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Agency fee AND commission?

 
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daveynate
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Joined: 30 Dec 2014
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Location: Studio City, CA

PostPosted: Mon Oct 24, 2022 11:07 am    Post subject: Agency fee AND commission? Reply with quote

When the client pays a 20% fee for the agent, is it also common for the agent to take an additional 20% commission? For example:
-The rate is $1000 + 20%, giving the agent $200;
-The agent takes an additional $200 off that as commission.

Is this common practice?
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Bruce
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 24, 2022 12:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My agent years ago in Phoenix would charge or accept a 20% bump in rate and then deduct 20% from that figure as commission, so for a $1,000 job she was paid $1,200 and minus her $240 fee I received $960. "Foul!" I cried. "Too bad!" she cried.

"Oh well" I sighed.

Union jobs are different. 10% paid on top, period.

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Bob Bergen
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 24, 2022 3:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There have been so many times actors have said yes to lousy deals, which eventually become standard practice. I remember a few decades ago when I started hearing about non-union agents not just charging 20% but charging 20% from both the actor and the buyer. I was pretty successful swaying actors to say no to this when I first started teaching out of town weekend workshops. I would say a good 2-4 dozen actors were able to negotiate plus 10% from their regional agents. (I coached them on how to negotiate)

But, I only did 1-2 of these workshops a year. Eventually too many kept saying yes to this horrible deal. It's like whoever decided audiobooks should be paid for the finished hour, not the time it took to record/edit. But, more often than not ya cannot fight those who say yes.
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George
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2022 5:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(porky) Piggy backing on Bob's point: the volume of people who will say yes has grown exponentially year over year the last few years. This doesn't help anything.
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Bob Bergen
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2022 8:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

George wrote:
(porky) Piggy backing on Bob's point: the volume of people who will say yes has grown exponentially year over year the last few years. This doesn't help anything.


It doesn't. But this is a byproduct of the internet. This wonderful tool made the industry too vast. It also clouded what people value. Many just value any and all opportunities, even if that means overpaying an agent. Many find value in a job that is low paying which others would turn down because they know accepting a deal like that ruins it for everyone else. (Not being able to see the bigger picture is also a byproduct of the internet) I only value a job that pays P&H as the value I get in health coverage and a pension is far more important than a session fee. And as I predicted with the advent of P2P, I'm now seeing actors themselves paying buyers for the opportunity to do a vo gig as they find value in just being wanted, acquiring a clip, telling their friends they booked a vo gig, etc.

Before the internet we never bragged about booking. It was assumed if you were a professional vo actor you were working, and to brag about a gig was not just considered a bit vulgar, it came with the assumption this was a rare occurrence. Of course we would call family and friends with a booking, especially if it was a biggie. But we would never take out an ad telling the world, which is what a social media post is. With the need/value of social media likes and followers comes the need/value to brag. This is all related. Having an agent brings more value than paying them what was traditionally/professionally standard, 10%. It also brings bragging rights. There was a reason agency commissions stayed at 10%. That percentage is codified in union agreements. When the internet took the vo industry outside that jurisdiction to people who had no clue, they just accepted whatever commission percentage was demanded. Over time this population working in vo overtook. When the work was primarily union, not only were the terms better, but without competition outside the jurisdiction of the union there was no low balling for anyone to say yes to, or agents to overcharge.

Here's one other byproduct of the internet along with re-defining individual value. It took away bravery and replaced it with desperation and justification. The majority working today haven't a clue what it is like sitting across the table from studios and employers negotiating on behalf of fellow performers. Think McCarthy hearings. (and if you are too young to know that reference, Google it!) It is intimidating and not for the weak of heart. But all of us who do this on behalf of our fellow actors have risked never working again each time. And trust me, management hits us with the same ammunition that justifies desperate actors to use today in situations like overpaying agents. "They will drop me if I don't pay/if I don't take this low paying job someone else will/I know it doesn't pay well, but I need some kind of experience," etc. You cannot fight this with the vastness of the internet. But you can with solidarity, which is impossible online.

And, you cannot fight what agents charge because too many actors are just too desperate and justify their reasons for paying. I appreciate how hard it is to fight this. But hard is not a reason to not do what is the right thing. Many think this kind of bravery comes with the insurance of being successful. Just the opposite. This kind of bravery came with choosing to be a professional out of work actor, before ever making a dime. But again, with the vastness of the internet this is a concept most do not relate to and therefore pay that double dipping commission to agents.
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Lee Gordon
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2022 10:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not sure there was ever a time when the work was primarily union, other than in the major markets. When I started doing VO around 50 years ago, almost all the work was local. And most of that was non-union. From my home base, there may have been occasional opportunities to drive to Boston or take a train to NY for a decent, possibly union, gig. In other parts of the country that were near, but not in, big markets, I imagine it was the same. But for the majority of the work and the auditions, we had to go, in person, to the local studio to record. And here's the thing; you didn't need an agent for any of that.

