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Dennis Michael.
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Denver, CO
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I have been pondering the problems associated with working though agents. I stopped for the most part taking bookings through or promoting my act to talent agencies for a few reasons.

1. I sell myself better than they ever do or could.

2. I want to establish a relationship with the client and not be seen as just a service like a bounce or pony ride outfit. To be seen as an artist/entertainer and to have more control over the venue set up, information and conditions and be able to cater better to my client's needs for the event.

3. I want to have the freedom of handing out my business card and not having to do the spin off work through the agency.

4. I want my rates to be standarized so that everyone gets the same rates and I am not suddenly perceived as over priced.

5. I want to know that the fee the agent is making off of the booking is at a fair market rate.

Please share your views and insights on this subject.
I'm interested in hearing what some of your attitudes and feelings about agents might be.

BTW: If you didn't know, I worked for several years as an agent and have seen both sides of this fence. I was a more than fair agent and treated the performers I worked with like I wanted to be treated. Representing myself exclusively now I am seeing the downsides of this senario.

Thanks,

Dennis Michael
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Dennis Michael
Denver Colorado
Emazdad
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As well as all of your reasons Dennis I avoid agents because:-

1, They have the same sort of untrustworthy reputation as second hand car salesman.

2, I prefer to get all my bookings direct as Agents put theirs and their clients interests way before mine.

3, I object to being told that every booking I get for the next 12 months from that venue etc has to go through the agent.
What if it's a venue you work at often, but this time the venue had been hired by the agents client. One agent in Newton Abbot had the clause that any job within a 5 mile radius of the venue had to go through him. NO WAY! That would mean he expects a cut from every birthday party you did in that town.

4, I don't like paying them commission 15% plus VAT (Value added tax at 17.5% for the colonials over the pond)on my earnings for the show. one phoned up recently and asked if I could do a birthday party in Plymouth, the fee was £10 more than my normal fee for birthday parties, but after paying him his cut I'd be earning less than my normal fee.

Luckily I get more than enough work direct that I don't need to rely on a agent. If a possible booker sees my show and is interested in me and asks for my agents details to book me I simply tell them they have to book me direct. If they're not prepared to do that I wont work for them, this goes for corporate firms, holiday camps etc as who usually only go through agents as well.
Yours Funfully
Clive "Emazdad" Hemsley
www.emazdad.com

"Magic is a secret, without the secret there is no magic"

Remember there are only 3 types of people in the world, those that can count and those that can't.
NJJ
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As an agent and a magician here's my thoughts.

1. Many performers do not have the time or skills to sell themselves.

2. You should have clearly defined tech specs etc in a contract that is signed by the agent who then passes those specs onto the client.

3. Print cards with no contact details and put the agent's phone number on the back. Clients will call and ask for you.

4. Why do you want standardised rates? Ask a fee and get it.

5. This a tricky one. Personally, I don't care what an agent charges so long as I get my fee.

At the end of the day, agents are in the business of getting bookings for performers and providing entertainment. They are YOUR client and should be treated like any other customer.

Do right by them and they will do right by you.
Dennis Michael.
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Quote:
On 2003-10-21 18:16, Nicholas J. Johnson wrote:


4. Why do you want standardised rates? Ask a fee and get it.

5. This a tricky one. Personally, I don't care what an agent charges so long as I get my fee.

At the end of the day, agents are in the business of getting bookings for performers and providing entertainment. They are YOUR client and should be treated like any other customer.

Do right by them and they will do right by you.


Allow me to explain why standardized rates.
Let's pretend I take a booking from an agent. I give my rate $200 for the party(Please note: I do get the rate I ask for.) and a client gets an additional %20 (conservatively) tacked on to that. (We're at $240.00 now) The party is done and it goes very well, etc. etc. etc.

A month's time passes...

The client has a friend who is planning a party and remembers my name (has one of my cards or whatever) She tells her friend to call XYZ agency and ask for me. The woman also hears about me from another friend who just happened to of also hired me in the past, and gives her my number. The woman calls me directly and I sell her the party. When we get to the price she books her party ($200).
In a discussion with her friend (xyz's original client) she mentions the price. The first client realizes that she paid an additional $40. How does that affect her opinion of me? I can tell you first hand she's mad and not sure who to be mad at. Guess who she chooses to be mad at?

