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The Tricky Business of Getting an Agent During a Recession

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

February 11, 2009

Comments (10)

Woman and man sitting down for a job interviewWhen times get tough, the first instinct many people have is to start throwing more irons in the fire, and in this business, sometimes that means looking for representation to expand your reach for voice over work and or auditions.

Although more than a few voice talent are hoping to find an agent to help smooth the waters, agents are not necessarily on the lookout for new talent, perhaps even more so now than ever before.

I received a question from a voice actor who asked if I could refer any agents to them and I said I'd see what I could do. A couple of days ago I wrote to one of my friends, a voiceover agent, who was kind to share more information from the agency world and where things stand at present.

Are talent agencies scouting or accepting new talent?

It's Complicated

Here's what one voice over agent had to say:

"It's a complicated answer. While the door is not closed, as far as seeking and recruiting talent is concerned, we are acutely aware of our responsibility to service our existing clients, many whom have definitely felt the pinch this past year. I'm kind of mercenary about the whole thing - -a great voice is a great voice, but I always have to assess how well that voice will compete within the agency, and whether it's ethically responsible to my existing clientele.

I'm also aware of the influx of people trying to enter the voiceover field, but in my world, if they don't have a strong acting background, they don't stand a chance. Are there exceptions? Yes, but rarely. Right now, the Union world is holding it's breath that SAG can resolve its pending contracts, and Union actors can reclaim some of the work that has gone non-union.

Back to your question -- we all accept materials and seek new clients with potential. However, most agencies are overstocked, especially in the younger categories. Periodically, most of the larger agencies need to cut talent they have signed who are under-performing, and clean house.

My agency tends to stick with people longer than most."

~~

So there you have it. Times are extraordinary, and with that realization, extraordinary things could happen but there will be challenges along the way.

Has Anyone Been Able to Get Representation Lately?

Even if you haven't, I'm interested to hear about your progress thus far. If you're from another area of the arts seeking representation, feel free to chime in as well.

Let's keep this conversation going!

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Stephanie

©iStockphoto.com/Marek Tarabura

Related Topics: agents, contracts, new talent, Non-Union, representation, SAG, union, voice-over, voiceovers, Voices.com


Comments


    As a working voice actor for the last 22 years and one with several agents representing me...I get the same question all the time. "Can you help me?" "Can you put in a good word with your person?" "What's it gonna take?". Your non-identified talent agent nailed it on the head. Now, more than ever, talent agents are pulling in their ranks and remaining loyal to their existing talent. As the economy shrinks so too shrinks the voice work. Too many talent going after too little work. Don't get me wrong, the work is out there, getting it is the hard part.

    Like us, a Talent Agent's job is to make money, for himself and for his agency. If he can score consistent work with his existing stable of talent, why mess with what's working. I was told by an agent, that specializes in movie trailer work, that the movie studios they answer to - do not want to take a chance on an unproven voice talent - especially now. In fact many agents out there have put a stop on even listening to reels as their current roster of talent is overflowing! Add to that the out of work actors and man oh man - it seems near impossible.

    On a brighter note... it's not impossible. My advice is to find the agency you want to be with, listen to their current talent roster and make a case as to why you would be a fit for them. Also, now is the time to make absolutely sure that your demo is as good as it can possibly be. Often times talent has but one shot to get the agent's attention. And that shot could be within the first :05!

    Those are my thoughts...

    Ed Victor

    Posted by:

      I did manage to snag some rep. in the last few months. Though the UK only 'officially' went into recession a few weeks ago, the 'credit crunch' has been rolling for quite a while. The advantage I had, was that the agency I hoped to have represent me didn't have a young Australian voice talent.

      Like it was said in the article, I think it's based purely on whether you can offer the agent 'something' they haven't got and will be able to profit from. Though there is that loyalty to the existing clients... no one is going to turn down a chance to make some moolah.

      It comes down to the industry mantra used when seeking representation, or direct employment from clients - have a clear idea of what you provide in the booth, reflect this with your demos and if you are suitable, you'll hopefully get taken on/hired.

      That's just in my experience, anyway :)

      Posted by:

        Stephanie,
        Yours is a very timely post for me. I just landed an agent in the midwest, which I talk about on my blog at http://jameetperkins.blogspot.com/.

        I hadn't thought about agencies and how the recession/depression would effect them. Now, more than ever, I feel lucky to have landed some help in the big, scary, world of agency representation.

        My best advice is just go for it! As a voice talent who also produces, I am my biggest critic. Make sure your demo moves along at a good pace, showcases your talent and starts out with a bang.

        Also, I can't stress this enough...use your Social Networking sites. Talk to other voice talents. Help one another out. The good karma will come back to you.

