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North American Performing Arts Managers and Agents

NAPAMA Guidelines for Ethical Behavior

The performing arts represent the highest level of communication. NAPAMA’s purposed is to facilitate that communication in an effective, responsible manner. Therefore, these Guidelines for Ethical Behavior have been formulated by the NAPAMA membership to govern our relationship with artists, presenters and other managers. Each of these areas involves mutual obligations, some contractual in nature and others in the domain of professional courtesy and good business practice. We wish to focus on the essence, which is to be forthright and clear in all dealings with our colleagues.

NAPAMA’s greatest obligation is to foster the development of and access to performing arts of the highest quality. We propose that the cultivation of excellence is the best means of maximizing the public appetite for live performance, which will in turn increase the opportunities available to talented artists. The principles of professional conduct described in these guidelines assume a condition of ample opportunity which may or may not exist at the moment and a standard of ethics which is painless only if it does.

I. Manager-Artist Relations

By virtue of their positions of leadership, managers have responsibilities to all performing artists.

  1. Managers and agents are often besieged by artists seeking representation. If their work merits attention, one must ascertain their freedom to enter into a management agreement and be prepared to honor, and to encourage them to honor, any existing obligations to previous management. Managers should not entice artists from other managements’ rosters, especially with unreasonably optimistic predictions about engagement and fees which might be procured for them.
  2. The terms of a management agreement should be stated clearly, comprehensively and in writing. It is not reasonable to assume, just because mutual obligations and responsibilities are detailed in a contract, that these details and their consequences are understood and remembered by the artist. He or she should be informed, in particular, and before the contract is signed, of the probable eventual costs of promotional and publicity materials, travel, long-distance phone calls, etc., the mechanisms to be used for reimbursement of these expenses as well as the provisions made for contract renewal or termination.
  3. Artists fees should be remitted to the artist within a clearly specified time period, and expenses should be itemized and invoiced periodically. If any misunderstanding occurs concerning expense reimbursements, remedy the situation by improving communication with the artist involved.
  4. Momentum can be crucial in the development of an artist’s career. If a manager feels he or she has reached the end of his of her effectiveness for a particular artist, he or she should be frank about this and offer the artist the option of going elsewhere.
  5. Artists have corresponding responsibilities toward managers. In particular, they must be clear about their own needs, priorities and expectations, and, having assumed any contractual obligations toward a manager or presenter, they must fulfill them. Failure to do so impairs not only the reputation and effectiveness of the manager but, by extension, the opportunities available to fellow artists on the roster. In addition, failure to honor obligations for reasons not enumerated in Act of God clauses will entail financial obligations of the artist to managers and presenters involved.

II. Manager-Presenter Relations

The manager-presenter relationship is the crux of our profession. Both represent entities beyond themselves—performing artists on the one hand and the concert-going public on the other. As such, it involves mutual trust and a commitment to the perpetuation of the performing arts.

  1. Managers are expected to be accurate, efficient and timely sources of information about performing artists. This precludes any willful misrepresentation of the needs, capabilities and availabilities of the artist one is authorized to represent and also any corresponding misrepresentation of artists one is not authorized to represent.
  2. During the booking and contracting process, managers should be mindful of their leadership role: every instance of booking activity should be a model of the process for both sides of the bargaining table. This involves being frank and forceful with presenters about the effects on artists’ careers of potential abuses, such as unreasonable holds, premature requests for contracts, and other restrictions, such as exaggerated exclusivity clauses. Conversely, managers, especially when dealing with less experienced presenters, must not abuse any rights or expectations to which the imprecise use of language may seem to entitle them. No enticements, such as gifts of value or monetary kickbacks, may be offered to presenters for booking artists. Not only is this illegal, it is a particularly loathsome violation of our trust.
  3. Both managements and presenting organizations are responsible for the actions and commitments of their staffs.
  4. Holds. It is recognized, given the committee structure governing many presenting organizations and the complicated and delicate process involved in putting a season together, that the requesting and granting of "holds" may be a necessary step in the booking process. All parties involved must recognize and respect the good faith aspect of holds and not abuse the process. In particular, holds should only be requested and granted with the understanding that a response, positive or negative, must be made within an agreed time-frame, generally less than thirty days.
  5. Contracts should only be requested and supplied when all parties can confirm their intention to sign it. It should then be completely, accurately and promptly executed, including any and all riders, except when specific retarding circumstances (government grants, etc.) are clearly defined. All parties, including the artist(s), should be fully aware of all conditions and be ready and willing to fulfill them. Any subsequent impairments should be fully, frankly and promptly communicated to all concerned. All parties should remember that verbal agreements are legally binding.
  6. Cancellations. The manager-presenter relationship is a partnership in the service of a larger cause—the bond between artists and audiences. The contract is a crucial link in that chain. If it is broken, far more is lost than what can be entered on a balance sheet. In the event a cancellation threatens, be it willful or not on any part, the important thing is to save the bond. The process will be painful and difficult no matter what. The best preventive medicine is a thoughtfully designed and realistic contract. The only palliative is the frankness and good will of the parties.

