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.
Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:
Talent agents have it pretty tough now.
Technology has hit their businesses hard and online casting has changed how business gets done.
Old-school stereotypes of agents don’t help any either.
Typically agents cultivate buyer relationships and manage a roster of active actors that meet a certain performance standard.
Agents are also master negotiators and help voice actors achieve good pay-rates.
They handle billing, book-keeping and the administrative part of the job so that you can focus on your job as the actor.
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.
An agent has to be able to make a living off of 10%. They feed their family on 10%.
Some agents help to cultivate a particular skill and take an interest in developing your talent.
The percentage of work you earn from an agent varies greatly based on your business.
Make yourself available and accessible to your agents to build a strong relationship.
Communication that is regular but not excessive is essential to building a quality relationship.
Agents are people too. You should not be intimidated or fearful of your agent.
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
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Anne: Hey everyone, welcome to the VO BOSS podcast. I’m your host, Anne Ganguzza, along with my bestie, Gabby Nistico. Hey Gabby.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 –
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]
Anne: You know, or they’re not listening to that word, because it’s not up to your agent to get you work.
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.
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]
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]
Anne: So you can’t forget that agents are people too.
Gabby: Yeah, so communicate, I mean even if it’s social media, whatever.
Anne: If you’re gonna be booking out, I think that’s a huge, a huge first part of the responsibility of communication with your agent and letting them know. I’m always letting my agents know when I’m booked out, if I’m on vacation, if I’m gonna be available or not, that’s important for them. When I didn’t mention that to my agent, they got upset at me and I’m look, oo, that’s right, got to do that. But again like you say, we should not be intimidated because hey, we’re all human. We all have schedules, we all have things – sometimes I can’t make an audition. I try really hard to always get my auditions in. As a matter of fact, I was late today because I was getting my audition in.
Gabby: We calculate and tally the work and agent is doing behind-the-scenes to help us book, we do have a little bit more of an obligation to jump when they call us and to assist them and to be ready when they need us. So yeah, many of us really, really try to make sure we’re not having to pass on an audition or that we’re not unavailable for something that they need. The other thing I think people miss out on a lot is the other perks of having an agent. And they go beyond just this person who occasionally sends you auditions and books you a job. Some agents have booth directors that are readily available to help you with your auditions. And that’s free. They don’t charge for that. You’re on the roster. You can call them up, or you can schedule an on-site appointment, and come in, and record your audition and be directed by somebody who might have some really intimate knowledge of the client they’re looking to book this project for.
Anne: Yeah, absolutely, and of course, I think anybody that knows Everett Oliver –
Gabby: I was just gonna say.
Anne: – that was his role at AVO for many years as a booth director. Knowing Everett, I know how he operates, I know how he directs and how he coaches and teaches. He’s absolutely interested in the actor aspect of voice acting, and it’s super helpful. If you’ve never been directed by Everett, it’s always a bunch of fun. Super, super informative.
Gabby: Think about how crazy that is, right? Now Everett gets top dollar to book classes and coaching time with him. Once upon a time when he was at AVO, if you were on the roster, you got coached by him for free. [laughs]
Anne: Exactly, exactly. That’s a great point Gabby, and they do make those opportunities available to you, and I know for sure in the L.A. area, that’s always the case if you go in, you can get help, you can even record your addition there. So that’s a great perk. Now Gabby, what about by you? Do you have agents out there that you go into the studio and the same booth direction?
Gabby: Outside of New York and L.A., I mean, your smaller, more regionalized reps, they may or may not have a booth director, but that doesn’t mean they’re not willing to help. Because of course they want you to book. So often if you call the agent or you ask for some advice or you say, hey, could you listen to my audition before I submit, give me any pointers, tell me anything you would like to do different, they’ll gladly do that.
Anne: Absolutely. I actually got feedback from one of my agents the other day. It was so wonderful. I did not have to go in and see them because it was L.A. thankfully.
Gabby: You mean you are not having to go [hits mic] this on? [hits mic] Anybody there? Sending your audition out into the void? [laughs]
Anne: It was, it was absolutely wonderful, and it really reinforced the fact that my agent cares about me. And again I have to stress that it’s great to have a great relationship with your agent. I would like anybody to go back and say, when is the last time you contacted your agent? About anything other than sending in an audition? Not pestering them, but. [laughs]
Gabby: It’s like the old PSA’s. Do you know where your agent is right now?
Gabby: Do you know what they’re doing? [laughs] There is another benefit too that I think people sometimes miss out on. I saw Eric Shepherd post something about this the other day with the Voiceover Agency Alliance. People miss out on the fact that there is huge benefit to having a talent agent and bringing a job that you maybe originated to them and having them help with the paperwork, the negotiations, the residuals, all of it. I turn work over to my agents all the time.
Anne: Well you know, I had a student who did that, and actually I think I mentioned it before in another podcast, he actually, somebody had approached him about, you know, a campaign, and it was a pretty substantial campaign, and he then took it to an agent that he wanted to be repped by.
Anne: And that was a brilliant move because guess who he’s repped by now?
Gabby: Yeah. That’s one of my favorite things.
Anne: That particular agent. Yeah. That’s a great trick. It’s pretty awesome to do [laughs] and I highly recommend it.
Gabby: Yeah, nobody says no, ever.
Anne: Yeah, really. [laughs]
Gabby: Nobody, “no, I would not like that job. No thank you.” That’s not how that goes.
