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Working with Agents

In the music industry, an agent is generally someone who secures live work for musicians. There is no longer any requirement for agents to be licensed so anyone can set themselves up as an agent.

Last updated: 31 March 2022

Although agencies are commonly referred to as agents, they may operate in one of two ways: as an employment agency and as an employment business. We explore the differences between the two.

When an agent is an employment agency

In an agency, the agent arranges the gig contract directly between the hirer and the musicians, and charges a commission on the gig fee under a separate agency contract with the musician or the hirer. The agent cannot be agent for both the musician and the hirer and should make it clear to you who he/she is actually the agent for.

If acting as an employment agent, the agent’s terms must include:

  • Details of the services to be provided.
  • Whether the agent is entitled to sign contracts on your behalf.
  • Whether the agent is entitled to receive money on your behalf.
  • Details of the fee payable and how it is calculated.
  • Whether refunds are payable and, if so, how and when this would take place.
  • Whether the fee is to be deducted from earnings and, if so, how and when.
  • Whether you are required to give or entitled to receive notice to terminate and, if so, how much.

When an agent is an employment business

In an employment business the agent will ‘buy’ the musicians for a fee under one contract, and then ‘sell’ them on to a hirer for a higher fee under another separate contract. The difference between the buying and selling price will be the agent’s profit. The following may help to explain the differences between the two ways in engagements for musicians.

If acting as an employment business, the agent’s terms must include:

  • Whether you will be employed or self-employed and the terms and conditions that will apply.
  • An undertaking to pay you, whether or not the hirer pays them.
  • The length of notice of termination you must give and are entitled to receive.
  • The rate (or minimum rate) of remuneration.
  • When remuneration will be paid.
  • Any entitlement to holidays or holiday pay.

Always consider

Regardless of which type of agent you are dealing with, it is worth considering:

  • Is your agency contract exclusive? It is quite common to have more than one agent. However, some agents will demand to be your sole representative for live work, at home and abroad.
  • Does your contract require you to pay Agency Commission for repeat/follow-up bookings? It is worth checking the small print of a contract to see whether the agent will demand commission on your future gigs at the same venue, even if these are arranged directly between you and the hirer or by some other agent.

Should you have any queries about your dealings with an agent, please contact your Regional Organiser.