Meet the Industry : Voice Talent Agents
Now, we enter into waters where it’s all about selection and not rejection!
Agents are very selective, but as we’ve said earlier, there is a voice for every job and a job for every voice.
Does an agency shoe fit for you?
Learn more about voice talent agents, what they do, how to find one, approach one and what happens if you are offered a contract.
Agents. Voice talent agents…
This category of people in the voice over industry as often seen as the individuals who hold the keys to the kingdom, are negotiators of deals, and promoters of talent.
Finding and getting an agent is usually somewhere on a voice actor’s To-Do List after making a voice over demo and before joining the union (if joining the union is an objective for them, that is).
Having an agent does simplify some aspects of a voice acting career, however, being contracted by one is not an easy process and many people who are very talented do not have representation for a variety of reasons. Voice talent agents and agencies who represent voice talents are usually situated in cities known as hotbeds for voice over work like Los Angeles and New York among other high profile cities. While New York City and L.A. may be loaded with opportunities and perceived as well-connected to lucrative voice work, there are other markets to consider where representation by an agent is concerned.
Some agents as noted above prefer to work in major markets. Others may represent talent by state, regionally or even locally, depending on their preference and business goals. There are agents who specifically represent voice actors and some who have voice actors on their roster of talent which may include actors, models, singers, and other performers. Now, cracking the nut on how to get a voice over agent.
Many agents prefer to be contacted by mail (yes, mail routed through a post office) and are generally inaccessible by email or phone due to the volume of applications they receive on a daily basis. Research how agents prefer to be contacted before doing so. Some appreciate receiving a brief letter asking if you can submit something to them before you send your package. If they are interested in taking on new talent for their roster, they will give you instructions or a go ahead to send your package. Showing courtesy to the agent and their staff makes a big difference when you are trying to establish a relationship.
If you have the go ahead, you can send a package promoting your voice over talent.
Most agents expect to receive a package from you that contains a brief cover letter, resume with references, an updated head shot (head shots are required by some agents and specifically not requested by others) and a CD copy of your voice over demo. Some agents like receiving packages that stand out while others are not terribly concerned with the packaging.
Make sure that your packaging is professional looking though and properly addressed. The person receiving the package may or may not be the agent, so be sure that what you send is a package a secretary or other staff member feels comfortable passing on to the agent. If the package looks tattered, poorly labeled or addressed incorrectly, they may see it as non-professional and throw it out to save their boss some time; at least this is how some may see it.
Assuming that your package makes it to the agent, chances are that a busy agent will only have time to listen to about 5 to 10 seconds of the demo, so it had better be your best material as you won’t be in the room to tell them to “skip to track 2”. Some are more generous with their time, but these agents are few and far between.
Something to remember is that just because your voice is not what a particular agent or agency may be looking for doesn’t mean that no one wants to hire you on. It’s all about selection, not rejection.
If the result is a positive reaction from the agent, you might just receive a call and potentially an offer or contractual agreement to be signed with the agency for a period of time. Now, this is where things become as clear as mud. Contracts from agents are usually a mixture of legal terminology and a bunch of places to leave your signature. They can be very confusing as the contracts aren’t necessarily scribed in layman terms or self-explanatory.
It’s critical that you understand what is being required of you when signing with an agent otherwise you could literally be “signing away” some of the freedoms you currently enjoy as a freelance voice actor. This week, we received a question from one of our voice actor members here at Voices about a contract offer received from an agency.
After trying to review it and not having much success confidently deciphering the agency contract, it struck me to seek help from my good friend Nancy Wolfson, a former agent who is now a voice over coach, to give us some perspective regarding contracts and the like. Nancy is the owner of Braintracksaudio.com, and as a former agent, has a wealth of information on her site about what to do in this very situation.
Nancy reveals that although the vast majority of agencies have standard operating policies, there are instances of variation where the agency code is concerned.
Some agencies still abide by rules set in place by traditional agencies decades ago while others have adopted more progressive procedures that have adapted to the new landscape of voice overs today, resulting in “loosey-goosey” spins on the former “standard operating procedures” of voice talent agencies. Here’s some advice taken straight from Braintracksaudio.com courtesy of Nancy Wolfson:
If you’re confused about any legal paperwork, ASK.
