Sean Staples

To Agent or Not to Agent…This Is My Question

Posted on 2016-08-09

I’ve always been more of a “self starter” kinda guy. I’ve always somewhat felt (probably like many of you), that when it comes to my success in this (or any) industry, nobody’s gonna work as hard as me to reach the top. I learned a long time ago however that success is not just me…it is truly a mixture of a few things: part craft, part luck, part commitment, part stick-to-it-iveness (as my mother, bless her heart would say), and part relationships/connections. As many of us know, this industry is a very tricky and murky one to try and navigate alone, yet most of us are forced to do this while trying to launch our careers. There does come a point when partnering with a company, rep or agent is something that becomes very helpful and most times a necessity, but the question begs, how does one go about doing this and when is the right time for an agent in one’s career?

Let’s face it, if you are like many of your fellow composer brothers and sisters out there, you likely also have to work a “real job”, while trying to make scoring your full time gig. This ultimately ends up leaving only so much time in the week to dedicate to pushing yourself creatively as a composer, and attending to the many “career important” things like promoting yourself and chasing down worthwhile gigs. Its tough, and most of us wish we could team up with an agent or rep who could help focus on bringing in the work and promote what we do as artists, so that more of our time could be spent on the actual craft of writing and composing. So the question becomes, when is the right time for an agent/rep to enter into a composer’s career, and how does one go about finding representation? Obviously it’s a tough question, and it’s not always the same for every composer either…so unfortunately there is not black and white answer.

For me personally, over the years in my own career I have thought a great deal about this very topic and I’ve had the fortunate benefit of engaging in some discussions with a number of represented and unrepresented composers as well as a few composer agents in the business, and the feedback (I must say), has been a bit of a mixed bag. A few said that you should stay focused completely on writing and your composing craft and that the agents/representation will find you when the time is right…others said that when you feel the time is right, create a professional “pitch” for yourself to send to agents and “shop” your skills (essentially the ol’ EPK)…but the overwhelming commonality was that your materials/portfolio of work is always must be professionally competitive and brings something unique to the table. A larger publisher rep once told me, “When you think you have an amazing cue, put it down and come back in about a week and give it a hard second look. Keep in mind all the television or film scores and cues reps hear everyday. Then ask yourself the question, ‘Is my cue going to truly stand out in that crowd?’, and if it doesn’t, you aren’t done yet!”, he said. It makes a lot of sense…I did try to ignore the fact that he also told me that he drinks 2, 16 oz Redbulls every morning and hasn’t actually worn socks in over 12 years…soooo, who knows, but I’m inclined to believe that his tips about ensuring my cues are going to stand out amongst the crowd, is great advice to keep in front of mind at all times while working. But that certainly doesn’t answer the question of when is the time right.

So we know the material has to be good and acting under this assumption, how do you determine if and when the time is right to start trying to form agency relationships. A longtime composer friend of mine told me that he had done a little marketing of himself to agents here and there for a while earlier on in his career, but ultimately scored 3 pretty legit films and negotiated and managed all of is own business stuff up to that point, before he started actually getting contacted by agents. Another guy I know spent forever trying to get an agent or someone to help get him jobs and it took nearly 2 years before an agent finally signed him. Additionally, I also talked with a guy who is signed with a massive firm (with massive composer names also on the roster), who also does his own job hunting and finding of gigs while also getting opportunities via his agency…so the methods and successes are as varied as can be, but nearly everyone agrees that relationships in this business make a massive difference.

So what all of this means, I’m not totally sure. I think ultimately everyone’s path is going to be a little different. An agent/rep doesn’t equal success in this business I can assure you of that, but it does help…and having a “team” around you is something that many successful composers rely upon, this I know. I’d love to hear what some of the other represented composers think and hear their stories on how it happened for them. I hope this is helpful in some way to other composers out there looking to learn more about how things work!

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