Agreement with an intermediary
Be sure you agree to arrange the matters as clearly as possible and have something to fall back on if it doesn’t work out. Always write down agreements. Never sign contracts immediately, but ask for some time to think it over. Use that time to go through the agreement one more time. In this way you make sure you don’t draw the short straw in case of a difference of opinion.
Duration of the contract
Settle on a duration for the agreement. Intermediaries like to have contracts for an unlimited time, with a number of annulment clauses. It is nevertheless better to limit the duration of a contract to one year, and then to evaluate and negotiate about a possible extension of the agreement. In this way you can move on to another intermediary without any financial consequences.
If the intermediary is interested in extending the contract, you are put in a better position for negotiating. If the intermediary thinks he may be dealing with young talent, he will want to sign a contract for a longer time period. His motivation is that first he will be investing a lot of time and money in you, before you start bringing in profits.
An exclusivity stipulation still occurs in many contracts with intermediaries. It means that the intermediary contractually requires you to conduct all your activities through him. So your own gigs and activities via other intermediaries are ruled out. The intention behind such a stipulation is obvious: all your wages go through the intermediary who receives a percentage from them, and you are dependant on him. In the Arbeidsvoorzieningenwet (employment policy act) of 1991 the exclusivity stipulation is restricted. The intermediary is not allowed to abuse the art*ist’s in theory weaker position. Exclusiveness is still allowed, but it must be proportionate to the intermediary’s risk. An exclusivity stipulation for an unlimited time is by definition unfair. Try to prevent an exclusivity stipulation from being put into your contract. If that is not possible, make sure the contract is for a limited duration.
What the services involve
The principle of “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” also applies to the professional agreement between you and an intermediary. You give him a portion of your income, and in return he performs a number of services. In order to determine if the deal is reasonable, there has to be clarity about the sort, quality, and the number of services to be performed. Below are a number of points to consider when negotiating:
Quality in relation to cost
The quality of the services provided really depends on the intermediary: his contacts with theatres, clients, producers and directors, his knowledge of the employment market, and his negotiating skills when settling contracts. The number of shows or other contracts he is able to arrange gives an indication, so make an agreement about the minimum number of contracts to be settled within a certain time period. If he is unable to achieve this, and if there is no exclusivity stipulation, then you can look for work through other intermediaries.
Contracts: with whom and not with whom
Don’t give the intermediary the freedom to sign contracts with everyone. Have clear agreements in advance about who to make contracts with and who not to (director, producer, stage, business, broadcasting agency, recording company). Agree that you may have a look at contracts in advance. If working together for some time the intermediary will be well able to decide whether he can or cannot close on a contract for you, and what the minimum conditions for it must be. He will know how often you can work per week, where and for whom you do or don’t want to work, and what the minimum wages should be. The intermediary has to be sure that you comply with the signed contracts.
If you do not comply with your contracts for reasons other than circumstances beyond your control, it can lead to damage claims. This is why it is so important to read over the contracts in advance and to check if you can fulfil them. Keep in regular contact with the intermediary about options and bookings. Occasionally opening times and locations are changed without much notice. Problematic situations can arise, especially if you work with several intermediaries or if you take care of some bookings yourself.
The intermediary takes professional risks, especially if he actually invests in you. He will want to limit those risks. So it may happen that the intermediary suggests dividing the business risk or making it yours for a certain period of time. That can mean a considerable financial drain, but not necessarily an unfair one. It becomes a different story if you have built up a faithful audience and the intermediary then has it made. The risk of not getting the investment back is then small. So try to gather all the expenses within the total agreement, as much as possible. In this way you won’t receive unexpected and unwelcome bills later on, which you may not be sure were even necessary.
To have an insight into the expenses incurred by the intermediary in performing his or her duties, you can ask to make a budget and to show which costs are passed on to whom. A professional intermediary will be able to see a pattern in the expenses of his services. Such a budget can be reasonably accurately set up, especially if a number of basic details are known, such as: number of performances, promotion and publicity expenses, representation costs, equipment lease, wages and administration expenses, etc.