Danny Johnson (Broadway Actor) gives expert video advice on: What is a talent manager?; What should I expect to pay a talent manager?; What's the difference between a talent manager and a theatrical agent? and more...
What is a talent manager?
Well managers work with, in a similar capacity to an agent. Managers generally have a smaller roster of talent that they work with. Agencies may have anywhere from a hundred to three hundred clients that they're dealing with on a day in, day out basis, to try and represent them for work. Managers have a much smaller pool of people that they're working with. It may be five people; it may be twenty-five people. And their focus is more on those particular people as opposed to; an agent will have a focus on everyone one their roster. Managers work with agents to find work for their clients. And the tricky thing about having a manager and an agent is that the agent will typically make ten percent of your income, and the manager generally makes anywhere in between fifteen to maybe twenty percent of your income. So if you're giving away thirty, twenty-five or thirty percent of your income on every job that you get; part to the manager and part to the agent as well. Well that can be tricky if you're not making a very high level of income. Managers have the ability I think sometimes, because they have other relationships. They have relationships beyond that of just the casting directors the agents will deal with. They often have relationships with producers, with directors, with other industry people who they can stay on like a lobbyist. They can almost be like a Washington lobbyist that is around the corner every time you turn and says, 'Hey look, you've got to check out Danny Johnson, he's my guy'. So a manager situation can be a great thing if you have a lot of income. I think that starting off it's probably a good idea to try things with an agent, if you can. Sometimes starting off you might meet a manager before you meet an agent, and that can be a fruitful situation as well. But you just have to realize that if you have a manager and an agent, that you have two people working and they both want salaries and they're both going to get a cut of your income.
What should I expect to pay a talent manager?
You can expect to pay a talent manager anywhere from 15-20 maybe 25% of your income. And that would be in addition to what you would pay your agent which might be 10%. So as you can see, if you make 100 grand in a year, and you are paying off 25-35% of that, well than that is a large chunk of change. Personally, I like managers when you are making a lot of money. Because then you say to yourself, they are really working hard. I have got two people really working hard for me to make sure my work is getting out there, and I am getting the opportunity to audition, to create an income for myself. So for some people two is better that one. Maybe for other people, one is better than two.
What's the difference between a talent manager and a theatrical agent?
A talent manager, generally what they are looking to do is to manage your career. They are hopeful that they can be with you as your career takes lots of great turns going forward. If you are a young person starting off your manager may be involved in helping you get your first commercial, your first roadway play, your first film. All of those things can be great and what they are hoping is that after you do your first one you will get your next one and your next one after that. The talent agent generally is responsible for going through what we call the break down service which represents all the different casting possibilities that are out there in the country day to day. Somebody is looking for somebody to play milkman, somebody is looking for somebody to play a corporate executive. And all of these things come through the breakdown services and the talent agents will look at the breakdown services and say "Yeah, I got it for that." Managers may also subscribe to the breakdown services and may also have the ability to say, “Hey I got a guy who is great for this." But they may not have the ability to get an audition for the talent. So talent managers often work with or in tandem with talent agents in order to get their clients into auditions and into jobs.
What is the advantage to having a talent manager?
Well, talent managers generally have smaller client roster than a talent agent. And so because of that they have more ability to have a personal touch in your particular career. If you have a great manager for ten years, that manager is going to start off with you ten years ago and try to build your career as time goes on. So that you say to yourself, I wonder where I'm really at in my life, my career, you've got somebody, you've got a manager to say, "Well, this is where we were, this is where we want to go and this is where we're at and this is still where we want to go, so let's try to work together to find you the roles that are going to best highlight you throughout your longevity of your career. Managers usually have a little more personal touch because they don't have as many clients.
Do I need to sign a contract with a talent manager to represent me?
In most cases, yes, they will really want a contract. And contract length's usually vary anywhere from one to five years. And I think the thing with a manager, is that you want to make sure that they're doing the work that you want done for yourself. So, for example, if they're asking you for money to reimburse their expenses, you want to make sure that those expenses are legitimate. Pictures and resumes, that sort of thing. You want to make sure that those are actual things that are being done, and things that are being bought in your behalf to help market you. Also, when you sign your contract with a manager, that you have a standard contract, but that standard contract is something that the Manager's Association got together and drew up. It doesn't mean that you cannot make changes to it. In fact, you're going to want to look at all the different clauses and make sure you're comfortable with that. If you're not comfortable with that, get a line out and strike it out of there and make sure that everybody knows up front what you're good with and what you're comfortable with.