What to check for when signing with an agent


Below is a helpful checklist and points of reference regarding agents and agents agreements.

Representation from an agency can be very important, but you must be clear about the commitments you are entering into or you might inadvertently agree to things that cost you money or damage your career.

  • Have you done a background check on the agency?

Does your agent belong to the Personal Managers' AssociationCo-operative Personal Management Association (CPMA) or the National Entertainment Agents' Council?

  • Verbal agency agreements

An agency agreement may be verbal or in writing. If nothing is written down, there is still a contract.

Insist on a written agency agreement. The agency is obliged by law to set out its main terms in writing and failure to do so can lead to disputes later on about what was actually agreed. 

Important: Get the commission rates and agreement confirmed in writing as soon as possible.

  • Duration of your agency agreement

Some agency agreements may impose long notice periods on performers requiring them to give notice of up to 12 months before they can leave the agency. You may have only a short period during each year when you can give notice before being committed to another year or even longer. Put in your diary any such dates. 

Alternatively, a performer may be bound to the agency for several years before notice can be given. Do you want to be with the same agent for a long time?

  • Leaving the agency

You can leave an agency before the agreed term has expired. You cannot be forced to stay with the agency if you don't want to, whatever the agency may claim. However, you may have to pay compensation to the agency if you left before the agreed term has expired.

  • Open-ended claims for commission

Some agents claim commission on renewals of engagements a performer secures after the performer has left the agency. The rationale for this is that the agent who secured the first engagement is entitled to commission on all income the performer ever receives because the agent got the original engagement for the performer.

Such claims rarely have any legal justification. Do not agree to pay commission on this basis before getting advice.

  • Agent or employer?

Some 'agents' are actually employers who hire out performers while still charging them commission. This is illegal.

  • Charges imposed

Apart from commission the charges an agent can impose on a performer are very limited. You should not pay up-front fees and check with us about any other charges, apart from commission, your agent wishes to make.

  • Getting your money

Insist as part of your agreement with the agency that you are paid your fees within 10 days of the agent receiving them, as is your legal right. Contact Equity or the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate via eas@bis.gsi.gov.uk or 0800 917 2368 if you discover your agent is withholding money, or there are other financial irregularities.

  • Challenging the agency agreement

If you do find yourself with an unfavourable agency agreement bear in mind that many agency agreements are badly worded and may not stand up to legal scrutiny. Whatever the agency agreement may say, the law provides performers with some protection which may restrict the terms that an agent can impose. If you have doubts about the agency agreement do not be browbeaten by the agent's threats (or their lawyer's).

  • Have you told Equity?

Always make sure the information we have about you has up-to-date agency details. We will need it if we need to contact a particular agency's clients in the case of a problem. We may be sending payments to them that come into us or other post and communication about work. 

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