key here for the artist is to include a termination agreement so they have an opportunity to take back the rights to exclusive representation if the agent is unsuccessful in his efforts to secure a deal.


The agent receives compensation by taking a percentage of all employment deals he secures on behalf of the artist. The agent's rate of commission is generally set by standards in the particular industry, generally 10-15% in film and television, and a bit less in music. A new artist with little leverage will have a very hard time negotiating down this commission, but rather will want to make sure that their agent's commission is in line with industry standards, and not unjustifiably higher. The artist should also note that if the scope of the representation agreed on is broader than that which the agent usually services, the agent may charge a higher percentage for those areas outside his specialty.

4.Key Person Clause.

Finally, if an artist signs an representation agreement with a particular agency, she may want to include a "key person" clause. Usually an artist will be working closely with a particular agent at that agency. Like many "players" in Hollywood, agents tend to move around a fair amount and often switch agencies. Thus, the artist may want to reserve the right to terminate the agreement if the "key person" originally involved with the representation leaves the agency.

These are some of the most important provisions of agency agreements that an artist or artist's attorney should pay particular attention to when reviewing an agency agreement.
About the Author
Mark Warner is a Legal Research Analyst for RealDealDocs.com. RealDealDocs gives you insider access to millions of legal documents drafted by the top law firms in the US. Search over 10 million Documents, Clauses, and Legal Agreements for Free at http://www.RealDealDocs.com
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