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A talent agent, or booking agent, is a person who finds jobs for actors, authors, broadcast journalists, film directors, musicians, models, professional athletes, screenwriters, writers, and other professionals in various entertainment or broadcast businesses. In addition, an agent defends, supports and promotes the interest of their clients. Talent agencies specialize, either by creating departments within the agency or developing entire agencies that primarily or wholly represent one specialty. For example, there are modeling agencies, commercial talent agencies, literary agencies, voice-over agencies, broadcast journalist agencies, sports agencies, music agencies and many more.
Having an agent is not required, but does help the artist in getting jobs (concerts, tours, movie scripts, appearances, signings, sport teams, etc.). In many cases, casting directors or other businesses go to talent agencies to find the artists for whom they are looking. The agent is paid a percentage of the star's earnings (typically 10%). Therefore, agents are sometimes referred to as "10 percenters". Various regulations govern different types of agents. The regulations are established by artist's unions and the legal jurisdiction in which the agent operates. There are also professional associations of talent agencies.
Talent agents are considered gatekeepers to their client's careers. They have the ability to reshape and reconstruct their client's image. They are dealmakers and assist their client by orchestrating deals within the entertainment industry, more specifically in the Hollywood entertainment industry.
In California, because talent agencies are working with lucrative contracts, the agencies must be licensed under special sections of the California Labor Code, which defines an agent as a "person or corporation who engages in the occupation of procuring, offering, promising, or attempting to procure employment for an artist or artists."
Major talent agencies include Endeavor, Creative Artists Agency, United Talent Agency, and ICM Partners.
Some talent agencies specialize in the representation of television news broadcast journalists and television news magazine hosts. The journalists and hosts represented by these agents primarily work at television stations in local markets or at networks. There are many job titles for broadcast news journalists such as anchors, reporters, weathercasters, sportscasters, correspondents and hosts.
Actors may be interested in working theatrically (stage, film or television) as well as in commercials. Some agents will handle all types of acting work, while others may specialize in a particular area. Some agents work only in the field of television, or only in film and television. Typically, the larger the agency, the more specialized the agents within the agency.
An agent has two sets of clients: the "talent" (actors, models, voice-over artists, etc.) and the "buyer". The buyer can be a casting director, advertising agency, production company, photographer, or direct client if the client has an "in-house" production staff. Agents promote talent to the buyers, submitting talent who have the appropriate age, race, sex, look, talent, etc. that the buyer is seeking for his/her project. Usually, an agent submits the actor's head shot or the model's composite card or portfolio to the buyer. After the buyer has made choices, the agent then arranges an audition (or for models, a "go-see" or open call). After the buyer has met the talent, the buyer will contact the agent if any of the talent will be hired. The agent will coordinate the details of wardrobe, directions, etc., as well as negotiate the contract or pay.
Note that the agent's job is to get the talent auditions; the talent is the only person who can get the job. For their work, agents take a 10 to 20% commission of the gross, depending on whether the job is union (such as SAG-AFTRA) or not. Union jobs are paid per negotiated guidelines, but in non-union jobs the pay is sometimes delayed.
A well established agent will have networks upon networks of contacts. Also, agents have access to professional casting services. Many of these casting resources are not available to the general public.
Although most of the successful agents are private individuals unknown to the public, some are celebrities in their own right. Notable current and former talent agents includes David Begelman, Ari Emanuel, Freddie Fields, Johnny Hyde, Irving Paul Lazar, Sue Mengers, Quincy Sims, Lew Wasserman, Jadin Wong and The Handbook.
In the music world, booking agents are different from talent managers. Booking agents are the people who actually book shows for the artists they represent. These agents make all of the arrangements with the promoters of the shows. The booking agent presents the promoter or producer of the concert with a performance agreement, which stipulates the artist's requirements. Items may include lighting, sound, meals, hotel accommodations, and transportation. For concert buyers, they work to find the artist who will fit in the need and available budget.
Many of the major booking agencies refuse to represent clients who are not already signed to a major record label and have national distribution of their music. Because of this, artists on independent record labels often seek representation with an independent booking agency.
