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Eternal Order
10177 Posts

Profile of Mindpro
What Dan said in his post is what I was referring to for local markets, event planners and local agents. They are able to operate more the way Curtis and Al were referring to. Most of them are performers or former performers and specialize in local area bookings. The problem is there not many margins in these types of levels and operations. They are good to supplement bookings, but nothing will fill your calendar like generating bookings yourself.
Bill Hegbli
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Eternal Order
Fort Wayne, Indiana
22858 Posts

Profile of Bill Hegbli
As I read this forum, what comes to mind is a performer that does not want to do sales work, but seeks an agent to do it for him.

If anyone expects an agent or agents to do all your sales work and bookings to provide a living as an entertainer, then they picked the wrong career. As a novelty act, one has to be an expert salesman or you will starve, it is really that simple.

Nothing is like the old black and white movies, an agent running after you begging you to take the gig he has found for you.

Sales is hard and expensive, and you have to be selling yourself every second of every day. Good Luck!
David Thiel
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Inner circle
Western Canada...where all that oil is
3913 Posts

Profile of David Thiel
This is a fascinating thread. We're all interested in getting more work...or better work...and it's all built on the supposition that other performers are in on something we're not.

I am ever-surprised at the number of performers (and no...this isn't aimed at a specific someone) who want a magic gig pill -- something that will put them on airplanes and send them to exotic locations filled with jolly wealthy clients who LOVE you and send you back toward your private jet with buckets of cash as they scatter rose petals for you to walk on.

There isn't a magic pill. There isn't a secret connection. Just trust me on this. I've looked...and come to the reluctant conclusion that the way to get to where you're going is to work hard. I find I work harder at marketing myself these days than any other single task.

When you're REALLY good, the agents you are looking for now will find you. My understanding is that THIS is when you get the buckets of cash and rose petals. But what do I know? Never been there.

But I DO work a lot. I set goals. I maintain a database of clients and I stay in touch with them. I consider the agents I deal with as "clients"...because they are. So I'm friendly and I treat them with respect -- and I understand that they have clients too -- and that when they book me for one of their clients that it's a trust they are putting in me. Do the math, guys. A happy agent results in many bookings over the years. But expecting that the agent is going to drop everything and help you with your career is a potentially deadly presumption. They won't. They're not supposed to...and they're not going to.

Agents want an act that delights their clients, doesn't make a ripple of trouble or eat up their time. Most of the agents I deal with are happy to know when I have something new to offer...but that's because I have a relationship with them -- and I'm going to work hard to present it to them with maximum clarity with minimum time required from them.

If you're making (or expecting to make) a living as a performer -- you REALLY need to understand that this is a business. Your product (YOU) has to sparkle. Your show has to be wonderful -- and you have to make your clients love what you do. You have to market yourself. You have to be prepared for rejection without letting it crush your spirit. You have to decide on every aspect of your show from costume to routine to sound system and you have to market it. The recurring word there is "YOU."

As I indicated before -- I still get most of my bookings on my own. And it's hard work. The stuff I get from agents are pennies from heaven. But those bookings are the gravy...not the meat.

So many people are too afraid, too scattered or too lazy to get off the chair and go after bookings. Read all the books...take all the courses you want. There's good information there -- BUT nothing is a substitute for getting that phone into your hand and going out to sell what you do. Show BUSINESS starts with YOU -- not an agent.

Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Except bears. Bears will kill you.
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Inner circle
Los Angeles
2545 Posts

Profile of magicofCurtis
Well said David,

I agree with you and the few others that stated that you must market and book yourself.
Dimitri Mystery Artist
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Thank you David for your post!
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Profile of Christophercarter
This is an interesting thread to me because I have worked (almost)exclusively through one agency for the last 17 years. I say almost because, while my main agency represents me exclusively on college campuses, I do work through other agencies, meeting and event producers, and speakers bureaus to book corporate work. But one agency handles roughly 85% of my work.

I've spoken to many other acts that work primarily through agents, and I find that each agency has a unique way of communicating with and handling their artists. There are three agents who work at the agency who book me. One texts and emails me frequently during the day and will take my calls in the day time. The other two only email me or talk to me after hours. One would yell at me if I even attempted to call him during work hours. This doesn't bother me in the least, since I know he's on the phone constantly trying to get people to book me.

I'm in the situation where most of the direct contact part of selling is done by my agents. This does not mean that I'm not involved in the marketing. I still have to create the promotional materials and provide them, apply for showcases, and most importantly, I follow up with the clients and pass on spin-off dates to the agents. So our relationship is more of a partnership than a "they work for me" or "I work for them" scenario. I would expect that most of the time when an artist has exclusive represntation that it needs to be this way. If it weren't, I doubt the relationship would last very long.

