Agents are morally wrong.
There you go. I said it. I stand by it and am willing to incur any wrath that is hereby directed at me.
Most people on the material side of the creative industry will spend much of their time getting an agent. When they do (finally) get one, they consider themselves to have ‘succeeded’ to have ‘won’ – now things can start to get serous!
Won what exactly? Let’s break it down:
1) You now get somebody to take 10% of your earnings. Doesn’t sound to great yet.
2) Agents only exist to make money. Their only talent is knowing people…*
I am going to discuss that point right now. I am not saying that agents are inherently bad people – that would be insane. However, their prime motivation is money.
To illustrate that rather sweeping statement, I use the example of the young man we all love to hate: Justin Bieber.
If we objectively looked at a case of a random young, talented fourteen year old boy, and said to each other – what is better for his development?
a) To live a normal life, punctuated with a few musical performances until he is old enough to be able to cope with all that fame brings (some are never ready, but for the sake of argument, let’s say 18).
b) To realize that we are selling the kid to a very specific audience (young pre-teen ‘tween’ girls) and that his window may be limited… so lets milk him for all the money we can make.
The important thing to notice here, would be the ‘WE’. If it was only Justin Bieber making the money, then clearly, the option is going to be ‘a’. That clearly isn’t the case.
Justin Bieber is now a spoiled, rude, arrogant young man. We give him a hard time about that. Why don’t we give his parents a hard time? Why not his agent, Scooter Braun?
The answer to that, I suppose, is that nobody is willing to. Everybody wants an agent. Nobody in the industry is going to really take a shot at them. They want to play the system, They at least want a chance.
2) The only talent they have is knowing people…and knowing the industry, what buttons to push, and how they can make money from you.
3) The idea of an agent, I feel, does a huge amount to undermine the basic values of a meritocracy, even of the American Dream. The American Dream should be; a creative person working hard to gain an audience from their work, then being approached by the leader of their industry (lets just say, ‘Hollywood’).
It should NOT be; working hard to gain a audience, before being picked up by a middle man, who takes 10% before tax of your (important to note that after tax, this rises to the equivalent of over 15% of earnings) earnings, to simply introduce you to that big movie studio. TO INTRODUCE YOU.
How this has not previously been flagged up as insane, I will never know.
This is the point, I suppose, where I have to come up with a solution. The short answer is that, there isn’t one. The system is the system. There is a barbed wire guarded fence around Warner Bros. Studios. We are on the outside, trying to get in. They are out poisoned key.
The thing we have to do, therefore, is to try and change things. The first way of doing this, is trying to take control of your own career. I guarantee there is at least one MOOC you can do to teach you some of the basics you require as an agent. Do some research, find out about competitions, auditions, and workshops. Do some of the legwork yourself.
Secondly, utilize the one thing which seems to be closing the gap just a little bit – the internet! Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, WordPress, Youtube – these are all platforms for you to grow your brand, to grow your audience. Make use of them.
Fuck the agents. Get them to come to you.
Ultimately, weeding out the practice of agents in the industry is going to be a long, difficult one, and will require changes on a personal level.
In the creative industry, the product that you are getting is made by the creative people themselves. They are the people who are entertaining you. I am not saying that other people do not play a part, but it is they who are the product. They shouldn’t have to pay to be a part of the industry.
Take the money from the right people.