Friday, August 21, 2009

Managed or Unmanaged?

Friday evening musings...

Is there really such a thing as an unmanaged singer/actor? I don't think so.  If you are not working with a management company or an agent, you are managing yourself.  There is much to learn as you manage yourself, in order to prepare yourself for outside management.

As you are signed or working with an agent as a freelance artist, or sending out packages or going on interviews, here are a few things to remind you.

Agents work FOR you.  You do not work for them.  Again, the business likes to play with the unsuspecting artist and begins to get bossy and thinks they can change the rules. They get paid when you get paid.  That means, they work for you!

So, if that is clear in your mind, your fear to please/be accepted etc etc needs to be put in perspective as you interview a prospective agent.  Yes, I said, YOU interview.  You are submitting to them to take you on a roster that they represent and work FOR.  Not that you join to work for them.  

So here are a few things to consider as you discover your "place" in this business.  Remember, that place and the relationships you develop will shift.  Nothing is in stone. Nothing.

Know your worth.  I mean it!!!! Know what you have and be true to it!!  Know what your talent is, what your integrity is worth, and how you want to be treated.  You treat others, including prospective agents, as you would want to be treated.  If that is not returned, that is not the agent for you!  

An agent/artist arrangement is a BUSINESS arrangement.  That's it.  Business.  You are not friends, you are not buddies.  You do not have to believe in the same things.  You need to find someone who is willing to believe in YOU and help you find the opportunities to work.  Keeping this relationship very clear and concise and uncomplicated will save a lot of grief!

Know how you want to be seen!  Again, when you speak with an agent, you want to know your worth and your presentation as PRODUCT.  You are the artist and THEY are the business seller.  Do not confuse that either.  They are not necessarily thinking artistically. They are thinking PRODUCT, SELL, INCOME.  This is business now.  One of the first things an agent will ask you is "how do you see yourself".  If you do not know that, it will make that agent hesitate if they are worth their salt.  They want to sell you as you see yourself, and as they can sell you.  If you don't have a clue, that shows them you might not have a clue about more things - and business is busy and too short to be educating you on these basic principles!!  

Don't suck up.  It's so cheap.  And it doesn't achieve anything at all.  
Don't take rude behavior in a meeting, unethical conversations,  any red flags that you sense.  Trust your gut.  If a potential agent is making you feel like they are doing you a favor then graciously thank them for their time and move on!  There are MANY agents out there!  

This is a working business relationship.  This is not an artistic endeavor.  Your craft and your art is in your performance and process AFTER you get the job!! Do not confuse it.

Agents will not necessarily "get" you - but they should know what they are selling, and they should respect you as a human being.  There is NO REASON for being treated like furniture.  Again, THEY WORK FOR YOU!  You are hiring them, because they get a percentage of what they negotiate for you!  

Just like casting directors, we have given agents too much power in our minds.  The business wouldn't be here if it were not for the artists that create theatre/opera/musicals/concerts etc etc.  The casting directors and agents are in place to move the PRODUCT of process into the public eye of the producer.  It is HR and contract negotiation.  

If we look at it in that light - it becomes much more cut and dry, less emotional, and more business driven.  The business is business and art is art.

You never have to beg, take attitude, neglect, abuse or any kind from ANYBODY let alone an agent or potential agent.  Often, the agents that have proven their respect of artists and are well respected, will never be an issue.  Sometimes in this competitive business we see more disrespect lower down the totem pole.  This is compensatory behavior.  NO ONE and I mean NO ONE needs to deal with that.  Between rudeness, inexperience, insecurity and down right scams, there is enough to go around.

You the artist, when you make a decision to find an agent to represent you, NEVER need to deal with that on ANY level.  If you walk in prepared to be represented - have the goods, the knowledge, the work ethic, the willingness - then you need to demand the same from someone who represents you!  That agent REPRESENTS YOU!!!! This is the face/the voice/the attitude that represents to the business what YOU are about.  Settling for less is careless, and shows your willingness to sell out and compromise to the point of looking desperate.

If more artists recognized and seized upon the realization that the agent is their face/words in the business, then we would not settle for the rudeness and attitude we sometimes encounter when first starting out.  It doesn't matter how long you have been out here or how experienced you are;  you deserve to be treated with respect, with loyalty, with openness and with honesty.  Nothing less.

If we begin to claim this as a community, many of these lower species of "agent" will either evolve or be put out of business.  The true management is reciprocal.  It is a partnership to work together to create an atmosphere of essential communication and opportunity - for both parties.

You do not need to settle.  Manage yourself to understand your business worth and your business focus.  Once that makes sense to you, you can present that to someone else, and your opportunities to find an agent will open up.  Your work and your presentation of your work - through your artistic endeavors and your sense of yourself as product - will speak for themselves.  You will draw the right people to you.  You will trust your instincts.  You will not feel desperate.  You will wait and seek out the correct timing and the right people for that time.

Manage your life; your art; your craft; your work habits; your work ethic;  KNOW your worth; Know how you want to be seen; Know how you ARE seen;  recognize the strengths of the person you are interviewing;  Do they match your needs at this point in your career? No relationship in business is forever.  Find the relationship that is healthy for NOW.  When it's time to move on, you will recognize it and do it.

For now - be true to yourself.  Trust that.  Without self-knowledge, we are nothing and have nothing to offer ourselves.


  1. Well said, Susan!

    Christopher Holloway

  2. This is so important for us to be reminded of! I think we all tend be kind of in awe of a potential agent or manager - thinking that, if we "get" one, it will solve all our problems. We put up with bad and/or rude behaviour because "They'll get me work!"

    I wish we all had the confidence in ourselves to politely walk away from agents/managers who treat us with disrespect. They'd quickly find themselves out of a job.

  3. Amen Susan! Recently going through all this has taught me that all over again! You are the boss of yourself. :-) Who represents me has got to be someone i see eye to eye with professionally and who gets me--- it's not personal! No matter what, in the long road, we watch out for ourselves in this business. I think a good representation of you will understand that too! I know i feel blessed to have just that, someone who sees me as i am and what i want to be seen as. We have given agencies all that power and that has made it difficult for people to get one to pay attention... I say be your own boss and if someone notices, they can become a part of the corporation that is you! No matter what, we are our own president, pr, VP, treasurer, secretary, advertising, and marketing in our own corporation... :-)

    Yay for great blogs!