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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Tricky business » » Fee Issues: Agent/Client/Entertainer (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

jlevey
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Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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It is my belief that if a magician, through an agent, is willing to accept a very low price, it's their "right" and personal decision. Subsequently, if the agent then marks up and sells the show to the client at a relatively fair market price, then I don't think this transaction cheapens the market, in the client's eyes, because they (the client) ultimately ends up paying (roughly) the "right" price.

However, if the agent bumps the fair price up past the 20-25 percent mark, to cover more than his fair share of overhead and profit margin, then he/she risks selling the show at a truly inflated price, and I believe that this situation is real cause for concern.

It's a concern because this way over-inflated price, causes the client (at the end of the show), to feel cheated and feel as if they did not get their money's worth.

The client’s perception is very valid, since it means that they (and their staff) were not sufficiently entertained in relation to the fee that they paid.

At this point, it becomes a problem for both the magic industry and for the next entertainer that will directly (without an agent) provide a price quote to the client that is both a “fair” , yet significant.

The problem emerges, as suggested above, because of the client's previous "bad experience"... of feeling cheated, with the last magician (and of course, with the last agent),. As a consequence, this client will be much more likely to hesitate booking a magician again (possibly "ever again"), and especially an “expensive” magician, because they've lost trust from their previous entertainment buying experience.

Of course "true" market value and "true entertainment value" often remains both very illusive and subjective and that some entertainers and agents will operate by the credo charge whatever the client (or market) will bear.

In any event, I believe that it would be in our own interests as entertainers, to ensure (as much as possible) that “our” agent sells our show for what the show is "really" worth (according to the particular entertainer’s years of experience, and ability to perform –to be able to “enrapture and entertain” the audience, and also in relation to the general perceived market value in the client's own eyes.

Selling entertainment (and entertainers) in this way, can become a win-win-win situation (agent, client, entertainer).

In short, the agent (in my opinion) should not be taking advantage of the customer by over-inflating the price way out of proportion to the value of the entertainment provided.

They should also not be taking advantage of the entertainer by "driving" them down into the ground with the artist's fee that they offer, although as mentioned above, it is always the performer’s right to refuse, or to accept, and if they accept, hopefully they will learn and grow from their subsequent painful feeling of being "cheated", from losing their fair share. More specifically, they can learn and grow in terms of eventually building up their own self-respect, their own business savvy and their own human relation skills (important dimensions for both entertainers and agents to develop and maintain).

In this way they can learn to "just say no", when the price is just "too" low.

I hope this post does not come across as too "preachy", and instead offers some added perspective that might be of some help, to at least one person.

I realize that this is a much deeper discussion than is offered in this one post and invite multiple comments and perspectives for further consideration.

All the best.

Jonathan
Jonathan
Max & Maxine Entertainment
Magicians with a touch of comedy!
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diamond
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Serbia & Montenegro
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Here in Europe many entertainment agencies work on the percentage commission basis. This means that in a contract between the performer and the agent it is always stated how much the agent's fee will be (percentage). Good agents usually charge from 15-25% and I usually work with those. Some agents that can get you a "creme de la creme" gigs or bookings can charge more than that but usually not more than 30%. It is very clear relation and everyone in the game knows how much money they are getting. Often, the performer will be paid by the client directly (performer's fee plus agent's commission) and will be obliged to pay the commission to the agent. In some cases, the agent will be the one to get the money from the client and in such a case the agent will be obliged to pay the fee to the performer (from the amount of money they got from the client minus their commission). But even in this case everything is quite clear because it has been regulated by the contract between the agent and the performer, while the contract between the client and the performer usually states the whole sum (performer's fee plus agent commission fee).

There are of course those agencies that work in such way that they never tell performers how much they will actually charge from the client, but these are the agents with very low reputation and full time professionals will rarely work with those.

All this applies for European agents.

I've heard however about the cases in which the agent made more money than the performer, and that's really sad.

It is interesting (read the topic "Expectations of a good agent" in this section) that agents from different parts of the world work in different ways. I have heard (and a Café member from Australia has confirmed it in that topic) that for instance in Australia the percentage basis is unheard of, and most of the agents charge clients on their own basis without informing the performers. I don't know what is the case with the US agents (I have been cooperating with just one US agency so far, but they also work on percentage basis).

It might be nice (but I'm just lazy to start a new topic) to make a topic about good and bad agents... A sort of a black/white list, so that the performers who had a very bad experience with some agent can write about it and the others reading it will know that they shouldn't cooperate with some agency. Also when some agent is good, it should also be written and discussed.
Dannydoyle
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Jlevey you are asking agents to do something that for years the vast majority of them have studiously avoided. Be respectful of client and talent.

