What is an Agency?
All too often models get involved with things they think are
"agencies" which really are not. Hence this article. I ask the
title question because I see people responding on the forum or to castings
about "agencies" that aren't. So let me throw the question out
and see what kind of answers I get.
OK, you in the back row. The one with the horn rim glasses. What is
an agency? . . . . Nope. Wrong answer. You. Over there
in the A&F T-shirt. What is an agency? . . . . Nope. Wrong again.
Alright you, waving your hand so insistently. What is an agency? . . .
No, that thing you are with is not an agency, even though it says
"agency" in the company title. How about you, Viktoria? . . . .
No, wait a minute, you know the right answer, and I don't want you telling
people prematurely. This is my story.
Among aspiring mainstream models, most of what beginning models spend their
time on, is about "getting an agency". Sure enough, it is
important. So important that you really ought to know what an agency is,
and why you want one. More important, you ought to know when something
advertising to models is NOT an agency. It may or may not be something
useful to you - but it isn't "the agency" that you think is the brass
ring. So let's go through what an agency is, and then some things that
people confuse with agencies which are not. An agency is one because it
acts like one, not because of what it is called.
A model agency gets work for models. It has clients who hire
models, it puts models in front of those clients, books work for the models and
takes a commission on that work. That is how it makes its money.
An agency may do lots of other things as well: advertising, bookkeeping, billing and
collection for models, model development, career advising and a host of other
functions. But the paragraph above in
bold is what really distinguishes agencies from other things.
As we will see, not all agencies call themselves "agencies", and not
all things that call themselves "agencies" really are. There
sometimes are good reasons for that, but if you don't understand the reasons,
you will not understand why so many of the "opportunities" that you
see put before you are not about being with "an agency" at all.
This is going to be complicated. Suck it up. It's
your career - you need to invest a little time understanding how it works.
Let's discuss things that are NOT agencies, even though they might seem to be.
Proscout, Model Search America, IMTA, MAAI, AMTC and all the
others are not agencies. They don't claim to be agencies, they don't act
like agencies . . . and yet every time someone brings them up, somebody insists
that they are scams because they take money up front "and agencies don't
do that". Well, agencies sometimes do do that, but never mind that
part. All those companies run model searches or model
conventions where aspiring models can be seen by real agencies in the
hopes of being signed by one. The search and convention companies take
their money up front because that's the only way they can get it. They
don't get work for models to take a commission from.
Web sites are not agencies. There are hundreds of model
listing sites that host pictures and
information about models. Some of them are used by agencies to find
models; some are used mostly by models and photographers to find each
other. Some claim to be "agencies" or "managers", but
they don't have clients, don't operate in ways that clients can easily use, and
don't act in any effective ways as model agencies. They are described in
gruesome detail here: http://www.newmodels.com/managers.html
A real agency will have an office with a published street address, a
prominently published phone number to book models through, and real people
answering real phones during business hours. If a company doesn't do
that, it's not "an agency".
Casting websites are not agencies. Again, there are
quite a number of websites that list "casting calls" for
models. Most of these charge for access to the site or the casting.
Most of them are scams, with "casting calls" that are bogus,
worthless, outdated, or not authorized by the casting directors for public
release. There are a small number of sites that have legitimate castings
on them; most of those are free. Still, none of these are agencies, and
none of them replace the need for an agency.
Modeling schools are not agencies. Yes, I know, some of
them have agencies attached to them, or act in part like agencies. But if
they could make their money by booking work for models, that's what they would
do. The reason for those schools is because they can't find enough work
Just because a company has "agency" in its title does not
make it one. Here is an example. There is a "casting
call" on another site from a company with the word "agency" in
its name. If you go to their web site, they again refer to
themselves as "a model agency". But if you read what they say
they actually do, it's very different. This is what they say about
themselves: "founded as a way for talent nation wide and
internationally to meet with the top management companies. In addition . .
. dedicated to promoting top talent and exciting new faces to
the fashion industry." Nowhere in there does it say anything about
getting models jobs. That's not what they do. Even if you believe
what they say about themselves (and that is a whole different question), they
are not "a model agency".
Here is another example. "Mother agencies" are not
agencies. Oh, they might be. The best mother agencies are
the ones who can get local work for their models (that is, act as real
agencies) while developing them and sponsoring them to larger markets.
But the "sponsoring them to larger markets" part isn't acting as
"an agency". It's what "managers" do, which is
Personal managers, development companies and management companies are
not agencies. The job of a personal manager may include
preparing a model to be in a market, getting her book together, presenting her
to agencies to be signed by them, and assisting her in managing her affairs
once she is signed. None of that has anything to do with getting jobs for
models. They are not agencies.
Still paying attention? I hope so, because here comes the confusing
part. You really need to understand this if you expect to have anything
to do with New York City during your modeling career.
Sometimes management companies are agencies
even if they don't say so in the company name. All of the important
"model agencies" in New York City that you have heard of are not
"agencies" at all. They just act like them (which is really
what this essay is all about). It's a matter of legal definition and
regulation. So if they aren't "agencies", what are they?
They are all "management companies". Yes, they make their money
by booking work for models. For all the purposes you care about, they are
"model agencies". But their title doesn't say so.
And it's worse. Also in New York City are lots of other "model
management companies" who do not book work for models, and don't act like
agencies. What do they do? They act as "personal
managers" - or at least the better ones do.
The moral of this long story is this: don't pay attention to what
a company calls itself. That doesn't mean much. What
counts is what they actually do for you. To understand that, you have to
actually read what they say about themselves, ask questions of them about how
they make their money, and pay attention to what they say. If you don't
take the time to do that research, your "agency" may not be one at
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