Business of VO: Do I Really Need An Agent?

To Agent or Not To Talent Agent? That is today’s question.  The BOSSES explore the reasons you should have an agent, how agents benefit your business, and some surprising perks you may not know about. Plus we explore the ways you can build better talent/agent relations.



Takeaways

Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:

  1. Talent agents have it pretty tough now.

  2. Technology has hit their businesses hard and online casting has changed how business gets done.

  3. Old-school stereotypes of agents don’t help any either.

  4. Typically agents cultivate buyer relationships and manage a roster of active actors that meet a certain performance standard.

  5. Agents are also master negotiators and help voice actors achieve good pay-rates.

  6. They handle billing, book-keeping and the administrative part of the job so that you can focus on your job as the actor.

  7. Agents take the most interest in high-profile, broadcast bookings. But rarely will an agent turn down any opportunity to book one of their talent for any type of work.

  8. An agent has to be able to make a living off of 10%. They feed their family on 10%.

  9. Some agents help to cultivate a particular skill and take an interest in developing your talent.

  10. The percentage of work you earn from an agent varies greatly based on your business.

  11. Make yourself available and accessible to your agents to build a strong relationship.

  12. Communication that is regular but not excessive is essential to building a quality relationship.

  13. Agents are people too. You should not be intimidated or fearful of your agent.

  14. Agents supply support in a number of ways, including booth direction.


Referenced in this Episode

Direct links to things we brought up ++


Recorded on ipDTL
Check out Cristina Milizia’s advice on having success with agents
List of Southern California Agencies from the Voiceover Resource Guide
List of NYC Agencies from the Voiceover Resource Guide
Do NOT contact these agencies unsolicited. Each agency will list their preferred mode of submission on their websites
Check out Gabby’s tips on how to get an agent

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.

>> A VO BOSS.

>> A VO BOSS.

>> A VO BOSS.

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

Gabby: Hi!

Anne: Gabby, I’m so sorry I was late.

Gabby: Is that a joke? 

Anne: I had to get an audition out the door.

Gabby: You’re always late.

Anne: I know, I’m always late, but I had to get an audition out the door. Well, it made me think, because you know, I drop everything to do my auditions for my agents, that maybe that’s something we should talk about today. Agents and their role in the industry, and do we need them, do we not need them? 

Gabby: There are two distinct sides to that argument, conversation, whatever you want to call it, right now. And I think I’ve heard a little bit of everything. And you and I really I think represent both ends of that and what’s happening in voiceover.

Anne: You know, I think agents have – they really have it tough. I mean, we all have it tough in this industry, but I think agents are finding it tough. As the years have gone by with advances in technology, their job has kind of shifted.

Gabby: Oh yeah. Oh geez, look, there is no doubt they’ve suffered two, I think, catastrophic things over the years. One is the terrible, terrible, Hollywood stereotypical image of what an agent is and how they operate and how poorly they’re typically portrayed. Technology is kicking their ass, and all of these new ways of being able to shop, and buy, and book talent have really damaged the bottom line for a lot of talent agencies. I mean, we’ve seen a lot of agents shut the doors in recent years.

Anne: Back in the day [laughs] their responsibilities were typically they got the clients, and then they had a roster of talent where they would present to their clients, and then ultimately handle the tasks of negotiation, and presenting potential talent to the clients, and all of that good stuff. So they definitely had their work cut out for them back in the day, and they were responsible for maintaining those relationships and maintaining relationships with their talent roster. Today I think with the technology advancements, where a lot of people are handling their own jobs and negotiations, that has, you know, hurt them a little bit in terms of I think the amount of work that passes through them. However they’re still very well-respected for their work and their negotiation skills in helping voice talent get the rates that they’re worth.

Gabby: Everything you just described is still taking place today. It’s not like any of that has stopped; it’s just a little different now. Ultimately a good talent agent with a solid reputation, that’s precisely what they do. They build and cultivate relationships both with talent and with buyers. And they become a go-to resource for people who are shopping for voice actors, and they also negotiate the terms of the job, the payment, they handle the monetary end, they handle really all of the administrative components of the booking. And certainly when you get into the difference between union booking and a nonunion booking, we see some really big differences there, because union booking can be incredibly complex. And it just has so many having parts that an agent is so much better prepared to manage those affairs and help us out with those things. And really the percentage of money that we quote, unquote lose for their service is in my opinion more than worth it.

Anne: I never really considered it a loss. I considered it, you know, a payment for work done.

Gabby: Yeah, they work for it. What’s happening in your voiceover career, I think, ultimately is what answers that question of whether agents are necessary in your business model or not.

Anne: You get a lot of your work from agents, right? 

Gabby: In my business model, they’re paramount.

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: My agents are easily 80% of my total work.

