Artist agencies appeal to US Congress for aid

Artist agencies appeal to US Congress for aid


norman lebrecht

June 04, 2020

Two New York agencies – Primo Artists and Park Avenue Artists – have launched a petition asking Congress to support artist managements who are in dire straits, with no income for the past three months and heavy staff and rental expenses.

They explain:

… We derive virtually 100% of our revenue on commissions and fees from our artists’ and shows’ performance fees or ticket sales. Our ability to return to work is contingent upon the development of a vaccine, as it is the only way venues can once again fill to capacity. If venues reopen before September 2021, any performances would be presented only in reduced capacities. In this scenario, if artists receive compensation at all, it would be a fraction of their standard performance fees, and our commission or ticket revenue would not be enough to sustain us. Without full-capacity live performances until September 2021, we face an anticipated loss of 15 months of income and are in danger of ceasing operations.

We are for-profit businesses and therefore ineligible to receive arts funds allocated by the CARES Act, such as the $75M for the National Endowment for the Arts. Furthermore, we cannot tap into donors, grants and endowments for relief to sustain our businesses during this pandemic….

You can sign the petition here.

Primo’s Charlotte Lee with loyal client


  • Olassus says:

    Cry us a river.

    • PJB says:


      • Be Supportive says:

        I am confused – why “cry us a river”? Most agencies work very hard for their clients and then survive on usually about 10% of the amounts the artists make. Furthermore, if the artist must cancel for any reason, they have already done all of the administrative work by that time and are then paid zero for that work.

        I understand that many people like to villainize agents – but they mostly do an enormous amount of administrative work to help artists focus on being artists. And now BOTH artist and agent are making precisely nothing. Any way you look at that, it is bad for the arts.

        When governments work to provide the artists with some small bail-outs, they are applauded. The agencies do not qualify for any of those bailouts – in fact MANY artists don’t either if you have been paying attention.

        So if they could “cry you a river”, that river would be close to bone-dry about now – and looking even more dry for the next 6-8 months.

        How would YOU like to live on zero income for 6-8 months and also have people in your own business treat you with contempt? And for the record – I am not an agent nor an artist.

        But have a bit more respect and understanding for each agency that goes under and each theater that cancels and pays nothing and each artist that has to take another job to pay their rent. Even major institutions like ROH and MET are in dire need.

        It is a food chain and each link that breaks threatens everything. Because the overall strength is being stressed and each link is needed for survival. So, instead of “cry me a river”, how about sign any and every petition that might help the arts.

        Before they disappear.

        • Una says:

          Thank you. Well said. My agent has worked very hard for me and the test of us and now no work for anyone. The Met and Covent Garden are indeed in dire straits.

        • Eleanor says:


        • Jay says:

          It is a business ,some make it some
          don’ these times people have a tough time
          putting food on the table and little time to
          worry whether some overpriced player
          has lost bookings and goes about begging
          for money to keep up their life style.
          The arrogance !! using the “arts” as a
          begging bowl.

  • Che Palle!! says:

    Vultures circling for their next meal. Don’t give them a nickel!!!!

  • Come up with Ideas for your Artists! says:

    Why are agencies petitioning congress? Did these agencies apply for PPP loans? Where is the creativity? Where is the lobbying of local leaders to allow concert halls to reopen? If people can protest en mass then why can’t open air concerts take place?

    Do not ask for welfare! You are the capitalists! Come up with ideas that will benefit your artists and you. That’s why your artists hired you in the first place.

    • Annonymous says:

      They did apply for PPP loans but they aren’t enough to sustain the companies. The PPP loans were only meant as short term solutions for companies that would be able to open again quickly. So they worked just fine for places like retail stores and some restaurants that have already started to re-open and/or could continue to operate through online commerce. But companies that work in the performing arts or any industry that relies on mass gatherings will be the very last to open and the money from PPP loans will have run out by then. Also, the PPP loans come with a lot of complicated restrictions that have been hard for a lot of companies (not just perf arts) to navigate.

      To assume that agencies aren’t being creative and trying every thing they can to try to survive and help their artists survive is just plain wrong. This petition is not the only thing they are doing. It’s just their final quarter/last minute Hail Mary pass!