My general impression is that agents are becoming less relevant in most markets due to the internet and the ease with which the buyer can search and make contact on their own. They're still pretty important in the college market, and I hear that they're still pretty important in a few other markets, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear that most of them are feeling a bit pinched these days.

Some previous posters have commented that agencies are generally not appreciative of constant attempts at contact. That's been my experience with every one I have dealt with. I generally only talk to them unsolicited around twice a year. Once is when I send them upgrades to promotional materials, which I do annually, and the other is when I send them a Christmas gift basket. So I only contact them to either give them something to help them sell me, or just give them something to thank them for their efforts. I find that's more effective than bugging them about how they should be booking me.

I'll finish by telling a story about how my agency vets new acts. The main way is they see them at conferences. After that, they'll pay attention to recommendations from acts that are already on their rosters. About twice a year they'll go through unsolicited submissions. How this works is they collect submissions on a table as they come in. After about 6 months, the table is piled so high with promo material that they tell an intern to look through it all, watch the videos, and let them know if there's anything worth considering. What's left over at the end of the process is thrown away. To my knowledge they don't generally send out letters to the people they've rejected, though I may be mistaken. On the other hand, I do know they're unfailingly polite to everybody who contacts them. In any case, your promo better be exciting enough to make it throug the filter of a bored intern, or you should try another method of reaching out to an agent besided random submission.
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Eternal Order
10177 Posts

Profile of Mindpro
As I stated above and in other posts, that too is my findings as well. The "partnership" well defines it. And most "partnerships" are rarely established by blanket emailings or solicitations, in any business. It more from reputation, common interests and goals, personal recommendations, industry or trade relationships or personal relationships.
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Eternal Order
20566 Posts

Profile of Dannydoyle
Anyone we use is a recomendation.

I remember when I started at The Funny Bone. I did open mic nights in South Bend for a long time. The owner there thought I was ready put me on in a spot and it was ok. Told me to call the Green Bay room. I did. Let him know who gave me the number and worked for him as well. He put me in contact with Davenport. This was the guy who did most of the bookings for the nation.

His first question was the following. "Who do you know.....better yet who do you know that I know"?

We operate the same basic way.

The thing is that it is only 1/2 the job to be on stage. The sad truth is that once you are at a certain level to a point acts can be interchangeable in many markets. I have no clue about college markets but certainly on cruise ships and in comedy clubs.

Bottom line is we are invariably polite to those we do not use. Within that there are limits.

Part of the problem becomes that often acts just do not understand that they may not be right for the venue. They take it personally. It is what it is. Simply out at that particular time for that particular client they are not the best fit. Another time another client they are perfect. It is not a judgement of the act and certainly not the person.

Off stage is the stuff that gets you the show.
Danny Doyle
<BR>Semper Occultus
<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
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Eternal Order
10177 Posts

Profile of Mindpro
The fit thing is spot on. You rarely ever hear of a performer doing their due diligence on an agency BEFORE trying to submit to them. Who do they serve, who are their clients, what markets do they serve or specialize in, who is on their roster, etc. What are their needs? It is absolutely crazy for an entertainer to falsely believe that they are ideal for all agencies and all markets and any bookings they may have. They are not.

If you are truly looking for success and developing a "relationship", put in your effort and find an agency that serves your preferred markets of interest. An agency that is the best match for you. But first (and while this should be obvious, it's apparent that it's always not) you must decide what market(s) you are interested in, best suited or most appropriate for, and are properly representable for. Uniqueness and separating yourself from the pack does wonders here. But don't waste your time on agencies that are not a proper match. It only leads to a bad taste in your mouth, performers that bad rap the agency, and a poor image or perception of your opinion of agencies in general. In reality by doing your own work (work as David says, is the key word) saves everyone aggravation, time, effort, expense and improper perceptions.

Most performers do not know their true identity and try to be all things to everyone and every type of booking. This drives agencies up the wall. The real industry simply doesn't work that way. So much of the ill-perceptions and misperceptions of agents and agencies comes directly from the performers, not the agencies. They (agencies) operate in their own world free of such distractions, knowing exactly who they are, who they serve, and the exact types of acts that they are interested in and would work for their business and clients. It is all business.

Also remember these local guys/companies that refer other entertainers back and forth, cover each others jobs, farm out bookings to others, suggest someone else when they are booked or decide the have to cancel, are not the true type of "agencies" most here are discussing. Their is a huge difference.
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