Talent: Just Say ‘No’!
Had a bit of a turn the other day.
A bright-eyed, budding young thespian showed me the contract an agent had asked them to sign.
Bloody outrageous. Really pissed me off. (No – not asking me to read the thing, you prune – the terms cunningly concealed in it!)
The contract wanted a sole and exclusive appointment, irrevocable, for two years, rolling, with a tiny weeny termination window for the talent (which actually only acted as a reminder to the agent to decide whether to ensnare the talent for another two years anyway), 20-30% of everything from any activity, blah blah blah. (Hell, if this is the best agent you can find, keep the bar job. The Good Lord is telling you something!)
So i thought I’d put a spanner in the spokes of the cook spoiling the broth, and set out a few pointers for you talented folk when flirting with an agent.
An ‘exclusive’ contract means exactly that. You can’t use anyone else – and if its ‘sole’ you have to pay the agent for any work you get yourself too. If the agent doesn’t perform, you’re completely stuck. If the contract says its ‘irrevocable’, it means you defo can’t back out (not that you usually can anyway). Imagine appointing an agent solely and exclusively for all media across the world for two years renewable. Nah – neither can I, but some do.
If you’re just starting out, just say no.
A ‘non-exclusive’ arrangement means that you are free to find your own work. We like this. You can even appoint other agents to do so too. Don’t go overboard – no agent is gonna work their socks off … ha, stop there!
But also, no agent is gonna work their socks off trying to get you gigs if there are loads of other agents competing to find you work – and often the same work at that. So go for non exclusive but keep your agent informed. Ooooooh – the power of curtesy.
How long should the contract be for?
You should be free to end your contract whenever you like by telling the agent it’s over any time. There is no point in being tied to a non-performing agent. It also keeps the agent keen if you’re getting work. Just be sure to carry out any bookings confirmed before you gave notice. But don’t take the michael and keep agent hopping to the latest siren calls, thinking a shiny new agent will do better for you. You’ll end up with a poor rep.
Oh, and the agent should be free to let you go anytime too. After all, they can’t pay their rent if their virtual filing cabinets are stuffed with loss leaders!
What about percentages? 10-15% is probably reasonable – more for stuff like commercials perhaps. But 20% rising to 30% (on a sole and exclusive rolling contract calculated on your gross – ie vat inclusive – earnings) when you’re just starting out and you haven’t even become a prima donna yet?
But hey, at the end of the day, it’s all about whether your face fits. So while your agent is working for you, don’t just wait for the phone to ring. Make it ring – by getting out there and doing stuff. Meet people – people that matter and people that don’t (they may matter some day). Put something on – not that nice special occasion cashmere – but a show. It’s the lifeblood for new talent. If it’s in London, we’ll probably write about it. London At Large likes to support new talent. It helps make your face fit.
Increasingly, agents are ditching contracts anyway – or keeping them short and sweet. And a fair contract doesn’t automatically mean the agent is any good. Do your research and be careful what you sign.
And if in doubt, just say ‘no’.
And if the agent asks for fees – RUN.