Why So Few Agents?

By • May 7, 2007

I’ve been thinking this week about the severe shortage of film and television music agents. With so many composers in the business, admittedly an oversupply, and an expanding amount of programming that needs both licensed and original music and scoring, it seems to me that the professions of “composer agent” or “song licensing rep” would be booming, but they aren’t.

The number one complaint I get from composers in the first 5-7 years of their careers is: Why can’t I get an agent? That usually stems from a desire on the part of the composer to concentrate on writing music servicing their clients, rather than marketing and drumming up new work. These composers and many others would be happy to pay 10% of their income for representation.

The few agents in the industry are so in demand that many of them don’t do a lot of marketing at all, instead letting the composers go out and build relationships and get considered for jobs, with the agent stepping in to send demos and negotiate the deal. And the existing agents can pick and choose only the most “marketable” of composers, leaving everyone else unrepresented.

Here’s a message for music business programs at our colleges and universities: rather than turn out hundreds of new composers every year into a massively oversaturated market, how about developing some courses in effective and ethical representation? There’s a huge demand for these skills, and given the huge shortage of agents, a qualified and motivated agent could write their own ticket in the film and television music industry today.

Comments

By Murray Middleman on June 23rd, 2008 at 7:22 pm

Dear Mark ,
Ifound your e-mail concerning the lack of film composer agents .
I am a very accomlished clarinetist /Saxophonist in Los Angeles . I book myself and other talented musicians and vocalist for private parties . my music service is called “Park Avenue West Entertainment”. I have a masters in classical clarinet ,and i am also very fluent as a jazz musicians . I have never been in the ‘click “in the l.A. recording musicians circle . Many musicians do know me and respect me as player .
my company profile was placed in the Hillywood directory three years ago . I have been recieveing Dvd’s and Cd’s from film composers who want ne to represent them . Sometimes they Cd’s are from Europe and all over the U.S. I have let my band business get too slow , to tell you the truth , but at the same time I am curious how i would attempt at establishing myself as an Agent ,for composers . Is it as simple as calling my client at Warner bros , a V.P. and a film editor, and telling him I am working as an Agent for composers during the day , and doing my Band business at night . ??

By Shirl on July 26th, 2008 at 2:02 pm

Hi,
What I’m in the market for is an agent for my copyrighted Lyrics, Country & Gospel songs. Where are these agents?
Thanks,
Shirl

By Golden Bell Media on July 28th, 2008 at 11:37 am

My name is Rebecca, I Represent Golden Bell Media, and June Simon.
I would like to know the name of who I can talk to in regards to a Fresh New Music / Travel show for TV. We are aware that we need representation to get “The June Simon Show” on the air.

* The June Simon Show is fresh & new… June Simon is the cleanest sound to come out of the shadows in a long time. As June Simon travels all over North America, She sings live on location , Introducing the viewers to the area where she is at, and when possible, sharing the people of that area that make it special.
Her music is full of love and emotion and life, from a beautiful ballad to toe tapping pop. The songs that she sings are truly from her heart, from” El Camino del Diablo” to “Castles Out Of Stone” to “Wish Me Luck”.
Truly June Simon’s music is not just audible, but very visual also.
“The June Simon Show” clean, wholesome, family, Travel entertainment. Come travel with June Simon without leaving your living room.

We have proven that we have a viewing audience, and our web site states go crazy when we air on TV. We believe there is a broader viewing audience out in “TV land “that we can cater to. We are in need of representation to meet our dreams and goals.

See some of June Simon’s Videos at: http://www.youtube.com/junesimon & http://www.myspace.com/junesimon
Web site: http://www.junesimon.com

Thank You,
Rebecca Horkoff
Golden Bell Media, Inc.
info2@goldenbellhouse.com

By Delphine Van Deusen on November 14th, 2008 at 7:05 pm

Hello, I am a Music Composer/Producer and have just finished a brand new album of instrumentals in the Pop, Ambient, Easy Listening genre. It sounds a bit French at times, because well, I am 🙂
I am also looking for representation to take me to the next level.
Please visit my MySpace site to hear some music at:

http://www.myspace.com/delphinevandeusen

Thanks,

Delphine
Nordem Cardi Music

By Miriam Walla e on January 27th, 2009 at 2:52 pm

I am finishing my bachelors degree in Communications and Media and am looking for a work attachment as part of my degree.

How do I find work experience as an agent? Because I know I have what it takes, I have worked with bands and musicians for years and would love to get music out there for film & tv but dont know where to start. I have the right business savvy and chutzpah to make it in the industry..

