agents: good or bad?

Post topics about the business side of magic.

Postby Guest » 04/09/03 09:56 PM

Hi after I graduate from colllege My brother and I are going to pursue magic as a career. We are working on a twin mentalism act. What we want to know is if having a agent is good or bad? is it better to book gigs yourself or have a agent, i know if you have a agent he gets a cut? Has anyone here had a agent in the past, if so what have the experiences been like?


Postby Dennis Kyriakos » 04/10/03 07:12 AM


Agents are a very useful resource at all points of your career. An agent can get you gigs you could never get on your own simply because they have the connections. They can also get your higher fees than you would normally get for the same reason. Higher fees may not be true in every case but it happens.

I work with several people who act as "magic agents" and one theatrical agent - I'm an actor also - all who get me a lot of gigs/auditions that I could never get on my own. Sure they take a cut, but if I didn't have an agent I may be doing half as many shows per month. Ok, maybe not "half" but I would not have as many gigs as I do. So would I rather be sitting at home hoping I get a gig on Saturday night. Or do I use agents to help get me out there. To help get me gigs where I can polish my performances, get seen by people and make a living.

That's not to say you shouldn't do your own marketing. DO NOT sit around and wait for agents to call you. YOU SHOULD be out getting gigs for yourself. An agent is not responsible for your career. They have plenty of other performers they can send to a gig, so you have to find a way to make yourself valuable to them.

Re-read my first sentence: Agents are a very useful resource... They are not the beginning and end of a career, they are simply a useful resource.

Hope this helps. This is an interesting subject to me. I hope to hear more thoughts on it.

Dennis Kyriakos
Posts: 45
Joined: 01/30/08 01:00 PM
Location: New York City

Postby Guest » 04/10/03 08:45 AM

I agree with Dennis.

i am also an actor. a benefit I have as a magician is that my acting agent, probably the best in Australia, also look after my magic. I'm very lucky, I have an acting agent with very good entertainments contacts, and an agent with whom I have an actuall relationship and friendship with.

My advice is

1 only ever agree to go with an agent you personally like!!!!!

2 Try to go with someone who doesn't have too many magicians but has all the right entertainments contacts.

3 Never sign anything...YOU DON'T NEED TO HAVE A CONTRACT WITH AN AGENT! This is as much a benefit to them as it is to you. Anyone who wants you to sign is nieve and best left in my opinion


4 Anyone who wants more than 20%....Bye Bye! There not doing the gig you know. Your the one practicing every night and buying the flash paper!! ten to fifteen percent is fine thankyou.

You have to decide for yourself though if the guy who takes sixty percent a gig is getting you a show every night worth $500 go ahead.....If you like them.

Hope this means something to you


Postby Dennis Kyriakos » 04/10/03 10:08 AM

Good observations Dean. Particularly with the amount an agent should take.

He's also right about signing with an agent. I've never even been asked to sign with a "magic agent." Unless you are signing a contract for a SPECIFIC SHOW. That's a different story. Then you are being booked for a show and the agent is protecting him/herself, the client and you. And that's smart.

"Signing with an agent" usually means you work with them exclusively. You can't work with any other agent. That limits your opportunities...unless this agent is getting big bucks. And I'm talking BIG BUCKS!

Here in NYC, theatrical agents have a "dating" relationship with (they don't sign) actor. The actor is free to "freelance" and work with many agents. While in L.A. the trend is to "marry" (sign). Actors work exclusively with one agent.

And certainly DO NOT...DO NOT give an agent money up front FOR ANYTHING! It's illegal and immoral! Think about it. If you give them money up front, who's to say you ever hear from them again? An agent is not obligated to call you for anything. As I mentioned in my earlier post, an agent has plenty of other performers he can choose from.

True story - When I first started acting here in NY, an agent called me into his office and talked with me about what he could do for me. Then he said I had to give him $200 up front to get pictures done for my portfolio and all kinds of cards and things I would need to help him get me work. I got up and walked out, with no explanation! I didn't even say goodbye!

Agents have to work for their keep. And if they work hard - by getting you gigs - then they earn it. You work hard at what you do, don't you? Your job is to entertain. Their job is to get you the gig.

As far as specific relationships with agents. Most of my magic agents tend to be people I've known for awhile. Fellow magicians that pass gigs along. So we were friends before "business partners." It's a bit more casual. I think that depends on the specific situation.