Many of them are fly by night agencies who care only for how many dollars they are getting for the gig over and above what you get. They lie to clients, promise things and never tell talent so they show up and have to explain their way out of it or just do it to make peace.

They figure people will just keep coming back and so far they are right.

I agree with you an overhaul in the relationship is called for, but it will never happen as long as people are involved on each side of the equation.
Danny Doyle
<BR>Semper Occultus
<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
jlevey
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Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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Diamond,

Thanks for sharing your experience and perspective on European based agents.

I myself work out of Canada.

As for starting a post about Good and Bad agents, my concern is that this could quickly escalate to heavy duty flaming and damage the reputation(s) of some very credible, hard working agents that are perceived by some to be "bad".

If, on the other hand, an agent knowingly did not "make good" on his /her promise to pay, or grossly misrepresented the entertainer's abilities/act to a client, then, I believe, there could be real value an urgency to such a thread.

Another valuable thread would encourage seasoned entertainers, who have been burnt in the past, to advise newbies on what to watch out for, the importance (and details) of drawing up mutually good contracts (contract that act in the interests of both agent and entertainer), and how to proceed in the event that an entertainer gets "stiffed" by an agent, who doesn't pay the balance of what they owe within two weeks of the performance.

All the best.

Jonathan
Jonathan
Max & Maxine Entertainment
Magicians with a touch of comedy!
___________________________________
www.maxmagician.com
www.mindreadershow.com
www.monsieurmagic.com
jlevey
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Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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Danny,

You right. In a "perfect" world... but agents come with a wide range of morals, values and approaches. Still, a few very honest ones with integrity remain.

Sadly, my primary agent, the one that I worked with for almost 20 years just retired from the Biz.

I have maintained one or two other ties with "good" agents, but their integrity pales in comparison.

It's certainly not easy, to find the good ones.

But find we must.

As Diamond points out, the best protection is to screen and carefully choose your agent(s). Usually, by talking with other performers in your geographic area, and your "level" of performance, a good snapshot of what your getting into (or should avoid) is likely to develop.

Another way to solve this is for the entertainer to books directly with the company themselves. However, with the option of the internet and "one-stop shop" event planning agencies, company's tend to prefer to have one person (the agent) do it all.

Unless of course you get there (to the key company person) first and build the trust relationship. The, there is a chance that they will either hire you directly, or insist with the agent that they include you in their proposal.

In some large companies, or especially in smaller companies where budget is a real concern, social committee heads that enjoy being resourceful will get themselves onto the net and find you with the intention of booking you directly.

Often they feel that they may be saving the company money by avoiding the agent. Often they're right. Sometimes not. But we, as entertainers know, it's a lot easier to meet the client's expectations when you talk to them directly and also provide them with thoughtful advice, based on your years of experience as a performer.

Personally, I find that this approach towards booking is much more satisfying than just being "sent" by an agent to perform and not ask questions.

That's why choosing to work with agents that at the very least know the importance of telling you how many people will be present, what the company name is and what their prime product/service is, as well as the focus/theme of the evening (ie. awards night), is important toward making the event (and your experience) a success.

All the best.

Jonathan
Jonathan
Max & Maxine Entertainment
Magicians with a touch of comedy!
___________________________________
www.maxmagician.com
www.mindreadershow.com
www.monsieurmagic.com
jlevey
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Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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To read and participate in a very informative thread on "Good Agents", please click onto the following Magic Café link:

http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewt......4&15

Jonathan
Jonathan
Max & Maxine Entertainment
Magicians with a touch of comedy!
___________________________________
www.maxmagician.com
www.mindreadershow.com
www.monsieurmagic.com
Allan
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I really don't have a problem with agents having a huge markup on my fee. They are in business to make money like we are. As long as I can do a performance that leaves the client feeling good about the return on their investment, everyone has won.

However, I rarely work with agents as most want me to work at half my price. That would mean that I must do twice as many shows just to break even. Not something I want to do. That is why I do 98% of my own booking. I am available to agents at the right price & not available if the price is not what I want.

I see many people thinking that my price & the agents price should be the same. They should not be paying more for the same service when they use an agent.

My answer to that is "hogwash" When you want an extra level of service of an agent, what you really want is that the agent hires all the talent & co-ordinates everything for you. When you hire an event planner, they add a markup onto everything they handle. When you do a renovation on your home, you can hire all the trades people yourself & save money or pay a contractor to do it for you & pay an extra fee to have them handle all the work.

Entertainment is the same. If you want the extra level of service, you have to be ready willing and able to pay the extra fee's involved.

Allan

When I take an agent show, I am working for & representing them. It is their client. I give out their card when asked & conduct myself in a professional manner.

I have never felt taken advantage of when working for an agent, but I know there are bad ones out there.
jlevey
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Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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Thanks Allan, for sharing your approach and insights.