Any advice would be treasured

Thank You

Miriam

By Delphine Van Deusen on February 16th, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Hello Miriam,

I just read your post and being in a way my own agent for years to find music jobs, I suggest that you get papers like Back Stage West and the Music Connection to start. They list movies in production and I think it’s a good way to find out where potential work for your artist is. Then you can contact the people in charge they might not have music yet for their film.
Another good site is Mandy.com

I hope I helped, feel free to check out my work on MySpace (link above your message.)

Thank you,

Delphine
Composer

By Lone Wolf Sullivan on June 28th, 2009 at 6:25 am

Mark Northam’s initial entry is interesting, although I completely disagree that there is an “oversuply” of music composers. Compared to the overall population (over 7 billion people), songwriters and music composers are very extremely rare.

The comments are not worth reading.

My research (I am a professional researcher) reveals that most agents cannot do much for their clients even if they tried. The top agencies (William Morris, etc.) are unapproachable. When an artist becomes a success with a buzz in the industry, these top agencies approach the successful artist.

Yes, there should be more fully functional agents for artists to contact. But there should also be an end to war, poverty, racism, sexism, and so on. Don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen.

I have a magnificent Opera with over 40 songs that has taken me 20 years to complete. I need and deserve a top agent. It is idiotic for Mark Northam or anybody to claim that what I have accomplished is part of an “oversupply” of music composers. There may be lots of mediocre songwriters in Nashville, but I am virtually one of a kind. That’s why there are no agents for me, because I have created a masterpiece that is essentially a white elephant in the music industry.

Lone Wolf Sullivan

By Mark Northam on June 28th, 2009 at 8:13 am

Mr. Sullivan –

Congratulations on your opera. Since I’ve never heard it, I certainly could not pass any sort of judgment on it, and don’t see that related in any way to the oversupply of composers in the industry today.

Respectfully, the more appropriate comparison to make re: numbers is comparing the number of people marketing themselves as composers to the number of available jobs for composers and the number of agents who represent composers. The number of composers dropping out of this business every month, combined with the concerns I hear about regularly from new composers in the business who are unable to find work, make it clear to me there is a severe oversupply situation.

I wish you luck with your opera.

Mark Northam

By Wes Costello on July 19th, 2009 at 8:12 am

As I’m sure Mr. Sullivan knows from his own work, making those types of general comparisons (comparing the number of film composers and musicians to the entire population of the world?) is silly. There’s nothing to gleam from those numbers. It would also be accurate (but silly) to say that police and teachers are extremely rare using that logic.

However, there is something to gleam from many beginning composers undercutting and undermining the industry by continuously offering their music for free, no matter what. Granted, it’s important to do that kind of work for free in the beginning (I’ve done it very recently as well with a short called Five Minutes Flat), but I think directors and producers are catching on and requesting free services or “spec work” and it undervalues all musical work.

I think in the end though, those folks will come back to the pack and really get what they pay for by hiring professional composers and those doing all the free work might just drop out, thinning out the numbers. Here’s to wishing…

By Wolf Sullivan on September 26th, 2010 at 6:53 am

I noticed my old post on Google and read it. Since then my “Opera” has become a “Musical”, specifically a “Hollywood Musical”. The other thing that has changed is I have concluded that screenwriting (I’ve written 3 screenplays, 2 of them Musicals) is a rip off racket in Hollywood run by former used car salesmen. You MUST sell your script, and it will be re-written by others. For songwriters nowadays, we are never edited and we retain the copyright ownership of our songs. Therefore the Hollywood screenwriting racket is not for me.

As for the topic here “Why So Few Agents”, I explained that in my earlier post last year. Basically, an unknown cannot approach an agent. When a songwriter or composer becomes a success, there will be a line up of agents, managers, and other parasites at his door who want 10% of his fortune. They know they can make lots of money with little or no work.

By Ann Nonamice on March 24th, 2011 at 11:54 am

I can confirm the info in the article. I got my start composing as a session player. The composer of the show I was hired for got so far behind (doing 5 network shows simultaneously) that he asked me compose the remaining 6 episodes for him. The company (major, major company) knew this and I was involved with top producers weekly. My work was extremely well received. After the series ended, I approached the producers to be considered for other shows. They told me they don’t deal with unrepresented composers – seriously. I then thought it would be a matter of calling a bunch of agents. How wrong I was. I went through all the reputable agents in The Music Business Registry and not one of them would agree to even meet me. I went as far as driving over and knocking on their doors. Their assistants looked at me like I came in with a bag of poop. It took me 3 years before I got my next job. All on my own. I finally got an agent by letting him take 10% of the show for negotiating the contract.

