Talking to your agent about commissions

Hey, there!

My client and student, Tom, wrote me recently. He was wondering about giving an agent a commission, even when you book the job himself.

Great question. Here’s the answer.

Actually, let me show you what he wrote:

Hey David,

I was hoping you can give me some advice on how to handle booking work on my own vs. through my agent.

If I book new work on my own with a client I’ve worked with before I met my agent, what’s the best way to make sure my agent gets the commission? (I’m assuming here that I am obligated to give my agent 10% for voice work I do, regardless of weather or not I book the job through them.)

Do I do the job and bring in a check to the agency after I get paid, or have the producer pay me through the agency – like what would happen if I booked a job through them? Would my agent care that they didn’t get a chance to negotiate on my behalf?

And how would this apply if I book work through ACX or Voice 123?

This is my first agent. I’ve only been with them a short time and want to maintain a good relationship with them. Likewise, I don’t want to sour any relationships I have with the clients I’ve built relationships with over the years.

Thanks for your wisdom!

Tom

Here’s what I told him: just talk with them about how they’d like to handle it. They will be very useful in closing deals you shake out – and can often get you more money.

I find a lot of my clients are somewhat gunshy to talk to their agents about…practically anything. Remember, they work for you. Keep that relationship healthy, active and open. Don’t go silent, and don’t go the other way, and overburden them with calls about how the day’s going, did they put you up for blah-blah-blah – don’t do that.

But…make sure you can have conversations about money.

That’s why they do what they do.

What’s the most difficult conversation you’ve had with your agent? (Mine was when I left to go to another agency. I didn’t expect that level of violence.) Let me know below in the comments.

David

Responses

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  1. David and Tom…wait a minute! Unless I’m missing something in this conversation, you only deal with agent commissions on work the agent books for you. Period! I wouldn’t even think of giving my agents a commission for work I got on my own.

    1. This whole article is based on a previous conversation about that very issue. And you and I completely disagree on your approach to this. I wouldn’t dream of NOT commissioning them on EVERYTHING I do, even if they had nothing to do with a particular job. Why? Because they are my sales staff. I want them motivated by me, and to picture me as a money maker for them, especially since they gatekeep what auditions are actually heard by the casting entity, and because most projects want only top 5, top 3, etc. But, I understand you don’t see it that way. I think that’s a huge mistake.

  2. Strong column, as always, David.

    I do have a question. Why did you feel you had to leave one agency to join another? Unless you were dropping the first for cause, or they demanded exclusivity why didn’t you keep both?

  3. I am an audio book narrator and haven’t even been able to GET an agent. Been told [by agents] that if I am not “pulling down 6 figures” or not living in LA, Chicago, Vancouver or Toronto that the [contacted] agent is not interested in representing me. Because “audio books don’t sell, honey”. I really did NOT appreciate the “honey”.

    BTW, working independently, I have produced more than 25 audio books. I know that is not a big number, but I am proud of it!!