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Stacy Fischer and Vanessa Stevens talk Artist Management Association (AMA) for The Impression
Exposure NY founder Stacy Fischer and Vanessa Stevens, founder of VS+Company, speak to Kenneth Richard at The Impression about how the newly formed Artist Management Association (AMA) is quickly growing and helping creative talent agencies better prepare themselves in this ever-changing media landscape. Read the full interview over at The Impression, or continue under the cut below.
Photo taken by Matthew Sprout.
Kenneth Richard: Stacy and Vanessa, thanks for taking the time to share all the good news surrounding the Artist Management Association. So rare to find an organization being proactive in these quickly changing times.
No newly formed organization starts without a reason; so what were the key challenges in the rep industry that prompted the formation of the AMA?
Stacy Fischer: First off, thank you for the opportunity to talk about the AMA. It started simultaneously but separately on the East and the West coast. I was chatting with Anne du Boucheron about copyright infringement and industry standards. I mentioned these conversations to Brian Hetherington of Baron + Baron; he suggested I contact Vanessa who was always talking about usage rights. Similar conversations were happening on the West coast, between Kelly Montez (now the AMA Board Pres.), Carol LeFlufy, Jen Jenkins, and Heather Elder. Kyle Killness, who was instrumental in helping to establish the AMA, has worked with them (and also me) made the connections. Kyle connected us to Howard Bernstein as well.
Vanessa Stevens: The conversations we were all having were eerily similar: clients misusing images; confusion around who has rights to post on Instagram; not getting advances; frustration with late payments; and concern for an industry we love that was changing (in some not great ways) before our eyes. Covid offered us time to get organized and the AMA was formed!
Kenneth Richard: You two are pretty great at making lemonade. And not an easy lift. Understandably a set of massive challenges that require the industry working together to tackle.
How has your outreach (to get more industry participants to join the AMA) been coming along?
Vanessa Stevens: Well, Stacy heads the Membership Committee, and she is absolutely killing it. Thus far we have about 50 agencies that have signed on but that’s out of 250 agencies we’ve identified. Our goal is to have not less than 100 agencies as members by year-end.
Stacy Fischer: We believe in strength in numbers and singularity of purpose. When we all speak the same language and share common goals, we become stronger as a community and aligned as an industry – a united front! It’s the embodiment of coopetition: we still very much compete as agents of talent yet we’re working together too, to protect an industry we so love. This is ultimately better for clients, artists, and their representatives alike.
Kenneth Richard: Congrats on the roster so far. That’s quite a lot in a short time. Speaks to the value. Word has it you’re starting to talk to modeling agencies as well. What are a few of the key benefits to joining the AMA?
Stacy Fischer: It’s true! We’ve started talking to modeling agencies since they manage talent as well. And while photography may have been at the core when we began, the industry we serve is far larger; artist management is similar across all categories. Including them makes great sense. We all face the same issues whether representing fashion photographers, stylists, hair & makeup artists, set designers, creative directors or models and we all need to be speaking the same language.
Vanessa Stevens: Our goals are to support, educate and advocate for the interests of our members. We are creating a place where everyone can come together and be heard while establishing best business practices and industry standards that will help us build a much stronger and more sustainable foundation for the future of our creative community.
Some specific member benefits include discounts offered by AMA partners, a growing series of educational webinars, and access to colleagues for sharing experiences. For example, Stacy has a ton of knowledge about sales tax – not an easy topic to navigate – and when a member emailed asking for advice, she was there with answers!
Stacy Fischer: Vanessa has been spearheading the task of creating a usage glossary to help AMA members more comfortably navigate the ever-changing media landscape. This will offer us (and those we work with) a common and, therefore, a more consistent understanding and appreciation for definitions of the words we use and the reasoning behind usage rights. For example, the cost of a buyout will be much higher than 3 months of organic social.
We’re aggregating production resources and aligning with Producers. We hope to have a section of agent-generated referrals for producing in a city you might not be familiar with. How great would it be to have in it suggestions from peers you know and trust?
One long-term goal is to create Group Healthcare Plans for member agencies. This is but one of several innovative ideas we have in mind that will appeal as super-valuable to would-be members. There’s a ton of unmet needs in our industry and the AMA is working mightily to meet as many of them as we can. This is only the beginning!
Vanessa Stevens: This is the beginning; we want our members to be vocal and engaged so the AMA grows and evolves with the needs of all of us. A place to come together, voice concerns, talk about your success, and be a community.
Kenneth Richard: Not too shabby. Usage rights alone need their own glossary, and now that I know, I can call Stacy about taxes!
Like the CFDA, there are so many different layers and sub-committees to most trade organizations, with dozens of projects going on at once. Can you please touch upon a few (projects) that you can share publicly?
Vanessa Stevens: Of course. We have a lot in the works. We’re taking cues from the AICP which created standards in the commercial motion production world that are extremely favorable to their members. We’re working to establish similar guidelines. They’ve been at it since the 1970s! Some of these standards include national guidelines for photo production, a universal bid form, guaranteed advances, and payment terms, and guidance for Terms & Conditions.
Stacy Fischer: In recognizing the lack of diversity in our industry, we are working to make more meaningful changes through DEI portfolio reviews and, also, with internship initiatives.
The editorial landscape continues to change by the second and the AMA will help keep its members apprised of issues they should be aware of regarding new contracts and new procedures. We had a recent webinar on editorial contracts which will have a part 2 on copyright infringements.
There are currently several committees taking on topics that range from financial & legal affairs to partnerships, to community development & education. These committees will help us navigate the different rules per state for everything from taxes to covid procedures.
Honestly, there is so much going on. That said, there is so much more to do and get done!
What we really need are more agencies to join and new members to get more deeply involved… there’s the old fund-raising philosophy of needing time, talent, and treasure and we need them all!
As an industry, we’ve never worked harder, especially during the pandemic, yet never have we all felt so optimistic about our work and about the future of this business. I never dreamed we could be the catalyst for so much positive change. It’s really an honor and a labor of love.
Kenneth Richard: Sounds amazing. I especially like the idea of a universal bid form so everyone is speaking the same language and talent is protected in this digital age. Plus fair payment terms.
So take us ahead a few years. What do you hope the AMA can be known for?
Stacy Fischer: We want to be known as the group that came together when the industry was at a critical juncture and acted. I hope we are looked upon as a group of professionals who rallied the community to make meaningful changes that took this industry to the next level. So often you see a problem, complain about it with friends and colleagues and do nothing.
With the AMA fully representing the industry, we will foster new waves of talent and honor each other with distinctions and awards.
Kenneth Richard: Stacy & Vanessa thank you so much for the time. We love to support those doing good and hope you keep us updated on the continued success.