    Artists must realize that willful cancellation of a commitment can damage a career, impair the reputation of management and damage the credibility of a presenter in the eyes of the public. It is especially reprehensible when the desire to cancel stems from a more lucrative or prestigious engagement elsewhere. This indicates a short-sighted view of what constitutes career advancement. Such cancellations will involve reimbursements to both presenters and management for out-of-pocket expenses, promotional costs and lost commissions.

    Presenters must realize how much is at stake when they request a hold or a contract. Based on these commitments, itineraries and budgets are set. Failure to honor a commitment can adversely affect the viability of an entire tour, with consequences not only for management and artists but also for other presenters. It is especially reprehensible when the desire to cancel stems from problematic ticket sales. The solution is to devote more energy to promotion. Presenters will find managements and artists willing to assist in marketing efforts. Such cancellations will involve reimbursements to management and artists. NAPAMA members are advised not to sign contracts which contain cancellation at will clauses.

    If, despite all efforts to prevent it, a cancellation does occur, all sides must use their best efforts either to find a suitable replacement artist or to reschedule the date.

III. Manager-Manager Relations

Relations among managers are the only ones addressed in these guidelines which are not the object of contractual agreements and are perhaps the least public bonds in the complex web of our professional interactions with others. Yet, the way we deal with each other is emblematic of the way we can be expected to deal with our artists and presenters.

  1. Managers should respect the integrity of one another’s rosters. This precludes claiming to represent an artist one is not authorized to represent.
  2. Managers should be circumspect, judicious, fair-minded and diplomatic when tempted to discuss a colleague’s putative shortcomings with artists, presenters or other managers. Confusing the good of the field with one’s personal or professional advantage is as reprehensible a shortcoming as any other.
  3. No guidelines can deal adequately with the problem of artists and managers shopping for each other while allied elsewhere. The men and women of our profession should obey the ancient laws of chivalry and act like "gentlemen" at all times. A manager should not approach an artist on another management’s roster. If approached by an artist, a manager should discuss the current situation fairly and then proceed from there with tact.

IV. Manager-Employee Relations

Given the unique nature of the performing arts management industry—lack of recognized training programs, small offices, entrepreneurial focus co-existing with not-for-profit structures—a fair degree of "musical chairs" is to be expected. This can lead to delicate situations regarding both the engagement and separation of personnel.

  1. One facet of managers’ professionalism is that we are educators, and should expect to instruct employees in both the nuts and bolts aspects of our business and its wider, perhaps philosophical aspects. Some of our best "students" will inevitably go off on their own, either to work with competitors or to start their own organizations. This fact should not, in and of itself, be a cause for recrimination.
  2. The conditions of employment should be clearly stated in writing. It is particularly important to be clear about the disposition of monies which may be payable after the employee in questions has left the organization. Any severance conditions, such as provisions which preclude working with artists on the roster for a specified time period, should be made explicit, in writing, from the beginning.
  3. Employees are expected to respect the confidentiality of the internal communications, procedures, pricing structures and contacts of their current and former employers.

V. Conventions

Crowded convention schedules and problematic management-presenter ratios create a condition of scarcity as far as contacts with presenters are concerned, a situation which offers possibilities for abuse and offense. The best method of avoiding these is for all concerned to observe the basic rules of politeness and decency which pertain everywhere in civilized life, and in particular, to respect a notion of territoriality in the exhibit hall. Manager colleagues have purchased exhibit space and, with it, a zone of influence which should extend only as far as necessary for two or three people to stand and converse comfortably.

  1. Exhibits should not impinge on neighboring spaces nor should they block or obstruct the view of another booth.
  2. Audio-visual equipment should be oriented so as to be viewed from within the exhibit space, not from outside.
  3. The aisles should be considered a neutral space in which presenters may circulate freely without being accosted.
  4. Presenters should never be approached in front of another manager’s space.
  5. Conversations among presenters or presenters and other managers should not be interrupted.
  6. At educational sessions, showcases and hospitality events, presenters should not be importuned with sales-oriented conversations which distract from the business at hand.

Infractions of these guidelines make the exhibit hall a distasteful experience for many presenters. Adherence to them helps assure that all concerned will be better able to profit from what is an expensive investment in our artists’ careers.

VI. Complaints Procedures

Honest differences of opinion will develop concerning the applicability and interpretation of these guidelines. In the interest of facilitating the resolution of conflicts which may occur among the parties involved, NAPAMA has instituted an Ethics Advisory Committee. Any party to a dispute involving a manager who is a member of NAPAMA may call on the committee as follows: An informal call may be made to one of the designated Committee members, who will attempt to clarify the dispute without involving the committee as a whole or any other parties.

The North American Performing Arts Managers and Agents (NAPAMA) is a national trade association dedicated to promoting the professionalism of its members and the vitality of the performing arts.


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