Monday, December 10, 2007

As Voice Talent - Do you need an agent?

A voice talent agent is often necessary for you to work in any given city. Ad agencies and casting directors look to talent agents to provide master demos, recommendations, and voice over auditions for specific projects. Where do you start? Talk to several AFTRA and SAG franchised voice over talent agents – they are the most reputable as they are bound by agreements to the performers unions. They can't require that you purchase classes or photos from them. They can make lists available to you with the names of photographers and teachers, but they may not provide the services themselves. They are certainly not allowed to require the voice talent or on camera talent that they represent to purchase services such as those in order to be represented. They do not charge you any fees for representation, although many agents do ask you to pay a portion of the expenses incurred for your inclusion on their master demos.

The Biggest agency in town is not necessarily the best place for a newcomer. If the agency handles a large number of working voice talent, you may not get called for as many auditions. On the other hand, if you go with a smaller voice talent agency with a small voice talent pool, they may not get as many of the calls from the advertising agencies or casting directors. Experiences of other performers you talk to, common sense and your gut feeling will have to prevail. When you interview with an agent, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you!

If you’re going to seek voice over work via the internet, you’ll probably want to list with several voice talent sites which in many ways act as an online voice talent agent. They generally don't negotiate for you or represent you in the traditional role of a real world agent, but they function as a virtual voice talent agent in that they provide a place to list you and your voice talent services. Of course, they are not franchised agents, more like listing services, and most of them charge a yearly listing fee. Again, if you can check with other talent to see what their experience has been with listing on a particular site, it might be helpful. But keep in mind, that whether they’re getting work or not does not necessarily mean you will have the same experience. As with a regular voice talent agent, some of it comes down to trial and error. You have to test the water to see what and who works best for you. Some sites charge around $200 for a yearly listing including all the bells and whistles – your own web page with space to upload many demos, and some even allow video! There are other sites that charge far less – but may work out better for you! There are some sites that charge much, much more and may not get you any work at all! Know that these listings, like your real world voice over agent, help you get auditions and find work, but you still have to do as much marketing of yourself as possible. Many agents, like the web sites, basically just list you and your demos, but do not promote you specifically. They’re not out there on a daily basis representing just you to potential clients. They’re representing their “pool” of talent. However, a good agent will, of course, recommend you specifically for projects for which you are well suited. Still, you can’t just sit back and wait for that phone to ring!


Anonymous said...


Wonderful way to put things :)

I have to tell you how much I love the layout of your blog and the retro mic you have to the top right of the page.

Finding an agent is very hard if someone has no experience to speak of in the industry. The best place to start off as you mentioned to get in front of clients is through a listing site or voice over marketplace.

Those kind of sites work well for both levels of talent as they provide benefits for both sets of voice actors.

One tip to people new to voice over or those who have not yet been added to a roster of a local, regional or national agency: You must prove that you can get work on your own (that people will hire you) before an agent will add you to their roster. They only make money if you make money, so they need to know that you are capable of landing a gig based upon your talent and professionalism.

Agents don't charge you money to be listed with them, however, they do take a commission (also referred to as a cut) from the earnings you acquire from jobs they secure for you.

Melanie, thanks for hitting on these fundamental topics - you're doing a great service for your readers.

Best wishes,


Voice Over Studio said...

Thanks, Stephanie! I appreciate your mention of agent commissions. In addition, the commissions for AFTRA and SAG voice over work are limited to 10% and in the case of AFTRA, are always placed on top of the scale wage that goes to the voice over talent. With SAG, it can either be on top or come out of your scale - or at least that used to be the case. If that has changed, I hope someone will let me know. I'll research it as well.

On most non-union work, agents take 15 - 20% out of the amount you're booked for (scale or below), and then they often also bill the employer another 15 - 20% on top.

John Powell said...

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