You mad some very valuable points.

Jonathan
Jonathan
Max & Maxine Entertainment
Magicians with a touch of comedy!
___________________________________
www.maxmagician.com
www.mindreadershow.com
www.monsieurmagic.com
diamond
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Serbia & Montenegro
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The good agents I work with always inform me on all necessary details regarding clients wishes and possibilities for the show. I do big illusion shows, so not being informed about many of those details can lead to the cancellation of the show. Details like number of people that will watch the show, the stage and the audience seating plans, light plans, sound equipment lists, etc. are a necessity. A good agent will always make detailed inquiries with the client (actually most of the agents provide me with contact email address of the client once the arrangement is about to take place, so that I can make all the necessary technical inquiries with the client). It is very important for a good agent to fulfill all the needs of a client. If they don't do so, the client will get in touch with other agencies next time they need a performer. My agents have clients they work with for decades. They can not afford to lie neither a client nor a performer.

Good agent will also make sure that a performer gets a good contract with a client. For international bookings, the contracts have to be very detailed. Some of my contracts are up to 80 pages long going into many tiny little details.

Many of the agents have been performers at some point, and this has its good and bad sides. The good side is that they can look at the problem from the performer's point of view so they know what problems a performer might have. The bad side is that they are sometimes jealous of young aspiring performers and they try to diminish their level of performance, price, etc.

The worst are the agents that suddenly decided to be agents and have absolutely no background in showbiz at all. They can make a lot of mess. A good test question to an agent I come across (besides asking them how many years they have been in the business and list of some of their clients and projects they did) is "What did you do before you became an agent?". If they say something like real estate agent, tourist agent, lawyer, etc., I'm usually done with them. If they however say they were producers, dancers, choreographers, theatrical directors, etc., I start my cooperation with them.
Dannydoyle
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Eternal Order
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IN 20 years I have worked with great agents and horrible ones.

I had one agent who told me the show was for $1,500. So I took the show and was to pay an agents fee to them. Standard practice. No problem.

Till I got to the show and the college asked me if the agency had received the check they had sent to the agent. I was curious as I thought I was picking up the fee and mailing the check for the agents fee myself as per usual. Turns out they had sent a $3,500 check to the agency which I was never informed of. So they got that fee plus the cut of the $1,500 as agreed upon. I was curious when schools had started telling me they could not afford me next year, but I would look at who they hired and knew it was in my price range, just not the range the agent was charging.

Point is the agent was double dipping me. I have also worked with lots of them who did no such thing, were honest and great people to work with.

They are in a tough position some times. They want to eat so they need money. They want to satisfy the client to keep them coming back. They need to work with entertainers to have a stable to choose from. Somehow they have to make what the client is charged, far enough away from what the performer receives so they can make the most money possible.

Most are not on your side or the clients side no matter what they tell you. They need the spread to be enough to make the time worthwhile. This is simply the nature of the business. Does not make them good or bad, just agents.

When they start to lie to one or the other side, then they cross the line.
Danny Doyle
<BR>Semper Occultus
<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
Bob Sanders
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Magic Valley Ranch, Clanton, Alabama
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There are two terms I see frequently used in these discussions: Agent and Promoter.

An agent is someone's employee 100% of the time in that transaction. His only authority to act comes through his/her employer. Whether they are paid a commission or some other way has nothing to do with the employer/employee relationship. This is the most mis-used of the terms.

A promoter has no master/servant relationship with the act until after the contract to perform is made. The promoter is then employer and the act is the employee. In essence, the act is unrepresented in this relationship. Union licensed agents are normally forbidden to also be promoters. Many agents do not qualify as union licensed agents. Union licensed agents are not the only kind there is. If you don't know what you're doing, they are perhaps a smarter bet for you. If you are dealing someone wanting to be an agent but doesn't know the difference, RUN!

The promoter represents the promoter. Bargaining with the act is in the interest of the promoter's good. I have met very few who are as successful as good agents, but some exist. Get certified funds!

If you find that the promoter cannot guarantee payment before the show. Consider getting a piece of the action rather than financing someone who can't afford you.

From forty miles of hard road experience,

Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander
Bob Sanders

Magic By Sander / The Amazed Wiz

AmazedWiz@Yahoo.com
jlevey
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Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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Thanks for the 40 miles plus of insights Bob.

Puts things in perspectuve.

Jonathan
Jonathan
Max & Maxine Entertainment
Magicians with a touch of comedy!
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www.maxmagician.com
www.mindreadershow.com
www.monsieurmagic.com
icentertainment
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Here is Australia I have met only one who is really really honest and up front- he tells me what is being charged and breaks down his commission on the invoice.

He even sends clients to my web site.


