Getting Agents in Major Markets

You’re a working voice talent. You have found your niche; you know that your voice is perfectly suited for those ‘mom’ roles or maybe it’s the ironic best friend, or outlandish characters in video games. Whatever niches your vocal style happens to fall into; presumably you have demo samples of the real work you’ve done and they showcase some of your best work. You’ve obtained permission from your clients to use the work publicly on your personal website and your Profile.

Now you’re considering that third piston in your voice-over engine. An agent. But, do you really need one?

Getting a Voice Talent Agent

Yes, when the timing is right. Marketing your voice-over services should include a three-tiered approach; a personal website, marketplace profile, and an agent.

Having a good voice-over agent is important to your career. They can get you exclusive auditions that you wouldn’t otherwise hear about if you promoted your voice alone.

When to start submitting your demos to agents is largely based on where you are in your career. Most agents in major markets (New York, LA, Chicago, Montreal and Toronto) will not consider a voice talent who doesn’t have any real world experience in the industry.

However, small market agencies are more likely to consider you if you have a professional demo and training but limited experience in the industry.

In some locations, talent will be required to attend auditions in-person and may be required to record the project in the client’s studio. So depending on the desired location some talent wanting representation in major markets may need to live in or at least very close to the city of choice.

More and more agencies are starting to accept professional talent to their rosters even if they don’t live in the same city. That is, as long as the talent has proven voice-over experience and a well-equipped home-based studio to back them up.

The modern voice-over talent has developed both the technical and performance skills necessary to record from home, and produce a rich sounding broadcast-quality recording. Clients can easily patch into their studios to direct the session, if required, and the final product can be delivered online. With all this in mind, many agencies are realizing the merits of expanding their roster of talent to other locales.

Major Market Representation in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago

So, if you want major market representation, make sure you do your research. Some agencies only work with union talent. Some prefer to work with non-union. Others take both. See what voices they’re currently representing. Their talent demos are usually promoted on the agency’s websites. If you sound nothing like the other talent, that’s good news! They may need a voice like yours. Email the agency your demo. Tell them about your experience and, if you don’t live in the same city, tell them about your ability to record from home.

Okay, so now you have the agents’ attention. Before you meet with them bear these things in mind:

  • Agents should never ask for any upfront fees.
  • You will likely be signed to a one or three-year contract.
  • Some will ask for a three or six-month trial period first, this is not uncommon.
  • You will not be able to work with any other agencies in their jurisdiction (city).
  • Agents get you auditions, your talent and suitability lands the gig.
  • Agents take anywhere from 10-15% commission on your paid jobs, some take more.
  • Agent commissions in major markets can be as high as 25%.
  • Contracts contain a great deal of “legalese.” Read it carefully and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  • Ask for a list of clients their talent have recorded for.

What an Agent Will Do for You

Agents are part marketer, part manager. They find opportunities, book auditions, and are strong negotiators. They are well-connected with studios and casting agencies and are informed, sometimes exclusively, about upcoming auditions.

Once a job is completed, payment typically goes straight to the agency. The agent's commission will be deducted from your earnings and the remaining amount will be sent to you. So unless the agent is successful in getting their talent work, they make zero profit. This is a huge incentive to keep working hard on your behalf.

Agencies need to stay on top of trends and get fresh voices that represent the changing needs of the industry. This means they’re often on the hunt for fresh new voices. That is the only way that their agency can remain competitive and viable. Since they represent a number of talent at any given time, stay relevant and keep in touch with your agent.

Check in with them every couple weeks to see if they have any auditions available for you but be respectful to them and of their time. Always be professional, personable, and courteous. Think of the relationship you have with your agent as a B2B arrangement. If you are good to them, they’ll be good to you.

If you’re going on vacation let them know when and call or email them when you return to let them know you’re available again. When they’ve helped you land a role you’re really proud of and or grateful for, send them a thank you card. When a holiday comes up, send them a greeting card. Stay in the forefront of their mind and they won’t forget about you. Show your agent that you’re invested in your career and they will be too.

Next, we’ll discuss how to keep your business organised and running smoothly.