[Originally posted 7 Feb. 2011 at johnmatthew.com/blog]


I see this question frequently in voiceover blogs and discussion groups, and one of my own students just asked me the same, so I thought I’d say a few quick words on the matter.

What you “need” depends on what you want. So strictly speaking, you don’t NEED an agent to get voiceover work. I get a fair amount of work on my own, even network TV commercials. There are a number of online voice casting services (see my previous post, Getting Work - Voiceover Jobs On Voice123), and you can always market yourself directly to the buyers.

But the majority of the good jobs are still cast through the voiceover agencies. By “good” I mean high-profile jobs like TV shows and commercials, union jobs; in general jobs that pay well regardless of type. The agencies provide a valuable service to the buyers – they provide a pre-screened pool of professional-caliber talent that can get the job done quickly, saving the production expensive studio time. And they provide auditions for free. So the buyers have good reasons to use the talent agencies.

So, if you want the better jobs - and lots of them - then YES, you need an agent. And these days, it’s not a bad idea to get as many agents as you can. With competition higher than ever because of the internet and home recording, you need as much opportunity as possible. As of this writing, I’m working with four different voiceover agencies in five different cities – and I get work with all of them.

Though I do get work through internet casting sites and direct marketing, I get my best voiceover jobs through my agents – so you should definitely make getting good representation a priority.

And now, here's a fun “agent moment” courtesy of Friends.

 


JM

Thanks for visiting johnmatthew.com!

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Comment by John Matthew on February 17, 2011 at 7:15pm

Thanks Elynne for the additional insights. You remind me of something I tell aspiring talent regularly (in fact just today), who ask me about marketing themselves. My advice is that the best marketing is to be REALLY GOOD at what you do. Yes, you have to put yourself out there and have the right rep behind you, but if you've REALLY got it, they'll find you. And like you say, the percentage of the competing pool that has REALLY got it, is small.

 

A while ago I was thinking of getting in with every agency I could, but I've stopped pursuing more for the time being -actually the last agency I joined found ME, which was something I thought never happened. And your remark about keeping ourselves a bit exclusive makes me think this was probably a good idea. I also feel that there's not much future in the Walmart approach - any job, whatever the price. I'd rather strive to be the caliber talent that books the good stuff.

Comment by Elynne Dale on February 16, 2011 at 1:35pm

> signed

 

elynne dale

principal & agent

www.thebigfishvoicecompany.com

Comment by Elynne Dale on February 16, 2011 at 1:34pm

the rest...

 

This is much how we perceive and represent talent today, on your merits alone, your geographics are a 'free swim' and irrelevant. Clients choose the voice they like for the project, we relay SPIDS and dial-in ppatch numbers, done and done. Except for time zone, it's your talent of concern and not your wherebouts. (there are the exceptions to this scenario, much TV series VO and ADR is done where the writers and producers reside)

 

So where does that leave us besides anywhere the climate, townsfolk and pizza crusts are to our liking?  I say find the agent (or more than one but not a baseball team!) who truly believe in YOU and understand the big picture, that alone will open the most doors for you. It will also keep rates much healthier if you cannot be found somewhere for two worn nickels . Also, you'll keep your agent(s) happier with you if they are not made to race to get you the same project every other agent is privy to.

 

For those of you who do book, you already know it is your talent that that keeps you on the radar and not your proximity. Staying a little exclusive imo is a privilege that you have earned at this point. While many new 'voice huts' may spring up today, the actual number of real and bookable voice talent (for the better projects) stays small & pretty static. You are the ones large and in charge now I tell ya', so don't ever sell yourself short. 

Trust me, this one action alone will be the one that can keep our industry proud. 

Comment by Elynne Dale on February 16, 2011 at 1:30pm

Hi guys, may I append with a little agent perspective? thank you.

 

First, you can get work without an agent, though it begs the question my Dad used to ask, do you want to date a million men who have a dollar, or 1 man with a million dollars?

