Agencies and Bookers – Gos and No-Gos

Agencies and Bookers – Gos and No-Gos

In order to shed some light on what you as a musician should look out for when working with an agency or booking agent, SECO has answered specific questions on the subject of artist placement.

In principle, one thing is certain: Whoever places artists and musicians in Switzerland on a regular basis or for a fee is, from a legal point of view, an employment agency.

What many do not know: Whoever runs an employment agency is subject of the Employment Agency Act AVG and must obtain a permit.
And even more important: The maximum amount of the commission is fixed by law and for ensembles and one-off gigs it is 10% of the gross fee*, no more!

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO is responsible for authorizations for international employment agencies. It examines all the dossiers submitted when an application is made to ensure that they comply with the applicable legislation: Are the contractual provisions of the intermediary legal? Are the commission rates legal?

In order to shed some light on what you as a musician should look out for when working with an agency or booking agent, SECO has answered specific questions on the subject of artist placement:

What do I have to pay attention to when choosing a manager, a booking/musician/artist agency or a placement portal?

The placement of artists in Switzerland is subject to authorization according to the Federal Law on Employment Placement and Personnel Hiring (Employment Placement Act, AVG, SR 823.11) You must ensure that you are placed by a licensed agent. Approved placement agencies can be found under
 http://www.avg-seco.admin.ch/WebVerzeichnis/ServletWebVerzeichnis.
In the search mask you can enter the name of the company you want to call for support. If the company does not appear, it is probably working illegally and you should refrain from cooperating with it.
As a matter of principle, foreign companies are not allowed to act as intermediaries in Switzerland. Foreign companies that have only one domicile abroad cannot obtain a brokerage permit, as one of the conditions for obtaining a permit is entry in the Swiss Commercial Register. However, this requires a registered office in Switzerland. However, foreign companies may work together with a company licensed in Switzerland. All brokerage activities in Switzerland, however, may only be carried out by the authorized Swiss broker. If the artist is charged a commission, the maximum permissible commission rates must be observed and the companies must share the corresponding amount. This also applies to any registration fee that may be charged.

I have found an agent who will arrange for me and my chamber music group. I don’t have to pay him anything except an agency fee of 20% of the gross fee. Is this legal/usual?

No.

According to Art. 4 of the Ordinance on Fees AVG, GebV-AVG, SR 823.113, a maximum commission of 8 percent may be charged for the placement of groups and orchestras (Art. 4 para. 1 let. a) and 10 percent for the placement of solo musicians (Art. 4 para. 1 let. c). If the duration of the engagement is less than six working days, the above-mentioned rates can be increased by a maximum of a quarter (Art. 4 para. 3). If the agent has to work with a foreign placement agency for the placement abroad (not vice versa!), the placement commission may be increased by a maximum of half, but under no circumstances by more than the additional costs incurred as a result of the placement abroad (Art. 4 para. 4).

I played in a hotel; an engagement that my manager arranged. A month later the hotel contacted me directly and I arranged everything directly with the hotel. Unfortunately, the manager is now again demanding a placement fee (for the second engagement), although he did nothing for this second engagement. Can I refuse? If it is regulated in the contract, is it legal/usual?

No.

According to Art. 8 para. 2 let. b AVG agreements are null and void which oblige the musician to pay the agency commission again if he concludes further engagement contracts with the same organizer without the help of the agent. An artist may refuse to pay a second commission on this basis.

I would like to give more concerts with my chamber music group in a private setting. I have heard of a website that includes me in its online file for a one-time fee of CHF 300 for an indefinite period. Is this legal/usual?

No, this fee is too high.
According to Art. 2 para. 1 GebV-AVG a registration fee of maximum 45 Swiss francs may be charged. According to Art.2 para. 3 GebV-AVG a brokerage contract which does not lead to success is considered to have expired after six months at the earliest.

I would like to offer my chamber music group on a musician platform for mediation. There are no placement fees, but the membership costs CHF 99 per year. Is this legal/usual? How does the same situation look like as a music teacher?

A membership is treated in the same way as an enrollment fee. Therefore, in both cases (i.e. for musicians and music teachers) the maximum registration fee of 45 Swiss francs applies. Therefore, the membership may not be higher.

I am a member of a musician agency, I do not pay a placement fee but a membership. Unfortunately a year has passed and I had no engagement. Can I demand the money of my membership back?

No, this is not possible.

Does the authority regularly check whether active agencies/intermediaries are licensed and whether the contracts are legal? Which authorities/agencies are responsible for this? Who do I have to contact as a musician if an agency works without a license or does not comply with the law?

When granting a license, the licensing authorities check the mediation contracts. Once the licence has been granted, the establishments may not amend them unless the amendment to the contract has been approved again by the licensing authority. Unauthorized intermediaries, but also authorized intermediaries who do not comply with the legal requirements, may be reported to the licensing authorities. In principle, the authority of the canton in which the business is domiciled is responsible for monitoring. The addresses of the cantonal authorities can be found on the following website https://www.arbeit.swiss/secoalv/de/home/menue/arbeitsvermittler/private-arbeitsvermittlung-und-personalverleih.html. Likewise, more detailed explanations of the Employment Placement Act (AVG).

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Important remarks from subito mf
In recent years, we have noticed time and again that there are many agencies and brokers who work without a concession and – often for lack of better knowledge – charge far too high commission rates. In doing so, they cause financial damage to the musicians they place and also damage the reputation of the industry and those of agencies that comply with the law.

As SECO observes, the cantonal licensing authorities are responsible for monitoring the establishments. Our research at the AWA (Office of Economic and Labour Affairs), which is responsible for the canton of Zurich, clearly shows that there are not enough personnel resources to carry out regular and consistent controls of the companies and that the field of artist placement is not a priority.

What does this mean for you?
You cannot count on an agency (even one with a professional appearance) to have the necessary authorization. We strongly recommend that you check HERE if an agency has a concession before you sign a contract. A cooperation with a non-licensed agency is not legal.

If an agency or a booker approaches you without authorization or demands too high a commission rate, you should resist and report the operation to the cantonal authorities. HERE you will find the address of your cantonal authority
You can also make the report anonymously if you are afraid of repression by the agency.


*The maximum commission rate for ensembles is 8% of the gross fee plus a quarter of that if the engagement lasts less than six working days. For one-off gigs, this results in a maximum allowable commission of 10%.

Regarding permission: subito mf is a service of FirstClassMusic GmbH, which is licensed for national and international placement.

We assume no liability for the correctness of the contents listed here. Although the information is checked for accuracy and timeliness, to the extent permitted by law we disclaim all liability for any undesirable consequences arising from the use of this information.

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