Broadway agents are responsible for acquiring and managing Broadway talent. They normally retain a 10% commission for any gigs that are booked. Agents look for clients with marketable skills that they know will book roles time and time again. Ultimately, that translates into more money for the client and subsequently the agent as well. It can be confusing to know exactly how to get an agent or what an agent is looking for, however here is a healthy dose of insight that should clarify any uncertainties for those who may be in the market for representation.
Showcases are one of the primary ways that agents pick talent to represent. However, these showcases can be challenging because so many people are seen during showcase season. In a showcase, it is vital for talent to ensure that they are on their A-game. This means making bold moves throughout the showcase. When singing a song, the actors should pick ones that show off their skills rather than something that fits with the “showcase” as a whole. This also means being up to par in group numbers; perhaps more so. Reddit insider secretagentmike, who is a Broadway agent points out, “With so many people to choose from, even if you aren’t the best singer in the group, I’d like to see you be memorable. As you know, the best singers aren’t necessarily the ones who make it to Broadway.”
There are many factors that go into the process of spotting and selecting talent during a showcase. One of those factors is appearance. After all, the first impression potential agents will have will be based upon your appearance. While model quality looks are not necessarily sought after, a unique look is. Again, this touches on the idea that prospective talent should stand out in a line among hundreds of other people.
It is important to note that an agent is not an automatic way to ensure success in the Broadway business. Reditt insider secretagentmike shares, “[A] lot of people tend to think that getting an agent solves their problems when it really doesn’t. If you don’t have a strong resume (and varied) and connections with the casting directors…there is little chance that having an agent will help. Without Broadway credits it is tough to get in the door…which is why agents get so excited about every audition as getting the audition is definitely the hardest part.”
Schools such as CCM, CMU, Michigan, and Julliard are often sought after in terms of new talent, though the scope is not narrowed only to those schools. Agents recognize that other schools have outstanding programs and that talent is not limited to a specific area or educational establishment.
Many people are confused about how to go about finding a qualified and credible agent, and word of mouth tends to be the most utilized source. It is important to ensure the agent is franchised by AEA (theater) or SAG-AFTRA (film/television) and is licensed in their state. Also note that agents cannot charge more than 10% commission or hold retainer fees, so if those two things pop up they should serve as immediate red flags.
Reddit insider secretagentmike offers this word of advice for aspiring Broadway actors, “The best advice I could give is be ready. And make sure you have someone who is objective in telling you that you’re ready. Otherwise, if you come to NYC and audition for projects and casting directors and do a bad job, you’ll be put in their files as a ‘NO’ which then makes getting future auditions near impossible.”
At the end of the day, an agent is not a necessity on Broadway or in the film/television world. Yet, agents can open doors and provide access to opportunities that one may not be able to get on their own. So long as you have found a credible agent that you can trust to be honest with you, it is probably worth the expense, at least until you break onto the scene. Though many often find that their agent is such an asset they choose to stay with them even after making a name for themselves on the marquee.
Author: Diamond Grant