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Old 12-22-00, 07:31 PM   #1
Frisbee
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Smile Agent fees.

I am wondering if there is a standard cut that agencies take?

Also wondering which way is better...To have agents take a percentage...or to tell them what you expect for a specific gig and then they charge whatever they want to the client on top of that price so you make what you expect with nothing to pay pecentage to the agent... I wonder because of an agency issue...suppose I make 200 for an hour of walk around and the agent charges 400$ to the client...that would mean the agent made 100% of what I made...is this ethical...I feel this is not right. Anyhow, let me know your thoughts on which you think is better.

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Old 12-23-00, 12:59 PM   #2
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Great way to open this forum, Frisbee....

Personally, I like to give them a quote of the total I want to take home. If they can tack on a huge amount more and can get it from the client, good for them, I'm none-the-wiser. But I'm still getting the amount I asked for and was willing to work for.

Sometimes you can be right up front with agencies because they're the middleman. It's hard to ask a client directly, "What's your budget, What are you willing to pay?" But with an agent, I can be right up front about it. They usually have a sense of what the client has budgeted for entertainment.

Then you can work it out so you AND the agent benefit.

An agent may call and ask "What do you want to earn for this gig?" (knowing that the client has $2000 to spend.) If I say, $1000, the agent will say great, "$1000 to you, book it." Then they get $2000 from the client and give you $1000. However, I always ask right up front, "What is the client's budget?" If the agent is honest and says "$2000" then we can work out a mutually beneficial agreement, where I'd get $1600, and they get $400 (20%). Or even $1500, $500. That's more than I was going to quote originally, so I benefit, and the agent takes a slightly larger percentage because they were up-front and honest.

Every agency and market is different. But the bottom line is this: Only work for what you are willing to work for! If the agent makes a big profit on you, it's kind of slimy, but it doesn't matter if you're happy with the amount you quoted and were paid.

Also, be clear WAY in advance about what you want to TAKE HOME. I make it crystal clear that what I quote is what I expect to take home. If I say "$1000" I don't mean "$1000, minus commission" I mean "$1000." The agent can work out the rest.

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Old 12-24-00, 02:25 PM   #3
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I agree with what Jim had to offer. I just want to add some information. In many states there are laws that limit an entertainment agents fee to 20%. The way agents get around that is they call themselves producers and do what is called buy/sell. That means they negotiate their best buy price, then negotiate their best sell price. Now they are producing a themed event, they feel like they deserve more for their creativity.
Like Jim said always make sure that the price the agent quotes is after all commissions. You only have to get burned once on this one.

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Old 01-02-01, 08:21 AM   #4
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Just like Jim, I have learned to state very clearly what I intend to take home, commissions be-damned. In addition I also ask what the agent is charging the client, and I use this as a sign of how trustful/truthful/greedy the agent is. And I will definitely turn down work from an agent I don't feel I can trust 100%, regardless of what they are pitching at that moment.

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Old 01-02-01, 02:11 PM   #5
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Chance, query. You say that you will turn down a gig from an agent you do not trust. Is this because you have been burnt? I have my name into 2 agents now and have not yet worked with one. What should I be leary of?

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Old 01-05-01, 11:00 AM   #6
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No doubt there are many good and honest agents to be found, Peter. Look hard and try to find one that you truly feel you can build a relationship with, is my humble opinion. Ask LOTS of questions. Make sure they really like YOUR act, and appreciate your specific stylings (whatever that means - I think I heard Robert Nelson say it one day. Or maybe it was my dry cleaner... can't remember). And if you are looking for an easy way early on to determine their honesty, then ask them point-blank what they intend to charge the client. Any evasiveness at all on their part and I would be out the door. Just my .02

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[This message has been edited by Chance (edited 01-23-2001).]
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Old 01-05-01, 11:12 AM   #7
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If your booked by an agent who takes a percentage, the industry standard is and has almost always been 10-15%. Some take 20% and that's really the MOST any agent should take. Find out first before taking the gig.

Other agencies do the flat fee and yes, it is possible that they can make 100% mark-up on the gig. If you are getting your asking price then what they make is of no consequence to you. If you develop a good relationship with that agency and find out what's really being charged you can start asking for a higher rate. Easy.


