published Friday, July 19th, 2013

Biz Bulletin: Singing, acting agencies can strike wrong note

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    BBB Chief Exective Jim Winsett
    Photo by Leigh Shelle Hunt

Q: I would like to become a famous singer, and have been looking at various talent agencies for help. Many seem to offer the world, and I don’t want to get scammed. Does the BBB have tips on finding a reputable talent agency?

A: Whether you are looking to make it big in the singing industry, interested in a modeling career or hoping to break into the acting world, be on the lookout for scammers in the talent agency and entertainment industry. Better Business Bureau warns that some talent agencies are just trying to make a fast buck and have no intention of keeping their promises of fame and fortune.

BBB offers the following advice to avoid becoming a victim of a talent business scam:

1) No company can guarantee your success. You should recognize that your talents, no matter how outstanding, may have little or no commercial potential, and you should expect nothing more than personal satisfaction from the experience.

2) Use caution when entering into any agreements in the talent industry. Ideally, a licensed attorney with knowledge of and experience in the field of entertainment law should review any contracts and advise you about the terms of the agreement before you sign any documents. At a minimum, carefully read all documents for specific details of services to be performed by both you and the contracting business (or individual).

3) Be especially cautious of agreements that require you to pay advance fees to the agency for services that will not necessarily result in a tangible return.

4) Be aware that many contracts will bind you for several years, making it virtually impossible to get out of the deal in order to pursue a better opportunity. Although many businesses may fulfill the terms of the contract, their efforts on behalf of the artist, musician or songwriter to produce a commercially profitable product may not necessarily be successful.

5) Ask around. Get referrals from friends and business organizations and check out the company’s BBB Business Review Report at bbb.org.

6) Look for credentials. Find out if the company is affiliated with any professional organizations or licensing agencies and check their status.

Consumers can obtain additional advice by contacting the music industry trade associations listed below:

• The American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers (ASCAP) at 800-952-7227 or www.ascap.com .

• Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) at 615-401-2000 or www.bmi.com.

• SESAC at 615-320-0055 or www.sesac.com.

• Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) at 800-321-6008 or www.nashvillesongwriters.com.

Get answers to your questions each Friday from Jim Winsett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Inc., which serves Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Submit questions to his attention to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401-1447, or by emailing him at dflessner@timesfreepress.com.

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