Business of VO: Agents, Managers, and Casting Directors… Oh My!

There are a lot of players in the Yellow-Brick road that is the voiceover industry. And there’s a lot of confusion surrounding ‘who does what?’ Today’s episode breaks down these different voiceover entities and takes a look at what they do and how it relates to you as a talent. Stop now and take a listen if you want to avoid getting lost in Hollywood or Holyrood. (It’s an actual town…in Kansas.)


Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:

  1. VOBoss breaks down the roles of voiceover talent agents, talent managers and casting directors as well as studios who cast for talent.

  2. Please note that state to state laws may vary a bit in the definitions and regulations of these jobs.

  3. Talent agents are state regulated and there is typically a cap on what they are able to charge for facilitating a job. This is usually between 10 and 20%.

  4. Agents are a go-between talent and clientele.

  5. Agent represent a roster of talent of varying size and are obligated to try to secure a job (via a booking) for someone on their roster of talent.

  6. Most agents are registered with a state’s labor department as they are geographically tied to a state or region of operation.

  7. Online only companies that claim agent status may or may not be legally operating in that way.

  8. Online casting ‘agents’ operate in their own way. They don’t have to follow the traditional governing rules of being an agent.

  9. A manager represents an individual talent and advises and consults on your entire career.

  10. They earn a percentage of your total earnings for all sources.

  11. Managers maintain relationships with agents and work closely with them.

  12. They often aid in goal setting and marketing.

  13. In most states anyone can be a manager.

  14. Managers typically manage a small and exclusive group.

  15. A managed job is different from management. Many companies in voiceover now manage individual jobs.

  16. Casting companies are used to find the best talent from all rosters and from any location.

  17. They exist to keep casting fair so that no one company can completely dominate with their talent.

  18. Casting companies can and sometimes will skim money from both parties without divulging numbers to either.

  19. Studios operate in a gray zone – studio fees being cut have resulted in studios needing to casting talent in order to stay open.

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Referenced in this Episode

Direct links to things we brought up ++

  1. Recorded on ipDTL

  2. Learn more about Agent guidelines from the New York State Department of Labor

  3. Learn more about Agent guidelines from the State of California Labor and Workforce Development Agency

  4. Click to see a list of registered voiceover talent agencies

Full Episode Transcript

>> Today’s voiceover talent is more than just a pretty voice.

>> Pretty voice.

>> Pretty voice.

>> Pretty voice.

>> Today’s voiceover talent has to be a BOSS.

>> BOSS.

>> A BOSS.

>> A BOSS.

>> Join us each week for business owner strategies and success with your hosts Anne Ganguzza and Gabrielle Nistico, along with some of the strongest voices in our industry.

>> Rock your business.

>> Rock your business.

>> Rock your business.

>> Like a BOSS.

>> Like a BOSS.

>> Rock your business like a BOSS.

>> Rock your business like a BOSS.




Anne: Hey everyone, welcome to the VO BOSS podcast. I’m your host, Anne Ganguzza, along with my boss bestie, Gabrielle Nistico. Hey Gabby, how are you? 

Gabby: Hey, Anne, I’m fine. How ‘bout you? 

Anne: Gabby, I got questions.

Gabby: We always have questions, my Lord.

Anne: I got questions. There has been just a ton of activity out there on the socials. And I thought it would be good for us to discuss — 

Gabby: Who does what? 

[both laugh]

Anne: Yeah, I thought it would be good to discuss today what really is the difference between casting directors, agents, managers, and production studios. What are their roles and who does what and how do they apply to us and how do we, you know, get in front of each of them, and what are their differences? 

Gabby: Well, this is a long discussion, yeah.

Anne: [laughs]

Gabby: I think it’s also important to note that while we can talk about this in general senses, state to state, some of the laws can vary. Please know that, guys. Don’t act like what we’re saying is 100% set in stone or anything.

Anne: So I think maybe the first thing, because this has been prevalent on the socials in the last few weeks, the difference between a talent agent and a talent manager or a manager, I think we should start there. What are the differences between a talent agent and a manager, Gabby? 

