How to Become a Talent Agent
How to Be an Entertainment Agent
Entertainment agents act as middlemen, working with both artists and venues to book concerts, gallery showings and acting jobs. These agents are masters of negotiation and work hard to make sure deals between companies and artists make the largest amount of money possible for both parties involved. Becoming an agent can be difficult, but the job comes down to knowledge, negotiation skills and great business skills.
Starting Your Business
Take some courses.There are many different courses available online and at your local college that can help you become an entertainment agent. Some courses may be specifically targeted at entertainment agents, while other courses in general business management may be more general and helpful as well. Research classes and enroll in a program that fits your budget and time constraints.
Decide where you want to start your business.If you’re from a large city, you’ll be surrounded by artists and other talented people, so it won’t be hard to find work. If you’re from a smaller town, there may be no clientele for an entertainment agent, so you may have to move. Think about the kind of artists you want to represent, and choose a base for your business accordingly.
- New York would be a great city to find Broadway singers to represent, while Los Angeles is full of actors. Keep in mind that these cities are expensive to live in and very competitive when it comes to finding work, but they have plenty of clients that need representing.
- Think about smaller cities. Austin, Texas; Portland, Oregon; Denver, Colorado: all of these cities have great underground music scenes with many bands and lots of emerging talent. These cities may be better for a new agent, as they are less expensive to live in and have less established agencies.
Legally register your business.Business registration differs from state to state, so you will have to do some research. This may be a very involved step depending on where you live, but make sure that you don’t skip it. Registering your business keeps your tax information in order and makes you a legitimate entity in the eyes of the state.
- If you want to pick out a name for your agency, you may have to register this as well, depending on your location. Double check to make sure that the name isn’t being used by anyone else.
Check licensing rules.Many states require you to have a special entertainment agency license, separate from your business filing.. This may cost different amounts in different states, and will often be relative to the amount of work to be found in each state. If in doubt, contact other agents in that state and ask them what process they went through.
Get insurance.Understand that while working with artists and venues, there are all sorts of liability issues that may arise. Discrepancies in contracts, unfulfilled engagements and misunderstandings could lead to costly lawsuits.You may also be required to be bonded as an agent per state guidelines. Again, check with your state labor board to learn more about bonding and insurance.
Put on the finishing touches.Once you’ve registered your business and picked out a name for your agency (if applicable), you’ll want to gather together materials that help your legitimacy. These can include a logo, business cards and a website.
- Make a logo. If you’ve chosen a name other than your own for the business, you may want to make a unique logo. Contact a professional graphic designer or make it yourself: just make sure it looks professional.
- Make business cards. Business cards are a perfect way to inform and remind people about your business. They can be handy for passing out while networking, or leaving for people that you haven’t met yet. Many copy stores offer business card printing services, or you can design and order some online from a company like Vistaprint.Make sure your card has your name, phone number, email address and website (if you have one).
- Look into making a website. Websites are an important part of modern business, because they make information about you and your agency available quickly and easily. Consider designing your own website or paying a web designer to make one for you. Use your website to list your clients, your successes and your skills.
Building Your Business
Find clients.The most important step towards success as a talent agent is finding clients. Your clients can be any type of entertainer: actor, singer, dancer or artist. Don’t be picky or overly specific about the type of artist you want to represent in the beginning, because your first clients will be the hardest to find.
- Tell your friends about your services. Your first client will often be someone you already know. Some of your friends may be artists or musicians, and they may be skilled enough that they’ll need an agent. Talk to them about the services you can provide: booking, negotiation and advice for their career. Let them know that they’d be one of your first clients, but that you are still learning the ropes.
- Network. Artists are everywhere: concerts, bars, restaurants and schools. Talk to everyone you meet and ask them about their own bands, art or projects. Tell them about your work as an entertainment agent. Make sure you have your business card handy to give to them.
- Look online. Look at social media profiles for artists and musicians, and contact them about your agency. Describe your services to them, and try to engage them in a dialog about what you can do for them as an artist.
Build your client base.After your first several clients, finding more will become easier. You will have experience for your resume and success stories to tell your potential clients. When you do good work, your existing clients will also begin to refer new clients.
Always make contracts.When you enter into an agreement with a new client, always draw up a contract. You may trust your client a great deal, but you’ll still need the protection of a contract if something goes wrong.
- Decide what you want from your client. This will form the basis of the contract: the length of your service to the client, the type of work you will do for them, and the amount of money you will require for your services.
- Draw up the contract. Get help from a lawyer when you write your first contract. The language must be formal, and you must make sure that the content is legally binding. The lawyer will help you spot any loopholes or mistakes.
- Have your client sign. Always make sure the client understands and signs the contract.
Learn what your client needs.Your clients may want to book concerts, recitals, gallery showings or acting jobs. Learn exactly what it is that your client is looking to schedule so that you know what kind of venues to negotiate with. Be sure to communicate consistently with your client to make sure that you're up to date with their expectations. This will make you a much better negotiator, because you'll be up to date on exactly what your client needs and wants.
Find venues or jobs.Always work to find the best venues or gigs for your artists: make sure that the venues match their style and type of work. Call booking agents at the venues or companies to see what is available, and learn about the terms of the contracts they offer to artists.
Negotiate.You’ll want to come to a deal with the venue or the company, and you’ll want it to fit your artist’s expectations. It’s often difficult to reach a consensus, especially when there is a lot of money on the line. However, keep practicing your negotiation skills and work to make contracts that benefit you, your artist and the venue.
- Negotiate the terms of the contract: date, time, and length. The venue or gig must provide dates favorable for your artist, but this will also depend on the caliber of your client. Better acts generally get weekend and evening spaces, while lesser artists might open for them or perform at matinees.
- Talk about money. While talking about money in your private life may be uncomfortable, it will be essential in your negotiations. The venue will expect to make a certain amount of money from a contract, as will you and your artist. You’ll need to make sure that the profits from the gig cover you and your client's costs, and that they turn a large enough profit to make the gig worth it. Talk about whether your artist will receive a flat rate or a percentage of the profits. This will make a big difference when trying to decide how to promote the event.
- Negotiate non-financial aspects. Contracts can include many different stipulations that don't involve money. Riders, for example, are a list of amenities that artists like to be provided when they play a show: beverages, catered foods, snacks, etc. Another example may include accommodations, such such as hotel rooms, per-diem allowances for crew members and the gear that will be provided by the house. Make sure to nail down as many of these things as possible.
- Make concessions if necessary. It's likely that you, your artist and the venue will not agree on everything in a potential contract. The venue may not want to pay your artist as much as they want, or they may not be able to provide certain items in a rider. In that case, you'll have to make concessions, or "trade" items in the contract to get what you want. Become comfortable giving up certain items in a contract to get other things that you want, but make sure that your artist is clear on the concessions you've made.
Make a contract.As with your clients, venues and companies need to sign a contract with you when you reach a deal. A contract will ensure that the venue gives your client the treatment they’ve promised, and protect you in the future if they fall short of the agreement.
Double check all contracts.Have a lawyer look over contracts if they seem suspicious, or if you have reason to question any of the details. Always go through contracts with a fine tooth comb just in case the venue is trying to take advantage of you or surprise you.
Practice.The more you negotiate, the more confident you will become when making your contracts and booking gigs. You might be apprehensive at first, because asking for more money or better dates may seem overly assertive or awkward, but practice will make your skills much stronger.
Video: Difference Between a Talent MANAGER and a Talent AGENT
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