Agents usually operate somewhere between the artiste (or the artiste's manager) and the promoter. Agents take on a number of artistes and try to sell their live act to promoters, in return for a commission from the artiste on the earnings from the live work acquired. When promoters are looking for acts to use for promoting live events it is agents who they will turn to for the high earning potential acts.

Agents get gigs for artistes
for a price!

If I am an agent I will have say 10 acts. It is my responsibility to get them as many concerts and as good as possible a fee for those concerts. I will approach promoters saying that my acts are the best on the scene for the price and I will show them all the promotional material, including cds, records, reviews, etc of those acts in the hope of convincing the promoter that he will make some money if he promotes my acts

Difference between Agent and Manager.

The responsibilities of the manager include most of those of an agent, i.e. getting work for the artiste, however the agentsí responsibilities are much narrower. Upon the appointment of an agent personal live appearance becomes his or her responsibility.

Managers will (hopefully) spend a substantial amount of time with the artiste, working with the act and the music, etc., whereas the agent will deal with live work enquiries. The power of an agent largely concerns the roster of clients, all of which may have different managers. One person acting as both agent and manager will not have time to take advantage of all the opportunities which can be generated through the broader contacts of a separate and independent manager.

Choice of Agent

First choice of agent will be one with a name and established reputation. It is difficult for an agent to become known and accepted by promoters as being reliable and consistently able to provide currently popular artistes. A big agency may not have the time or inclination to develop a young unknown artiste, and will generally prefer to take on only well established acts. The alternative may be a smaller more personal agent, who will spend the necessary time on the artiste. Once an act becomes successful then a substantial agency with international connections may be interested, and certainly more beneficial.

This philosophy is hard on the small agent who may have worked hard to promote an act locally in the UK, and who should therefore share in the benefits of success - especially if he/she can work as effectively and efficiently as the competitors at that level. - The conflict is between what is better for the act and what is better for the agent. The agent should be responsible for working in the best interests of the artiste and that may be to release the artiste to bigger, more able agents, if this is clearly in the best interests of the artiste, ie to release the artiste from the contract with the agent because to keep the artiste would restrict his/her progress.

Agent's Responsibilities

1. The agent is always employed by the artiste, although he may be chosen and appointed by the manager. An artiste has an agent to take advantage of specialised knowledge and contracts. Employment is obtained by him for the artiste, in return for a commission (10-15% of gross), being a percentage of gross earnings of the artiste arising from all personal appearances of the artiste during the agentís exclusive contract period, and within the agentís exclusive territory, whether or not generated by the agentís efforts.

2. The agentís main responsibilities are to seek out and negotiate contracts for personal appearances with promoters. No contract should be committed to without the artisteís approval. The agent should negotiate the highest fee which represents the market value of the artiste at that time. Market values may change, such as where booking and its fee are confirmed for a date some way in the future, and in the meanwhile a record by the artiste gets into the charts. An experienced agent who has studied the development of the artiste, and who is fully informed of hid record release schedule, can judge his future to take advantage of potential increases in market value.

3. The scope of an agentís authority to act on his own initiative depends on the agreement. An agent cannot commit the artiste to fulfil any engagement unless he has the authority to do so. The artiste may get an adverse reputation with promoters, unless the agent is able to act with some authority to negotiate contracts with the minimum of delay.

4. The artiste should be fully consulted, and should see and sign each performance contract prior to being committed. The more successful the artiste, the more impractical it may become due to the lack availability while touring, recording or holidaying. The artiste may delegate the signing of appearance contracts to his agent, subject to prior approval by the artisteís manager.

Sole and Exclusive

1. No agent is prepared to act on behalf of an artiste except on a sole and exclusive basis. Different agents competing for the same market would be chaotic. An agent may obtain a good booking at a good fee, only to find that the artiste has firm commitments elsewhere procured through another agent, or even by the artiste him/herself. This would make unprofitable the time and effort spent by the agent, and would damage his reputation.

2. Bookings for even minor artistes may be made for dates months ahead. Unless the agent has the sole and exclusive representation of the artiste, he will have to obtain the artisteís clearance for each booking before he can confirm it to the promoter. If there is unreasonable delay in doing so, the promoter will not wait indefinitely for a decision, and will obtain another act for the performance.

3. Exclusivity is essential to an agent who is negotiating a deal for the artiste, especially if the promoter is anxious to clinch it. If there is no exclusivity to the agent, there would be nothing to prevent the promoter from dealing direct with the artiste, if he is available and had the time to spend on negotiations. The promoter could also find out who else represents the artiste, such and his manager, to see whether more favourable terms to himself can be arranged without further reference to the agent.

4. An artiste may want to develop several separate facets of his career, such as being a pop star, having a TV career and being a record producer. As they donít conflict, he could appoint an exclusive agent for each area, but they must be co-ordinated to ensue an uninterrupted career. Normally all of these aspects would be dealt with by the manager.

5. Under an exclusive agreement the artiste will be obliged to refer all offers for personal appearance direct to the agent for negotiation, and, to avoid confusion, the artiste should be restricted from acting on his own behalf. If the artiste does act for himself (such as a one-off guest appearance), and if he receives fees direct, he should account to his agent for commission. If the artiste, by dealing direct with the promoters in contravention to his agency agreement, prejudices other commitments properly entered into by his agent on his behalf, the artiste alone should be responsible for the consequences.

6. While exclusivity is essential to the agent, it is also desirable for the artiste. In theory a sole agent is more likely to work harder, because he has strength in negotiations. As an agent is running a business his level of effort is effected by market forces.

Best Endeavours

1. An agent must be contractually committed to use his best endeavours to obtain as much of the right kind of work for the artiste upon the best financial terms. The success of the agent in doing so will depend upon the popularity of the artiste, and his ability to reproduce favourable at a live performance a quality and appeal comparable to that contained in the recordings. With existing technology, an expert sound engineer and a good record producer between them can do almost anything to improve on an inadequate (or even non-existent) vocal or instrumental performance which has been recorded. A concert audience expects much the same level of perfection and excitement. A hairy chest and designer stubble may be mandatory but some ability is also useful.

2. The level of success, and the financial viability of doing live shows, depends largely on having a record in the charts. Personal appearances, be they single concerts, or extended tours, are a carefully organised promotional tool. They make money for megastars but are likely to do no more than break even for the majority of performers, particularly for new artistes. Due to the power and influence of the broadcasting media over popular music, the agent must do his best to ensure the success of the artisteís records sales and radio performances reflect the status and earning power of the personal appearances.

3. The artiste must use his/her best endeavours aswell. This includes rehearsing and perfecting performance to the standard to match up to the inevitable hype. It is not uncommon for an artiste to suffer delusions of grandeur after a faint whiff of success. It can be damaging to the artiste to get prestige bookings if s/he cannot live up to what is expected of him/her by the audience and promoter.

Good Faith

1. In a business in which its word is seldom its bond, it is possible (although most unlikely) for an agent to do a little deal "on the side", which by its nature is not likely to be in the best interests of the artiste. An example would be an engagement for a successful artiste at a fee which is substantially less than the proper rate, to encourage the promoter to take an unknown artiste who is also represented by the agent. The side deal may be "under the counter" money, or anything else of a dubious nature. None of these activities would be done by a reputable agent, they are just to illustrate the point.

2. An agent must act in all respects in good faith for the artiste. If, for a booking, the agent is instructed by the promoter to provide only one artiste, or more than one but with differing styles of music or presentation, the choice will be in his absolute discretion. The fact that he chooses from those he represents one artiste and not another does not of itself mean that he is not doing his best for that other, or that he is not using good faith.