Many people may get confused between a talent agent and a talent manager because these two professionals often work closely together and may have overlapping responsibilities. Both talent agents and talent managers are involved in the entertainment industry and help to represent and support the careers of actors and other artists. However, there are some key differences between these two roles that can help to clarify the distinctions between them. Understanding these differences can be important for actors and other artists who are seeking representation and support in their careers.
The Talent Agent
A talent agent is a professional who represents actors, writers, directors, and other artists in the entertainment industry. Their primary role is to secure work for their clients by pitching them for various roles and negotiating contracts with casting directors, production companies, and other industry professionals. Talent agents typically receive a percentage of their clients’ earnings as their fee for their services.
- Work on behalf of their clients to secure acting roles, auditions, and other opportunities in the entertainment industry
- Negotiate contracts and fees on behalf of their clients
- May specialize in representing a particular type of artist (e.g., actors, writers, directors) or work with a range of clients in the industry
- May work for a talent agency or operate their own agency
- Typically receive a percentage of their clients’ earnings as their fee for their services. 10-15% is a typical commission.
Note: Most talent agencies are SAG-AFTRA franchised agencies, meaning that they follow the rules for talent agencies set by the SAG-AFTRA actors union.
SAG-AFTRA is a labor union that represents actors, announcers, broadcasters, journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists and other media professionals. The union has rules that govern the relationship between talent agencies and SAG-AFTRA members.
Talent agencies that represent SAG-AFTRA members must be licensed by the union and must adhere to the union’s agency regulations. These regulations outline the duties and responsibilities of talent agencies and establish standards for agency conduct.
Some of the key rules for talent agencies include:
- Talent agencies may only charge SAG-AFTRA members a 10% commission on all earnings derived from union employment.
- Talent agencies must provide detailed written statements to their clients on a quarterly basis, itemizing all earnings and the commission charged.
- Talent agencies must maintain accurate and complete financial records and make them available for inspection by SAG-AFTRA upon request.
- Talent agencies must not engage in any deceptive or fraudulent practices, such as making false promises or misrepresenting employment opportunities to clients.
- Talent agencies must not discriminate against clients on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability or union membership.
SAG-AFTRA also provides resources and support to help members navigate their relationship with talent agencies, including a Talent Agency Mediation and Arbitration program that can help resolve disputes between members and agencies.
The Talent Manager
A talent manager, on the other hand, is a professional who helps to guide and develop the careers of actors and other artists. This may include helping them to make strategic decisions about their career, such as which roles to accept or reject, and providing guidance on how to build and maintain their professional reputation. Talent managers often work closely with talent agents to help their clients achieve success in the industry.
In general, talent agents focus more on securing work for their clients, while talent managers focus more on career development and strategy. Many actors choose to work with both a talent agent and a talent manager in order to have a well-rounded team working on their behalf.
- Help to guide and develop the careers of their clients, which may include making strategic decisions about which roles to accept or reject and providing guidance on how to build and maintain a professional reputation
- May work with talent agents to secure work for their clients
- May also provide support and assistance with things like networking, marketing, and personal branding
- May work for a management firm or operate their own management company
- Typically receive a percentage of their clients’ earnings as their fee for their services. 15-20% is a typical commission.
It’s worth noting that the roles of talent agents and talent managers can vary somewhat, and there may be some overlap between the two. Some talent agents may also provide career development support to their clients, while some talent managers may be involved in securing work for their clients. Ultimately, the specific responsibilities of a talent agent or talent manager will depend on their individual practice and the needs of their clients.
Talent managers are not regulated by the SAG-AFTRA union, but there are several organizations that represent talent managers and provide resources and support to help them navigate the entertainment industry.
Some examples of these organizations include:
- The Talent Managers Association (TMA): This is a professional organization for talent managers that provides education and resources to help members succeed in the industry. TMA also offers a code of ethics and standards of practice to guide the behavior of its members.
- The Association of Talent Agents (ATA): This is a trade association that represents talent agencies in the entertainment industry. The ATA works to promote the interests of its members and advocate for fair treatment of talent agents and their clients.
- The National Association of Talent Representatives (NATR): This is a professional association that represents talent managers and agents across a range of media industries, including film, television, music and more. NATR provides resources and support to help members succeed in their careers.
It’s worth noting that while these organizations can be a helpful resource for talent managers, they are not unions and do not have the same regulatory powers as unions like SAG-AFTRA.