To most VO artists, being represented by a talent agent is a benchmark - a type of status symbol that lends a sense of credibility and legitimacy to your career. Its showing the world that you are at a level of proficiency that warrants someone investing in you. It's also an opportunity to audition for and hopefully get work on some of the larger, more lucrative voiceover jobs, like regional or national commercials.
But as a professional, you need to be aware that there are countless people out there that really have no business calling themselves agents and they are more than happy to take your money and run.
I was once talking to someone who mentioned that they just signed with an agent.
I was about to congratulate him, when he listed the terms of his contract:
"Annual fee of $179 plus sales tax
15% commission for Union work, 20% commission for non-union work
I'm able to cancel the contract within 30 days of written notice
I'm still able to seek out work on my own that I don't owe them commission for, but not sign with another talent agency while working for them.
For a period of one year after contract termination, I may not sign with another talent agency. If I do sign with another talent agency, I still owe them their commission on top of the new talent agencies commission for that year period.
For a period of one year after contract termination, I may not seek or accept employment, directly or indirectly, with any employer I've worked with through this talent agency. If I do sign with an employer such as this, I still owe them their commission on top of the new employer's commission for that year period."
OK, first off, here's the first rule that anyone looking for an agent should remember:
NEVER pay an agent to find you work.
Never, never, never, never, never.
Really, not ever!
An agent is paid in commission. When you book a paying job, the agent takes a percentage of your total earnings in exchange for them finding you the work.
Second - I have never heard of an agent demanding an exclusivity contract. I know several voice artists that have multiple agents. Not one has an exclusivity deal, except perhaps for specific regions, such as only having one agency represent them in a particular state.
Third - not allowed to sign with another agency for one year after terminating the contract. WHAT? If the up-front fee wasn't a big enough red flag, this one is a fireworks show that spells out "SCAM" in the sky. If I terminate a contract with an agent, then the terms of that contract are null and void. They don't get to hold you financially liable after the contract is terminated. Let's see how well that one holds up in court.
Most new voice artists think that once they get an agent, the rest is smooth sailing. As if an agent is some kind of magical Leprechaun - and once you've finally managed to secure one, they'll give up their pot of gold and you can sit back and watch the dollars fly out of your computer.
Boy, wouldn't it be great if it was that easy?
The reality is that having an agent should be considered one aspect of a carefully mapped out strategy for success. It's part of a business plan that should include possessing the voiceover skills, and having a professionally produced demo that shows off those skills in the best possible way before you even consider getting an agent. Having an agent is a means to an end; Nothing more.
Whenever there is an industry filled with people pursuing a dream, there will be others doing everything they can to take advantage of that. It's your responsibility do the research to make sure that you're getting Ari Gold*, and not Jack Shit.
*By the way - Ari Gold was a fictional character in the HBO series "Entourage". That is not how a real talent agent operates. Hell, it's not how a real human should operate either, but hey, he was a fun character to watch.
About Rob Marley -
A Los Angeles native, Rob is an accomplished voice talent, coach, producer and writer, now living in the hill country of Austin Texas.