While musicians were touring in the summer heat, New York Gov. George Pataki was in the hot seat trying to decide whether to sign or veto a bill that would change the way performers get work in the st


While musicians were touring in the summer heat, New York Gov. George Pataki was in the hot seat trying to decide whether to sign or veto a bill that would change the way performers get work in the state.

A8381-S5602 proposed amending the law that regulates theatrical talent agents to permit unlicensed managers to book engagements.

Currently talent agents in New York are required to secure a license, post a $5,000 bond and comply with other requirements.

The law defines talent agents as anyone who procures (or attempts to procure) employment or engagements for legitimate theater, motion pictures, radio, TV, phonograph records (i.e., record deals and sessions), concerts, modeling and other performances. It exempts from the regulations any business that only "incidentally involves seeking employment."

The "incidentally . . ." phrasing is the root of uncertainty among managers, the bill notes. To clarify the law, the bill seeks to more clearly define personal managers.

This means that managers could act as agents in New York without regulation, as do literary agents who negotiate and secure book publishing deals and collect royalties for authors.

A personal manager under the bill is anyone who advises and counsels artists or models, is compensated only out of the artists' future income, has a contractual relationship for a specific time period and meets other conditions.

Although the state legislature passed the bill in June, the Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and others responded only this month, urging Pataki to veto the bill. They expressed concern that their members would lose protections in the current law.

While this may hold true for some in the music industry, the bill would protect managers who do double duty for their clients when they cannot find agents for their acts.

There have never been enough agents available -- or willing -- to book gigs for all the musicians who want to perform at all the available venues. As a result, musicians often urge their managers to book gigs. If they cooperate, the managers often risk losing all commissions ever received and their contractual rights.

Under similar California law, disgruntled artists who want out of their management contracts can simply point to one past gig booked by their manager, terminating their contract and ordering the return of all commissions.

Pataki vetoed the bill Aug. 19.