Hope this helps...
Dennis Kyriakos
Posts: 45
Joined: 01/30/08 01:00 PM
Location: New York City

Postby Guest » 04/10/03 10:59 AM

One of the things I hate about show business is the "business" part. I HATE seeling myself bu unfortunatly it is one of those things you just have to do. I have been very fortunate to have landed an actual "personal manager" several years ago whom does have an exclusive booking agreement with me BUT there were some exceptions to our agreement PLUS some pro's and cons.

Part of my agreement was that he got exclusive rights to booking me which means that ALL bookings from agents (and I have several of those freelancing for me) go through him BUT if I were to get a show on my own (not through an agent though, only if I actually do the footwork myself) then I do not pay him any commission on that, which at the moment is 20% of my fee. He asks for that as a deposit for the show. He deals with the agents as far as commissions and fee splits go.

The cons are:
- that I lose 20% of my asking fee everytime I do a show.
- that if someone calls I cannot go ahead an take the show, I must have them call my personal manager.
- he gets a lot of input into my advertising, my appearance and my show. When he says "jump" I must ask "how high?".

The pro's:
- there is something very professional about telling someone who wants to book you that they must book you through your personal manager.
- YOU always come out smelling sweet through negotiations or "deals" being cut. You are not the one being difficult or tough, your manager is. The same goes if there is trouble at the performance venue. He makes the waves not you.
- All I need worry about is my performance. I can focus on entertaining my audience. I do not have to worry that arrangements were not made, the the stage is not set properly with the correct sound equipment or lighting or even worry about collecting my fee later. That is all looked after as is my itinerary, my schedule, etc.
- I do not have to spend hours a day "working" on selling my show. I can relax while traveling to and from a show, and not worry about where the next show is going to come from because I have someone doing that for me. I have the luxury of having time to run Ab StageCraft (my mail order mentalism business),read Genii and the few other journals I get, write, focus on developing new material, new routines and even lecture to magicians and mentalists without worrying about "booking shows".

As you can see, the pro's outweight the cons by a lot. Hope that input helps,

PSIncerely Yours,
Paul Alberstat
AB StageCraft
Supplying unique Mentalism World-wide

Postby Guest » 04/10/03 08:41 PM

I set my fee and any agents who get me work add their fee on top. If they can get 10-20% then good luck to them.

The idea of what an agent changes constantly and I know alot of guys around who won't use the term agent because of the image it creates.

Postby Guest » 04/15/03 02:23 PM

Agents come in many flavors - almost none of which will focus on variety entertainers (magicians, hypnotists, mimes, jugglers, etc.).

Agents are, most often, order takers. They get a call from a client for something specific. If that specific something they need is you - fine. If not, you get to keep looking on your own.

Several things about the care and feeding of agents - keep your face and talent in their minds. This is called "mind share." Do this by checking in with them periodically, sending them your latest press coverage, head shots, video, etc.

Thank you notes after a booking are even more important to an agent than to a client for getting more work.

Also, remember NEVER sign an "exclusive" contract with an agent. This can really haunt you should someone call you to give you a gig. The agent can step in and book you - or someone ELSE who is on his roster. Beware of this kind of agent.

Another thing, agents are highly social animals. If you play WITH them (golf, barbecues, etc.) on a social level, you may do better as well.

This is called schmoozing.

Also, do not overlook party and event planners. They can be a goldmine of work for your local market - at least until you reach the level of a Max Maven or Lance Burton. Then they will believe that they cannot afford you.

Make VERY sure that your agent is not "double booking" you, as well. Double booking is where the agent sells you to the client for a high price, then calls you and tells you that the client paid a MUCH smaller fee for your services.

If you discover that an agent is doing this, you might want to talk to an attorney. In several states, this is illegal.

Most agents are safe to work with and for, but, like any other business, there are a few bad apples out there, so watch your back - and wallet!


Postby Guest » 04/16/03 07:38 AM

Hello to all

It appears that Dennis has alot of usefull information on this suggestion is that anyone who is serious about the subject of agents should keep a more than close eye on his posts.


Postby Dennis Kyriakos » 04/19/03 03:07 AM

Thanks for the endoresment Dean. Your check's in the mail!

