SAG-AFTRA’s new Influencers Agreement, which the national board approved earlier this month, allows social media creators of sponsored content to join the union just like any other commercial performer, and to be eligible for pension and health benefits based on their covered earnings.
But like the union’s many other contracts, it comes with a lot of rules designed to protect the performer and the union’s jurisdiction.
According to the union’s Influencers Agreement fact sheet:
• Hazardous stunts, gratuitous nudity and sexual content are not permitted under the Influencer Agreement.
• Presently, only Influencers who perform alone can sign the Influencer Agreement.
• There are no provisions for ensemble use.
• The Influencer must be incorporated.
• The Influencer must produce their content themselves with no involvement by any third party production entity.
• The Influencer must own their own intellectual property.
• The Influencer must have a direct contractual relationship with the brand.
• In order to protect other areas of the union’s jurisdiction, there are limits to how the Influencer content may be used. Exhibition is allowed only on the Influencer’s and advertiser’s social media feeds, YouTube channels and websites.
• No use of the content, in whole or in part, is allowed in other areas of the union’s jurisdiction (e.g., no TV, traditional commercial or industrial use, etc.)
• Influencer content creation cannot be combined with another covered service.
• Influencers will be bound by the same membership rules as their fellow members.
• The maximum period of use for Influencer content will be 1 year unless otherwise negotiated.
Read the full fact sheet here.
“Making it easier to cover this type of work has been a top priority for our organization,” SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris said after the approval of the contract, which covering content created by so-called “influencers” when they are paid to advertise products or services. “As new ways of storytelling emerge, it’s imperative that we embrace and lift up these artists.”
Based on published reports, the influencer marketing industry was worth $8 billion in 2019, and is on track to be worth up to $15 billion by next year.
“Presently, influencer content creation is overwhelmingly non-union,” the union says, noting that until now it has not offered a contract designed specifically to allow Influencers to cover the sponsored content they create. As a result, the union says, “Members have had to turn down opportunities for Influencer brand deals or risk working off the card. Another result is that Influencers who are not members have had no viable path to union membership, preventing the union from organizing this growing and increasingly high-profile group of performers. The union is also losing the opportunity to achieve new and additional funding for the Pension & Health Plans.”
“Increasingly, members who are successful in traditional mediums are doing more Influencer-type work, and more Influencers are moving into traditional mediums,” the union said. “It’s crucial to allow all our members to cover all their performance work with a union contract. As is evidenced by their dedicated followers and the volume of advertisers who want to hire them to sell their products, Influencers are creative, multi-talented performers whose performances should be covered by a SAG-AFTRA contract.”
The union, which does not set a minimum pay rate for those working under the new contract, noted that “Compensation is freely bargained – meaning it’s whatever the Influencer negotiates with the advertiser. Agreements between Influencers and advertisers vary significantly. There are no set rates and other terms can be very different as well. The Influencer’s company is treated similarly to an advertising agency that is paid by an advertiser to produce, edit and distribute content.”
Under the terms of the new agreement:
• Influencers will qualify for Pension and Health benefits in exactly the same way their fellow members qualify: based on contributions made on covered earnings.
• The Influencer makes Pension & Health contributions on the portion of their compensation that represents the value of their “covered services” – their work as a performer as opposed to their work as a writer, producer or editor, etc.
• The Influencer pays Pension & Health contributions on a minimum of 20% of their compensation and can qualify for benefits based on the compensation actually subject to contributions. For example: if an Influencer is paid total compensation of $100,000, and makes Pension & Health contributions on $20,000, only $20,000 will be considered SAG-AFTRA earnings that can help them qualify for health insurance or a pension.
• The Influencer’s union-covered employment also triggers eligibility for membership.
• An Influencer’s followers can range from a few hundred to a hundred million. There is no follower count minimum required to join the union, but at present only some Influencers will be eligible to sign the Influencer Agreement.
• The Influencer Agreement will be signed through an online portal.
• Applications to sign the Influencer Agreement will be closely reviewed and vetted by staff.
• The union retains full control to deny, revoke or investigate any project.
• Staff will track feedback, experience and concerns in order to continue revising and improving the Influencer Agreement and the process by which it is administered.