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Old 01-06-01, 04:09 AM   #8
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Agents
Well I have had a really interesting agent experience.
The other week I went into an agents the biggest in town and found out what there needs were focusing on what they needed to be able to give me work.
The said saying yes and flexibility were the keys.
They also said they liked my stuff.
They also said that they charged anywhere from 50 to a 100 dollars on a gig worth 2-300 dollars.
"may sound like fifty percent" she said "but it costs us about 150 dollars to do a booking.
lots of good info.
Did i get any gigs yet
one.

It seems that for mainstream corporate work at least in Australia they want someone who can fill a suit or costume with minimal fuss and a passable character with no rehearsal.
I constantly ask myself if the money is really worth the half assed approach.
As a result i tend to go for the more festival type work. As I find the corporate stuff really draining because I am treated as audience fodder.
I even find busking more satisfying at times.
neway i digress.
thats my ten cents.
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Old 01-23-01, 08:14 AM   #9
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Andy, you said:

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" size="2">Other agencies do the flat fee and yes, it is possible that they can make 100% mark-up on the gig. If you are getting your asking price then what they make is of no consequence to you
I agree with you to a point, but the underlying 'truth' can make all the difference. Let me try to explain...

If some agents make 15%, and others are making 100%, it is not because of anything the performer does, but because of how the agent first acts. An 'honest' agent (for the sake of argument in this narrow context) will ask the client about their needs (first) and then about their budget (2nd). Then the agent will sort thru their files for the performer that best fits that profile - kind of like in the "Mission: Impossible" TV series: first the 'mission', then comes the 'performers'. And so long as they earn their average commission they are happy, as is everyone else involved.

Another kind of agent will take down the client's information, mentally focus on the 'budget' part, and then find an act which undercuts that price by the widest margin, therby leaving the agent with the biggest percentage possible after the smoke has cleared.

The first agent will not have any problem at all discussing every detail of the event with the performer involved; he realizes that it is not just his own reputation which is at stake with each contract. The second agent would rather lose a leg, half his teeth and all of his hair before divulging the same information; he doesn't worry about building relationships or reputations nearly as much as he does his own bank account.

So I return full circle to my earlier point: If an agent hesitates for even a second when I ask him straight up about his fee schedule to the client he wants me to entertain, he can look for someone else.

This is a great discussion, guys! Let's keep it going, and more just like it in other sections as well!

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Old 01-23-01, 12:58 PM   #10
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Just to play devil's advocate for a cyber moment, how different is the agent (the one who will mark up the performer's rate 100% if he can) to the performer (who will double his price if he knows that the agent deals with high-end clients)?

I will start to answer my own question. There are situations when the client or agent won't even consider you as an option if you charge less than a $1,000 a show. Image (which includes your price structure) plays an important role in whether or not you get the job. Maybe the agent is exercising some market know how. In other words, you say your price is $500, the agent feels he will lose the job at that rate because it is too low, so he quotes $1,000, and gets the job. He probably deserves the mark-up because he knows the market. Therefore, we (performers) should spend a little more time understanding the market. However, there is the agent who says the job only pays $500, talks you into taking the job even though it is below your price ("this one is a favor, there will be plenty of others that pay your full price...") and he is taking a 100% comission. SCUM!

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Old 01-24-01, 12:45 AM   #11
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Cool

I'm in the midst of setting up my own agency and I find this discussion absolutely riveting. As many of you know i'm both a performer (cowguy) and a booker. I believe in acts getting paid what they're worth (or more) and making a profit. Comments?
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Old 01-25-01, 06:09 AM   #12
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Please go back a read my last message again. I absolutely did not say that I will not work with an agent just because they take a larger cut than 15%. All of my comments on this thread have been directed to the ethics and behavior of an agent, and how they choose to respond to my questions early in our relationship. I have never focused on the dollar amounts involved, but have been trying to make a point for integrity and openness (transparency) of dialog.
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Old 01-25-01, 10:51 AM   #13
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I know of a guy, good with kids, just starting out, who was doing partys for an agent. He would get $50. the agent charged $150. (it gets better)
well he handed out cards for the agent after the partys to the parents, one called the agent and said how wonderful he was and thay had to have him for there kids party. "well he is in high demand and will cost a bit more..."
thay paid...

the day of the party the parents still happy that thay got him came up to him and thanked him and that he was worth the extra monny...."what extra monny??"
"why the $500. the agent told us was the least thay could charg for you."

he still got $50.

now I dont mind paying for the agent to hussel abit for more $$$ say 20% but that is there job.

this story was told to me by paul Garbonzo about a frend of his when this topic came up.

