20 August 2013
(Bill Debate, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
I support the Entertainment Industry Bill 2013, which introduces new provisions to protect artists and removes current requirements for managers and agents of performers to be licensed and to lodge monetary bonds. Sydney's entertainment heartland is in the Sydney electorate: from the Opera House to the Walsh Bay precinct and the Metro Theatre to countless small live music venues and local theatres throughout. It is home to performers, including the established, up and coming, non-professional and recreational.
Many entertainment industry managers also live in the inner city. Both visitors and residents love the inner city for the broad range of entertainment options on offer, and the entertainment industry is one that I strongly believe this Parliament should support.
Currently, managers of entertainment performers must hold a licence and pay a $2,000 bond that is held in case of monetary disputes. I understand that while theatre, film and relationships with professional performers usually follow this regime, it is rarely used in the music industry. Most live music performers are not professional and they are often managed by friends. In many cases managers do not even handle money for the performer they represent; it goes straight to the band, which makes holding a bond unnecessary. While this does not mean that disputes do not arise or that performers need less protection, it does mean that the regime does not work in the industry and that few managers and performers are aware of their rights and obligations. The formal and expensive process deters new managers entering the industry and young bands getting representation. A young band managed by a friend who is not licensed will have problems booking shows and dealing with venues.
The new arrangements will better reflect current practices and encourage new entrants into the industry. Artists often earn low incomes and do not know their rights, making them reluctant to take action when they feel they have been taken advantage of. The new protections in the bill will make performers less vulnerable. Disputes often occur because the relationship between parties is not clear. The bill introduces greater transparency in the relationship between performers and their representatives, with new disclosure requirements regarding conflicts of interest, record-keeping requirements, time limits for performers to be paid, caps on commission fees, a cooling-off period for agreements, and specific information that needs to be disclosed in agreements. The regulations will be able to prescribe specific issues that must be addressed in agreements.
Management agreements are complex but there are a number of key issues that should be clarified in all agreements, such as how payments are made, how an agreement can be terminated and the circumstances in which a representative can act for the performer. I request that the Government work with managers, artists and their advocates to identify what needs to be included in the regulations. The Association of Artist Managers [AAM] is concerned that the new streamlined definition of a "performer representative" fails to recognise the complexity of the industry and the different roles—including those of manager and agent—which is likely to frustrate those in these roles. While it is broad, a cap on commission fees would be imposed on all those working under this catch-all provision, and it is not clear how the cap will reflect this complexity.
I understand that 10 per cent is an industry-accepted standard for venue bookers and agents but that most managers charge between 15 per cent and 20 per cent. Whether the cap will be on gross or net remuneration is not clear, and there are concerns about how additional charges for managerial services, which are permitted in the bill, would work. The regulations will clarify this. I ask that the Minister confirm in his reply that he will work with the Association of Artist Managers, the Australasian Performing Right Association [APRA] and other industry and performer representatives to get this cap right. I strongly support inclusion of a code of conduct for the industry. This will be an important tool for ensuring that representatives and performers know their rights and obligations.
Again, the process to develop the code should be informed by industry and performer advocates, including the Association of Artist Managers, the Australasian Performing Right Association and Arts Law. This is a complex industry with varying degrees of formality among managers, agents and performers, many of whom do not know the law. There needs to be a widespread education and publicity campaign to encourage compliance and to reduce disputes. I commend the Government for working to improve support and protection for the entertainment industry, which is vital to ensure that Sydney remains a place where people want to live and visit.