AMA President: Kelly Montez
AMA Director at Large: Carol LeFlufy
Heidi: The forced repose of the pandemic allowed us to take a collective pause and access our present and hopes for the future. How much did the hard costs of the pandemic overhead come into play for this, or was it simply a matter of time and space to think?
Kelly and Carol: The idea of the AMA was a conversation that had taken place within the industry for years. Many different groups of artists representatives, on both coasts,would come together and discuss the need for a trade organization for our industry, but it was always difficult to get off the ground considering how hectic a typical work week had become. The silver lining of the pandemic was the opportunity to have the time and space for a few of us to really focus on the administrative aspect of developing a trade org. Those of us who could commit the time began to gather over zoom and discuss what the future held for our business and dig into the ground work of creating the organization.
What inspired this group to mobilize? Did the momentum of youth activism and the future of our photo industry sustainability come into play?
The economic recession of 2008 greatly affected our industry. We all saw significant economic pressure on our businesses, as longer hours, higher shot counts and broader rights became the expectation of clients. An organic group formed from the west and east coasts, sharing the fears of a repeat from that time period as well as a discussion as to how these new trends weren’t sustainable for our business.
The events of the social justice movement during the summer of 2020 definitely inspired us to look at the lack of diversity within our industry as well. One of our intentions is to create industry standards for the next generation of agents and photographers, which will help those who are most marginalized. We have a diversity committee working towards connecting underrepresented talent with artist managers to increase representation within the industry.
Our hope is to also bring the conversation of sustainability forward in our industry. Part of our goal is to create educational initiatives around sustainability so that we are providing our members and partners with resources that can help them run “greener” productions. To that end, we have a webinar on sustainability in the planning stages.
How many new, younger agents are entering the market?
We see that many new agents are entering our business and the AMA can really help them build their business on a strong foundation. We have many shared legal resources; from terms & conditions to NDA’s, as well as a usage glossary and definitions for common legal language found in contracts. It’s a great resource that can help launch a business.
WIth new media developing, how has the rights and usage flexed and before AMA?
The AMA has developed a usage Glossary to help define existing and emerging media. While we can’t give direction on pricing, we can offer the industry education around developing media that will allow for informed estimating by artists agents.
Has there been any one governing body formed prior to this?
SPAR (Society of Photographers and Artist Representatives) was one organization that existed. The APA and the ASMP have helped our industry greatly. Our main reference for the work the AMA is developing is the Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP). As we developed the National Guidelines for Photo Production, we found alignment with the AICP, which also helps our clients since these are the standards offered by our live action counterparts.
With budgets changing, more people are being asked to take on more than one role. This “omni role” forfeits expertise in one given area, have you seen a shift in the who and how images are being assigned value?
Yes we are seeing budgets changing in terms of fees, rights and expenses. New common occurrence is the all in budget which compromise production values as well as artists’ worth.
One other alarming trend is around payment schedules. Artists agents and photographers are small businesses and are being asked to carry large production debt while we wait for payment for 90-120 days, as well as advances that come post shoot. We’re working to educate our clients on why that is such a hardship and provide templates for payment models that are more in line with the standard in the live action world.
The elephant in the room is the tsunami of imagery available and its consumption rate. This creates an erosion of value.
While there is a plethora of imagery available, from influencers to iphone photos, there is still a need for that subset of professional photographers that can make truly iconic imagery. Valuing their talent and the work (and crews) involved in that process is our focus.
For many years the internet and social media was considered a bit of a throw away, but now paid digital campaigns are the main form of advertising and amazing imagery is needed to break through this clutter. Additionally, Social media can often become the new catalog of retail sales, with click to buy offers embedded in the posts. Through education we are trying to change the mindset of “it’s just digital” and also awareness that you can’t just repost an image – that can equate to the illegal use of imagery.
How are you trying to educate and empower art buyers to create guidelines and best practices?
The AMA has created the National Guidelines for Photo Production. Since the 1970’s, the AICP has been setting standards for the live action production industry. While many of us adhere to those, there are unique differences between live action and photo production. The AMA’s guidelines address those differences as well as areas of alignment with the AICP. These guidelines were created to support, educate and advocate for the interests of our members in the photo production industry.
The AMA developed a Usage Glossary which is a collection of terms and their definitions. The glossary is provided as an educational resource for our members and their clients to better define the terms commonly used,and assist agents in negotiating on behalf of their artists. The glossary outlines the standard understanding within the industry, and as new types of media enter the market, it can help to provide clarity within the bidding process.
There are also a variety of shared legal resources available to our members, such as templates for Terms & Conditions, a Mutual NDA and other confidentiality agreements. Each of which can be customized to serve the nature of the representative and their artist’s production, but gives them a strong foundation from which to start.
We are also in the process of developing a Universal Bid Form to serve as a platform for bidding. While the AMA can’t advise on pricing, it does create standards for categories that can be utilized when bidding. It’s up to the individual member to set prices for their services.
How can we retain/create value in the practice of creating and buying photography?
We’re hoping to educate our community that photography lives on many different revenue generating platforms. Agreeing to broad licenses or rights buyout for current or future media can do a disservice to how an image is valued. Through education on the various types of usage rights and partnering with our buyers on the agency and client sides, we hope to protect our artists’ work and change the conversation.
What are your hopes for the group?
Unlike the commercial production industry, which set standards years ago, the lack of leadership in our sector of the visual arts industry has led to individual terms & conditions and a lack of standards that has resulted in inconsistent business practices across our industry. With the emergence of new media platforms; the integration of stills and motion; and lack of standards around payment terms, image usage and copyright; our hope is that the AMA will play an optimal role in advancing the interests of its members, building a solid framework of best business practices and promoting expansion of the industry for years to come.
Where can I sign up and get involved? https://www.artistmanagementassociation.org/