Is It Totally Irresponsible to Be Your Own Agent? - iCadenza

Is It Totally Irresponsible to Be Your Own Agent?

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Interesting story.

Shortly after announcing the opening of our online course, Be Your Own Agent, we received an email from someone in our network saying this:

Sorry but please don’t do this. If you’re good, agents will come find you like mine did. It brings down quality and consistency in our business and that’s really not cool. Not everyone should be a performer and many think they can.

This person also told us that teaching artists how to be their own agents is irresponsible.

These comments stung a little, like any criticism does. I reminded myself that when you put something out there not everyone likes it — and that’s okay!

But, I also found this reaction to be deeply fascinating, because it reflects an opposite worldview of everything that iCadenza stands for.

It got me thinking. Are we completely off base in teaching you how to Be Your Own Agent?

After some lengthy conversations among our team members, here’s our (possibly controversial) response.

An Old Way of Thinking

There’s an old-fashioned belief that artists often hear (and even perpetuate): If you’re good, an agent will find you.

There are a number of problems with this way of thinking.

First, it leads to the conclusion that, if agents aren’t knocking down your door, then you must not be good. And while that could be true, it is not always.

If you are not represented and want to be, there could be dozens of reasons that agents aren’t reaching out to you. Your talent is just one factor.

Agents are also looking for artists who:

  • Have an audience
  • Have a performance history and track record
  • Have a solid reputation for being professional, hardworking, and reliable
  • Are willing to hustle and network

Second, it presumes that having an agent is an indicator of having “made it.” It isn’t. (Ask any artist who is frustrated with their agent for not booking them enough.)

And third, it implies that having an agent makes your artistry more valuable. This also isn’t true! Your number-one job as an artist is to make your artistry is valuable to audiences, collaborators, and presenters. It doesn’t happen the other way around.

As we’ve mentioned before, many musicians have successful, viable, active careers without agents. We’ve actually heard from quite a few in the process of launching Be Your Own Agent.

Many artists struggle to build their performance history, find the right venues, and connect to the right presenters. But often, they are also shackled by the belief that having an agent is a silver bullet to the career they seek.

That’s exactly why we focus so much of our attention on venue research, outreach, and packaging your performance in Be Your Own Agent. We want to empower you to move forward boldly without an agent.

By building a touring history, you’ll become more valuable to an agent or manager down the line (if you still want one).

#1 YOU'RE NOT

The Era of the Audience

Technology has given rise to the democratization of music and entertainment.

Gatekeepers are no longer deciding what’s popular or what’s “good.” And, if you don’t have an agent, it doesn’t mean you should resign yourself to thinking that you don’t have any prospects or that people won’t want what you’re offering.

You live in an age where you can reach consumers directly and allow the market to be the test.

But that doesn’t mean success is going to come easily.

As an artist without an agent or manager, you have to do the work of demonstrating your value. Branding yourself is its own artform. And it’s easy to get stuck!

Our mission is to help you uncover what makes you different and valuable, so that you can highlight those distinctions and communicate them clearly and effectively.

This Isn’t a Free-for-All

Teaching artists how to be their own agent isn’t about flooding the market with unprofessional and untalented performers.

It’s about giving artists the tools they need to approach the market responsibly. We want to help you find the venues and presenters who are the exact right fit for your art.

We’re not recommending that you bombard every venue that you find with calls and emails. That would be a monumental waste of everyone’s time, and it could hurt your reputation!

We teach you how to be targeted and tailored with your approach so that you can find the venues and audiences who innately love what you do.

Ironically, what we teach in Be Your Own Agent is a pretty serious filtration system. This way of approaching the industry will only work for those who are disciplined enough to follow the steps and work hard.

Everyone else will change their minds. They’ll discover that they don’t want to do what it takes to pursue a performing career. And that’s okay!

We believe that self-representation is not the irresponsible path.

We believe that self-representation helps you discover if this is what you really want. It teaches you what it takes to make it in this industry. It demonstrates, sometimes brutally, that success requires more than talent.

And while some people — like the artist we mentioned above — think we’re wrong, many people think we’re right.

Take this email, which we also received when we announced our launch, from a colleague who teaches marketing to singers:

I see you’re putting on “Be Your Own Agent” webinar. GREAT! Singers need this.

We couldn’t agree more.

#1 YOU'RE NOT

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2 Comments

  1. Nora Karakousoglou on

    Hi!

    I think that the person who wrote this negative email may not realize how many people don’t want to do the work for themselves.

    BYOA is certainly not a “Path of least resistance” way to do it. By completing the course and following up on the process you build some independence which can be threatening to some folks in the business. Right?

    Does the person who wrote that email think that BYOA is more threatening to their career and the scene than the less-than great artists who get agents? I touched on that in your post, I think.

    Bach and Haydn were absolutely their own agents, in fact Haydn was a true businessman when it came to his career and reputation. Did they lower the standard for everyone else? I think not.

    I have my doubts about this person being truly “good” while also feeling threatened and defensive. Is independence, or lack of, the key element here?

    The bottom line for me is that I see value in BYOA because it encourages high self-efficacy and independence rather than confirmation that you are good because an agent found you. The funny thing is that you do represent artists! It would be crazy to put effort into making your own company useless! (Yes, i have already decided to sign up)

    Thanks for bringing this issue up.

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Nora! 🙂 I love your point about Bach and Haydn – so many composers back in the day were entrepreneurs. In some ways, taking more initiative in one’s career is like getting back to the true “roots” of our field.

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