For more than 60 years, a feud has raged between artists' managers and talent agents. In part, this has to do with philosophical differences concerning the role which each plays in the development and furtherance of their clients' careers, and in part it concerns the levels of compensation each can receive. As a general rule of thumb, the job of an agent is to find work for his/her clients, whereas the job of a manager is to guide and develop the client's career. Of equal importance is the manner in which they are regarded by prevailing law. Agents have been heavily regulated by state legislation in New York and California and by guild franchising agreements. For example, Actors Equity, which represents actors in the theatre, only permits its members to deal with agents who are licensed (i.e.,"franchised") by the union. The union, among other things, insists that agents not commission the minimum "scale" payments negotiated between the union and the producers.' However, until now, managers were not subject to an overall regulatory scheme established by legislation or by the entertainment guilds. Managers have lived in a sort of never-land, vulnerable to potentially disastrous results if they step over the line into the role of agent. The management agreement of a manager who procures work for a client can be nullified, even where the client has encouraged the manager to do so. Managers feel ill-used by this treatment.
Donald E. Biederman,
What Hath Ovitz Wrouqht: Agents v. Managers Revisited,
1 Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law
Available at: https://scholarship.law.vanderbilt.edu/jetlaw/vol1/iss1/1