"good judgment comes from experance, Experance comes from bad judgment."

Mark Twane

P.S. I hate this damd spell check!
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Old 01-25-01, 12:01 PM   #14
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Hey!

Hey Pokie, Good story. I believe it.

I agree that it was totally slimy, but it goes back to my original point... if that guy had never heard how much the client was being charged, he would have gone on and kept happily working for $50.00.

I know agents have made profits greater than 20% off of me before, but I've never been dis-satisfied with the amount I took home. That's the important part... I give my quote and I'm happy when I'm paid. When I start to get wind that the agent is charging WAY more, it's a learning experience... And I realize it's time to up my price!

P.S. Has the birthday party market really gotten that expensive??? $500.00? Damn.
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Old 01-25-01, 08:34 PM   #15
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My problem with the big agent markup, is that often the client feels that it is the ACTS that are asking the big bucks, and so they tend to go to another agency next time, having decided that they didn't get much bang for their buck. This means that the acts get less work. (Unless they change for a more honest agency) On the other hand, I agree that sometimes a client looks down his nose at a cheap act, even though it may be great. But if there HAS to be a big markup in this case, then perhaps it should be split between act and agent.
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Old 05-17-02, 10:40 PM   #16
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Love

A friendly submission froom the dark side.

I am probably taking my life into my hands by posting here, but here goes... [img]smile.gif[/img]

I posted in this forum once before on this very topic. Two years ago, infact, when I had just inherited the family biz...an agency.

Mom and Dad started the whole thing renting poppcorn carts and booking acts for parties. It grew into an all out event biz in the Mid-Atlantic region. Now both parents are gone and the clown/daughter is the main agent.

My first lesson in the evil world of the agent: UNLESS YOU HAVE EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS TO BOOK THAT ENTERTAINER YOU NEED TO MAKE SOMEWHERE BETWEEN 20% to 25% TO MAKE YOUR MARGIN. For every gig you do get, there were at least 3 on which you spent several hours, and then they fell through. If it's a higher volume agency, that margin on calls is higher, the margin on the gig is higher. I have two employees and must meet payroll.

If you have exclusive rights to representation of the entertainer (mostly NY and LA agencies do this,) then there is a contract with the agent that usually sets the commission at 15% to 20%. Union performers should only work with union franchised agents. Most of the time the rate is 15%.

How do I feel about agents who take more than this? It depends on the gig. It depends on what type of entertainer is being hired. It depends on whether the role of the agent has morphed into event planner or producer. We all have horror stories of the agent who books at 150% amount of money the entertainer quotes and pockets the difference, but those are usually agents who do not get many gigs in the first place. For every gig that I now do that has a budget over $5000, I usually place between 5-11 phone calls to the client, make three calls to the accountant, 15-30 calls to entertainer(s) (e-mail has made this a little better) and spend 7 to 10 hours of preparation BEFORE CONTRACTS. Now figure that there are just those times that the gigs fall through, and you get the picture.

How many people wouldn't shoot for the $1250 margin on $5000? Approximately 12 hours+ of personal effort yields on that gig $100/hour diminished further by all of the gigs that fall through (because that's the nature of the beast.)

So how do you get the $1250 (25% margin) Here in the DC area? Your client starts out wanting four face painters, a tight 30 minute act from a comic juggler (before the big presentation), two stiltwalkers, and two balloon twisters for four hours at a product launch at a festival. The loonists want $100/hour minimum and your face painters want $40/hour and the client wants them the whole four hours. Stilts get $135/hour each for each of the four hours. Your CJ gets $500 for the 30 minute stage show. That's $3020 leaving you $1980. Over 25%. Piece of cake right? Then...

