Talent Agent/Client Trouble
ACTRA Toronto stands in solidarity with the performers affected by the events that have taken place at Compass Artist Management. In this precarious industry, to have your financial, emotional and mental well being abused by someone you trust is one of the worst possible situations to find yourself in. On November 1, 2022, the ACTRA Toronto Council gathered to discuss concrete steps to help address the imbalances that exist between performers and their agents within Canada’s creative industries. We will work toward establishing a system that empowers the performer and ensures they cannot be taken advantage of again.
In 2015, because of the sustained efforts of ACTRA Toronto and Equity, Ontario’s Protecting Child Performers Act was signed into law, with the result that all child performers (union or non-union) now have access to the protections which previously were only available to ACTRA members.
So we know that we can effect change. We’ve done it before. And it is imperative that we prevent the heart breaking situation with Compass Artist Management from ever happening again.
We also know that there is no quick fix. The needed change will not happen overnight, it will demand resources, and will require involvement from multiple partners in the industry to achieve consensus. As we did with the Child Protection Act, we will call on the government to work with our industry partners to help develop legislation that will protect our performers.
This is a fight that ACTRA Toronto is committed to taking on, but it will also require all of us to pitch in. Please watch your inbox and the ACTRA Toronto website in the days ahead.
In the meantime, ACTRA continues to work with the AFC and AFBS to ensure that performers in need can apply for financial assistance and that their benefits are not affected by the events that took place at Compass.
DisclaimerThe information provided on this page is general information only and is offered to our members for their reference and convenience, “as is”, with all faults and without warranty of any kind, expressed or implied.
ACTRA Toronto makes no warranties or representations regarding the accuracy, completeness or suitability of the information provided.
The information is not intended and should not be construed as legal advice. Do not rely on information at this site or others in place of the advice of competent legal counsel or professional advisors. Only you can decide whether a particular course of action is right for you and only a lawyer can advise you of any associated legal consequences.
The contracts between talent agents and clients are not collectively bargained. Consequently, neither ACTRA nor ACTRA Toronto have legal standing or jurisdiction in contract disputes between performers and their agents nor any direct leverage or policing powers over agencies.
That said, ACTRA Toronto does consult on a regular basis with the Talent Agents and Managers Association of Canada (TAMAC) and with other agents who are signatory to the Entertainment Industry Coalition (EIC) Code of Ethical Conduct.
EIC signatory status and what that means
The Entertainment Industry Coalition is a voluntary association of agents, casting directors, unions, guilds and other industry professionals that has created a Code of Ethical Conduct to set out the principals that define best practices for Talent Agencies. Performers seeking representation are strongly encouraged to review the EIC Code before signing a representation agreement.
Prospective member agencies must sign on to the Code of Ethical Conduct and demonstrate to the board’s satisfaction that their business practices are in compliance with the Code.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Neither the EIC nor ACTRA Toronto have any continuing right of audit or ability to monitor agency business practices and, consequently, cannot warrant, endorse, or recommend signatory agencies. Prospective clients determine the suitability of the agencies and the services they offer for themselves and at their own risk.
In case of a dispute…
Keep good notes (and your cool)
It is best business practise to make sure that negotiations, complaints, contract interpretations and disputes are properly documented. Create a paper trail by summing up all conversations in an email and making your position clear so that a reasonable third party reading the correspondence would be able to understand the issues and your position.
Avoid personal attacks, threats or abusive language. State your case, provide your evidence and clearly define your “ask”.
Rebut positions you do not accept or disagree with. Do not let things stand until your claim has been satisfied. Answer emails with a specific action-oriented “ask” that has an associated deadline. (e.g., “Please pay the full amount by etransfer before Friday at 4:30 pm.”)
If you are unable to get satisfaction through correspondence, you do have the option to take the agency to small claims court. There are associated costs and only you can decide if the amount to be recovered is worth the investment.
Often, a lawyer’s letter is a sufficient trigger to get the other party’s attention. It will cost money. Don’t assume the lawyer will write a better letter than you. Ask to see a draft. Do listen to the advice you are paying for.
Remember that you may not be able to recover debts or legal costs from a bankrupt party and make sure the cost/benefit math works for you before you engage.
Some free legal advice services available for performers based on location
- Artists’ Legal Advice Services (Toronto)
- Artists’ Legal Outreach (Vancouver)
Redirection of payments that are under ACTRA’s control
ACTRA is not bound by the terms of the contract between members and their agents and will direct payments under its control (PRS payments, NCA payments) according to the member’s instructions. Contact ACTRA Toronto Member Services to change your instructions regarding cheque direction.
NOTE: Payment for contract work fees under the IPA will generally be sent to the address on the contract. Members can direct the payments to their home address by substituting it for the agency address on the contract.
Be aware that changing the payment authorization may breach the terms of your contract with your agent and only you can decide whether you are willing to accept any risks for doing so. To make that decision, you will need to have a copy of your contract with the agency and be familiar with its terms. Only a lawyer can advise you if an agency’s failure to pay promptly voids their contract with you.
Get some support
The Agent/Client relationship is a very important one and when troubles arise in that relationship it can be extremely stressful and leave you feeling exposed and vulnerable. You don’t have to let those feelings prevent you from making good decisions and negotiating well but make sure you do have some support to lean on.