Monday, June 20, 2011

SomeAudioGuy Mailbag - How Do I Get an Agent?

I've actually gotten this question a number of times. About time I answered it here on the blog!
Hey Audio Guy
I follow you on twitter @andrewtorresny...and I saw you mention in a post that you worked for Abrams. I gotta ask...if you're a working voice actor like me, with a competitive demo and resume and a union card, how on earth do you get signed by an agency? I feel I'm entrenched in low-paying spots until I do. Can you shed some light on this? And please follow me!
AKG C414 Laying Down - My all time favorite studio microphone!
Hey Andrew,
The agent game is a tricky one, and I'm afraid my advice probably wont be radically different than what others have written on the subject.

Ask a dozen different voice actors with representation HOW they got their first agent, and you'll probably end up with a dozen different stories. There is no "trick" to getting an agent. There is no "system" to getting an agent. 

First and foremost, agents are people. People with an interest in fulfilling client relationships, and profiting off of packaging a product. As an actor, you need to be able to relate to them as such. Many agents do care about craft, performance, artistry, but mainly as it relates to how they can book talent on jobs.

They are in the business of building business relationships.

Part of the psychology of "the numbers game" in auditioning is making your voice more common and recognizable. By that I mean, the more you audition, the more familiar your voice will be to casting directors and producers. Psychologically they will start to "feel" like they've heard you in commercials or worked with you in the past. That "feeling" of work will start to beget actual work, as producers for the most part like to work with established talent. It's all a part of building a reputation. 

The agent search can be similar. They DON'T want to have to create all of your relationships from scratch. It puts a strain on THEIR relationships if they have to do this for EVERY new talent they sign. They want to have the perception that signing you will please their relationships and ADD to their rolodex. It's about sharing the wealth in a way. 

How do we create that perception? 

You've got to build some relationships to bring them. Classes, workshops, mixers, you need to go meet casting directors, and befriend other voice actors especially those at the agencies you want to be repped by. Referrals are HUGE. Having someone who the agent already respects vouch for you can make the difference between your demo getting a listen or not.

Keep agents, managers, and casting up to date on what you're working on. Emails are good, but often a personalized postcard will get a fraction of a second longer consideration before it's thrown away, than an email which might not even be opened before it's deleted. Again, people in the business relationship business want to be working with people who are ALREADY working. You want to keep people up to date, but you don't want to spam them.  

You have to know EXACTLY what product it is that you want the agent to sell. Your materials need to be top notch. They can't just be competitive for the web in general, they have to be competitive against the top bookers in your niche. You have to know who those people are. Personally, I'm something of a purist. If I listen to a commercial demo and hear character voices or newscaster recordings, I'm not apt to continue listening. If I want to hear animation, radio imaging,  or audiobook narration, I'll look up THOSE specific demos. 

Lastly, on the topic of agents being people (they are actually human, I swear) personality is tremendously important. Just like any other business partnership, you just might not vibe with a particular agent. You could have the potential to make an agent millions, and they still might not sign you if they don't think they'll want to work with you. It's not personal. Nobody wants to be stuck spending a lot of time working with someone if they dont get along.  

Now here's the catch. Those in this business of business relationships, we're REALLY good at spotting a phoney. We're all sorta Holden Caulfield-y that way.  If the only reason you're trying to be my pal, or bumping into me at mixers is for YOUR benefit, I'll not be likely to help you out. In fact I'll probably try to get away from you PDQ. However, those actors that present themselves as solutions to my problems, that they're working to help me out and aren't trying to scam me, I'm more likely to chat up that actor a bit more. If we share similar interests, and can build a genuine relationship, so much the better.

It's a lot of leg work, and a pretty serious time investment, but can reap some great rewards.  

Good luck,  and happy hunting. 


  1. Great advice, really enjoyed the article and from my experience all true.
    I'm a VO represented by the top agent in Australia and yeah it takes a lot of time and effort getting an agent, especially one of the top ones, but it definitely is worth the effort. After all, if you see it as a long term goal, then the immediate rejections don't become so disappointing.
    Friendly persistence is the key.

  2. So true Nick.
    If this is REALLY going to be a business, and not some "get rich quick scheme" then it needs to be treated as such.
    There are no short cuts.