Ed McPherson writes: Of course, in my first post, I feel that I should discuss what I know best—the Talent Agencies Act. Perhaps that is the only thing that I know—but I do know it pretty well, having written 7 1/2 (one pending) articles on the subject, spoken on numerous panels, and served as a consultant/expert witness on many occasions. Basically, the act forbids anyone who is not a licensed talent agent from "procuring" (which has been construed to include any negotiations) employment for "artists." I wrote an article 11 years ago for Hastings COM/ENT titled "The Talent Agencies Act—Time For A Change." I opined that the act is completely out of touch with the reality of the entertainment industry as it exists today, and that it must be amended. Well, until recently, nobody listened.
The California Supreme Court finally listened this year, and decided Marathon v. Blasi (management agreements are "severable," and therefore the old law that one violation of the act loses a lifetime of commissions is no longer the law).
The courts have finally listened; however, the California Legislature has never listened. And, more disturbingly, the "artists" themselves have never listened. I understand why the Association of Talent Agents (ATA) is so vocal about keeping the act--the act should be renamed "The Full Employment Act For Agents." What I do not understand is why the Screen Actors Guild would consistently back the act; the act does not protect the "artists" (as it is intended to do).
Sure, when an artist decides that he or she wants to fire his or her manager, it is a very convenient sword to use in exit negotiations (certainly not its intended use). But what is the big picture impact on artists in general? Many superstar artists feel that having a manager is much more important to them than having an agent, and they do not want to pay two sets of commissions. The act says that they have to pay an agent, whether they want to or not.
All right, so you cannot feel too sorry for the superstars? What about the baby artist? The starting actor that no agent will touch, but who has a manager that is willing to invest the time and money that no agent will do. Is it likely that that manager will invest that time if he knows that he will never be paid for it? What about the baby band that needs to tour to establish a following in order to attract record label interest? Without a record deal, it is highly unlikely that they will find an agent--and what are they supposed to do if their manager cannot help them book their tour
The bottom line is this: the Talent Agencies Act is terrific for agents, and abolutely abysmal for artists. It is about time that those artists and their unions started to figure that out. As I once heard: In an industry in which many actors cannot even get into SAG, and 95% of SAG members are out of work, is it conceivable that a law that restricts the number of people that can find those actors a job—can actually be good for actors?