A good deal of any performing or media artists' business matters will revolve around accounting and tax planning. But it certainly can go beyond this.


Legal Help

An agent will negotiate contracts and make payment arrangements for you. If you don't have an agent and you book a non-union

  Check List For Business and Legal Matters
Business affairs can become complicated when the actor is working on remote location. When you have landed that role on a series or a film that takes you on location for months, it might be time to look for a business manager.
Legal Aid
When you start filing your income taxes as a full or part time actor, seek an Entertainment Accountant. They will be aware of all current and allowable deductions.
Copyright and Infringement Information.
Seek out an entertainment attorney to take care of the vague and various details of an entertainment contract that requires the specific knowledge of a specialist.
Hiring a Manager.
Keep business cards on your person. They are an important networking tool.
 Use our communication tools (chat room; message board; messaging tools etc.) to reach others who can provide you with more help and information

paying job all negotiation is up to you. Without an agent, it is advisable that if you are offered a contract, that you take it home to read it carefully, and/or even consult a lawyer.

If you land a major opportunity (pay wise and touring) but the aspect of a contract has not been brought up, you might politely suggest that one be drawn up as a way to clarify the expectations between both parties.

Actually you can do a simple contract yourself by writing down in very simple language all the verbal promises you and your employer have made to each other, typing it, dating it, putting everyone else's name and address on it, and everybody signing it with the subsequent distribution of copies and original to respective parties.


Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (VLA)

Free or low-cost legal aid (if you meet certain financial qualifications) is available through Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (VLA). In New York, their free Art Law Line is (212) 319-2787 Ext. 1.

VLA is a nonprofit legal service organization supported in part with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and through gifts from corporations, foundations and individuals.

VLA offers lectures on specific legal topics that are open to both attorneys and creative professionals. They include:

* contract negotiations
* mediation services
* nonprofit incorporation
* copyright information and infringement lawsuits
* tax information
* estate planning
* and lease review


Managing Your Money

To help you track where your money is coming from and what you may be spending it on, consider using a money management program. These software programs usually are available as of-the-shelf software programs that are easy to install on your PC or laptop.

After using one of these programs for a few months, you may be surprised at how much (or how little) money you are earning and how much money you are wasting. 

Terms to Know

Administration. The supervision of all financial, copyright and contractual aspects of either an entire catalog or a particular song.

Angel. The financial backer of a play.

Assignment. The transfer of rights to a song or catalog from one copy-right proprietor to another.

Clearance. The right of a radio station to play a song.

Clearance Agency. Same function of a performance rights organization, such as ASCAP, BMI, SESAC.

Common-Law Copyright. Natural protection of a song based on common laws of the various states. Was superseded by a single national system effective January 1, 1978.

Co-Publishing. The joint publication of one copy righted work by two publishers.

Copyright. As a noun, means the exclusive rights granted to authors and composers for protection of their works; a song or musical composition; as a verb, to secure protection for a song by filling the proper registration forms with the Copyright Office.

Copyright Infringement. Stealing or using somebody else’s copyrighted song.

Copyright Notice. Notice comprised of three elements:

  1. - The symbol of copyright, the word “copyright,” or the abbreviation “Copr.”
  2. - The year the song has been registered for copyright or the year of first production of the work.
  3. - The copyright owner’s name.

Copyright Office. Federal government department, one of whose main purposes is to file and supply information regarding copyrights.

Copyright Royalty Tribunal. A committee created by Public Law 94-553 to determine adjustments starting January 1, 1978, of royalty rates with respect to compulsory licenses for educational television, cable television, jukeboxes, and sound recordings.

Impresario. An entertainment entrepreneur.

Ink. To sign a contract.

License. As a noun, it means a legal permit; as a verb, it is to authorize by legal permit.

Pitching. The action a producer takes in trying to convince a studio to invest money in a project based on a concept or a script.

Scale. Minimum SAG daily wage for principal actors.

Syndication. A popular television show is sold to be broadcast in a local or regional market.


For a full glossary listing click here


In whatever you may do to earn a living while pursuing an acting career, you need to allocate a part of every paycheck toward developing your future acting career.

That may include paying for cosmetic surgery, buying new headshots, traveling to auditions in other cities, or taking additional classes in acting, voice, singing, dancing, or improvisation.

After you are a member of one of the actors' unions, you are eligible to join the Actors Federal Credit Union (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) located in New York City.

