SAG-AFTRA: The future for influencers?

Online influencers across social media platforms can now join a new “Influencer Agreement”, becoming a part of one of the entertainment industry’s biggest unions. 

The SAG- AFTRA (otherwise known as the collaboration between the Screen Actor’s Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), announced the scheme mid-February. The union is looking to expand who it can offer its services to, now including influencers in their portfolio of the media and creative arts industry. 

The organisation was founded nearly a century ago, with broadcasters, singers and other industry professionals making up an impressive 160,000 members. SAF-AFTRA is based in New York and Los Angeles, but the clientele it represents are based all around the world. 

So, what does the union even do? Their website’s mission statement claims that the media industry has a history of mistreatment and misrepresentation. By forming a union that any entertainment professional can join, it protects the industry and the workers that put their livelihoods into it. 

“We are actors, announcers, broadcast journalists, dancers, dj’s, news writers, news directors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists and other media professionals. Our work is seen and heard in theaters, on television and radio, sound recordings, the internet, games, mobile devices, home video: you see us and hear us on all media distribution platforms. We are the faces and the voices that entertain and inform America and the world.”

With the influencer industry predicted to be worth $15 billion in 2022, it’s no surprise that the entertainment industry has adapted to include online entertainers. By signing the new Influencer Agreement, it offers some protection to a relatively new, and arguably fragile, industry. 

This isn’t the only positive of signing onto the agreement. There is no “minimum follower” agreement for becoming a union member, meaning that social media accounts with only a couple hundred of followers have the same rights as those with a follower count in the millions. Like every member, influencers are entitled to pay into a health and pensions plan. There’s also the infamous “SAG card”, which is alleged to increase your chances into getting more work in Hollywood. 

There are a few requirements to sign up, however. Influencers must sign the contract as either a corporation or as part of an LLC (Limited Liability Company) and must get paid to advertise on either their own platforms or the advertiser’s platform. The influencer must also stick to the restrictions set by the union, not producing content that includes any nudity or sexual content, for example.

Many have praised the decision; it allows for content creators to be protected by a union, after years of representing themselves. The “influencer-generated branded content” covered by the contract means that all work generated, distributed and produced by influencers are eligible to be protected. It also allows for established members of the union, such as actors or singers, to take part in advertisement campaigns normally associated with the influencer business. 

Not all responses to the scheme have been positive, however. Some union members have voiced their frustrations with the agreement, claiming that influencers should not be considered entertainers. Concerns have also been raised about the future of the acting industry if popular creators are given roles over acting professionals, because of their union connections. 

Despite the concerns, SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris promises the agreement is a good thing for both members and the industry. In an email to the NY Times, Carteris said, “The Influencer Agreement offers a pathway for both current and future members to cover their influencer-generated branded content under a SAG-AFTRA contract. Our goal is to support these performers in a way that reflects the unique nature of their content.”

Photo Credit: New York Times