We call this "Buyer's remorse" here in the U.S.

Was it her fault for going through an agent? (maybe, and she should probably have known and expected there was a mark-up)

Let's suppose another friend got me through a different agent with a 30% mark up. (Does anybody really know what my rate is anymore?)

How will the agent respond to me when they find out that I inadvertantly booked a client related to a booking they gave me without paying them anything.

Hmm? Well, do I have to start asking every client who calls me if they are or have ever been a client of xyz agency?
Agents are generally quite propriatary about their client base.

I would point out that in a truely free market there is no such thing as a "proprietary client base."

There just seems to be too many questions. Associated with the agent relationship.

I disagree with the last quoted statement. On two points
1. Agents are not in the business of getting bookings for their entertainers. They are in the business of getting entertainers for their clients. Not to mention their own agenda of paying the exenses of their office, phone and Y.P. advertisements.
2. My client is always the one who in the end, needs to be happy and satisfied with the money they spent for my services.

Thanks for your reply all the same. I want to hear more and hope to stimulate a hearty conversation on this subject. Smile
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Dennis Michael
Denver Colorado
Emazdad
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<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<At the end of the day, agents are in the business of getting bookings for performers and providing entertainment. They are YOUR client and should be treated like any other customer>>>>>>>>

Agents are there to get performers for clients and make money, They see you as just a tool to do that with.

I agree with Dennis on his comments on Standardising prices it's something one guy down here encountered.

He was booked for a show, the booker cancelled him saying the show wasn't going ahead, he was the booked by an agent for the same show at a higher fee. Don't ask why the booker decided to use an agent I don't know. He turned up and did the gig, the booker came over and tried to pay him the original fee, and didn't like it when he had to pay the higher fee. It was an uncomforable moment for the magician and the booker tried to accuse him of ripping him off. A minor arguement ensued and only ended when the magician wanved the agents contract under the bookers nose.
Yours Funfully
Clive "Emazdad" Hemsley
www.emazdad.com

"Magic is a secret, without the secret there is no magic"

Remember there are only 3 types of people in the world, those that can count and those that can't.
Billy Whizz
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I get the occasional show through agents, and as long as I get my normal fee AFTER they've taken their commision I'm happy. If the agent ever didn't pay me for what ever reason, then I wouldn't work for them again, I would also make sure every magician in the area knew of them. I've only once had a problem about 3 years ago where the payment was 'delayed' in getting to me. I now wouldn't ever work for that agent again. But overall, of the agents I work with, I don't have any problems.
Mark Andrews
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Interesting this subject should come up.

I rarely if ever take bookings through Agents these days, for a variety of reasons:

My own work keeps my diary very full.

Some Agents who specialise in Children's Entertainment have set fees (Yes there are such agents about), which don't come close to my own fees.

I like to know a lot more details about the booking, it's conditions; will it be indoors etc, age of children, where I'm travelling too etc etc.

But at times an Agent does have a valuable use. Non more so than the last week or so in my case.

I have great friends who run an Agency locally, they specialise in Children's Entertainment. Just 10 days ago I was rushed into hospital and was diagnosed with Peritonitis as a result of a burst Appendix.

Being the sort of performer who just hates to let anyone down for whatever reason. My Agent friends sprung to the rescue by finding entertainers and covering all of my own bookings which I simply unable to do until I am fully recovered.

But as a whole I share and understand the opinions on Agents: Bad apple in the barrell etc etc.

Mark Andrews
Andy Wonder
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I have a slightly different opinion about this. I agree with Dennis Michael in that having a standardized rate is a good thing, but I feel the performer should at least contribute half of the agents fee by giving a discounted rate to the agent. If you really want to have a standardised rate then pay the agent his full commission & donít expect the client to pay it. The agent is after all providing a valuable service to the performer.