The bulk of them simply are horrible to deal with- zero contact with the client before the event- They call up and ask 2 questions- How much and are you available on the ____

I give them performance Video custom Packaged for them to send to a client- Agent friendly and also has their logo & contact details on it- and they don't send them and I haven't as yet worked out why- well I think that they simply don't care

they don't have the care factor and are probably used to selling Dj's and circus performers who don't have promo video's
NJJ
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Quote:
On 2005-10-13 00:25, diamond wrote:
I have heard (and a Café member from Australia has confirmed it in that topic) that for instance in Australia the percentage basis is unheard of, and most of the agents charge clients on their own basis without informing the performers. I don't know what is the case with the US agents (I have been cooperating with just one US agency so far, but they also work on percentage basis).



Yep. Most just charge a fee on top based on much effort they do (or how much they run around).

Elsewhere, I used the analogy of you being a 'can of beans' on a supermarket shelf and the agent is the guy who sells you.

Unless you have an agreement with the agent on how much he or she is to charged and they are not breaking any laws, your agent has the legal right to charge ANYTHING he *** well pleases!

Therefore, if a performer is worried about the affect over charging will have on them and the industry, you have a responsibility to get a contract that sets that price in stone.
diamond
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Ugh, must be tough working with agents who charge as much as they please, don't bother to send the custom made videos and don't manage the client-entertainer communication regrding the gig.

Here in Europe, you always get a contract with an agent that will represent you from the very moment they decide to represent you. Those contracts are usualy on 1-2 year basis and they clearly state the commision fees, what the agent will do for you and what you have to do for them and that applies for all the jobs you'll get through them. When a deal is made with a client, there is another contract for the entertainer for that very job comming directly from the client. Also if a performer has his own contracts or raiders for the client, they are also sent to the client. With 3 detailed contracts in my hands prior to every gig, nothing can go wrong in most cases.

My agents usually work with clients who have experience with showbiz (professional event organizers or the venues of a variety/theatrical nature), so not only that the details are well negotiated, but it is a must. They get down to such details as sending me a detailed list of the lights available at the venue asking me to send them detailed light cues, sound cues, I've even had a client asking me for detailed plans of the placement of my illusions on stage (they sent me the stage plans of course) and cues for stage hands to bring the illusions in and out. With such a good organization, usually after one light rehearsal and some stage marking on the spot, the show looks like I have been performing it at that venue for years.

And of course, my agent has those clients for years (they have been working with some of their clients for 20+ years). It is all based on the "let's all be sattisfied" basis and that's how it really is.

I have met some of those "I don't care" type of agents (never worked with them, but met them here and there). The main reason why they have this nonchalant attitude is the fact that they don't understand performers at all. Those agents usually don't have the showbiz management education nor background. I have met an agent once who used to have a tourist agency and now he has an entertainment agency, and it is a horrible agency and nothing works well there. When you sart talking about the importance of the technical details for your act, they'll think you are crazy. They see a magician or a circus act and they simply think that the performer is god, and he'll find his way out in any situation. They don't understand that there should be no place for improvisation if you want something to look good.

In one Asian country I met an agent who says "Don't worry about the stage size and all those detils, you'll find your way if the audience sits around you, but I don't know now how they wil sit. The people here will be impressed to see a caucasian performer, so don't worry, you can do anything". Needless to say - I cancelled the gig (of course, this all happens 2 months before the gig, I never do the last minute cancellations nor I perform at moments' notice). Also, a good agent will book you quite well in advance, as the serious clients will plan their entertainment quite in advance as well. The clients who want the show in the last minute. I'm not speaking here about smaller gigs like birthday parties or strolling on functions (of course, if you do such gigs you can pack and get ready for the show very quickly), I'm talking here about illusion shows which are much more complicated to organize (it takes several days for me just to pack everything I need for the show, etc.). If a client calls my agent asking if he can send him an illusion show (the client is on another continent by the way) for the next weekend, my agent will kindly refuse that offer.

Really, with such an agent, I have nothing to worry about.

By the way, I'm looking for an agent in the US as I'm interested in performing there sometimes as well. If anyone knows some good agency that brings the international acts from Europe, please send me a PM.
itshim
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Here's a question for you all to think about. If somebody who professes to be acting as an agent for you is charging way above the 10% - 20% that is normal, would you be inclined to give the booker your card? I'm assuming here that normally you would give the agents card as that is the honest way to work but the agent is (normally) not being honest with you or the booker.

Nigel
I knew a man who kept saying "pliers, pincers, scissors". He was speaking in tongs.

www.itshim.co.uk
Dannydoyle
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I would do what ever was agreed upon. If I agreed to give the card of the card of the agent then that was what I would do.

You can NOT solve the problem by becoming dishonest yourself. DO not let them change the person you are. This is important.
Danny Doyle
<BR>Semper Occultus
<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
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