Anne: Gabby, I know that we’re on both sides here where you get 80% of your work from your agents, I maybe get 10%.
Anne: So the thing of it is, is that I think it’s good either way to have an agent because it’s also a marketability factor. Right? If you’ve got clients that come to you, and they know you have agents, I mean that boosts I think your professional level up a few notches, that an agent also has interest in you. So again, it’s by association as well it can help as a marketing tool as well.
Gabby: There’s also a little bit of status there, right? I mean, let’s be honest. There’s a little bit of ego, yeah, but some of it really is a marker in the industry. We know, and our clients know the names of some of the bigger talent agents. So to be represented by them, yeah, it’s a pat on the back for you. It makes you look really good. Even if you’re not booking loads and loads of work with that agency, it can still have its benefits and it can still be working in your marketing in the grand scheme.
Anne: Traditionally agents did not represent nonunion work, that sort of thing. Because it’s kind of the wild, wild west now, I think it’s a possibility that an agent can be convinced that if you have a good corporate client, right, that they would take on that business.
Gabby: Oh yeah. I mean, here’s the thing. Agents are not opposed to anything. They’re not opposed to any type of voiceover job. It’s simply a matter of what’s the long-term benefit? Right? This to me is the old “show me the money.”
Gabby: The agent, like any other business professional, has to be able to see the long-term or the big picture for it to make the money. That’s what we’re all here for, right?
Anne: Who is to say that that company, if you’re doing corporate narration for them, doesn’t also have a need for a commercial here or there, right, or some other type of work that your agent would be super interested in? They are master negotiators. As much as I like to say I’m a good negotiator, and I am. We’ve been – Gabby, you and I teach class on it, we’ve been talking about negotiation for a long time, there’s still parts of this in the broadcast industry, if I were to have to make decisions, I would absolutely go to my agent and ask and/or hand it over to them so they could handle it.
Gabby: Anne, here is the thing, I am with you. I consider myself a master negotiator, but depending on how many zeros are at the end of that figure –
Anne: Oh yeah. [laughs]
Gabby: That, yeah, because that’s going to inevitably heighten my emotions or potentially make me a little too nervous.
Anne: Oh sure.
Gabby: I’m gonna hand that off. I would much rather have –
Gabby: – my reps handle that.
Anne: And that’s better, because we talk about that, in business, you don’t want to get emotional. The really great thing about that is being able to hand that off to your agent is that you can remove the emotional part to it.
Anne: And I know in many instances, where an agent has been able to negotiate upwards on a price –
Gabby: Oh yeah.
Anne: – for a talent that was not able to do it themselves.
Gabby: Definitely. The only thing that we need to realize right now, guys, is that agents are in many ways, their business model has been a bit damaged in recent years. And so they’re a little bit more ferocious than they used to be in terms of how the deals are written and how their contracts are placed, and making certain that they’re working with talent who are loyal to them. I do think that that’s really important. And – but at the end of the day, regardless of what area of voiceover you’re in, you should endeavor to at least have a small number of agents on your team.
Anne: Absolutely. And I think they’re critical to the game, to be honest with you. I really, I really think that we need them in this industry, so I think the more that we can embrace and work with them as partners, the better off as an industry we’re going to be because they’re fighting for you, the talent.
Gabby: It’s a huge part of their job, and they really are looking out for everybody’s best interest.
Anne: So even if you’re nonunion, guys, you may want to get into work, and I think an agent is a necessity if you want to get into commercial work, promo work, animation, all of that, I think it’s to your benefit to get an agent, get that, get your commercial demo up to snuff, start distributing it and getting your name out there to different agents so that they can help to work with you.
Gabby: Yeah, marketing to talent agents is very specific. It’s a little bit different than some other things that you and I have touched on in the past. I have a cool resource on my website. It’s a free agent directory that you can go and get and download and take a look at, and it’ll help you in those efforts of trying to get on rosters.
Anne: Yes, and we’ll provide a link on our website there for that resource, Gabby, for sure.
Gabby: Yeah. Aside from that, guys, it’s like anything else, be prepared, know what it is they want, know what’s going to appeal to them as a buyer, and do everything you can to position yourself well for that client.
Anne: Go agents!
Gabby: Anne, have you hugged your agent today?
Anne: I know. Have you hugged your agent today? I’m expressing my appreciation and gratitude for all of my agents who are out there working their tushies off, helping bosses like us and bosses like you guys to get work and to get what they’re worth in this industry.
Anne: So thanks, guys. I’d like to give a big shoutout to our sponsor ipdtl.com. You too can negotiate like a boss, negotiate – negotiate your connection like a boss and find out more at ipdtl.com.
Gabby: And I’m gonna do a quick plug for an event that we have in early December. We’re gonna be doing a fun thing called Demo Derby. It’s gonna be me and Anne and Lisa Biggs, and we want you to come join us for it. All of the details are on Anne’s VO Peeps website. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s gonna be a lot of fun, and we want to get as many people to participate as we can.
Anne: Oh yeah. Demo Derby. Get ready for some fun, guys.
Gabby: Demo Divas.
Anne: Demo Derby with the Demo Divas. Alright, guys. Thanks so much for listening and have a great week. We’ll catch you next week.
Announcer: Join us next week for another edition of VO BOSS with your hosts Anne Ganguzza and Gabby Nistico. All rights reserved, Anne Ganguzza Voice Talent in association with Three Moon Media. Redistribution with permission. Coast–to–coast connectivity via ipDTL.