Can you have an agent while living remotely? yes you can, the business is virtual now, this is de rigueur. Wide open rosters, non-exclusive for the most part, a vast expanse for talent and agents alike, few boundaries left on the wild vo frontier.

You can have as many agents as you like, you can live wherever you like if you have crack broadcast studio capability in-house or nearby. Dear talent, you really are the masters of your own destiny unlike ever before, nothing is out of reach as far as your breadth of opportunities.

 

Can you book the work?

 Ahh, there's the rub. You will book all day long if you can compete with the top 10% of world talent, since state lines and oceans no longer separate clients from talent and there are only a few clients left (holdouts, mostly in NYC) who will not consider an ISDN session if it will give their project the edge critical for them to also remain competitive.

Regional work, yes there is some to be had, but everyday I hear from more of our so called local clients (we are in NY, Chicago, Denver & Seattle ) who want to dip their toes into out of town waters. I continue seeing any vestigial local/ regional mindset being replaced swiftly by the global market sensibility.

 

Therefore, the idea of having many regional agents to cover your bases in my potentially biased :) yet extremely educated and well studied opinion is fast becoming a concept only. Liken it to saying you live in, let's say Omaha, therefore you are an Omahanian voice talent. 

 

Or, is it that you are a talent that works in any market you can compete in, but you've chosen to live in Omaha? This is much how we perceive and repr

Comment by Eric Funk on February 16, 2011 at 11:40am
More great advice - thanks John, for answering my questions!  For what it's worth - for guys or gals just starting out I highly recommend the Symetrix telephone interface for phone patch.  Mine's an older TI-101 I got on ebay and it sounds as good as phone can get on a land line.  Even when conferencing agency directors, producers etc. - never had a problem.  About the most inexpensive way to phone patch and sound like a pro, IMHO. 
Comment by John Matthew on February 15, 2011 at 11:43pm

A lot of agents rep out-of-town talent. Exactly who will rep who is of course an individual thing. You can check the agency website to see if they list their policy; contact them and ask if they don't. Or just go ahead and submit and see what happens. The big issue is that some clients prefer to work with the talent in-studio, so being OOT will certainly be a bit of a disadvantage, but it shouldn't stop you from trying.

 

About half the out-of-house studio sessions I get booked into are phone patch or ISDN, so you really need to have your phone patch and /or ISDN capabilities locked down so that the clients (and your agent) can be confident when booking you for a session. I don't use ISDN or SC yet at home, though that's probably on the way. Most clients I book directly don't ask for it - it's the agency work that tends to go for the heavy technology.

 

A lot of talent do most of their work at home these days, particularly promo and trailer guys who would otherwise be driving around all day. But for some types of work - like commercials - it helps to be available to record at a studio. Frankly, it also helps to be in a major market. BUT, there is plenty of work available for out-of-towners.

 

And DJ Phil, no, you don't need and ISDN connection for auditions, just an internet connection.

 

JM

Comment by DJ Phil Turnipseed on February 15, 2011 at 7:17pm
Quick question...do I need an ISDN machine for internet auditions...or..
Comment by DJ Phil Turnipseed on February 15, 2011 at 7:16pm
Great advice...appreciate your thoughts...very helpful...after ten years and several midrange spots... sporadically...consistency of auditions is what I need.  And then go from there...
Comment by Dustin Ebaugh on February 15, 2011 at 5:41pm
I would ask the same question as Eric.  I am in Wichita, KS but I do have Source Connect and can do ISDN bridging...feasible to get an agent from here?
Comment by Eric Funk on February 15, 2011 at 3:40pm
Hi John - great tips, thanks!  A follow up question if you don't mind.   I live in a small resort community in Montana - a long way from the big city.  (Closer to a grizzly bear than than a full blown studio.)  Is it possible to get an agent who is willing to work remotly - even with Source Connect or ISDN, being this far off away?   Or do I need to be in a city?

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