3 Differences Between Agents and Managers

If you’re in the entertainment business, you’ve probably come across various talent representatives, particularly agents and managers. While some may mistakenly view agents and managers as the same, there are several important distinctions between their roles.

Agents represent talent in seeking and securing employment and help ensure the client gets paid. They also assist in making connections and negotiating contracts.

Managers are focused on helping to shape and maintain the artist’s career as well as making them as marketable and appealing to talent buyers as possible. They advise the artist on their professional and personal lives and can help them select projects and work that will benefit their image and reputation. Their services typically include managing day-to-day business activities; assisting with marketing, social media, and promotional materials; referring artists to agents, business managers, and publicists; and aiding in talent development (finding classes, coaches, etc.).

States have various rules regarding agents. New York and California state law require anyone who solicits and arranges employment for others to be licensed. Therefore, an agent must be registered by the state. Artists can check New York and California databases to ensure an agent is registered. Conversely, registration is not required for talent managers in most states.

While the roles of agent and manager are distinct, there is potential for overlap because the manager’s role in developing the artist’s career may involve reaching out to industry contacts and discussing new opportunities or deal terms. Accordingly, New York has an exception to its licensing rules allowing managers to procure work for their clients if it is incidental to their principal role as the artist’s manager. California does not have such an exception unless it involves the procurement of recording contracts.

A talent agent is also often subject to the codes of conduct of guilds and unions. Unions may dictate fees, require form contracts to be used, and insist that the agent obtain a franchise license. Without the franchise license, a talent agent cannot procure employment for any members of the union. A manager is not regulated by guilds, but they do still have a fiduciary duty to their clients.

Each state treats commissions in different ways, but generally, an agent’s commission is set at 10%. Note that an agent may only receive a commission when and if the artist receives compensation and agents may not charge up-front fees. Certain other amounts paid to the artist typically are not included in the commission calculation, such as travel and meal allowances, living expenses and other payments.