Job Description: Talent agents represent performing artists to prospective employers. Agents arrange auditions and negotiate contracts on the performer’s behalf. A reputable talent agent for actors will also be familiar with Screen Actors Guild (SAG), Equity and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) rules and regulations, and he or she will also have established relationships with casting directors. Talent agents for musicians and dancers will be knowledgeable about union rules in those areas. Agents also may handle contract negotiations and other business matters for clients.
Training and Educational Qualifications: There is no set path to becoming a talent agent. While many agents have completed college coursework in theater, acting, writing and film, a college degree is not a prerequisite. What is required, however, is experience. It is common for those pursuing a career as an agent to intern or volunteer with a talent agency to gain experience.
Job Outlook: Employment growth for talent agents for 2006-16 is about as fast as the average for jobs in other fields.
Salary: Due to the small number of talent agents compared to other occupations, specific data for salaries in this field are not widely reported. Salaries vary depending on location, years of experience and the management company that employs agents.
• Agents usually specialize in one particular artistic field such as acting, music or dance and represent clients in those fields.
• Many agents are located in New York City or Hollywood.
• Some talent agencies, like the William Morris Agency and the United Talent Agency have talent agent training programs.
Do you know of which companies have the best internships in this field that are known to help launch a successful career?
CAMI has internships.
Where are the best cities to live to find jobs like yours?
For classical music, it’s New York, London, Berlin, Vienna and Paris.
What is your typical day like?
It depends what is happening with my artists. No day is like another. There are at least one or two disasters every day. I meet with a lot of people and spend a huge amount of time on the telephone. I could be at an audition. Days start late and end late many times not before 10:00 p.m. If you go to an evening performance and take your artist out to dinner after the show, it’s much later.
What are your job responsibilities?
I used to manage many more artists than I do now. I had about 100 artists and a full staff to assist me. At that time, I used to search for new talent. Today I don’t. I actually left the business in 1997 and came back in 2000 with a new strategy. I no longer have a huge roster of talent to deal with. I have my four stars and I devote my time to them.
What is your favorite part of your job?
As a manager I do everything, but interpretation of a role for a client and helping him or her make their career as successful as possible are the best parts.
What do you dislike about your job?
Contracts. Especially recording contracts.
Have you had any turning-point or “light bulb” moments in your career that have helped you get to where you are today?
A turning point moment for me was when I left the business for awhile and decided to come back on my own terms. I didn’t feel that I could do good work for 100 people but that is the nature of the business. Some artists get more attention than others. To be a good manager, you must be committed to all of your clients. I couldn’t do it for everyone. But today I can do it for the few clients I manage: two opera singers and two conductors.
If you weren’t doing this job, what similar careers might you consider?
I wouldn’t consider doing another job within the classical music world. Outside this field, I am interested in healing work.
What professional publications do you read?
Opera News, French Opera, English Opera.
What advice do you have for others who would like to pursue this career?
A talent manager has to have a very clear sense of what can be sold and what the public will and won’t buy. Someone with enormous talent can have a huge career or a career that implodes and goes nowhere. You have to have a sense of who could have a huge career. In this business, we only take on artists whom we think have the potential for a world class career.
Also, you have to be the type of person that these people will trust and allow themselves to be managed by. But you must remember to not get sucked into their lives you have to have some distance from them.
Be honorable. You only have your name. Once your name gets sullied, it can get very tricky. Honesty is probably the most important thing.