Secrets of An Agent Man: Your Agent Should…Your Agent Shouldn’t…

I am a talent agent. What should I be doing for you, oh talented one?

Many voice actors are either new to the game and only have a vague idea of what their agent does (or should be doing), or they’re experienced but maybe have only had one or two agents so they’re lacking comparisons. In a previous blog post, I let the world know that my agency motto remains: I WORK FOR TALENTS, NOT CLIENTS. Let’s keep that in mind as we work through the SHOULDS and SHOULDN’TS of the agent-talent relationship.

PREFACE: It will seem like I’m cynical/negative as I begin with the SHOULDN’TS but it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, and in this case, I’ll finish with the SHOULDS which is very positive. So, the cockles of your heart will be warmed by the end. Unless of course your current agent is not doing some or all of the SHOULDS. Then your cockles will be cold or lukewarm at best.

-Charge you for anything. A reputable agent only takes commission for work they get you. They should not be peddling voice coaching or demos, head shots etc.

-Get angry with you if you say no to a job. An experienced talent does not take every gig that comes along. There are a number of reasons a talent might say no to a job: It doesn’t pay what the talent thinks it’s worth; they’re not comfortable with the product; scheduling conflicts; they had a bad experience with the producer at a previous session etc. It is always the talent’s prerogative to turn down a job. The agent works for the talent, not the other way around.

-Pressure you to take less than you think the job is worth. Some agents find it difficult to say no to any paying job and that’s understandable when all agents work on commission. Again though, agents work for the talents, not the other way around, so just because the agent wants the commission or is convinced taking this job at a lower rate is going to set the stage for a lot more work down the road doesn’t mean you have to agree.

-Be sending you out blindly to every audition under the sun. The sure sign your relationship with your agent is going to burn out fast is if you get TOO many auditions in the first month or so. That likely means your agent is trying too hard. Or they haven’t taken the time to hone in on your specific talents. Or maybe it’s that you’re amazingly talented and right for every single casting. You make the call!

Be communicative. Beyond the obvious that you should have some fairly regular contact, your agent shouldn’t only come to you when a deal is already done. Some jobs require your input during the negotiation process.

-Know what you can do. I was on the phone with a previous agent (I am not just an agent – I do voice work too!) and during a goofy moment, I did a Don Pardo impersonation. My agent: “I didn’t know you could do Don Pardo. I had a call last week from a casting director looking for a Don Pardo type read. I would have sent you out.” Uh, you’re my agent! Shouldn’t you know what I can do?…Or here’s a novel idea – ASK! If you’re constantly hearing after the fact about gigs that might have been right for you, it’s time to have some dialogue with your agent tout de suite, as the French are fond of saying.

-Work with you on a new demo at least every couple of years or so, and help you to obtain copies of some of the work you do.

-Buy you cocktails on occasion. Or at least brunch. But cocktails are better. Then again, this is where we should think long and hard about the agent working for the talent, not the other way around. Maybe it’s the talent who should buy cocktails for the agent. That seems to me to be the right call. But, there should be cocktails is my point!

-Be working for you and not the client. Am I repeating this theme too often? Because it’s important!! Even though the client is the one with the check book, the talent is the employer of the agent!

As I contemplate hitting “publish” on this piece, I nervously await comments from the people I represent. Hopefully I’m following my own SHOULDs and am not guilty of the SHOULDN’Ts.

On that note, in a future post, we’ll cover how you the talent can help your agent. I have lots of suggestions!

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5 Responses to “Secrets of An Agent Man: Your Agent Should…Your Agent Shouldn’t…”

  1. Should and Shouldn’t from the agent’s perspective » The Voiceover Boblog Says:
    February 20th, 2013 at 9:18 am

    […] Ontario. He’s written an insightful article about your relationship with your agent titled Secrets of an Agent Man: Your Agent Should … Your Agent Shouldn’t. It’s well worth a few minutes of your time. Share […]

  2. Andy Shone Says:
    February 25th, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    Refreshing read.

    Always been a field that I’ve kept on the shelf over the years since studying broadcasting years ago. Every now and then I consider it, but it’s not something I could discard a well-rooted career for. Perhaps when I retire (at 55) in 2018.
    Since I was a teenager I have constantly been complimented on the sound of my voice which is always difficult for me to grasp I guess since few people like the sound of their own pipes.

    Your blog peaked my interest. Maybe we’ll chat sometime

  3. Joshua Lee Says:
    March 4th, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    Hi Roger,
    I am relatively new to this industry and am currently just picking up a lot of amateur work for machinimas for the most part right now to help increase my experience. I’m wondering when someone should be looking at getting an agent? Should I be waiting to be approached, should I just approach an agency, should I wait until I have some more experience? Would really appreciate some advice in this area. Thanks

  4. 10 Top Voiceover Blog Posts This Week - March 10, 2013 | Derek Chappell's Voiceover Blog Says:
    March 10th, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    […] Secrets Of An Agent Man: Your Agent Should…You’re Agent Shouldn’t – Roger King […]

  5. Roger King Says:
    March 12th, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    Hi Joshua:

    I don’t know that there is a set time to get an agent. If you have a professionally produced demo – that maybe includes a few things you’ve done – you should go ahead and send it to an agent or two and get some feedback.

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