Internet “Managers” and “Agencies”
know how dumb the average guy is? Well, by definition, half of them are even
dumber than that. -- George Carlin
Many of the models on Model Listing sites use “managers” as
intermediaries to receive and screen their emails and help maintain their
listings and pictures. When a model’s expectations are limited to those two
functions, she might find someone to fill them faithfully and well, but all too often
those who volunteer will just make matters worse. There may be a few responsible, capable people who
provide management services and support to Internet models. But the vast
majority of people those calling themselves “managers” are bad for an Internet
model’s career. They tend not to have much if anything in the way of
professional model management qualifications. Often they are photographers of little
distinction who collect models for what might best be described as less than
fully professional purposes. Even worse, some of them are a model’s boyfriend (or
want to be) who feels the need to control her modeling career, or photographers
who want to “collect” a stable of models and keep them for himself.
It’s very common for someone to put up a Website, declare
himself a manager, and promise all sorts of wonderful benefits for models who
put themselves in his care. The best of these pass on reasonable offers to
their models after vetting the offers to ensure their legitimacy, as well as
providing knowledgeable advice and guidance to their models. There are very
few of those. The worst refuse to answer queries or pass on job offers to
models, or to guide them in ways that would expand their career opportunities.
After all, if some other photographer starts working with an Internet model, she may decide to leave
his fold. And for many of these people, it’s about ego and control much more
than it’s about doing business. There are all too many of this type.
Many experienced Internet photographers and clients refuse
to work with models who have “managers”. Models on the big model listing
services have often said that when they show a manager on their listing the
number of offers they get from photographers and clients declines
precipitously. No doubt some of these lost offers weren’t worth having in the
first place, but some are worthwhile.
To steal a phrase from politics, that manager is best which
(appears to) manage least. If the manager has a visible presence on your sites
on the Internet, or gets into email conversations with clients, you are very
likely to lose jobs.
In this as so many other things, it’s the exact opposite of
the “real world”: real agency models are perceived to be the most desirable,
and good clients prefer to hire them through agencies. Internet models with
Internet agencies or managers are perceived as the least desirable.
The difference between Internet Agencies and Internet
Managers is somewhat analogous to the “real world”, but modeling on the
Internet is new and rapidly evolving, and organizational structures and
distinctions haven’t had time to mature. There are organizations (typically
one-person organizations, though not always) which create their own Websites,
gather models to represent, market their models and take bookings for them. Just
as in the non-Internet world, they may call themselves agents or managers,
depending on the laws where they operate.
These agencies tend to cover a broad geographic area.
Where a traditional agency would work almost exclusively with models in their
own area, an Internet agency may list models nationwide, or even worldwide.
The notion seems to be that clients from all over the nation or world will hire
their models through this nationwide agency. It is not clear why a significant
client in Seattle who wanted to hire a model in Orlando would get her
from an agency in Indianapolis.
They generally they do not personally meet their models,
and often do not have or use contact telephone numbers for them. Their
knowledge of the real availability, capability, reliability and appearance of
the models is much less than in a traditional agency.
Most communications with the “agency” takes place through
email. Some Internet agencies do not even publish a telephone number, fax
number or street address. Their business exists almost exclusively on the
Web. This is not the way sophisticated clients want to work with agencies.
The model listing sites are heavily skewed to young female
members, because that’s who self-selects to be on the sites (or is selected by
boyfriends or “Internet Managers”). Internet agencies mostly get their models
from those sites, and the natural tendency of young females to self-select is
amplified by the natural tendency of the people who run the Internet Agencies
to select young women.
That is further amplified by the fact that the Internet
Agencies are rarely selective on the stats or characteristics that fashion and
commercial clients want in their models. They select what they like, not what
clients want. The net result of all these selection forces is that most
Internet agencies have few if any male models and few models over age 30. The
models that they do have are often not suited for most commercial work, or are
of a type that is already saturated in the commercial marketplace.
It doesn’t have to be that way, of course. In principle there
is no reason why an Internet agency couldn’t recruit men and women, and go
after the high-demand older types. But as a practical matter it almost never
happens. The reason inevitably is that the operators of the “agency” are less
interested in booking mainstream modeling work than in being associated with
pretty young girls.
When mainstream commercial print agencies have
non-exclusive relationships with their models it can lead to frustration over
trying to control the pictures a model uses to market herself. The problem is
far worse for Internet agencies, which not only have limited control, but may
be dealing with “models” with only a tenuous relationship to the business.
They tend to get what the model wants to give them or, if they are
photographers, what the “agent” wants to shoot. Not surprisingly, there is a
heavy emphasis on “glamour” pictures on their sites, despite the fact that most
commercial and fashion clients do not want to see models presented that way.
It’s made worse by the fact that few Internet agencies are
run by people with any experience in mainstream modeling, and they don’t know
what fashion or commercial pictures are supposed to look like, nor can/do they
produce pictures of the quality that a mainstream client expects to see.
Again, there is no law of nature that says Internet
agencies have to be this way, but to date nearly all of them are. The limited
opportunities to attract commercial clients to an Internet agency, even with a
stable of credible models and good pictures, constrains the number of qualified
agents who might want to get into these agencies. Anyone who knows what they
are doing doesn’t do it on the Internet.
However, these “quality” differences make a difference only
to models who aspire to “mainstream” commercial or fashion work. The great bulk
of work available on the Internet is for attractive young women for “glamour”
or nude jobs, not for commercial assignments, so the practices of the Internet
Agencies are congruent with the real market they operate in. It’s an issue
only if the model doesn’t want to be a glamour/nude model.
Differences In Operation
Internet agencies take booking requests for models. Some may negotiate with
the client and then email the model with the request, or pass the request
directly on to the model and let her be involved in the negotiation. At least
one Internet Agency plays no role in the booking process at all; they leave it
up to the client to contact models directly and work out whatever deal they
can. Internet Agencies generally do not support client requests for go-sees; jobs
are booked directly off the Internet or not at all. Again, that greatly limits
the willingness of commercial clients to use Internet models.
agencies do not have a number of similar models in the same city that could
come in to replace a booked model if there is a problem, and they make no
guarantee that they can support the client in the event of an emergency.
Again, there is no reason why an “Internet Agency” has to operate like this.
In principle they could use the telephone to arrange bookings and go-sees, and
could recruit a critical mass of talent in a city to enable them to offer a
range of alternatives and emergency models. But few if any of them do.
The reason a web site works for a traditional agency is
because there is a real staff of people, with real telephone numbers, and real,
ready, willing and able models where the agency is who can reliably be booked.
Internet model listing sites and agencies can't support those kinds of jobs, so
they can’t attract the kinds of commercial clients that demand that level of
support and reliability. Inevitably they can attract only the lower rung of
commercial clients (if that). Even so, the best Internet Agencies (and
there are very few of them, despite all the claims) are well
suited for dealing with the typical Internet photographer who wants to hire
models for glamour work, and often has more flexibility in his projects than a
commercial client might.
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