Internet “Managers” and “Agencies”

You know how dumb the average guy is? Well, by definition, half of them are even dumber than that.  -- George Carlin

Internet “Managers”

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.

Internet Agencies

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.

Demographics

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.

Quality Control

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

Some 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.

Mostly these 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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