By John Brennan on June 8th, 2011 at 3:35 pm

I enjoyed reading this article and comments. I’m a composer but it’s not my job. I’m an officer in the military. Music has just been a passion for me. I’ve been told by conductors and many coworkers that I should submit my music to the film industry but I really don’t know where to start. If anyone would like to hear orchestrated music from a service member, some actually written while serving in the desert, then take a listen. Maybe someone out there with the right contacts might enjoy it. I think it would be fun to hear my music played in a film. Money is not what drives me. I’m old fashion when it comes to music. I compose because I enjoy it. http://www.reverbnation.com/johnvbrennaniii
My last copyright is the “The Great Drought of the Serengeti”. Hope you like it.

By Sara Doodnath on August 1st, 2011 at 3:14 am

Hi I found this thread vey interesting. Ann, how did you get the 2nd job? Did the (un)credited work on the 1st show count for anything?

By Liviu Treistaru on September 5th, 2011 at 11:29 am

I advise you to listen to Mr. John Brennan’s music. Excellent music!
Quite original, very complex in its inner psychological and musical dimensions, fine and interesting orchestration, captivating!
It’s not only music what Mr. Brennan does but also a patriotic and human attitude about what life sometimes is.
I’m sure it would be great hearing his music in the theaters because he really has something important to say. And the public really wants something important to be told.
So, just listen to him!

By Dan Loredan on November 29th, 2011 at 8:54 am

John, Compose for your heart and everybody of us will find the way to TV or Film Industry.
Compose, enjoy & fight to be recognized.

Many Blessings !

Sincerely, Dan

By Peter Reilich on February 29th, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Thank you for publicly unearthing the big, coveted secret about music representation in Hollywood. In this case, film composers:

“The few [film composers’] agents in the industry are so in demand that many of them don’t do a lot of marketing at all, instead letting the composers go out and build relationships and get considered for jobs, with the agent stepping in to send demos and negotiate the deal. And the existing agents can pick and choose only the most “marketable” of composers, leaving everyone else unrepresented.” -Mark Northam

But Mark, that doesn’t mean there aren’t enough agents. They aren’t in demand. Those agents you speak of above are EXCLUSIVE. Because their film composer clients are prestigious and exclusive. That is what you are calling marketable. These are composers who established production companies (producers, directors etc) and their music contractors know personally. See the thing is, Mark, Hollywood industry is like a small town. Everybody knows everybody else. In other words, if you don’t know anybody, you’re ANONYMOUS. Unless you’re healing for substance abuse, anonymous is not good. If you are trying to find work in Hollywood, anonymous is definitely not going to help you.

Exclusive is, therefore an important word to understand in Hollywood. Much of LA life functions, for better or worse, around that word. Another famous phrase is “It’s who you know..” -meaning: whatever the desired gig might be, it doesn’t really require much special talent and therefore it’s more important to be connected to it by friendship, family etc so when they choose, you’ll have a greater chance at getting the job since there are bound to be many other ______s (film composers, pianists, actors etc) who are qualified for the part and also desire the position. This is especially true in music, which has a weak union compared to others (SAG, Crafts-Service etc) in terms of employment placement/security.

Let’s unearth another secret.. that isn’t really a secret, but more like an unspoken truth, something of which everyone is currently aware, but doesn’t want to admit. Because, it’s so unavoidably sad. Even though it seems like this great invention, and it IS a great invention. But, with many great inventions, comes unemployment.

That’s because: It’s too easy now to make quality music recordings with digital recording arts technology.

That’s it. Recording technology has revolutionized music recording production. Not that long ago, film composers were esoteric, unusually skilled professionals where only a few talented musicians, who were inclined and in the neighborhood to participate in that once obscure art form, were then employed making music for movies. Plus, you had to know how to read and write music notation to be a film composer, which usually wipes out 95% of potentials before the race starts.

However, now that making recordings is easier with digital technology, so is making background music for films. All of these people, thousands of people with recording studios in their personal computers, all over the planet, most who still don’t read music notation, are now producing marketable film background music product. No wonder it’s free.

But, back in Hollywood the old hierarchy still exists, for two reasons. 1) to show respect for the veterans of the industry, some of whom are still working 2) the old rule that experience is most important hiring factor still causes veteran production companies, and other productions that follow this thinking, to seek prestigious, veteran film composers for their high budget/artistically lauded productions. Or, at least somebody who is personally recommended by these experienced industry folks. It’s still ‘who you know.’