  • Annonymous says:

    Ah SD commentators! In this time of uncertainty it’s somewhat comforting to see that when given the opportunity to bash agents/managers, you’ll take the opportunity every single time. Feels like old times!

    You all may not like agents/managers because you think they are leeches for expecting to be paid for their services. But I’m pretty sure its because you don’t appreciate them or frankly even know what they do. But you know who does? The artists.

    The artists are well aware that they can’t just call up an orchestra or opera house and say “hey, I’m really good you should hire me”. They need someone advocating on their behalf. They need someone to help open that door for them. That’s what agents/mangers do.

    And then when they get through that door and start dealing with contracts, it doesn’t hurt to have someone helping make sure they aren’t being taken advantage of. I can assure you the artists were really happy these past few months to have their agents/managers fighting on their behalf when presenters were claiming force majeure and refusing pay one penny of compensation. The managers/agents have been fighting hard for the artists, getting as much compensation they could to help these artists who are looking at possibly a full year without work and rearranging schedules so cancelled performances could be rescheduled and at fair a compensation.

    And when the artists are on the road touring and things start going wrong with their travel or the rehearsal arrangements or any number of problems that arise, do you know who they call first. That’s right, their agent/managers.

    And when a performance goes bad or a critic is rude (or SD commentators post their typical nasty posts), who do the artists call for comfort and reassurance. Say it with me now: THEIR AGENT/MANAGER

    But go ahead and continue to bash them and revel in the demise of their careers and livelihoods. Agents/managers are the scum of the earth, don’t deserve the income they receive and are generally worthless.

    You do you, SD commentators. You do you.

  • Simon says:

    In my experience, as someone who worked in the agency business for years, the artists and spectators who bash agents, managers, agencies and the very structure of the business itself, are essentially made up of two groups. Those who were either not good enough or for whatever reason could not find a way to be represented by the agencies and those who sit on the sidelines and spout off about anything in general because they haven’t found a way to actually participate in life. The former group are disgruntled and sad and thankfully we don’t get to hear them ply their craft. The latter are angry at pretty much everything. Today they’re decrying arts agencies. Tomorrow, the NFL. I used to know Charlotte Lee. She’s not only capable and smart. She is kind and well-meaning and while don’t believe this appeal will succeed, I don’t blame her at all for attempting this.

    • Alvaro says:

      You forgot about 1 group. People who can do MATH. The biggest problem with the arts is that the industry as a whole has perpetuated complacency, stifled innovation, and “business as usual” because every time the market does it’s part and an institution is about to disappear, its “saved” or bailed out in spite of horrific management practices, lack of innovation or plain corruption.

      As a player in that game, of course what can one expect from most agencies? the “save us because we’re doing arts” card.

      It’s time to let REAL entrepreneurship and creativity do its thing, reward the innovators and punish complacency.

      Not talking necessarily about these agencies, but the market in general.

      In the real world you don’t get bailed out (unless you are a huge bank, of course).

      ALAS..welcome to the real world.

  • Che Palle!! says:

    Most agents have their artists pay a monthly retainer. Agents must learn to budget just like artists have to do. 10, 15 and 20% from each artist on a roster, plus invoices for phone calls and paper clips. If you have never been in the business, you have no idea how these agents operate.

    • Andres says:

      Che Palle, how is it in 1973?! You must come visit 2020 this summer. We would love to have you.

    • Bean says:

      Having been in this side of the business I am not aware of a single agency in my country that charges a monthly retainer.

    • Commission not Retainer says:

      What are you talking about? Most agents are paid on commission not retainer. Before lecturing on the business, learn the business.

    • Simon says:

      You couldn’t be more incorrect. Most agents and managers do not require retainers. In fact, any self-respecting agent would not. They make money when the client makes money. Plus reasonable and mutually approved expenses.

    • Chris Wilford says:

      The only artists I can see paying a retainer are those who’s careers don’t generate enough income at that time to adequately compensate their representation for work done on their behalf. That said I don’t personally know any artist who pays a retainer.

      As to the relationship between artists and their agents, my father once said
      “My clients don’t think I’m a son of a bitch, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks”.

  • Alvaro says:

    Creativity? Entrepreneuship? In an industry in which 90% of the institutions are mismanaged and every other year they are saved by either a rich, bored donor or by taxpayer money in the name of “arts”?

    Seriously? are you expecting creativity from these people?