As a circus artist, how do you sign up with an agency? Which agency would get you the types of jobs you are looking for? Is an agent even necessary in this day of DIY marketing and social media?
We spoke with two agencies known for working with circus artists to see what advice and insight they had and how they feel about the changing times and what benefits an agency can offer to a circus agent. Alexandre Hourdequin director of Talent & Productions, and Applause Entertainment run by creative director and co-founder Daniel Tusia. Applause Entertainment (based out of Melbourne, Australia) has been around since 2005 providing variety entertainment for corporate and private events in Melbourne and surrounds. Talent & Productions, situated in Monaco since 2004, has worked on many prestigious projects, and prides itself on providing entertainment for high end clients.
Kim Campbell: How necessary is it to have an agent in the circus world these days? Can a company or artist simply do it themselves?
Applause Entertainment: Performers can do it themselves however, from what I have found in dealing with creatives like circus folk over the years, they are operating on a very creative wavelength, and their time frames and response rates (at least to an agent like myself) is not what we are needing to seal a gig. Often, too, their marketing material needs just a little bit more work to present themselves in the best fashion for current trends and markets. Of course this it not true for all, and there are some standout exceptions and these are the few that will find themselves successfully dealing directly with end clients. Having a good agent, who knows the right events to pitch your act for, taking into consideration all the safety, insurance and performance requirements are considered, will ultimately ensure the performer’s, client’s and audiences’ needs are all being met. This is the main reason you want an agent representing you in circus, rather than DIY.
Talent & Productions: Times have changed. Before the Internet era, we were not really talking about agent or agencies but about impresarios. These professionals were not representing many artists but just a few. At that time, it was not question about videos but there were only photographs and the impresario’s talk and his name would do the rest. Nowadays, things have changed. All circus artists have a website, a Facebook account or a Youtube channel. Many circus artists can manage their own career because they are not from circus families anymore but have been students who have gone to school with some business knowledge.
Moreover, there are more and more circus festivals around the world. Very often, a good act who has been participating in one circus festival will then “tour” all circus festivals. He then does not need to have an agent as his participation in circus festivals will be enough to promote him in the circus business.
Nevertheless, performers who want to open up their business to something else than circus would need an agent. An agent will have connections outside of the circus environment. He has links to television shows, amusement parks, event companies and many others.
KC: How much more work can an agency get for artists?
AE: This really depends on a few factors – some of which are not in the control of the agent. Things like quality of promotional material play a huge part. Good images and, now more than ever, excellent quality videos are required to sell an act. Then, it will depend on the market and the act itself being marketable to the event market and space. The type of act also plays a part; acts like aerial or roue cyr requiring venue specific rigging or large amounts of space are often more expensive and so harder to sell than ground acts, thereby also affecting the strike rate at which an agent can sell them.
T&P: It really depends on the artist and the agent. Some agents are really well connected in some countries and can then develop a huge market. On the other hand, some agents have exclusivity with some clients or companies and if the artists want to work there, he will have no choice than going through these specified agents. Nevertheless, I like to think of artists as apartments! In the sense that if an apartment is listed in several real estate agencies its value will decrease because clients will see them everywhere. Too much exposure kills the product. Artists should be careful who they work with and how they are represented.
KC: What level does the artist/duo/company need to be at to qualify for an agent?
AE: In short – professional. They need to have great, clean, and up-to-date promo, high level skills, and good costume and makeup as a basic starting point. They will also need Public Liability Insurance (PLI). They can still be in training or just starting out, as long as the aforementioned is covered.
T&P: Not much is required as long as you can speak several languages, use a computer, have a good artistic sense and some communication skills; I would say that everyone can do it.
KC: How can a circus artist find an agent? Is there an application process? What do they need to provide?
AE: I assume word of mouth is always a good starting point amongst circus peers. Asking which agent is getting artists the good gigs and looking after artists around their local area and beyond. Taking the initiative to reach out with good and easily accessible promotion (digital, cloud-based files are the best!), geared towards helping the agent sell their act efficiently, and timely and clear communication, is always considered favourably.
T&P: I would say that well-known agencies are the ones that have been in the business for a while and that we hear a lot about. Then, it is all about Google search. I do not know how the other agents work but at Talents & Productions, we ask all performers to send us a videolink by email. We then watch the act as we are looking for originality. It can be the act, the requisite, the costume, or the presentation. In the event business, we are not looking for high skills performers like someone who can juggle with nine rings but originality or themed acts.
KC: Do agencies sign contracts with circus performers for their services?
AE: This may vary from agency to agency. Some agents will only act as the broker between the performer and contracts are signed by the performer and client. With our agency we are taking liability directly for the service so it is our name that is on the contract, thereby in effect, we are singing on behalf of the performer delivering the service.
T&P: Yes, since we know our clients, we always negotiate contracts ourselves and we also have our own made by international lawyers.
KC: What percentage does an agency usually keep of the performers income?
AE: This will vary depending on the length of contract and perhaps other factors such as exposure and amount of time needed to coordinate. Usually anywhere from 15% – 30%. I have heard of some taking more.
T&P: Since we are negotiating directly contracts with our customers, we add 15% to 20% on top of the artists fee.
KC: How do you know if an agent/agency is good?
AE: It depends on which perspective you are asking – the industry or the performer?
For the Performer – Does the agency care about the performer and their needs? Do they provide clear briefing about the event when asking for a quote? Do they provide secure and clean green rooms? In short – do they care about the needs of their performers? Do they pay on time?
For the Industry – Are they doing regular, professional work with great results?
T&P: Very good question. I would say that reputation will speak for itself. Then you can also check how long the agency has been in the business, where it works, what kind of clients it has, when it pays (if it does) …
KC: What is rewarding about being an agent/agency?
AE: Seeing the result of the artists being matched at the right gig, with the right preparation and getting the glowing feedback from the client who saw the value for themselves and their audiences. I also love sharing this with the performers as often no news is good news – but it’s nice to give back to performers who clearly have put the work in to their craft and business.
KC: What is rewarding about being an agent/agency?
T&P: To be able to participate indirectly in nice shows and events.
Whether you choose to go with an agency, or to figure it out on your own, there is plenty of research and reaching out to do to market your act or show. Speaking to peers in your community about reputable agencies, and getting high quality promotional materials together can be the first steps to broadening your circus career.
Feature photo courtesy of Talents & Productions