Info You Can Use: Who Owns An Artist’s Booking Data?

A very interesting question regarding the relationship between an agent and artist was recently broached on the Musical America blog. An agent who has an artist leaving their representation for another company asks who owns the leads and contacts they have cultivated on behalf of the artist.

However, the question has come up as to whether we are obligated to give the artist all of the leads and contacts we have been pursuing on his behalf that have not been booked yet. That doesn’t seem fair. We have been working on some presenters for years, have invested a lot of time, and consider that to be our proprietary information. If we turn all of that over to his new manager, that’s just going to be a gift to the new manager who will follow up on all of our work and take the commissions.

Now you may think the agent is correct. It doesn’t seem fair that the new manager will benefit from the efforts of the company that the artist is leaving. However, lawyer Brian Taylor Goldstein answers that under the law of agency, representatives, a term which applies to people like attorneys, realtors, accountants, artist agents, etc, work for a principal party and all the work they do belongs to that principal. (my emphasis)

…there are four key concepts:

(1) An agent works for the principal and, while the agent can advise the principal, the agent must follow the instructions and directives of the principal.

(2) An agent can never put his or her own interests above that of the principal.

(3) All of the “results and proceeds” of the agent’s work on behalf of the principal belongs to the principal.

(4) Any contractual provision, written or oral, that contravenes rules (1) – (3) is null and void.

In short, when a manager represents an artist, the manager has no proprietary information. In other words, those aren’t your leads and contacts, they are the artist’s. While your leads and contacts may start out as your own, once you contact someone on behalf of an artist, the artist is legally entitled to know anyone you have spoken to on his or her behalf, including the details of such conversation. Moreover, unless there is an agreement to the contrary, the artist is also free to contact anyone directly on his own behalf.

This information was surprising to me. I knew that this relationship existed with one’s realtor, but didn’t realize it extended to artists and agents/managers as well.

Goldstein goes on to explain that the law is set up this way to protect the agent from liability for any breach by the principal. The agent isn’t liable if the artist fails to show up for a performance, for example.

(Of course, since the agent will be the first to receive an emotionally fraught phone call if the artist doesn’t show, they will bear a lot of non-legal responsibility.)

He also enumerates a number of aspects of the agent-artist relationship that people may assume are a matter of law, but are merely a result of traditional practice, and perhaps due for a change.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.

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