Glad to help out any way I can...
Dennis Kyriakos
Posts: 45
Joined: 01/30/08 01:00 PM
Location: New York City

Postby Guest » 04/22/03 01:55 AM

Since I started this post, I think I should keep up on it, but I been busy with school, (being a college student can suck sometimes :( ), I have seen some performers have multiple agents, like one agents for gigs and another agent for TV and show appearances, Is this a good idea?


Postby Dennis Kyriakos » 04/24/03 09:48 AM


More often than not, you are going to have several agents working for you. Actors have "commercial agents" who get them commercial auditions and "legit agents" who get them TV, theater and film auditions.

It could/should be the same with a "magic agent." You have to look at the clients the agent has. Agents tend to deal with a specific type of market. There are agents who deal specifically with kids parties. And there are agents who deal specifically with miztvahs or corporate events...or whatever. And some agents do a little of everything. Some agents have high-end clientele who are willing and able to spend money. Some have a clientele who are on a budget.

What it boils down to is knowing your product VERY WELL and soliciting the agents you want to work with.

As Paul Daniels said in his workshop: The single most important factor to your success is: YOU!

Hope this helps...
Dennis Kyriakos
Posts: 45
Joined: 01/30/08 01:00 PM
Location: New York City

Postby Guest » 04/24/03 10:55 AM

Dennis, what do I need to do to get an agent to take me on as a client? Is there anything I can do to make sure they would want me?

Mike Pisciotta

Postby Dennis Kyriakos » 05/01/03 09:22 AM


Good question. Lots of ways to answer it, however.

What do I need to do to get an agent to take me on as a client? Is there anything I can do to make sure they would want me?

An agent is in the business of selling a product. That product could be concrete, real estate, cars, pencils or entertainers. So they obviously need to have a good product because they need to satisfy the customer. They are in BUSINESS.

Obviously you need to have a good product and in this case the product is YOU. It goes without saying that you need to be the best possible entertainer you can be. Having a good product is a small portion of the business. There isnt much anyone can say about that other then get out there and work. Work for free if you have to, but getting experience in front of an audience and eagerness for self-improvement, are the only ways to improve. But thats a discussion for another topic.

Is there anything I can do to make sure they would want me?

We tend to give away a lot of our power thinking others know better than we do, dont we. Probably because we think they have the answers, connections, big money, gigs, etc. That is not healthy. A shift in attitude is important here. In short, we have to shift our attitude away from "Like me! Oh please like me! Can you hire me for a gig, please!" They smell fear and desperation because they are scared and desperate. They are desperately trying to fulfill the clients needs because they are scared they wont be able to pay their bills.

So we have to change our perception of our relationship with an agent. An agent needs someone to help them. Someone who can make them look good. Thats the only way they can get a client, make sure the client calls back in the future AND refers them to all their friends. They want their business to BOOM! When the agent calls the client to follow-up the next day and they will because its good business the conversation should go something like this:

Agent: "I just wanted to follow-up. How was your event."

Client: "We had such a great time! Everything was perfect. Oh, the weather was great, and the food was great. Thanks for recommending that caterer."

Agent: "My pleasure. Im glad to hear it. What did you think of the magician I sent you?"

Client: "He was amazing! I have no idea how he did that stuff. We had such a great time. He made me laugh/cry/get all warm and runny!"

Agent: "Glad to hear it. Well please let me know if I can help you again in the future."

Client: "Oh, You know I will. By the way, my sister-in-law is having a party next month and I recommended you, so expect a call from her."

Agent: "Well thank you."

The customer is satisfied and the agent looks good. And did you notice the magician looked good too? He "made me laugh/cry/get all warm and runny!" A job well done!

Have a good product and be a professional.

Be a "good businessman." Its very simple really but we tend to get caught up in other things, mostly involving our ego. Okay, thats definitely a topic for another discussion.

About a year ago I read "How to win friends and influence people" by Dale Carnegie. Then I noticed a change in my attitude. Let me know if it does the same for you.

Hope this helps. Now I have to get back to work!


Client: (1) a person using the services of a lawyer or architect or a professional person other than a doctor, or of a business. (2) a customer.

Agent: (1) a person who does something or instigates some activity. (2) one who acts on behalf of another. (3) something that produces an effect or change. (4) a secret agent.

Professional: Look it up. Then decide which definition you are and which you want to be.
Dennis Kyriakos
Posts: 45
Joined: 01/30/08 01:00 PM
Location: New York City

Postby Guest » 05/01/03 01:35 PM

Thank you Dennis, that was a great reply.

Mike Pisciotta

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