Agents are in business. They do a lot of marketing & paperwork, they have overheads. Ultimately they are providing a marketing service for their performers. Sure their service is valued by bookers as well. The bookers however seem to equally resent paying agent fees as much as magicians do.

If you have an agent offering you work on a regular basis think, you are getting that work organised for little or no effort on your part. You donít need to be around answering the phone during the day to get it. You donít need to pay for expensive yellow pages advertising. You donít need a client base. You donít need an established network of past clients who provide referrals. You donít need a slick telephone sales pitch. You donít need to have promotional literature prepared or printed. You donít need a web site. You donít even need to have sales & marketing skills. In fact the agent may very well spend as much time & effort getting you work as you do performing it. So why should you expect to receive the same money for work an agent has set up as you would for work you set up yourself? Setting up the work yourself takes so much more time, skills, expense & effort.

If I had an agent feeding me booking for every weekend it would free up enough of my time to allow me to go out & get a day job as well.
Andy Wonder, Auckland, New Zealand
Jim Tighe
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I've gotten shows from the Agency and I always get my set fee structure. I accept payment at the show from the customer, take my fee out and pay the Agency the remainder. It's been a very good relationship.
Emazdad
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<<<If I had an agent feeding me booking for every weekend it would free up enough of my time to allow me to go out & get a day job as well. >>>>>

Andy, Are you insane? Why would you want a day job? The best thing about being a full time magician is all the leisure time you get on weekdays when everyone else has to go to work.
Yours Funfully
Clive "Emazdad" Hemsley
www.emazdad.com

"Magic is a secret, without the secret there is no magic"

Remember there are only 3 types of people in the world, those that can count and those that can't.
Dennis Michael.
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Denver, CO
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Quote:
On 2003-10-22 03:37, Andy Walker wrote:
... I feel the performer should at least contribute half of the agents fee by giving a discounted rate to the agent. If you really want to have a standardised rate then pay the agent his full commission & donít expect the client to pay it. The agent is after all providing a valuable service to the performer...

Andy,
I don't mind paying a fee from my rate to them for getting me the work. (20% of each booking)
That just isn't in my experience the way it is done (at least here in Denver). I find that the agents don't want you to have any sort of business relationship with the client. When I have arrived at these venues in the past the client and I have little if any relationship built. Informantion gets lost/changed in the translation from me to the agent to the client. No agent to date has agreed to let me call the client to work out specific details of the event. That situation seems just too threatening to their sense of control.

Perhaps its the agents I've done business with in the past. But that is my general experience so far.

I can also upsell myself better than the agent. Add walk around before a meal tell details about the effects I perform. Create effects that are customized to their event.

An agent can't do these things for me.

One last thing. An agent would still have to call me to check my availability so I am still by the phone, I have to wait to hear if my rates are accepted and I am still calling back and forth for complete information. Having a middle man does not make it easier.

I hear what you are saying, I just don't think you have adressed all of my points. I would love to hear more from you on those.
Dennis
Ps.
Is it just me or is this guy wearing your suit


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Dennis Michael
Denver Colorado
Emazdad
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<<<<An agent would still have to call me to check my availability so I am still by the phone, I have to wait to hear if my rates are accepted >>>>>>.

This begs the question, an agent phones up and asks if your available for a date/ time, you say you are and tell him your fees. He goes away to talk to the client. Do you pencil it in your diary and turn other bookers away from that time/date slot?

Personally I don't take provisional bookings, if he makes an enquiry I won't hold it open for him and if someone comes along before he gets back to I'll take their booking. I do this because I got fed up with an agent who'd phone, ask me to pencil him in and never get back to inform me if the booker didn't want me. Meanwhile I'd turn away real jobs.
Yours Funfully
Clive "Emazdad" Hemsley
www.emazdad.com

"Magic is a secret, without the secret there is no magic"

Remember there are only 3 types of people in the world, those that can count and those that can't.
Andy Wonder
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Emazdad, I am not really insane but I have considered it.

