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Agents: Traditionally They Don’t
Promote, But Hybrids Bring Change
 
By Jennifer Vaughn
Jennifer Vaughn Voice Imaging
 
Many who are new to this business - as well as a few seasoned voice actors - are very confused about what an agent does. So let's define their responsibility:
 
An agent's job is to take orders and service your accounts. That is, they DO NOT market you. It is not their primary function, nor their job.
 
Although some agencies may sometimes implement a marketing project for “the agency” to remind past talent buyers and new prospects about the agency and to show off their "updated" bookable roster, the agency’s primary function is to:
  • take phone calls and respond to emails of interest on your behalf,
  • negotiate your rates and contracts,
  • close your deals, and
  • bill out your work/invoice on your behalf.
That's no small task, by the way. They will even audition you for a buyer’s project, if a buyer doesn’t have a particular interest in anyone on the agency’s roster.
 
AND YOU PROMOTE
 
Yet it is not their responsibility to promote or market you. They are paid to negotiate your deals and service your present and past accounts.
 
Promotion and marketing is your job. Or if you are business savvy enough and have the cash flow, it’s the job of your manager or your public relations consultant or assistant.

But as you know, there are exceptions to every rule.
 
HYBRID AGENCIES

New hybrid agencies go against the traditional agency path by offering more services to get ahead or to remain more competitive on the "agency" playing field.
 
These new agencies use promotion tactics as a way to pick up well-established voice talents who already bill five-figures per month on a regular basis. Some may even pick up talent who bill lesser amounts because they either have un-common voices, or are talented but not well known yet. The agencies want to expose new talent with great chops.
 
If one of these hybrids (that is agency + marketing company) is promoting you and negotiating on your behalf, expect to pay for the services of promotion and marketing. This is totally acceptable. You are not getting ripped off.
 
But you need a layer of trust with the agency.
 
$600 FOR WHAT?
  
About 10 years ago, I attempted to market myself with a well-respected agency out of Canada that did the promotion thing and charged additional for those services.
 
Well, they received about $600 from me for a direct mail CD project they were doing for the year, yet could never give me a copy of the CD.
 
As with all advertising, I expect to get a copy or proof of what my hard-earned money is paying for - and you should, too.
 
Needless to say, I don't think very highly of that agency now. But you live and you learn. That’s what life is about.
 
CLOSELY MONITOR

So you have to watch and check up on these promotions.
 
Be sure they go out, and that you get a return for those efforts. If you don’t get at least some kind of return in the first 12 months, chalk it up as a lesson learned, and either overhaul it or simply move on to something else.
 
I say wait 12 months because consistency and frequency in advertising is an absolute must.
 
And remember, you can't leave it to an agency or company to monitor your stats to determine what's working best for you. Again, this is your job.
 
Your job is not only to audition and perform voice work. It is mainly to market and promote - or you won’t get any auditions or voice work.
 
PROMOTIONS ARE COSTLY

Voice talent often don’t want to accept the fact that it’s costly for agents to promote you.
Skilled promotional and marketing efforts are very expensive and require a degree of common sense and business savvy. So don't expect agencies to invest heavily in hopes of getting you a job.
 
Typically, they simply take phone calls and inquiries from buyers.
 
And if they request nominal fees to help curb some of the costs of showing you off to their past buyers or new prospects, pay them! It’s part of “your” marketing budget to help you out.
 
A 10% or 15% commission only pays for an agent to correspond with parties who are already interested in your voice, negotiate the deal, put a contract together, handle paperwork, bill and collect. Nothing more.
 
ACCEPT CHANGE

Some people, of course, are not accepting industry changes.
 
For one thing, the days of having just one agent are over. Back in the day, having one agent meant that all your voice work went through that one agent. Since the agent received all the talent’s commissions, the agent kept talent very happy or lost the account.
 
Well, that’s just not happening any more.
 
Many agencies have been forced to evolve. The bigger agencies – with their celebrity rosters – haven’t felt this pressure, but others had to change.
 
It’s a fact we’ve got to face, as well.
 
Stick to the ole ways of thinking, and you’ll become dead in the water for consistent clientele. If you’re unwilling to experiment, how will you know what “works” or is “unfair”?
 
I use a lot of these services and have had much success with them. Just be careful in choosing which to align yourself with.
 
Jennifer Vaughn has been a full-time voice talent since the early 1990s, entering the field through radio and concert promotions. Most well known for national and international radio and TV imaging and branding, she also voices many industrials, military and medical e-learning projects, and children’s audiobooks. With home studios in Florida and Colorado, plus interests in other businesses, she asks, “Who says you have to stick to one thing? I’d get on board! Gotta be a mover and a shaker.”
 
 
 
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