If your agent is too busy to entertain your questions (they are probably on the other telephone line trying to round up opportunities for you!), see if there is someone in their accounting department or their legal department who has time to answer your questions.
The typical top market union agency contract agreement is boiler-plated to engage a talent for a 3-year window. Once signed, this means that an agent can (legally) keep a talent from leaving and taking their talents and earnings to another agency during that 3-year window. Excepting extreme circumstances that might come into play, the talent can only wangle loose from that agreement if they have not made the minimum amount established by SAG in a 90 day span of time (details on that is available by contacting SAG).
An agent can “drop” a talent any time the agent wants to, even if that talent is under contract. However, when handed such a contract, there are all kinds of options a talent has the power to make on that contract. For example, talent can get in there with a red pen and cross off that “3-year” thing and handwrite in “1-year” instead and initial by that change.
If the contract says “this talent agrees to work exclusively with us and nobody else,” the talent can get in there and “red line” through that and re-write what they want to establish as the operating agreement on that front. The talent needs to tell the agent that they are requesting these special amendments and tweaks, and it is up to the agent to decide if that nullifies the desire to put the talent under contract…
A talent’s leverage in this situation rests upon on how much money they are, may be, or might be perceived to be bringing in with them to the agency. I’ve always encouraged talent to take a contract home and even run it past an Entertainment Attorney for review with them, as we are all entitled to and responsible for understanding the legal agreements to which we sign our name. And in the ever-growing landscape of the Do-It-Yourself business models, it becomes even more important to understand the legally binding engagements you are creating.
That said, if a talent is very new to the scene and is objectively lucky to be receiving the offer of contractual engagement at all from a proper agency, then they might consider being as gracious and compliant as possible lest they appear more high-maintenance on the front end of a new relationship than their earnings (or absence thereof) would merit.
Back to the “loosey goosey” factor of how things are commonly handled these days: It is not uncommon for an agent to express interest – legitimate and earnest interest – in a talent these days, and still NOT offer that talent a contract. My advice to that talent? Who Cares. Don’t press the agent on this matter. They are “trying before they buy,” in a sense, and so long as the talent is getting opportunities from the agent, there’s no reason to pester them for a binding agreement.
Sure, it’s nice on a personal and emotional level to know that an agent wants you so badly that they want to “marry” you into a contract. But so long as the talent is benefiting from the opportunities that agent has on deck and/or making money, drop the need for proof of their love on a piece of paper – keep on “dating” and making money.
Self Promotion is Can Be Difficult for Actors
Self-promotion is can be a difficult task for voice-over artists, and most artists feel the need to turn to a third party for help.
Submitting a demo in hopes for representation by a voice-over agent is a common objective for voice acting professionals struggling to find work. While this can definitely be a viable means to finding great gigs, you shouldn’t assume that working with an agent is the only way to land voice-over jobs. As with anything, there are benefits and drawbacks, many of which are highlighted below.
Benefits of Voice-Over Agents
Perhaps the greatest advantages to being represented by a voice-over talent agent are their industry experience and connections. If you’re an established talent who feels as though they’ve hit the proverbial glass ceiling with your own efforts, you may appreciate and would likely benefit from the network an agent has. When included on an agent’s roster, they are able to send you requests for auditions and possible bookings for work opportunities. An agent takes a commission from any work they book for you. This being the case, they will only submit you for the jobs that they feel you would be a solid contender.
If you already have a voice coach, the agent may be able to work with the coach to better promote your personal brand. Name (and sound) recognition is important in this industry, and a voice-over talent agent just might be able to get your foot in the door for opportunities you may not be able to get otherwise.
Concerns Surrounding Voice-Over Agents
The benefits listed above are helpful, but they’re never guaranteed. Like anything, an agent guarantees you opportunities, not guaranteed work.
Even if you were to get on an agent’s roster, you may not be sent in for as many auditions as you would have liked nor may you hear from your agent as often as you’d hoped. Thanks to the development of the online voice-over marketplace, social networking and social media, you can act as your own agent. Voice over artists with limited finances have a number of online resources to which they can turn when voice-over work seems elusive.
Are you flying solo at present, but unwilling to go it alone? Voices can serve as an excellent tool to get your voice heard by clients globally, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Clients from all over the world post jobs on Voices or search for voice actors to fulfill the requirements of a particular project.
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