Bars and nightclubs that specialize in presenting live music on a regular basis often employ an individual to assemble the schedule of events. This individual is the venue's buyer, and should not be confused with the booking agent, who presents a roster of available acts to the buyer. Booking agents may also have contacts known as free-lance promoters. These are individuals who agree to produce a concert by locating a venue, providing a sound system and assembling a staff. Producing a show in this manner, at a location rented out for a single evening, is called “four-walling,” as the process entails renting a venue and receiving no additional services or technical equipment other than the space itself. This has often been the only available option for underground musicians lacking enough popular appeal to gain access to more conventional performance venues (see: Punk rock), but is also used among the genre of raves and various DJ-related events.
The cost factor of having a booking agent must be weighed against what the agent can do for clients and buyers alike. Some agents represent several different types of artists, while others represent artists in one main area/genre.
Some music agencies deal exclusively with cover bands, listing exclusive and non-exclusive artists on their rosters. In addition, some agencies will also work with a third party company to build specific bands using their own database of vetted musicians, whilst other cover band agencies work with session musicians, that provide a 'flexible' line up for each act.
Booking agents are also used for the cruise ship industry where several different categories of entertainers are needed. These can include individual musicians to be part of the ship's orchestra, small bands and ensembles as well as variety entertainers such as singers, instrumentalists, magicians, comedians and acrobats. Artists looking to work on cruise ships will sign an employment contract with the cruise line and a separate commission contract with the booking agent. The agent will usually be based in the country of origin for the artist.
A music manager (or band manager) handles many career issues for bands, singers, record producers, and DJs. A music manager is hired by a musician or band to help with determining decisions related to career moves, bookings, promotions, business deals, recording contracts, etc. The role of music managers is extensive and may include similar duties to that of a press agent, promoter, booking agent, business manager (who is sometimes a certified public accountant), tour managers, and sometimes even a personal assistant. Responsibilities of a business manager are often divided among many individuals who manage various aspects of a musical career. With an unsigned act, music managers must assume multiple roles: booking agent, graphic designer, publicist, promoter, and accountant.As an artist's career develops, responsibilities grow. A music manager becomes important to managing the many different pieces that make up a career in music. The manager can assist singers, songwriters, and instrumentalists in molding a career, finding music producers, and developing relationships with record companies, publishers, agents, and the music-loving public. The duties of an active music manager will focus on developing a reputation for the musician and building a fan base, which may include mastering and launching a demo CD, developing and releasing press kits, planning promotional activities, and booking shows. A music manager will gain access to a recording studio, photographers, and promotions. He or she will see that CD labels, posters, and promotional materials appropriately represent the band or artist, and that press kits are released in a timely manner to appropriate media. Launching a CD with complementary venues and dates is also a music manager's responsibility.
With the advent of the internet, established and new talent can have a thriving career in the voice over industry through online casting websites. Whilst there are sites that allow any person to join, a new wave of 'professionals only' casting websites is emerging. In an industry where radio and television voice overs can be recorded in home studios because of technology becoming so affordable, high paying jobs are no longer sourced exclusively through traditional voice talent agents.
Since the decline in viewership in theaters, from the 1950s to 1960s, a monumental shift occurred in how studios produced films and reduced the cost of exclusive and expensive actors. After the shift, actors and actresses were working for the studios but were not owned by one major studio entity, and so were able to work with other studios. This shift has meant that agents were now seen as a necessity instead of an option. Agents became third parties who negotiated between studios and clients, making the need for the agents' services an imperative for each party.
In the 1980s new agencies were established to compete with the "Big five." In 1991 Bauer-Benedek merged with Leading Artists Agency to form what became United Talent Agency. These agencies were Traid Artists and InterTalent. Traid Artist would eventually be sold to William Morris Agency in 1992, and InterTalent would diminish when its partners dispersed between UTA and ICM in the same year.
As of 2019 [update] Hollywood's four major talent agencies are Creative Artists Agency (CAA), William Morris Endeavor, United Talent Agency (UTA), and ICM Partners. Except for ICM, each agency has its own affiliated production company, which may hire the agency's clients. In 1989 the three major agencies were William Morris, ICM, and CAA. During the 2000s, the majors were known as the "big five" or "top five". In 2009 Endeavor Talent Agency and William Morris merged.