Dennis, I agree in your situation selling your show to an agent might require equal or even more effort that selling it direct. That would be the case for a one off sale. However if you have a good long standing relationahip with an agent that gets you regular work it is a bit different. You only have to sell yourself to the agent once.

I used to be an agent for 2 other childrens entertainers & book them in to do birthday parties once my dairy was fully booked. It was usually just 1 or 2 jobs every Saturday afternoon. They told me in advance which Saturdays they had avaliable & if they made any plans of thier own I was usually the 1st to know.

It worked well for them because they both had day jobs & could not feild inquiries during business hours, neither did either of them have yellow pages advertising, promotionla stuff or anything out there. They were able to piggy back on my marketing because I had more birthday party work than I could perform at that time.

The situation did not last very long for a number of reasons. One of them was that they really did not appreciate or value the service I provided. They would charge out the same rate that they got from me if they booked a show directly themselves. In one case I caught one of them telling my clients to book directly with him next time so they could save with a cheaper rate.

Agents can provide a valuable service to performers that don't have the skills or ability to market themself.

Dennis, you & I or Emazdad as with most people that contribute to this board can market ourselves better than an agent would anyway. That is exactly why don't use agents either.
Andy Wonder, Auckland, New Zealand
Jim Snack
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I agree with many of the points above, but Emazdad's example highlights an important business practice for magicians.

Your fee should be consistent in the marketplace, whether the engagement is booked by you or an agent. The agent's commission should always come out of your fee and never be passed to the client. That is the only way to avoid such problems. It's working as a partner with the agency, trusting each other, sharing information etc.

Unfortunately there are agents who jealously guard client information and then tack on as much as 100% to your fee, in order to reap a large profit on your show. That is not ethical. Commissions are typically 20-25% of your fee, occasionally 30% with some larger agencies. I have no problem paying a fair commission, but will not do business with an unethical agent who won't trust me with information.
Jim Snack

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Dennis Michael.
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Quote:
...Agents can provide a valuable service to performers that don't have the skills or ability to market themself.



This statement, I believe, was made earlier.

Look at it and tell me what you think is wrong about it.

Not everyone has good business skills but developing them is as much a part of being a professional as having an act. I supose marketing is a tricky thing for some. But if you aren't to the level of presenting yourself professionally, what are you doing going and working through an agent?

I'm not being critical of you for helping the part timer out, but you yourself saw some problems with the agent senario.

I'm not saying all agents are bad (just several I've dealt with) I even believe some of my earlier points could be overcome with the right agent relationship. That relationships still remains a invisible to me.

I'm out of the booking agent business now and I have found that the solution to all of my listed points is to refer work now instead of working as an agent.

The reward is that others refer work back to me. I've made new friends with a variety of good performers and think this is actually the best way to work. I know the work I refer is up to par and everyone gets what they want and deserve (the client included).

You would be amazed at how much more referal work you get in return from those other entertainers.

Look at those who you may at this time consider competitors. They may become one of your best assets.

Thanks again everyone for your input.
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Dennis Michael
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NJJ
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Of course performers should be good business people but many are not. As you said, many are part timers who have day jobs or people who, whilst being great performers, do not have the skills needed to sell themselves to clients.

Consider the relationship this way: An agent is a client (yes, a CUSTOMER) who makes sure you are best person for the job, handles the venue, organisers etc. and looks after all of the stuff MANY performers HATE doing!

I am sorry to hear you have been burnt by those of us agents who did you wrong but the role of the agent is VITAL in getting work for many, many performers and I believe that we make life MUCH easier for performers.

There is a big difference between presenting yourself professionally and being an expert marketeer and salesperson. E.g. my brother is a fantastic creator of street theatre characters. When he performs he is talented, professional and works extremely well with both audiences and clients. However, he does not have the skills in marketing that I have so I handle his bookings. Also, he is performing and creating all the time so he does not have the time during the day to be there to answer the phone and field calls.
Ricky B
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Not everyone has good business skills but developing them is as much a part of being a professional as having an act.

I don't agree. Look at the professionals in the other performing arts, particularly actors.