Like most credit unions, the Actors Federal Credit Union normally pays a higher interest rate on savings accounts and charges slightly lower interest rates on loans.

Best of all, because the Actors Federal Credit Union caters to actors, it understands the nature of the entertainment industry.

While a regular bank may not consider loaning money to someone without a regular history of work, the Actors Federal Credit Union may be more understanding.


Planning for Income Taxes

Paying taxes on income earned from performing can be somewhat more complicated than paying taxes on the income from a normal job or career.

For starters, the company that you work for in the 9 to 5 world automatically deducts state and federal income taxes out of your paycheck.

As a performing artist, it is up to you to set aside a certain amount of your acting paycheck to cover any income taxes that you may owe. Neglecting to do this could result in a sizable amount to be paid to the government at tax time that you are not prepared to pay.

Through your accountant or tax preparer, you may also consider paying quarterly estimates to the government to keep yourself covered.

Acting is a business. Therefore the government allows you to write off all types of acting related expenses up to the income you earned through acting. So if you earned $1,000 for the year, the government may allow you to claim up to $1,000 in acting expenses.

Of course, consult a tax advisor for more details. Always keep accurate records of your acting expenses on anything remotely related to acting, including the cost of headshots; printing up your resume; travel expenses to and from auditions; makeup; any meal and lodging expenses incurred while working as an actor; the cost of acting, improv, singing, dancing, and auditioning classes; dry-cleaning costs; postage; gym membership; and anything else that you spend to help your acting career.

Of course, any expenses must be used exclusively for your performing arts career. You can't just buy a new wardrobe or a new computer and claim that they are career expenses since they could also be considered personal items.


Deducting Acting Expenses

Be sure to keep accurate records of your acting expenses and consult your tax adviser for specific information about tax deductions, such as when and under what conditions these deductions can be taken. Possible deductions include the following:

  • Travel expenses to and from auditions, including meals and lodging
  • Admissions to movies and plays (remember to save all ticket stubs)
  • Acting classes, workshops, and seminars
  • Acting books and magazines
  • Office supplies
  • Mailing expenses
  • Telephone bills, including the cost of an answering machine or service, a pager, or cellular phone
  • Union dues
  • Headshots, including photographer's fees and duplication costs
  • Resume creation, and printing and duplication costs
  • Videotape and DVD rentals
  • Television set, VCR, DVD player, and the cost of cable subscription service
  • Make up and clothing specifically used for acting, along with any dry cleaning expenses
  • Cost of creating, and duplicating a demo tape



Relevant Associations & Organizations

ArtsMarketing.orgc/o Arts & Business Council Inc.
520 Eighth Avenue
3rd Floor, Suite 319
New York, NY 10018
Phone: 212-279-5910
Fax 212-279-5915
A comprehensive web portal that organizes practical marketing information in a format that is easily accessible to novice, intermediate and expert marketers alike.
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Association for Independent Music
925 W. Baseline Road #105
Tempe, AZ 85283
Phone: 480-831-2954
Fax: 480-831-2955
A professional trade organization supporting the independent music industry by providing business opportunities for its members through an annual convention, ongoing information services, educational resource materials and advocacy.
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Copyright Society of the USA (CSUSA)
352 Seventh Avenue, Suite 307

New York, NY 10001
Phone: 212-354-6401
Organization that focuses on the gathering, dissemination and interchange of information concerning intellectual property rights.
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Hollywood Radio and Television Society
13701 Riverside Drive, Ste 205
Sherman Oaks CA 91423
Phone: 818-789-1182
Fax: 818-789-1210
A mentoring organization of West Coast executives from the networks, stations, studios, producers, advertisers, ad agencies, cable companies, media companies, legal firms, publicity agencies, talent and management agencies, performers, services, suppliers and allied fields. Regarded for its HRTS Newsmaker Luncheons and the annual Holiday Party in December.
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Web site: www.hrts-iba.org

Media Communications Association-International (MCA-I)
9202 N. Meridian Street, Suite 200
Indianapolis, IN 46260-1810
Phone: 317-816-6269
Fax: 800-801-8926
Professionals who work in video, film, distance learning, Internet, and other forms of interactive visual communications and associated crafts that are adapted to the communication needs of businesses, non-profit organizations, government and education.
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



For a full listing of helpful associations and organizations click here