Talent Agencies and Management

When dealing daily with industry professionals in Los Angeles, the Boesch Law Group has developed a wealth of experience and solid results for its clients. It often is important for clients and potential clients to understand who they are dealing with, and to understand the roles of and distinctions between talent agents and talent managers, as well as the most frequent areas of misunderstanding and potential conflict within artist-agent and artist-manager relationships.

A talent agent is “a person or corporation who engages in the occupation of procuring, offering, promising, or attempting to procure employment or engagements for an artist or artists.” Marathon Entertainment, Inc. v. Rosa Blasi (2008), 42 Cal. 4th 974, 983, 986, citing Labor Code §1700.4(a). “In Hollywood, talent agents act as intermediaries between the buyers and sellers of talent… Generally speaking, an agent’s focus is on the deal: on negotiating numerous short-term, project-specific engagements between buyers and sellers.” Id. at 983.

Talent managers, on the other hand, focus “on advising and counseling each artist with an eye to making the artist as marketable and attractive to talent buyers as possible, as well as managing the artist’s personal and professional life in a way that allows the artist to focus on creative productivity. ‘Personal managers primarily advise, counsel, direct, and coordinate the development of the artist’s career. They advise in both business and personal matters, frequently lend money to young artists, and serve as spokespersons for the artists.’” Id. at 984.

For many artists, particularly those getting established or on the way up, these professional relationships with agent and manager are seen simply as different paths to more and better work.

Frequent questions arise when a talent manager’s contacts results in a role for an artist. These cases sometimes arise when talent, for one reason or another, decides that he/she should no longer have to pay his/her talent manager, and decides to use the Talent Agency Act to void the management contract. You can read more about these types of disputes on our blog: Part 1 / Part 2.

Of course, there are many entertainment litigation disputes that do not involve any violation of the Talent Agency Act. Disagreements can arise over the terms of a talent agency contract or its provisions. For example, many contracts include what is commonly known as a “sunset provision,” which requires the talent to continue paying the agency for a certain period of time or for certain ongoing projects, even after the contract has expired or the agency relationship has been terminated. Additionally, contract provisions requiring payment of commissions on all jobs – including ones which the artist may have gotten on his/her own – can often result in disagreements and accusations – particularly if there are multiple agents involved.

With regard to talent management relationships, as talent managers are not regulated the way that agents are, talent managers often do not enter into formal written contracts with their artists. While oral contracts are as valid and enforceable as written contracts, they are also often subject to ambiguities and differing interpretations. Additionally, oral contracts are governed by the statute of frauds, which states that any oral agreement that, by its terms, is not to be performed within a year from the making thereof, is invalid. See Cal. Code Civ. Proc. §1624(a)(1).

If you are a talent manager, talent agent, artist, or are otherwise involved in entertainment litigation and need assistance, you should contact a Los Angeles entertainment litigation attorney with the experience and the reputation to ensure that you get a fair and just result. To speak to a Los Angeles attorney who can help guide you through the legal process, please call us today at (310) 578-7880.


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