Are the magicians who have an accountant do their tax returns not professionals? Are the magicians who have a lawyer draft a contract for them not professionals? These are business skills that some magicians have and others don't.

What about magicians who hire choreographers, sound experts, lighting experts, directors? And what about magicians who have others develop effects for them to perform? If I understand your argument, if one is truly a professional magician, he would do these things himself. Guess that means guys like Lance Burton and David Copperfield are not true professionals in your book.

Marketing is a business function that can be outsourced like any other. The only thing that a professional magician can't outsource is the actual performance.

--Rick
Dennis Michael.
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Nicholas,

Want to move to the states and become my agent? I'd hire you. I Wish I could find someone who does look out for me and didn't just treat me like a warm body to fill a gig.

Rick,

I do see your point, and perhaps that sentence is a slightly broad brushed overstatement.

I have an accountant, I have legal resources, and I have a group of peers to bounce ideas and problems off of.

I think what I want in an agent is someone who really is looking out for me. Someone who knows what I do, can do, and is actively (not passively) getting me bookings. These local guys I have to contend with aren't. They know how to sell themselves as an entertainment resourse for events. I become a warm body filling a space on booking schedule. If they don't get me they have several other options to fall back on including other types of entertainers.

Can we a little more realistic and break agents into a few categories as well?

I don't think Lance Burton, Or David Copperfield have the type of agent I am refering to. They have agents who represent them exclusively. If you want to book Lance or David you can only do so by working through the agent.

Many of us here only get to work through local variety agents (plural) These are the so called good folks who call us up and say "hey I need a magician this weekend and could you come dressed as a clown and do your little show?" (Gag!) Even after several conversations about who I am, my show, and what I do and don't do, these people just don't get it. I keep getting repeat calls from one woman and it's as if I never spoke with her about my show and what I do. I think she is so busy trying to be everything to every one and thinks performers are just as flexible in their performances. (Like many I don't do the clown thing)I've said as much 5 times and still get this call. So naturally I've stopped working for them.

I will only partially retract my statement above.

As far as business skills go I did say "developing them" and I am sticking to it. I don't mean you have to do everything. That was never the intent of my statement. You had better familiarize yourself with the basics though.

Are you a also trying to tell me that Lance and David have no understanding of marketing. Yes they do let others handle their marketing, but you can bet they know exactly what the marketers and agents are doing and still have the final say in the marketing plan approval.

I would love to be in the position of having an agent to handle all my bookings. Someone who organizes my calendar etc. Maybe it's because I live in Denver, not Vegas and the number of agents to choose from is limited. (...if there are any good ones here at all.)
If you know of any qualified agents in the Denver area please let me know.

I beleive you have taken what I wrote slightly out of context.

I also said: "I'm not saying all agents are bad (just several I've dealt with) I even believe some of my earlier points could be overcome with the right agent relationship. That relationships still remains a invisible to me."

I put this thread out to get a perspective of how others work with agents. I've gotten the responses I was expecting and then some.

Respectfully,

Dennis Michael
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Dennis Michael
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Jim Snack
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Dennis,

I wouldn't be so sure that Lance knows a lot about marketing.

At the "Legends of Magic" confernce two years ago one of the magicians attending specifically asked Lance if he had any marketing advice for magicians getting started.

Lance's response was classic. He said, "I don't know...I've never needed a brochure...I've only had three jobs my whole life - the Tropicana, the Hacienda, and the Monte Carlo!"
Jim Snack

"Helping Magicians Succeed with Downloadable Resources"
www.success-in-magic.com
Brent Allan
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I think many people here, when they say they are looking for an agent, really mean they want a "personal manager." These are the types of guys that Lance and Copperfield have. (I think Lance's manager is Peter Reveen.)

Several years ago, in MAGIC magazine, one of the interview articles was with Copperfield's first personal manager. This was the guy who helped create the Copperfield "image." Sadly, I don't remember what the guy's name was, or which issue it was in. I think the guy is now representing Dimmare.

NOTE: These names and associations are all being pulled from memory, so I cannot vouch that they are 100% accurate. It is just what I seem to recall at this moment.
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