By Lin Parkin
July 15, 2013
Is your agent really doing all they can to get you auditions? Are you feeling a little left out in the cold? Our Voice Over Expert, Roger King, provides advice from an insiders point of view on the things you should (and shouldn't) expect from your voice-over agent.
Roger King is the President of PN Agency which provides voice-over talent to the radio, television, film, multi-media and animation industries. In 2004, he launched a sister agency, Ethnic Voice Talent (EVT), and now represents over 100 voice over talents and translators in more than 15 different languages.
Welcome to Voice Over Experts, brought to you by Voices.com the number one voice over marketplace. Voice Over Experts brings you tips, pearls of wisdom, and techniques from top instructors, authors and performers in the field of voice over. Join us each week to discover tricks of the trade that will help you to develop your craft and prosper as a career voice over talent. It's never been easier to learn, perform and succeed from the privacy of your own home, and at your own pace. This is truly an education you won't find anywhere else. Now for our special guest Roger King.
Roger King: Hey, this is Roger King. Happy to do be doing another podcast in the voice expert series for the fine folks at voices.com. I've done a couple of these before and in case you don't know me I run PN Agency which is a non-union voice talent agency based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where we represent English and French voice talents and we also have ethnic voice talent which as the name implies represents voice talents in many different languages. So as I like to say we're sort of the like United Nations of voice work.
I have a blog called Voice Over Canada, that's at voice overcanada.ca and there I like to chat about various voice related issues from the perspective of the talent agent. So be sure and visit voiceovercanada.ca for all the little, little gems and nuggets. And of course I'm available on Twitter as well as voiceovercanada is where you'll find me. I love new followers.
This, these podcasts that I've done before I like to call Secrets of an Agent Man. And today I thought we'd go over what your agent should and shouldn't be doing for you. As, I'm a talent agent and so obviously I can speak to this in terms of what I think that my role is. And the things that you should look for if you're evaluating the performance of your talent agent or looking for your first agent or looking to change agents. Many voice actors are either new to the game or just sort of have a vague idea of what their agent does or should be doing. Or they could be experienced but maybe you've only been with one agency for a long period of time so you're lacking a frame of reference, a comparison.
In a previous blog post at voice overcanada.ca I let the world know my agency motto which is I work for talents, not clients. That's something that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle and I've been guilty of it too where it's sort of an odd business to be in because the clients who are hiring the voices are obviously the ones that are giving you the cheques so you tend to think that you'd be sort of loyal to them, but, and try to accommodate them. But I'm actually hired by talents of course so I'm actually working for them. So my interest is not satisfying clients, you know, going to the ends of the earth for them necessarily. But making sure the talents are happy. So I work for talents, not clients. So we'll keep that in mind as we go through the shoulds and shouldn'ts of the agent talent relationship. And I should preface I'm going to start with the shouldn'ts, you know, which sounds kind of cynical and negative but it's not how you start it's how you finish.
Some things your agent shouldn't be doing. Your agent shouldn't charge you for anything. A reputable agent only takes commissions for work they get you. They shouldn't be peddling voice coaching or demos or headshots or anything of that nature. I mean, they might make recommendations but again they shouldn't be charging you for anything, they're just taking commission, we work on commission only.
An agent shouldn't get angry with you if you say no to a job. An experienced talent does not take every gig that comes along. There are a number of reasons a talent might say no to a particular job. It doesn't pay what the talent thinks it's worth, that's an obvious one. For whatever reason they're not comfortable with the product and what's being advertised, what's being sold. Scheduling conflicts obviously or they had a bad experience with the producer at a previous session, they just don't feel comfortable working with that person again. It's always the talent's prerogative to turn down a job. The agent again works for the talent, not the other way around.
An agent should not pressure you to take less than you think the job is worth. Some agents find it difficult to say no to any paying job and that's understandable because, again, we work on commission. But again, we work for the talents so just because the agent wants the commission or, you know, is convinced taking this job at a lower rate is going to set the stage for a lot more work down the road doesn't mean you have to agree. How many times have you heard that, you know, "Just do this one at a lower rate" or "Do this one free of charge and then it's going to lead to a lot more work." That doesn't really happen that often, I find it sets a precedent if you accept something at a lower rate or you offer something at a lower rate usually the client expects it at a lower rate moving forward.
Your agent shouldn't be sending you out blindly to every audition under the sun. I think the sure sign your relationship with your agent is going to burn out fast is if you get too many auditions in the first month or so. That likely means your agent is trying too hard or they're just sort of fascinated with the new shiny penny momentarily or they haven't taken the time to hone in on your specific talents. Of course, it could be because you're amazingly talented and you're just perfect for every single casting. You have to make the call.
Okay, so what should your agent be doing for you. That was the shouldn'ts, let's go to the shoulds. Your agent should be communicative. Beyond the obvious that you should have some fairly regular contact, email and phone, your agent shouldn't only come to you when a deal is already done. You know, sometimes jobs in negotiation require your input, first of all whether you think a certain rate being offered is good enough and just whether you want to do the job or other questions an agent might have. So there should be a dialogue, it shouldn't just be always you hear from them just when the job is booked and that's it and you have no input.
Your agent should know what you can do. That goes back to our shouldn't be sending you out to everything. I was on the phone once quite a while ago with a previous agent before I owned an agency and because I do voice work as well as being an agent, and during sort of a goofy moment on the phone with him I did a Don Pardo impersonation, you know, the announcer from Saturday Night, it's like "Live from New York it's Saturday Night Live." And my agent said "I didn't know you could do a Don Pardo, I had a call last week from a casting director looking for a Don Pardo-type read, I would have sent you out." You're my agent, shouldn't you know what I can do or here's a novel idea, how about ask. You know, I always think with talents that I represent I always ask, you know, "Could you do this?" I mean, you know, maybe I don't ask the deep voice guy if he can do a 70 year old Portuguese grandmother but, you know, some things, if I'm not sure, I ask, have communication. If you're constantly hearing after the fact about gigs that might have been right for you it's probably time to have some dialogue with your agent.
Your agent should work with you on a new demo at least every couple of years or so and help you to obtain copies of some of the work you do, so sort of be involved in continuing to, you know, work on your demos and make it known the types of projects that you're good at. Your agent should buy you cocktails on occasion or at least brunch but cocktails are better. And again this is - see this is debatable because I think that, as I've said the agent works for the talent so maybe it's actually the talent who should buy cocktails for the agent. No, I think that seems to be the right call. But there should be cocktails, that's my point.
And again cannot emphasize this enough, your agent should be working for you and not the client. Not always taking the client's side. Now sometimes, you know, talents, there's a wide spectrum of personalities, I'll phrase it that way tactfully. But, you know, there are sometimes when the talents, or when the clients, rather, are out of line and I think the agent should be backing up the talent, not the other way around in a number of scenarios.
And as I think about this I, and that I've gone over all this stuff I sort of nervously await comments from the talents that I represent. Hopefully I'm following my own shoulds and not guilty of too many of the shouldn'ts. I'll think on that. In a future blog post at voice overcanada.ca I'm going to cover how the talent can help the agent. We'll cover the other side of this. But I think we'll wrap it there for now on the shoulds and shouldn'ts. I look forward to hearing your comments again on Twitter at voiceovercanada or the blog, in case I didn't mention it, it's voiceovercanada.ca.
So this has been another voice over expert's Secrets of an Agent Man. This is Roger King, that'll be all.
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