Should Agents charge fees?
This is one of the most common questions asked by people starting out in the acting and modelling industry.
The way agents make money, and how they are regulated, varies enormously from region to region. It really pays to do your research on this topic! We have put this information together via trusted industry resources and government websites, but from time to time rules may change, so please always do your own research if you are unsure about something.
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for talent to be asked to pay fees to agents (or individuals posing as agents) and for these fees to be inappropriate.
Here is some information to help you know what’s acceptable, and what you may want to question.
Defining Agency types
Although agents aren’t always keen to be categorised, among established agencies, there are two distinct kinds you are likely to encounter.
Top tier agencies representing professional actors and models do not charge fees, and make money via commission on booked work only.
These agencies tend to have small to medium-sized rosters, and work with experienced talent with showreels, or actors graduating from well-respected drama schools. Model agents may take on fresh faces but will often put them into their ‘development’ division and the talent need to fit very strict physical criteria.
Top tier agents may ask you to pay for membership to industry websites for casting purposes e.g. Showcast/Spotlight. This is to help them submit you for work and is acceptable.
Top tier agents carefully and personally manage their clients and foster relationships with top tier Casting Professionals and Producers. When their clients are booked, it’s more likely to be for high-value work.
While every actor or model aspires to work with a top tier agent, most people start with a ‘mid-range’ agent as described below, and build up experience from there.
Mid-range agencies tend to deal with up and coming actors, commercial talent, supporting cast and extras. They often have some talent they are developing and hoping to get into leading roles over time.
They are a super place to start and to grow. You may be a very talented actor, but not experienced enough to secure a top tier agent, and be signed by a mid-range agency to develop.
Most talent in this space have day jobs to support themselves between bookings.
Mid-tier agencies tend to have medium to large-sized rosters. A respected and established mid-tier agent will likely have good relationships with commercial Casting Professionals and some top-tier Casting Professionals, and be submitting talent for professional work, with a focus on commercial or supporting roles, due to the experience level of the talent they represent. These kinds of jobs are often fast turnaround, short terms jobs that tend to command less money than you may make as a professional actor. In turn, the commission an agent may make from these jobs can be comparatively low.
This is a highly competitive space for agents and they may need to have lots of people on their books to ensure they have the right look/skill/availability to book as many jobs as they can from the briefs on offer.
For some mid-tier agents, the only way they can sustain their business is to charge an ‘administration’ fee. These are only legal in certain areas (more on this below).
Some mid-tier agents may also try to supplement their income (and add value to their clients) by offering workshops to talent & affiliate deals with photographers. These may be fine as long as they are completely optional and genuinely useful – if an agent insists you use their photographer or complete their workshop before they will represent you, this can be cause for concern.
While it’s not always the case, insisting on workshops and the purchase of photographic portfolios can be a red flag that the agent is not genuine, or does not have your best interests at heart. If in doubt, check with your local union, or ask for advice from your network.
Are there any rules agents must follow in my area?
Different regulations apply depending on which state you are in.
Queensland and New South Wales each have specific rules. Most other states don’t have legislation which covers agents, but if in doubt, you could check with your local Actors Equity branch.
It is illegal to charge up front fees and commission is capped.
MEAA advice is here:
Performers based in Queensland, please note that under Queensland law your agent must:
- Not charge you more than 10% gross amount payable to you for the work – the gross amount payable does not include meal or travel allowances, holiday pay, long service leave, superannuation, rehearsal payments or irregular overtime or penalty rates.
- Your agent can charge more than these fees only if you have accepted in writing a management agreement, under which you must be provided at least four (4) of these services:
- Handling of your business affairs
- Providing accounting advice
- Publicising and promoting you
- Providing ancillary services
- Providing continuing career or artistic advice
- Representing you in negotiations with media, entertainment workers or the public.
- Within 7 days of your Agent receiving money on your behalf, you must receive the payment.
- Your Agent must not as a condition of finding or attempting to find you work, charge a fee for preparing a resume or portfolio or for providing advice, assistance or training in interview preparation.
- Your Agent must not as a condition of finding or attempting to find you work require you to use other services or resources either provided by them or through a person or company they nominate. If you choose to use a supplier they nominate the agent must not accept a financial benefit form that person or company.
NEW SOUTH WALES
It is illegal to charge joining or ‘audition to join’ fees and commission is capped.
In NSW, agents are regulated by the Entertainment Industry Act 2013.
www.Artslaw.com.au provide a resource on agency agreements which you can read here: https://www.artslaw.com.au/information-sheet/agency-agreements/
The Act also includes a code of conduct, which is published by NSW Industrial Relations, to provide performer representatives with guidance on the standards of service required to ensure professional and ethical conduct in the provision of services to performers.
The Act also prescribes the maximum fees and percentages performer representative may charge a performer in different situations:
- in relation to work in the film, television or electronic media the cap is 10% of the total amount payable to the performer for the performance;
- in relation to work in live theatre, or a live musical or variety performance, the cap is 10% for any period up to 5 weeks and 5% for any period after 5 weeks.
In some circumstances, you can charge fees as an entertainment and modelling agency for finding someone work. The two most likely agency types who may charge are extras agencies, and children’s agencies.
However, the fees you may charge depend on if the person is a performer/work or a model and there are guidelines in place about how and when these fees can be charged.
The UK government resource for these rules is here: https://www.gov.uk/entertainment-and-modelling-agencies
If you are defined as a performer or worker:
You can’t charge fees or deduct money from an entertainment worker or performer’s earnings until they agree to your terms and conditions.
Promotional fees for performers and entertainment workers (not models):
- You can only charge upfront fees for listing the worker or performer’s details in promotional publications or on websites to help them find work.
- Promotional publication includes listing information in publications or on websites and photographs or audio or video recordings.
- You must give the worker or performer a chance to see any copies.
- Other fees or commission for finding work normally come out of the worker or performer’s earnings from the employment that you found.
If you are defined as a model:
You can’t charge fees or deduct money from a model’s earnings until they agree to your terms and conditions.
- You can’t charge any upfront fees for finding work for photographic and fashion models. This includes putting information about the models in a publication or website.
- However, after you’ve found work for a model you can charge fees for:
- including information about them in a publication or website
- providing a service to find the model work
(these fees must have been agreed with the model before you started looking for work for them)
New Zealand has an Agents Association, which aims to work for the benefit of all NZ Actors and Agents. You can view their resources here: http://aaanz.co.nz/resources/
Has this answered your question? If not, please contact us