International Make-Up Artist Trade Show is the equivalent of happy hour for make-up lovers. Put aside the deeply discounted products and entertaining aspects of the show, IMATS provides educational and networking opportunities. I indulged in make-up samples, tips, tricks and treats this entire weekend and I have enough beauty knowledge to empower me for months to come.
I had the pleasure of listening to a panel discussion on the importance of agencies representing make-up artists in the business. The workshop was filled with aspiring make-up artists and veterans who had an interest in building their client list, earning a higher rate for their work and getting hired regularly.
The panelists were Madeline Leonard of Cloutier Remix, Frank Moore of Celestine Agency and Timothy Priano of ABTP gave much insight into the world of being an agency's artist. They gave plenty of tips for obtaining experience and gaining representation as well as building a great relationship with an agency once you're on board with one.
For artists who have big goals in mind, seeking representation with an agency is not a bad idea to explore, but there are some misconceptions about agencies that must get squashed immediately.
It's a challenge to get picked up by an agency, and this process will involve a lot of rejection. Joining an agency doesn't guarantee anything. Don't expect to get signed, book a gig the next day and get hired to paint faces on the set of True Blood.
Moore says, "It takes time. You immediatley think 'Okay, well, now I have an agency. My life's going to change. I'm buying a new house. I'm getting a car I've always wanted.' It isn't that way. It's a really, really tough road even once you sign with an agency." He also emphasizes the importance of education, training, assisting and doing free work to prepare for agency representation.
Leonard says, "An agent can help the artist with everything but the artistry."
She lists career guidance, rates, positive and negative feedback, billing and collections as some of the items agents help with. Leonard advises artists not to approach agencies unprepared.
"Make sure you have a presentation that's up-to-date and complete." If an artist is asked about their website, a response such as "I'm working on it" is unacceptable. "Get your website done, have some references ready, have an updated résumé and approach them very professionally... Have everything lined up and make sure you're at the level to be seeking representation." She also recommends familiarizing with European editorials and following the work of other great artists.
Building a portfolio is key. Leonard says, "[Agents in LA] don't use portfolios too much anymore. I know in New York, physical portfolios are still more prevalent but we tend to use websites almost exclusively."
Artists should demonstrate their skill through a diverse portfolio but they should also possess other important qualities. Being humble, pleasant, confident and honest were mentioned. Leonard says, "I like humility. I think people often go see an agent and they think they have to be full of themselves. That can be a turn off. I'd rather hear from someone else how great this makeup artist is than hear from a makeup artist about how great they are."
Moore says, "Don't be offended if an agency doesn't get back to you. We don't do open calls anymore. The best thing you can do is develop a website that shows the very best of your work--like Timothy said, only the best stuff is what you should show. It's not quantity, it's quality."
He also recommends working at a cosmetics counter to get some experience with a broad range of customers and faces that can help build skills and a diverse portfolio needed to gain the attention of an agency.
There are generally two components to agency income: agency fee which is billed to the client and agency commission which is taken from the artist's day rate. According to the panelists, the industry standard for agency fee is 20% and commission is between 15-20%.
Priano says, "When you join an agency, make sure you know the facts. This is a business, this is not a joke. When you go on a booking, you ask what your day rate is. You find out before you go with an agency what charges are going to be charged to you. You need to be aware of those things."
Building a long-term relationship is ideal rather than jumping from one to another. Consistency matters. Stick with your agency through thick and thin as the panelists have suggested because some of their most successful artists have endured feast and famine with their agents and are now some of the most well-known artists in the business. Keep growing as an artist, always be prepared and stay persistent.
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