The difference between the roles of agents and managers has become smaller and more blurred.A frequent definition of the role of a talent manager is to "oversee the day-to-day business affairs of an artist; advise and counsel talent concerning professional matters, long-term plans and personal decisions which may affect their career." Considerable overlap exists as talent agents may opt to fill exactly the same roles for their clients out of a financial interest in developing the careers of their talent and currying their favor.
Various state laws and labor guild rules govern the roles reserved to agents, as well as specifying certain special rights, privileges, and prohibitions.In the state of California, the labor code requires licensing of talent agencies and includes regulations such as criminal background checks, maintaining separate operating accounts and client trust accounts, and limits total commissions to twenty-five percent, among other regulations. In contrast, management companies are described as "often unregulated." Agents also have certain privileged powers in situations of verbal agreement and can legally agree to a binding employment offer on behalf of their client.
A prominent difference between agents and managers under California state law is that licensed talent agents and employment agents are the only entities legally allowed to seek work on behalf of their clients.This legal distinction has enabled artists such as the Deftones, Pamela Anderson, Nia Vardalos, Freddie Prinze Jr., and others to break contracts with their managers and avoid commissions owed according to those contracts by proving "unlicensed procurement" in court. Because the enforcement against talent managers procuring work is largely carried out through civil litigation and not criminal penalties, managers directly seek out work in defiance of state laws, as clients out of self-interest will seldom object to them doing so and cases alleging illegal procurement are infrequent.
The Writer's Guild, Screen Actor's Guild, and Director's Guild, among labor guilds, strike agency franchise agreements that specify certain regulations and privileges reserved solely for agents including setting maximum commissions at ten percent of a talent's gross earnings. Managers do not face the same restrictions.
MCA Inc. was an American media conglomerate founded in 1924. Originally a talent agency with artists in the music business as clients, the company became a major force in the film industry, and later expanded into television production. MCA published music, booked acts, ran a record company, represented film, television, and radio stars, and eventually produced and sold television programs to the three major television networks, but had an especially good relationship with NBC.
Creative Artists Agency LLC or CAA is an American talent and sports agency based in Los Angeles, California. It is regarded as a dominant and influential company in the talent agency business and manages numerous clients. In March 2016, CAA had 1,800 employees.
Lewis Robert Wasserman was an American talent agent and studio executive, described as "the last of the legendary movie moguls" and "arguably the most powerful and influential Hollywood titan in the four decades after World War II." His career spanned the nine decades from the 1920s to the 2000s; he started working as a cinema usher before dropping out of high school, rose to becoming the president of MCA and led its takeover of Universal, during which time Wasserman “brought about changes in virtually every aspect of show business.” In 1995, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton. Several years later, he spoke of his ongoing work at Universal to Variety, saying, "I am under contract here for the rest of my life, and I don't think they would throw me out of my office - my name is on the building."
In the performing arts industry such as theatre, film, or television, a casting is a pre-production process for selecting a certain type of actor, dancer, singer, or extra for a particular role or part in a script, screenplay, or teleplay. This process is typically utilized for a motion picture, television program, documentary, music video, play, or television advertisement, etc. This involvement in a dramatic production, advertisement, and or industrial video is intended for an audience, or studio audience.
A artist manager is an individual who guides the professional career of artists in the entertainment industry. The responsibility of the talent manager is to oversee the day-to-day business affairs of an artist; advise and counsel talent concerning professional matters, long-term plans and personal decisions which may affect their career.
A modeling agency is a company that represents fashion models, to work for the fashion industry. These agencies earn their income via commission, usually from the deal they make with the model and/or the head agency.
Tour promoters are the individuals or companies responsible for organizing a live concert tour or special event performance. The tour promoter makes an offer of employment to a particular artist, usually through the artist’s agent or music manager. The promoter and agent then negotiate the live performance contract. The majority of live performance contracts are drawn up using the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) standard contract format known as the AFM Performance Agreement.
