Some artists talk about signing with an agent as if it were winning the lottery. For many artists it means they have someone they can dependably turn to for help finding work, negotiating deals and getting paid. But not all agents are made equal, and even a great agent may not be the best fit if they can’t offer what your career needs.
Here are four questions I recommend artists ask before signing on with an agent.
- What exactly will the agent do for you?
Many artists assume that all agents do “agent things” and any agent will be able to provide the help the artist needs. There are lots of different ways of being an agent, though, and you never want to assume the person you’re hiring can do what you need. Ask the agent what they do, specifically, on behalf of their clients to make sure the agent offers the kind of representation you’re looking for.
- What will the agent need from you to be successful?
Good agents tell their clients what they need from them in order to be successful. Asking what the agent’s expectations of their clients are avoids surprises later on. It is much easier to not hire an agent who isn’t a good fit than to have to fire an agent whose expectations of you weren’t reasonable.
- Who are some of the artists the agent’s worked with before?
The best way to predict how someone will behave in the future is to know how they’ve behaved in the past. And the best people to tell you about what you can expect from an agent are her clients. Ask about their experience working with the agent and if what you’re being promised has been a reality for her clients. If an agent is hesitant to tell you who else they represent, that’s a big red flag.
- How much will it cost?
Most agents take a percentage, which is nice because they only get paid when you do. But what’s that percentage of? And how will payment work? Often times agents collect payment on behalf of their clients, deduct their fee and any expenses they’ve incurred on your behalf, and then pass on the remainder to you. It’s important you understand how much they’ll deduct, and what expenses they can collect, before you start working together.
Any agent worth their salt will be happy to answer these questions for you and excited about the prospect of working with someone who takes her career so seriously.
Katie Lane is an attorney and negotiation coach in Portland, Oregon, helping artists and freelancers protect their rights and get paid fairly for the work they do. You can read her blog at WorkMadeForHire.net and follow her on Twitter: @_katie_lane.