Talent agents, also known as talent managers in the entertainment industry, are representatives of professional athletes, musicians, performers, artists, writers and actors. Agents work on the behalf of their clientele to promote and represent a client's interests in dealings with potential employers. Occasionally, agents may also renegotiate contractual offers with current employees, such as negotiating a professional athlete's contract extension.
Talent agents are liaisons who typically handle the majority of all interactions between a performer or artist and employers who want to sign an agent's client. In one manner of speaking, talent agents act as financial managers, but more often than not, talent agents defer the finer details of financial management to a professional accountant.
Agents work in industries other than the entertainment industry as well. For example, literary agents represent a writer's interests when a publisher seeks to sign a writer to a publishing contract. In this scenario agents seek to gain the writer as much money as possible since agents are usually paid on commission, receiving a percentage of the writer's earnings.
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The job duties of talent managers involve a large amount of face-to-face negotiation with prospective employers. Advances in information technology have allowed talent agents to perform much of their job duties online, but at the end of the day head-to-head contract negotiations determine the final outcome.
Agents promote the talents of their clients in addition to performing other marketing duties. Essentially, the amount of marketing considerations talent agents must consider depends upon the specific industry in which an agent operates. Sports agents, for instance, have to consider many more marketing implications than an agent representing a painter or a writer. Agents representing actors and actresses have to consider their client’s marketing potential as well.
Talent managers may either actively seek out clients to represent or generally have entertainers and artists approach talent managers first. The latter scenario is much more common for entertainers who seek representation for the first time. More experienced entertainers and artists may change agents well into the autumn years of an entertainer's career.
Typically, agents spend the majority of their time making phone calls or contacting employers and potential clients online. Selling a client's talents to prospective employers takes up a large amount of an agent's day, and the most successful talent agents come up with new and inventive ways to accomplish their goal. Occasionally, something as simple as treating an employer's representative with a nice dinner is all it takes to finalize the signing of an agent's client.
Depending upon a talent manager's area of expertise, the daily job duties of an agent may also include visiting music studios, concert venues, a record label's corporate office, a publisher's office, performance halls, and movie studios. The job duties of a talent manager vary in each of these settings. For example, a sports agent may occasionally have to interact with their client's teammates in order to find out more information about a team's upper management.
Similarly, an actor's manager would do well to attend as many social events as possible in order to network efficiently and discover insider information about the current state of the movie business. When working on behalf of their clients, every contact an agent can make matters a lot, more than an agent's clients may realize.
The education prerequisites for a career as a talent agent vary depending upon the industry in which an agent specializes. For example, literary agents would do well to earn at the very least a bachelor's degree in journalism or English. More often than not, agents earn degrees in business or marketing, but any degree related to an agent's area of expertise usually suffices.
Entrepreneurial talent agents who seek to launch their own talent agency would do well to earn an advanced degree at one of the top MBA programs in North America. These universities include institutions such as the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Toronto, and Northwestern University MBA programs. Specifically, an MBA degree with a focus on marketing is the preferred path many entrepreneurial talent agents choose to follow.
Other than industry expertise or a strong background in marketing, talent agents must be highly self-motivated individuals who can work long hours without any supervision. In one manner of speaking, talent agents are similar to self-employed individuals, and this facet is true for a large number of experienced talent agents. Great social skills and the ability to understand financial negotiations are two other indispensable traits of a successful agent.
Talent agents work out of a variety of settings as touched upon previously. An office is the usual day-to-day workplace, but advances in communication technology now allow agents to work on the go. Mobile technology has given many agents the flexibility necessary to operate their own online agencies, for example.
Talent agents may work in sports arenas, concert halls, and music studios when working their trade in the real world. Often, an agent's duties involve traveling to many parts of the United States and Canada, and some agents even travel abroad quite a bit when representing non-native clients.
The compensation scale of talent agents varies widely. Some agents earn as little as $30,000 annually, but the average wage sits closer to the $60,000 range. A large amount of agents who own their own talent agencies earn well over $100,000 annually, depending upon the scale of their area of expertise. Experienced sports agents, for instance, may earn commissions well in excess of $200,000.