You find out from the client that he expects 10,000 people in attendence and You realize that the twisters and painters are going to get slammed so you try to talk him into two more of each but the client won't budge meanwile your comic juggler who used to go out for $500 for 30 minutes for a stage show now wants $900 because he just got off the phone with his buddy who just finished doing a cruise ship and he said "don't ask for less than $800" besides the client made a call around to other agencies before coming to you and he heard that Classic Comedy Caterers were going to give $700 on the show but the client couldn't find them the other stuff they wanted yet the client just called and said that they needed a discount on the hours and why not? because they're having so much entertainment at one time what do you mean we need two more twisters can't they just pace themselves our comittee has changed their minds about the face painting unless you can come down in the cost I might be running late can the client budge the time no I definitely need all four hours covered and maybe we could save money by having the loonists do balloons for just two hours each what do you mean I need to dress as a clown you know I don't do that and I like the final proposal but I'm still looking for something really different no we're going with a cirque du soleil theme instead I want another act within budget in our theme what happens if it rains...

Can you feel the money evaporating? Believe me, it's even worse for the agent if she is working with a PR person or an event planner. [img]wink.gif[/img]

So why do it? When it works well, and it does, it's a rush to know that you're getting work for people who are doing what they love. Am I getting rich off of this? No. But I'm finding work for people that I love and I getting a little something for my effort.

I know there are plenty of agents out there giving the ethical ones a bad name. Being a performer myself, I'm doing my best on my end to change things a litttle. I guess I'm asking for a little sympathy for the devil. (hoo hoo)

Mandy <img src="graemlins/jester.gif" border="0" alt="[jester]" /> <img src="graemlins/jester.gif" border="0" alt="[jester]" />
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Old 05-19-02, 09:45 AM   #17
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How about rain dates, moronic themes, and venue and date changes after contract? I do not begrudge agents their fees. I teke 'em, when I can.
As a performer who is not above sullying my hands with the mirky waters of accepting commissions, (sometimes, gasp! up to a hundred bucks) I am met with mixed reviews. Some performers are far too pure to consider this process, and look down on me from up high, secure on their moral high ground, knowing that in my place, they would do a better job, and charge performers less. Think I'm making too much on ya? Great, get me a gig, and make yourself some easy bucks.
My viewpoint is this. I do not enjoy phone time, contracting, communicating logistics, or office work. I am not good at it either. There is no way I am going to do it for free. Do I ever just give away leads? Yes, especially when the act reciprocates. This elevates us to a peer relationship. I do not charge commissions in this realm, and my best business relationships are with people I trade gigs with often. If someone gives me a lead that comes through, I send them a check. I want it in their best interests to refer me. My name does not sell tickets, and on that level, one act is as good as another for 89% of the jobs.
When an act flinches at the commission or acts like its a privilege for me to book them, I don't mind. The rolodex is full to bursting.

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Old 05-20-02, 07:10 AM   #18
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Let me add some thoughts... I work in the Netherlands, so there may be differences in the market, but I think the basics will still be the same.

First, in favour of the agents, I like it if everything gets arranged for me. With the one I work with, everything will be arranged by them, I even get a route description to the gig. So all I have to do, is go there, do my thing and send them the bill afterwards, which is paid within reasonable time most of the times, since the agent takes the risk for clients that won't pay. For me, it's worth the commission , not only because the agent does a lot of work, but also because I get access to a market, that otherwise I would not reach - at least not with so little effort.

With the agents I work with, I spoke about the commissions they will charge. It's about 20%. There is some room for negotiation, but generally, that means less commission for the agent. The deal is, that I won't be a concurrent of my own agents, allthough I do have the right to negotiate with the clients in my own network of clients. But I will never bypass my agents, if one of their clients contacts me personally, I will direct them to the agent and and when I hand out business cards when working for an agent, it's with his number on it - but I make sure the client asks for me later on!

Ofcourse, if you get paid what you want to get paid, you should be satisfied. And even in the construction I work in now, I can't be sure what the client ultimately pay for me, sometimes there's a chain of agents involved in the booking. But an artist should be worth the money, he is being sold for. If an agent success in selling me for a multiple amount of coins that I ask myself, it's damaging for both my reputation and the agents'. My act is not worth that incredible amount of coins, so they will label me an 'overexpensive artist' and the agent a one that didn't gave value for their money as well. And unsatisfied as they are, they will tell all their friends about it...
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