Talent agents are an integral part of many voice actors’ careers and can be an entrée to exciting, high-earning gigs. Most major national commercial campaigns, high-profile documentaries, film trailers and the like get cast through talent agencies. So, it’s important to know when to try to work with them, where to find them, and how to get signed by them; as well as the do’s and don’ts when it comes to all of the above.
The first thing to know is that you don’t need an agent to work in this business and they are not a prerequisite to a successful career. If you are living in a market outside of New York City or Los Angeles, the expectation is that you will probably not have an agent. However, due to the explosion of home studios and remote sessions, you can pursue representation from any city/market to any other city/market. This means you don’t have to live in the market for which you want agency representation. To do this, though, you must have a pro-audio caliber home studio from where you can submit auditions and sessions.
What a talent agency can do is get you top-level, high-budget auditions to which you otherwise likely wouldn’t have access. Though only a small percentage of the work I’ve booked over the years has been through my agents, those jobs have accounted for a great deal of earnings. But, they are exceptionally difficult to get represented by unless and until you’ve proven that you are a marketable talent who’s already been booking work. Because they take a 10 – 20% commission (depending on the market) it behooves them to sign working talent who can be earners for them. One of the nice things about having representation is that you don’t have to negotiate your own rates, which can be one of the more difficult aspects of getting your own bookings.
When contacting agents be sure you have something to offer them, and be respectful and professional. And, know what NOT to do. Contacting repeatedly and without reply is ill-advised. Keep attempts to no more than six-month intervals, and be sure that you have new credits to report on each time you reach out. Don’t take it personally if you don’t receive a reply. Agents are very busy trying to get their clients work and network industry relationships, so just because you do not hear back from your submissions to them does not mean that they did not receive them. They may have determined you weren’t right for them, or that they will hold on to your demos until they see an opportunity that may be right for you. Either way, do not misinterpret silence as disinterest or that a connection was not made. This is why it’s really important not to harangue agents. It’s ok to send a follow-up email, but keep it to that. And never call initially unless you’ve received a request to. Keep correspondence to email.
If and when you do land an agent be happy and confident that you were able to get signed, but don’t expect magic, and don’t try to rely solely on opportunities from them to sustain your career. Though they will be your representative, you are probably one of many clients, and until bookings come in, you won’t necessarily have a preferred status with them. Be patient with your agents. If things are slow, do not badger them. Don’t contact them after an audition to get feedback or inside information. In short, follow the old maxim, “don’t call us, we’ll call you.” That way, when you really do need to reach out for this, that or the other thing, they will take your concerns more seriously. And if they don’t, well, time to get a new agent. But don’t just try jumping quickly from agency to agency if dissatisfied, because that will reflect poorly on you and serve to burn bridges.
The casting calls agencies will get for you will generally be more high-profile and well-paying than the ones you will get for yourself, but the volume of opportunities will not be as great. You will need to continue to be your own best advocate and representative. Remember that even with agents, a successful career must consist of as many avenues to market yourself as possible.
About the Author
Alan J Schwartz has many years of diversified experience as a voice-over artist. His versatile voice has been heard worldwide in TV and radio commercials, promos, documentaries, animated films, video games, animated films, radio imaging, audio books, political campaigns and educational and industrials productions.
He’s done national commercial campaigns for Sprite, Verizon, Yahoo!, Smirnoff Ice and TGI Friday’s; and narrated numerous documentaries for Discovery, TLC and A&E. He is also “Alex,” the voice of the Mac Operating System, iTunes and the iPod Shuffle.
Alan’s demos and additional information can be accessed on his website at www.ajsvoiceover.com.