So, the advent of the internet has brought with it a couple of other phenomena that Bob didn't mention. First, just as there has been a flood of voiceover "talent" entering the market, there has also been a proliferation of agents joining the party. You no longer had to be in NY, LA, and the other major markets to do the work, and you also didn't have to be in one of those places to get, or even be, an agent. Before this development, agents didn't touch non-union work. After the arrival of the internet, that's all some agents deal in.

I think the internet has also oversold the importance of even having an agent. If you're going to be doing non-union jobs, I'd bet that many, if not most, of those jobs people overpay agents for could be be gotten without the aid of a middleman.
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todd ellis
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2022 11:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

+1 to Lee. When I started doing this in 1989 I cobbled together a very (to me) expensive home studio - microphone, reel to reel(s) - eventually a 4 track, cassette decks, big ass board TAPE, TAPE, TAPE --- it was a barrier to entry that does not exist today. Now, anybody can pop on to Amazon and have everything they need to start a VO business for $1,000 and delivered by this time thursday. Of course, that doesn't guarantee success - but, it's a barrier gone.

I didn't have an agent until almost ten years later - in the meantime I knocked on a lot of local doors and called a bunch of local TV & radio stations and local/regional cable companies, and whenever I was put on hold at a business and heard the radio, or worse nothing - I asked to talk to "the guy" to sell them a Message On-Hold. In short - marketing. I get the vast majority of my business today in the same way. A bit from agents, but, mostly, from my own beating of bushes.

That said, Bob does a totally different thing - a completely different world from most of us.

Bob, a lot of us have heard your story and it's a great one! However, "P&H" is something most of us never even think about - session fees leave sacks of cash at the end of the driveway.

I was already established pre-internet. If I were 23 years old today, voiceover is not the path I would choose. The space IS too crowded. I would join the electrical union ... or learn to weld better.
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Bob Bergen
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2022 11:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

todd ellis wrote:
That said, Bob does a totally different thing - a completely different world from most of us.

Bob, a lot of us have heard your story and it's a great one! However, "P&H" is something most of us never even think about - session fees leave sacks of cash at the end of the driveway.

I was already established pre-internet. If I were 23 years old today, voiceover is not the path I would choose. The space IS too crowded. I would join the electrical union ... or learn to weld better.


I am in full agreement on every one of these points! I fully appreciate P&H is not of interest to the majority pursuing vo. But this perpetuated over time, and the internet was a huge catalyst.

When I got my first agent in 1982, with a passion to work in animation, everyone advised that "the space is TOO crowded!" That warning has been used and advised since the days of silent films. I was also told that with only 3 networks in 1982, odds were very much against me to break into animation. So what? I didn't want easy. I never cared about hard. In fact, I think hard is a big catalyst for success, both in business and character. I wanted to pursue my goals. Excellence was my goal.

A handful here might have began pursing vo pre-internet. The majority pursuing today did so because of the internet. Over time P&H became less and less important or even achievable relative to how much was non-union. P&H wasn't important to me because I lived and worked in a union town. P&H, or rather thinking about my future was due to my parents. I was taught to think about my future, live below my means and not never go into debt when I got my first allowance at 6 years old. It just so happened that P&H came with professional vo. Win-win!

My point in my previous post was how what one finds of value has changed with the vastness that is vo. Todd makes that point when he says P&H is something most do not think about. There's no value in what doesn't seem achievable. But it didn't seem achievable when I started out, either. I just demanded it.
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todd ellis
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 26, 2022 9:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Let me clarify --- when I said:
Quote:
"P&H" is something most of us never even think about

I meant in terms of it being attainable via voiceover work. I'm sure we all think about it in terms of saving for the future and obtaining some sort of healthcare.

Personally, I married a girl with a state job and I'm real nice to her (healthcare). I also pay myself first out of every check (pension).
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Bob Bergen
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 26, 2022 11:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

todd ellis wrote:
Let me clarify --- when I said:
Quote:
"P&H" is something most of us never even think about

I meant in terms of it being attainable via voiceover work. I'm sure we all think about it in terms of saving for the future and obtaining some sort of healthcare.

Personally, I married a girl with a state job and I'm real nice to her (healthcare). I also pay myself first out of every check (pension).


I knew what you meant. You were very clear. Wink
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