Anne: And that’s because your concentration is in a different genre of voiceover than let’s say, mine.

Gabby: It’s commercial, yeah, and promo. And I need that team. I need that – and that’s the way I look at them. My agents, my reps collectively, they make up an external team outside of my office that helps me to expand my reach, expand my marketability, and get me in front of buyers that I would not necessarily be able to get in front of by myself.

Anne: So then I’m going to kind of make a statement that I think agents today and of the past as well dealt primarily in commercial genres, promo genres, maybe some animation.

Gabby: Primarily agents are going to take the biggest interest historically in jobs that are high-profile and broadcast. Those jobs have the most meat on the bone. They can make a living off of 10% of those jobs.

Anne: Yes, yes.

Gabby: They can feed their families and keep the lights on and do all of those things with 10% of that income, whereas some of the newer genres, the newer technologically-based genres, they don’t come with that big a price tag. They don’t come with those higher rates. So really, for an agent, and I’m not saying they would turn them away or that they would not try to help get those jobs cast, because many of them do, but they’re tiny, and so –

Anne: Yeah, and they’re not typically residual either.

Gabby: Yeah, and you think about it, and you go, ok guys, a $400 job, let’s be realistic now. If you have a talent agent that you’re signed with, and that agent works for an agency, a larger company, if you book a $400 job with them, and they take 10%, that’s $40. 

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: But then there’s a breakdown even further. Right? Your actual agent, the person who did all that work, might only make $10 on that. It’s kind of crazy.

Anne: If you’re a voice talent, and you’re in that genre or that’s your primary focus, in that genre, to get work in the genre, I think agents are absolutely a necessity. And even for someone myself, who my main focus is not necessarily commercial or in that genre, I also have agents. I just get a less percentage of work from them because my concentration is in a different genre and in different areas.

Gabby: Exactly.

Anne: I’ll tell you what, if I, if my agent was interested in, you know, working with me as a team to get me more, you know, narration work, oh my God, yeah. I would be all for it. I’m all for being able to be more efficient in terms of putting out a product in my business, and you know, paying the appropriate people that can help me to get that. We need to look at it as it’s another opportunity to get work. I think we’ve said this over and over, you need to put yourself out there in as front as many opportunities as you can to get work.

Gabby: Testify.

Anne: Agents are one part of that. What percentage they are for you I think is depending on your genre. It’s different for everyone.

Gabby: Exactly, and you have to take that into account. I hear a lot of actors now who, you know, they kind of grind my gears. I hear people saying things like I’ve been with so-and-so for a year and I’ve gotten no work, nothing’s happening. You know like, there’s – 

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: There’s this bad taste in their mouth about the agent. Then you kind of dig a little deeper and go, but wait, you do a lot of e-learning and corporate work. Agents don’t book a lot of that.

Anne: If you’re working with an agent, you’re a team. I think anyone that has an opinion that, I’m not getting any work from them, has not heard that word team. [laughs]

Gabby: Yeah.

Anne: You know, or they’re not listening to that word, because it’s not up to your agent to get you work.

Gabby: No.

Anne: It’s really you and your agent working as a team together –

Gabby: It really is.

Anne: – to help get work.

Gabby: And it’s communicating. It’s checking in. It’s doing your due diligence to make sure you’re accessible to that agent. I always tell my students you have an obligation and a job. When you’re on a raw talent roster, your priority with the agent is to help that agent sell you.

Anne: Absolutely.

Gabby: It’s to educate them on who you are and what you do and why you do it the best, so that they can in turn use that knowledge and that information to sell your product. Because if you’re not doing that, yeah, I mean, hey, there’s 400 other people on that roster.

Anne: Absolutely, and you make a great point about communication. I think it’s so important that you communicate with your agent. It goes both ways. My agent communicated with me the other day regarding, and I know that my agent is looking out for me in terms of what she knows is best for me and what, where my talents lie. She’s always hand selecting auditions to send to me. She gets back to me with feedback, and that’s just a wonderful thing to have that kind of dialogue go back and forth because then the two of you can really work together as a team and serve one another to help sell your services. It’s invaluable to have a great agent like that. On the other side of the coin, there are agents that may or may not be verbose and communicate, communicative with you. And I think that that’s where you need to take a hard look at, if that relationship is serving you.

Gabby: Yeah, your agents should not intimidate you. [laughs]

Anne: True.

Gabby: It’s a silly thing to say, but again I think that Hollywood perception, people are very intimidated by, paranoid of the agent, “oh my God, I don’t want to upset them. I don’t want to do anything that will damage the relationship.” Yeah, I mean smart thinking, but at the same time, you have to have a relationship with them.

Anne: Right, I mean, they’re people too. [laughs]

Gabby: Right.