About 15 years ago, my band signed our first management agreement. I was in law school, and we couldn’t afford a lawyer to look at it, so I did the best unqualified read-through I could. While most of the agreement at least made sense, there was one line in particular that stuck out to me as odd – something that appears in almost every management agreement I’ve seen since: The agreement said that nothing would require our new manager to attempt to obtain employment or engagements for us. In fact, it went so far as to say our new manager wasn’t “authorized” to do it. I thought getting us more opportunities was the whole point of finally having a manager!

Here’s that clause as it appeared in that agreement:

Since then, I’ve learned the reason for this language (or something similar) in many artist management agreements: Soliciting employment and engagements on behalf of another person can bring someone under the scope of laws applicable to talent agents. That means talent agents need to abide by legislation, regulations and licensing requirements specific to them.

For example, in the U.S., requirements (including licensing requirements) vary state-by-state. Ontario doesn’t have a regime like that at this point, so talent agents’ activities are governed more generally, for example by the Consumer Protection Act. BC does have a talent agency licensing regime. While it’s mostly geared towards the film industry, the definition of “talent agency” in the act covers seeking employment for “performers.” Here’s the full list of BC licensed talent agents.

On top of that, agencies and agents are often represented by and/or licensed by different unions and guilds. For example, here’s a list of Canadian booking agencies licensed by AFM/CFM (who represent professional musicians in Canada and the US). All of these agents have signed the AFM Booking Agent Agreement, “which set standards for legally enforceable contract specifying negotiated fees, working conditions and commissions.”

But there you have it – this is why your new manager won’t agree to get you gigs in your agreement. But will they do it anyway? Well… considering managers typically commission a percentage of artist revenues, not getting you work means not getting paid. So I think we know how it often works out in reality.

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