Gabby: Ok, so an agent is regulated by state law. And usually there is a cap on what they’re allowed to charge for the facilitating of a job, and it’s typically between 10% and 20% at a maximum. Talent agents are there to act as a go-between in the negotiation process between talent and clientele. The agent or agency represents a group of talent, and when a job opportunity presents itself, it’s that agent’s obligation to do everything that they can to try to cast someone on their roster for that position. They cannot cast people outside of that of that roster. They have to stay within that group.

Anne: So interesting, so Gabby, so then does every agency, they have to be registered with the state and be directed by the state? Is that true? 

Gabby: Well, this is where we get into these lovely gray zones that the Internet has created. If we go old-school, yes. Technically they’re registered with their state labor department, and they’re a legal entity.

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: Now today, I don’t know that all companies who claim they’re an agent are in fact legally operating that way, but they should be. And of course the notable well-known, well-established agencies certainly are.

Anne: The agency acts legally as a mediary, right, between the talent and the client and — 

Gabby: Correct. And they can only charge it —

Anne: — charges — 

Gabby: — from one party or the another.

Anne: A specific commission between 10% and 20%. How are — actually I’m going to complicate this more. What are casting — online casting agencies considered. Are they agents? 

Gabby: [laughs]They’re not. [laughs] Online casting operates in its own playing field with its own rules. They can effectively do whatever they want. 

Anne: Its own wild West. 

Gabby: Correct.

Anne: Well that, that’s the scary part, right? 

Gabby: Yes, it is.

Anne: It’s the wild west of entrepreneurship.

Gabby: There is one other component of a traditional talent agency. They’re geographically tied. So there is a territory or geography that they represent.

Anne: Yes, yes, correct, and when you sign a contract with an agent, typically you’re signing the contract for that specific region, although as of late, I’ve not really had any contracts. 

Gabby: Well again, the rules are getting more and more lax. More and more companies are working with talent under nonexclusive agreements or without contractual agreements. But many still do. You want to be mindful of that. Typically you’re going to enter into some kind of a geographic commitment with that company that any and all work that originates in that city, state, region will go through that particular agent.

Anne: Question. If you’re not on an agency roster, can you still receive auditions from an agency technically? 

Gabby: Again, this is where things get a little bendy. Can you? I guess if the agent is really desperate to book something, to cast something, and they need to look outside their roster, can they sort of send up a flare and ask people to make a recommendation or bring in some of their friends, sure.

Anne: And then if that were to book the job, then would they then be on the roster of the talent agency? 

Gabby: Possibly or it might just be a singular occurrence. 

Anne: Ok, but I thought some of the rules and regulations of the agencies were that you had to be on the roster. Is that correct? 

Gabby: It’s traditional versus new school.

Anne: So then maybe some laws have been relaxed on — 

Gabby: I don’t think the laws themselves have been relaxed. I just think the way companies are doing business is relaxed. That’s all.

Anne: Interesting. 

Gabby: They’re bending the rules a bit.

Anne: Bending the rules seems to apply across all of these [laughs] entities, casting directors, managers, agents, studios. So alright then, that’s the agent. Let’s talk about managers, Gabby. My, my old school [laughs] idea of a manager was they were not an agent. They were there to advise you in all aspects of your career, and you pay them a fee, typically 10% to 20%, right, of your income, to have that ability or to have that kind of management where they look out for you and I guess direct you to talent agencies and direct you to the jobs, but they don’t actually bring in jobs.

Gabby: Correct. Managers, in their traditional role, assist you in meeting goals, strengthening and developing relationships with talent agents and venture into new areas of your business. They can even help with things like your financials, with investing, they can help with taxes, with you know, all of the administrative and financial management of your company. However in a lot of states, they’re not legally allowed to generate work, to facilitate work, to negotiate work. All of that would be a conflict of interest.

Anne: Interesting, so can I just say I’m a manager? [laughs] Can I just deem myself a manager? Do I have laws that are governing my — 

Gabby: Sadly.

Anne: You know, I’m an entrepreneur, right? Can I just say, I’m gonna — Gabby, I’m going to