The Job and What's Involved

Agents and managers represent performers and other creative talent in the film, television, radio, publishing, and entertainment industries. They promote their clients' careers, try to secure the best work for them for the highest fee and may also manage their business affairs. Their clients can be actors, comedians, singers and musicians, composers, dancers and choreographers, presenters, writers, supporting artists, designers or directors.

The exact nature of the role depends on the type of artist the agent or manager is representing and the sector in which they operate. Clients may range from award-winning writers and Hollywood stars, usually handled by large international agencies, to new bands trying to make an impact in the industry.

The work may include:

  • Sourcing work, securing deals, and negotiating contracts and fees.
  • Acting as a buffer during contractual negotiations.
  • Guiding clients' careers and advising on creative and other decisions.
  • Arranging Guiding clients' careers.
  • Organising tours and booking venues.
  • Staying informed about what is happening in the industry, making note of who works where and identifying potential projects.
  • Keeping up to date with industry rates and agreements.
  • Scouting for new talent.
  • Handling enquiries from the media and the public.
  • Marketing their clients.
  • Dealing with work permits, travel arrangements and other practical issues.
  • Keeping records of conversations and agreements.
  • Keeping records of clients' work for promotional purposes.

Much of their work involves cultivating and maintaining relationships with a wide range of people, including producers, promoters, venue managers, and other industry decision makers. In larger agencies, the agent or manager may be responsible for leading a team of lawyers, public relations (PR) managers, accountants and assistants.

The work can be intense and sometimes stressful. In addition to keeping existing clients satisfied, agents and managers must also be constantly on the lookout for new talent.

Agents/managers usually work standard full-time hours, Monday to Friday, but they need to be flexible. In practice, longer hours are common and they often have to attend performances or work in the evenings and at weekends. Some agents/managers may also need to work late into the evening to deal with contacts in the USA and other countries that have different time zones.

The work is usually office based. However, travel to attend meetings and other events is common, and international travel is routine for those representing major clients. A driving licence may be useful.

Agents/managers charge a commission for their services. This rate is agreed in advance between the individual agent and artist. Generally speaking, the commission is between ten and twenty per cent of the overall fee. Agents'/managers' salaries depend on their ability to secure work for their clients.

Salaries for a trainee agent in a large agency may start at around £15,000 a year. An experienced agent could earn around £30,000 a year.

Top agents representing major clients can earn well over £100,000.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Many agents/managers work for agencies or management companies. Some are self-employed. Most work is concentrated in London, but there are agents/managers throughout the UK. The industry is extremely diverse. New artist management companies are created regularly, but not all of them survive over the longer term.

Vacancies may be advertised in the national press or trade publications such as The Bookseller and The Stage magazine. However, many jobs are filled through word of mouth or by approaching agencies or management companies directly. Trade association websites often provide contact details for agencies which are members.

It is important to make contacts and know the backgrounds of the people working in the industry. Knowledge can be built up by reading the relevant trade publications.

Education and Training

There is no set entry route and agents/managers come from a variety of backgrounds. Experience, enthusiasm, industry knowledge and the ability to make contacts are often more important than qualifications.

Some agencies may prefer applicants to have qualifications or a background in a related field. This could include previous experience in sales, business management, events management, accounting and administration, media, music, literature or the performing arts. Foreign language skills and knowledge of contract law can also be an advantage, particularly when negotiating foreign rights deals.

Some agents/managers are educated to degree level. For a degree course, the entry requirements are usually a minimum of five GCSE's (A*-C) and two A levels or equivalent. For a BTEC Higher National Diploma, the entry requirements are usually five GCSE's (A*-C) and one A level or equivalent.

Some agents/managers enter this area of work by managing the careers of friends, particularly in the music industry. Others start off as performers or creative artists themselves and learn from the experience of promoting their own talents. Experience in a related field, such as publishing, broadcasting or the recording industry, may be useful.

Many agents/managers start in a junior role in a company, for example, in an administrative or assistant role, and work their way up to the position of agent/manager. Some larger agencies offer work experience placements or run trainee schemes for agents/managers.

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New agents/managers usually train on the job, learning from more experienced staff.

Trade associations, such as the Agents' Association (Great Britain) and the International Artist Managers' Association, provide advice and guidance on running an agency and give information on a range of issues, such as changes to employment legislation.

The Music Managers Forum (UK) runs workshops and training courses. The Script Factory provides training in script reading and development for agents.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Agents/managers need to have:

  • Excellent communication skills.
  • Effective business and negotiation skills.
  • Strong organisational and administrative abilities.
  • Excellent social skills and the ability to make and maintain contacts.
  • Tact and diplomacy.
  • Artistic judgment and confidence in their ability to spot talent.
  • An eye for detail.
  • Computer skills.
  • Persistence and patience.
  • A positive attitude and the ability to promote their clients.

Your Long Term Prospects

Agents/managers progress by building up their client list and their reputation for good client services, thus attracting more top artists onto their books.

Some agents/managers set up their own agencies or companies. Others may join agencies and management companies abroad, often in large cities with thriving entertainment industries, such as New York and Tokyo.

Get Further Information

The Agents' Association (Great Britain),
54 Keyes House, Dolphin Square, London SW1V 3NA
Tel: 020 7834 0515

International Artist Managers' Association (IAMA),
23 Garrick Street, Covent Garden, London WC2E 9BN
Tel: 020 7379 7336

Music Managers Forum, British Music House,
26 Berners Street, London W1T 3LR
Tel: 0870 850 7800

Personal Managers' Association (PMA),
PO Box 63819, London N1P 1HL
Tel: 0845 602 7191

The Script Factory, The Square,
61 Frith Street, London W1D 3JL
Tel: 020 7851 4890

Skillset, Focus Point,
21 Caledonian Road, London N1 9GB.
Free careers helpline: 08080 300 900

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