Artists, Agents and Managers
By Jeff Carroll
 
ďWhat do I need a manager for, I know more people than he does.Ē ď I can get bookings on my own, I donít need anybody to do that for me.Ē Only when you are on top does it seem like everybody wants a piece of your pie. 10% here, 15% there sometimes 30 or 40% if you want to be real. For a performing artist the professional world of the entertainment industry seems plagued with money sharing and greedy people. Well it is time to grow up if this is the world you dreamed of being in. This is the reality that your going to have to learn to deal with. 


For a stage performer the opportunities are great. Hollywood and New York are looking for those proven acts. Chris Tucker made it in film, Tim Allen on television, Monique on TV, Cedric the Entertainer on TV, Carrot Top on commercials and even on cable with Def Poetry Jam are just a few of the artist that got starts on a live stage. Unlike traditional actors, a stage act has the opportunities to display their marketability. 


To the distaste of thespians such as Samuel Jackson, a performer with a good road act that has been tested. Making a name for yourself as a live performer can get you a lot a attention from television, commercials and film producers. 


You can make it or do it yourself to attain certain levels in the world of entertainment. However ,the best work is attained through agents. In addition to agents, managers play a significant role in the success path of an artist. The better the artist can understand the roles and relationships (way in which they get paid), each of these individuals will have a healthier and more successful career. 


The manager/personal manager (terms used interchangeably/ same role) responsibilities may vary depending on the managers status. In theory the personal manager is the closest to the artist. They advise and guide the artist with everything from clothing ,stage show, promotional materials, public image to selecting which agent is best for the artist. Although the personal manager and agents do not have to agree on everything, constant conflict is counter productive. Managers unlike live performance agents have no unions. Managers are not bound to any regulations thereby they can charge any percentage commission they want. However, they usually charge 15-20% commission depending on their responsibilities. Those artist that donít book their own work and have a lot of work for their managers can pay them up to 40%. A managerís commission can be renegotiated with every new contract. Managers do not only work on commission they can also get paid a salary. For an artist like Michael Jackson who makes ďmillionsĒ a year and who is well established, paying a manager a salary would be the best. For a artist new to the industry paying a manager a commission is best. Commission payments generally work better than salary payments because it encourages the manager to get the most paying work for the artist. By paying the manager a commission the artist is assured that the manager will be getting highest pay for them. Here are some ways to choose a good manager. First, a good manager should have experience working within the field of the artist. Next, a managerís reputation is important. To find out about a prospective managerís reputation ask for a list of current & past clients and talk to them. Also, a good manager should be able to communicate well with the artist and be able to explain intricate contracts and other decisions to the artist. If you are a new artist your may not be able to attract a experienced manager. Finally, good managers can be just an organized and intelligent friend or family member who is interested in helping the artist succeed. For a manager with little to no experience, communication and compatibility becomes more important. Even though a prospective manager may not have specific entertainment industry experience they may have other experience that can be useful. Other experience that is good for a manager to have is in the fields of law or marketing. Even an office manager or just having a college degree can be good things for a prospective manager. It should not have to be mentioned but, everyone an artist works with should be trustworthy. The manager should be the most trustworthy person that the artist works with. When choosing a big manager it is best to have a separate lawyer advise you on a contract with them. 


The agent is the one who secures employment and handles the contract and salary negotiations for the artist. The agent is someone who helps the artist with career choices and to be a team player or member. The agent should get the artist work that will help in the overall advancement of the artist career. The agent should understand the talent (strength and weaknesses) of the artist and agree with the career goal. The agent sets and negotiates the artists fee. They may offer suggestions on the artists image. Because agents solicates work for the artist decisions about image may effect the artistís demand. There are many areas in which a live performance artist will encounter agents. For example, writers have their literary agents. There are also TV, film, commercials and live performance agents which normally get paid by commission from the artists check. Theses agents have unions that they can join. The unions regulate the business between the agent and the artist. The unions fee or commission for agents is 10%. These agents find out which audition the artist is best suited for and submits them. The casting directors call the agents and the agent calls the artist. Good agents can be found the same way that good managers are found. Experience and clients are more important with agents than with managers. The size of an agency is important. Smaller agencies can spend more time focusing on their clients. Agencies with larger rosters or more clients work with more venues or events and for a new artist this allows them to get added into another artist show as an opening act or warm-up act. An agents reputation is very important. Agents should be well experienced. An artist should get a lawyer for big agencyís contract advice. Because agents or agencies represent many artists and in certain areas artist are required finding agents reputation can be as easy as calling the union. Agents tend to have more clients than managers and artists switch agencies often good agents are well known and bad (not so good) agents are even more known just ask any established artist. 


The college or live performance agent is different than the film, TV, or commercial agent. These agents have no union be a part of, therefore no regulations exist for their talent agreements. Each agent or agency may differ in their specific services for the artist and they may require different responsibilities of their talents. 


College agents sell to a specific market of buyers, college students. The college and theater markets are more organized than the night club circut. These markets have organizations that provide the agent the opportunity to directly interact with their buyers. These organizations have membership fees and other showcase fees. Because of these fees many agencies require their talent to pay a portion. These agents charge between 10-40% commission from their talent performance fee. Some agencies may charge a set up fee to develop your promotional package or they may require the talent to produce their own promotional packages. Although these agents are speciality agencies they are also able to get performances at other venues. 


Overall, succeeding in the industry can happen almost to anybody so, I have to be careful with what I say. I will say this, that having a good team or associates increases the chances of succeeding or especially lasting in the entertainment industry. Think of the relationship of the Manager, Agent and artist like you would a NASCAR team. The artist being the driver and the manager the pit crew and agent the sponsor. The drive cannot do it alone no matter how good a driver they are if the donít have a good pit crew they are doomed. If the pit donít have the resources to get tools or a top car they canít work. The difference between Britney Spears and another girl that looks good and can sing better is the team. Lastly, while writing this I spoke to an artist who was scared of making a mistake and working with crooked person. As far as mistakes go I donít believe in mistakes, because if you learn from a bad experience it wasnít bad. I guess if you do the same thing twice that could be bad. Thatís why you have a team it allows you to benefit from the accumulative mistakes of everybody on the team. When it comes to crooked people thatís what lawyers are for. Lawyers allow honest people the opportunity to work with less honest people. You should never work for proven crooked people because they will find a way to screw up. Finally, this information is mostly for exclusive relationships. Freelance relationships are a whole other set of variables. 


Well, I feel a big sense of accomplishment by finishing this article. This article is a result of many conversations and first hand experiences. I sincerely, hope that artists able to benefit from the information. I also, hope that this information improves the quality of the overall industry. Sleazy, unethical business people mess up the industry for us all.