        Best of luck to everyone!

        Posted by:

          Great insight in the article, Stephanie, thanks.

          At the beginning of the year, I had conversations with all my voice over representatives about our plans going forward.

          I received some terrific feedback about their commitment to me and their current roster of talent. Some even went so far as to say there was some talent on their current roster that they needed to drop because their quality and potential wasn’t there (not me, small whew….hey all voice actors are insecure, it’s in the DNA). A smart business move on their part and the kind of commitment to my career that made me pleased to have them as my representatives.

          For new talent looking for representation…a great demo will get you in the door and great credentials will seal the deal. If you’re lacking in both those areas, you need to work on that now, regardless of what the economy is doing. Voice over is not a quick hit business where one can jump in, say “here I am” and expect to be the next “Don”. Rather, get thee to a voice over coach and do what your told.

          Finally, remember that agents are just one small slice of your voice over marketing pie. To turn a phrase, you may be Mr. “right” voice over talent but are you Mr. “right now”? The client steers THAT conversation while the agent navigates and often times the agent won’t plot a course in your direction (and that’s what an agent HAS to do). Your personally marketing, however, can be better controlled to drive business in your direction. It would be wise to manage your efforts accordingly.

          You can be stalled by fear of the recession or you can ignore it and move ahead. My advice to you is to let someone else worry about if the sky is falling. If it actually does fall, you’ll know rather quickly.

          Posted by:

            Hi Stephanie,

            With the greatest of respect to agents, I'd like to add that they are NOT the be all and end all of a talent's career. Bob Fraser has been writing about this for a long time now. It's up to the talent themselves to find the work.

            If you can get the work on your own and prove that you are a marketable commodity, agents will take interest. Whether it's using pay to play sites and or cold calling prospective clients or creating your own commercials and then pushing them in front of relevant people, VO talents need to be out there getting the work for themselves.

            Yes, agents get you auditions. They do NOT, however, book those auditions for you. It's up to you again to persuade the client that your voice is the right one.

            Now don't get me wrong, I love my agents and am very thankful for the auditions they procure for me and the direct bookings that they work hard to get for me. But they are just one piece of your marketing pie.

            Your success will lie in how many fingers you have in how many different pies. This can be achieved through training and practice and then being VERY proactive about your career.

            James Clamp
            British Voice Talent

            Posted by:

              Seeing as I don't have an agent, I can just use it as an excuse at any failed attempt to get one.

              -Tim Hunt

              Posted by:

                I know this may not be an option for everyone, because there is definitely a cost involved...but it always helps to have some work under your belt before getting an agent. Right now you can bid on a voice-over role on eBay, all to benefit Starlight Children's Foundation. It's a role in Universal's upcoming straight to DVD classic, "The Little Engine That Could." http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=400030379436

                Posted by:

                  Having submitted a link to my voice page via email, I was recently invited to meet with Maureen Rose at Osbrink Agency in Los Angeles http://www.osbrinkagency.com/ I had heard great things about them and, only having voice over representation in smaller markets, was pretty stoked.
                  The initial interview went well and I was asked back for a more formal audition, in the booth. Maureen gave me very complementary feedback, but eventually sent me a note telling me they had recently dropped 40(!) voices from their roster and that my voice was too similar to two voices they already rep.
                  Ah, well. Back to the drawing board. I've got my sights on DPN...

                  Posted by:

                    Yikes! That voiceover for "The Little Engine That Could" will cost you $2,200! I could BUY an agent for that! LOL. I had an agent who had about 20 other voice clients, but he closed down after about six months. It is HARD to get anyone to even answer your inquiries.
                    I've sent a "pre-qualifying" e-mail introducing myself, I've send CDs and introduction letters directly to agents and agencies, and I've received a lot of...nothing. So many of those who say they are voiceover artists full-time are actually doing so many other things--coaching, teaching classes on voiceover, writing books, editing voiceover newsletters, you name it. Unless you are a "name" in the biz, auditioning every day does not a voiceover business make. It takes time, it takes effort, it takes energy, it takes a lot of self-pushing to stay motivated, yet there are still no guarantees. Try anything. Try everything. Don't become annoying to agents but show some determination. If you get a bite, follow up, follow up, follow up. And good luck....to all of us!

                    Posted by:
                    • Robin Rowan
                    • February 12, 2009 1:19 PM

                      At the age of 59 I embarked on training as a voice over artist after many years in the public speaking forum. With great feedback from my course tutors, a letter of referral and a demo in hand I have approached many agencies in Australia only to find out I have to be working as a VO artist to get representation. What a catch 22 situation. I will not give up though.

                      Posted by:
                      • Shelagh
                      • May 26, 2010 6:13 PM

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