Love them or hate them entertainment agents are a fundamental driving force within the UAE and international music and entertainment industry.

These days agents predominantly advertise jobs online via social media, websites and email outs. We’ve all seen the typical post ‘Looking for open format DJ for Friday. Urgent requirement’. Today we’ll get into the basics of how agent/ performer relations work. This will lay the groundwork for future articles discussing some of the potential issues that regularly arise and how to avoid them.

Simply put, an agent works as an intermediary between a client and performer to ensure both parties deliver what is expected
of them. In short, performers want fair booking terms and to be paid in a timely manner. Client’s want a reliable and entertaining performer. Seems simple, right? That’s how things should work but all too often there are issues on both sides of this agreement. As a consequence, the term ‘agent’ comes with a variety of connotations. For clients, it sounds like unnecessary conditions and expense. For performers, it sounds like late or non-payment. We’ve all been burnt at some point or another.
However, this perspective of agents is not completely fair. Fundamentally a successful agent is the one that can keep the performers and the client happy. They are supreme negotiators. There will be negotiations, compromises and a push and pull from all parties. Often the negotiations turn into a tug of war of wants and needs that is complex to navigate. It’s a tricky business and I have the utmost respect to the agents who handle this role successfully and still remain in business.

The most common performer oversight is that when you’re dealing with an agent you’re actually doing business. Sure, be an artist but make sure to do your business too! Often agents are musically or artistically minded individuals who have become involved in the business side of entertainment. This equips them with a well- rounded viewpoint on the way successful entertainment business should be handled. Some, especially those on the higher end of the scale are legal tyrants with 20 page contracts stipulating all sorts of crazy conditions upon the signed performer. All too often agents are strictly business and the bottom line with business is money.

Subsequently some agents will compromise ‘artistic integrity’ for the sell. Maybe you’re a dubstep DJ, but they’ve pressured you to play commercial music as you’re the only one available for the gig. Some will do quite the opposite and are in flexible and not open to compromise. These ones generally go out of business quite quickly. Others are cunning, have zero sense of CSR and ignore business ethics. I’ve even had one rob me 4 months’ remuneration to make a quick and easy buck and get away with it. The best ones supply solid performers, get them paid and make the booking of them simple and cost effective for their client.

As a performer, you’ll want to be wary of who you choose to work with. Ask yourselves these basic questions when dealing with an agent’s proposed engagement in the UAE:

*How did you get in contact?
*Are they reputable?
*What do your trusted peers say about them?
*Do they operate under a trade license?
*What paperwork details are there?
*Are the conditions fair?
*What are the payment terms?
*What happens if they don’t pay?

It’s a good idea once you’ve found an agent you click with to work with them regularly. Good ones are far and few between. Want suggestions on who is reputable to work with? ventoentertainment.com and Paul will be pleased to point you in the right direction.