The third, perhaps most important reason for continued exclusivity and hierarchical thinking in Hollywood hiring procedure is the one that includes the following concept: that people who are paying for something (a movie’s producer etc) like to think they have bought and provided the best art for their production when they can afford it in their budget. Experimentation does not usually factor in this scenario, for obvious reasons. Though, experimenting with new film composer possibilities still may play a part in talented innovation, from which a film might well benefit.

Consequently, in Hollywood, almost everything is about prestige and budget. You can’t have a conversation (or write an honest piece) without mentioning it, a lot. It usually goes as follows: either you have the budget for prestige or you don’t: bottom line.

Interestingly, though never mentioned of course, is that the actual quality of prestigious music etc is not necessarily any better than the average. Depending on who you ask. But this is a recent development. For in the past, film composing was a more specialized craft, as stated above, and producers/directors had no choice but to hire traditional, orchestral composers who had special training.

Again, digital recording arts developments have made quality recording arts accessible to the public and now every Tom, Dick & Harry thinks they can be a good film composer and, apparently, they can. Since, after all, film background music is not that difficult to create, given one has access to the machine which turns the process into a sort of video game. The trained classical music composer as exclusive film composer is becoming obsolete because it simply isn’t a necessary component to dramatic art anymore. And also because there are many people who don’t fancy orchestral music.

Mark is right to point out that agents of film composers in Hollywood don’t participate in marketing nor do they even seek placement for their clients, except casually. That word, casual, also is key to understanding the business at hand. In Hollywood in general, much employment and deal making is achieved casually, such as through meeting someone at a party, someone introduces someone to someone else etc.

So, Mark mentioned the unmentionable (prestigious film composers’ agents) but left out the reason why these agents don’t participate on the ground level of marketing and placement, and instead act more like personal managers and secretaries. It’s because their clients have a “name” already, are already prestigious enough to get calls for work from other prestigious people in town. Their clients do their own personal marketing, or representing, by going to parties and other social events they hear about through the local group of prestigious people they know, which communication is the most important part of a professional industry person’s business day in Hollywood. Business connections are very important for those lucky enough to be working in Hollywood.

What would the college course for agents teach its students, Mark? How to meet the right people in Hollywood? Point being, colleges are already teaching this business, music marketing, on several levels. None of which has anything to do with the prestigious film composers and their agents mentioned above. Instead, the people who are learning music marketing are mostly independent musicians with home recording studios, and they don’t necessarily live in Hollywood. That kind of music business is different than the business practiced by the prestigious elite group of musicians who get most of the best feature film contracts in Hollywood. It’s more competitive on a large scale, and it’s relatively anonymous.

Agencies like Killer Tracks and others have changed how all the rest of film music at large (a vast majority of released and unreleased productions in features, advertising, TV etc) manages and employs film usage contracts, automating the business through the web. Which business practices are aided by the ease with which digital recordings nowadays are quickly and effeciently created, heard, promoted, mailed, employed etc. without as much, or any need for personal agents.

When Mark states “…with the agent stepping in to send demos and negotiate the deal,” understand that this is more about a prestigious, luxury and legal mechanical service that the managing firm provides. Prestigious film composers are fine artists who shouldn’t be bothered with technical business details, is how the thinking goes.

On a more proletariat level, the masses of working and would-be film composers fight over the large amount of B level production work that’s out there, and they do it independently, without personal management because the process of acquiring these film music contracts is also provided in a proletariat fashion, like self-serve gas stations. These kind of impersonal music composer agents may be found on the web and offer various percentage deals in brokering music for film use.

B level (lower budget than mainstream feature films, such as advertising, TV etc) productions have always been there. That hasn’t really changed from the way it used to be, except there is far more of it. Just like there are far more TV channels, there are more B level productions that are released than in the past. That means more work for everybody. The reason, however, that is seems like there is less work more competed over, is because digital recording technology opened up this once, unusual musical art form and business field to amateur musicians.

By Dimos Stathoulis on March 5th, 2012 at 3:58 am

Hello my name is Dimos Stathoulis,i am a semy young composer and trying to find my way into the industry.I am writing to introduce myself to the world and maybe get some represantation my self. You can check some of my stuff on audiosparx.com/dimosstathoulis and in my channel on youtube (http://www.youtube.com/user/DIMSTATHOUL?feature=guide)

Feel free to contact me for anything. ty for your time

By Natasha Key on February 10th, 2015 at 2:09 pm

Hi , I am a film composer/songwritter singer, I am looking for an agency:
http://www.natashakeymusic.virb.com
I work in Logic X and Pro Tools, Native instruments etc…
Thanks!

Natasha Key
http://www.natashakeymusic.virb.com

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