Agent Friendly is a term used by both Speakers Bureaus and Agencies that book entertainment such as tribute bands, tribute artists and impersonators. (Let’s just refer to both distinct groups as Agents going forward.) The term Agent Friendly specifically refers to the promotional materials (i.e. web sites, one-sheets, headshots, etc.) that the speaker or tribute artist provides to the agents so that they can better promote and sell the speaker or tribute artist (hereafter both referred to simply as Talent). Agent Friendly promo materials intentionally omit the talent’s specific contact information. Rather, it has the contact information of the agent.
The reason behind this? The agent is acting as the principal dealmaker between potential clients and the many talent options. Agents have the difficult job of sending out many unique talent proposals to a single client for any single event. After the client does an initial screening, the agent may help the client select the talent that will best fit their specific needs. For example, an agent may send one particular client proposals for 5 different speakers. The client then selects the one or two they like best, then the agent may give additional advice on the specific speakers that client has selected. Now expand that task to potentially a hundred different clients with hundreds of proposals with thousands of different talent options and you can easily see a complex management task that the agent must deal with on a daily basis.
Agent Friendly promo material is an efficient way to keep the communication between the client and agent (i.e. broker) and not get the talent involved during this initial screening process, and frequently not until the specific job is booked.
Besides making an efficient process unnecessarily confusing, a client calling the talent directly and bypassing the agent raises a specific ethical dilemma. When clients and talent decide to do business directly, eliminating the agent who was the original dealmaker, a valuable link is removed and devalued. This would be similar to a manufacturer who decides to sell directly to the public after a previous agreement has been made to sell through a channel of wholesalers and retailers. How would the middlemen feel in that situation?
Fast forward to 2010 and a world where Google is king, when it’s possible for anyone to find anyone else in seconds with a simple internet search and clients can find the talent that want almost instantly; you now leave the scenario screaming for some clarification and new common sense guidelines.
Does this make agents obsolete? Unnecessary? I say, “No!” Speakers Bureaus and Agencies still have a vital role to play going forward. Understanding the role of agents and operating from a foundation of integrity will make it both practical and beneficial for agents to broker deals between clients and talent.
Here are the key issues as I see them and the principals that I believe are necessary for clients, agents and talent to work together productively and ethically in a Google dominated world.