The death of the talent agent (Part 1 in a series)

Below is an interesting piece written by mastermind marketer Seth Godin. Is the internet killing the business of agenting? In a day and age where you can get advice as easily as typing something into Google, is there really a need for a middleman?

That depends on what value you’re getting from your agent. This applies to all types of agents, including talent agents. Are you getting auditions that lead to bookings? Or do you find most of the work on your own? Is your agent negotiating solid, profitable deals for you? Do you feel like your relationship with your agent is getting your headshot/resume/demo/CD, etc. into the hands of the people that are going to hire you for a job?

These are all questions you need to be asking yourself. If the answer to most of these questions is “NO”, then perhaps it’s time for you to find a new agent.

Stay tuned, this is the first in a series of posts on what you agent does, your relationship with your agent, when and how to fire your agent and find a new one, and when it’s best to go it alone.

Where have all the agents gone? By Seth Godin

Travel agents… gone.
Stock brokers… gone.
Real estate brokers… in trouble. Photographer’s agents, too.
Literary agents?

The problem with being a helpful, efficient but largely anonymous middleman is pretty obvious. Someone can come along who is cheaper, faster and more efficient. And that someone might be the customer aided by a computer.

The airlines don’t want to pay travel agents, because the travel agents were making more money on each flight than they were. Some house sellers hesitate to pay real estate brokers because they don’t believe the 6% payment is an opportunity, they see it as a tax. Investors abandoned full service stock brokers because trading stocks directly is faster and more accurate than using the phone.

Middlemen add value when they bring taste or judgment or trust to bear on a transaction that isn’t transparent. Literary agents are crucial when publishers believe that their choice of content is essential but have too many choices and too little time. But publishers don’t trust every literary agent. They trust agents they believe in. Key point: anonymous agents are interchangeable and virtually worthless. Agents that don’t do anything but help one side find the other side in a human approximation of Google aren’t so helpful any more.

Think about how anonymous the typical real estate broker is. He will sell almost any house or represent almost any buyer. When selling a house, he has a fiduciary responsibility to represent that house to the best of his ability. Just like every other broker. The great real estate brokers do far more than this.

Travel agents still survive, but in a very different way than they used to. Now, the best ones are paid by the traveler, not the airline. The best ones provide a differentiated service that is worth paying for. Instead of being middlemen, then, they are the front men, the attraction, a key asset to the traveler.

To thrive in a world of self-service, agents have to hyperspecialize, have to stand for something, have to have the guts to say no far more than they say yes. No, you can’t publish this book. No I won’t represent you. No, don’t take that flight. No, I won’t sell this house, it’s overpriced, list it yourself.

The second thing agents must do to make a smart transition is to consider who they are selling to. Should talent agents only sell to Hollywood? Literary agents only to book publishers? Should ad agencies specialize in Google Adwords, not just Super Bowl spots? When markets change, agents can lead the way, not follow along grudgingly.

Godin, Seth. 2009. “Where Have all the Agents Gone?” Seth Godin’s blog. Retrieved from http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/03/where-have-all-the-agents-gone.html on March 19,2009.

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One thought on “The death of the talent agent (Part 1 in a series)

  1. I’m not sure where you’re getting your information, but good topic.
    I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more.
    Thanks for fantastic information I was looking for this
    info for my mission.

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