A tour manager is the person who helps to organize the administration for a schedule of appearances of a musical group (band) or artist at a sequence of venues. In general, road managers handle tour details for their specific band, while tour managers are used to oversee the logistics, finances and communications for tours as a holistic entity. So, on any given tour, you may have road managers taking care of each band as well as a Tour Manager responsible for caring for the entire tour. Very often, the Tour Manager is also the headlining band's road manager.
Ian Adie Copeland was an American music promoter and booking agent who helped launch the new wave movement in the United States.
In film industry terminology, movie packaging or film packaging is a type of product bundling where a top level talent agency starts up a film or television project using writers, directors and/or actors it represents, before giving other agencies a chance to submit their clients for the project. For this service the talent agency negotiates a packaging fee. Instead of collecting the usual 10% fee from individual clients, the agency receives the equivalent of 5% of what the studio or network pays the production company; 5% of half of any profit the production company earns; and 15% of adjusted gross.
William Meiklejohn, was a Hollywood talent agent and scout in the 1920s through the 1940s. He had his own talent agency called the William Meiklejohn Agency that he sold to MCA in May 1939. At the time of the sale, his agency had over 100 actors and writers like Hattie McDaniel and Dorothy Parker. He was known for his self-avowed “seventh sense” to discover and promote stars such as Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Lucille Ball, and in 1937 Ronald Reagan who was then a sportscaster in Des Moines, Iowa.
Richard Clayton was an American actor who became a talent agent. He represented such high-profile talent as Jane Fonda, James Dean and Burt Reynolds during his career as an agent.
An audition website is a web site that aggregates audition information and delivers this information via the World Wide Web. There are hundreds of companies that operate acting, modeling, and dancing audition websites. Originally, only talent agents were able to provide actors, models, dancers and other performers with audition information. This meant that only performers that were represented by Talent Agents could go on auditions. Today, both open auditions and private auditions can be found on reliable audition websites. Talented performers can browse the World Wide Web and find many different audition websites. The primary organization of professional screen and theater casting in the United States is the Casting Society of America (CSA). Membership to the CSA is optional.
Katharine "Kay" Brown Barrett was a Hollywood talent scout and agent beginning in the 1930s. She is most famous for bringing Margaret Mitchell's novel Gone with the Wind to the attention of David O. Selznick, for whom she worked, in 1936. She had a long career as representative, talent scout and agent with Leland Hayward, MCA and International Creative Management ("ICM").
Paradigm Talent Agency is an American full-service entertainment agency with offices in Los Angeles, New York, London, Chicago, Toronto, Monterey, Nashville, Berkeley and Austin. Paradigm Talent Agency has more than 200 agents representing clients in television, music performances, motion picture, theatre, book publishing, digital, commercial/voiceover, content finance, media rights, brand partnerships and beyond. Paradigm's clients included author Stephen King, actors Laurence Fishburne and Henry Golding, directors James Wan and Malcolm D. Lee, and musicians Coldplay, Tiffany Young, Halsey, and Ed Sheeran, as of 2018.
Gavin Polone is an American film and television producer. He began producing films in the late 1990s and television in the 2000s. He has been nominated for seven Primetime Emmy Awards, of which six were for "Outstanding Comedy Series" for Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm. His production company is Pariah.
General Amusement Corporation (GAC) was an international talent booking agency that was acquired by ICM Partners in 1974. In the 1940s, GAC's name was changed to General Artists Corporation to avoid confusion with a registered coin-machine company. General Artists Corporation, through a series of acquisitions and mergers, evolved first into a larger agency called Creative Management Associates, and then, in 1974, into ICM Partners.
Troy Blakely was an American talent agent, Executive Vice President, Managing Partner and Head of Music for the Agency for the Performing Arts (APA). Blakely was made Head of Music in 1998, made an EVP and Partner in 2002 and was made a Managing Partner with the new set of Managing Partners in 2005, reshaping APA.
Jonny Podell is an American music agent and owner of the Podell Talent Agency in New York.
Bruce Tufeld was an American talent agent and manager. He was the founder of the Tufeld Entertainment Group.