Is a good agent really the answer to a singer’s career? London agent Alastair Lindsey-Renton talks himself out of a job – well, almost.
Have you ever fantasized: ‘If I only had an agent, I’d really be getting ahead right now?’
VoiceCouncil tracked down prominent London agent Alastair Lindsey-Renton to ask if a good agent really is the singer’s cure-all.
Surprisingly, the answer is ‘no’ – as long as three conditions are met.
1. A Good Understanding of the Business
Never sit back and expect the work to come to you. You must always be promoting your interests: meeting the right people; knowing what is currently casting; understanding what groups/venues/listeners are asking for; being aware of what opportunities may be coming up in the next 6-12 months.
If this sounds daunting, remember that there are just a few key questions you need to ask:
*Who are the creatives? *Where does the money come from? *Who finds the actors/singers? *Who negotiates contracts?
Take time every week to develop your answers to these questions. Just take them one at a time and keep track of the progress you make on your answers. This may not be the type of vocal-work you thought you would be doing but remember: you are your own business.
At the risk of sounding repetitive: contacts are vital. One reason that you may find an agent helpful is that it is part of their job is to know people; however, you can do this yourself.
Do you have friends in the business? Talk to them, find out who are the movers and shakers and how best to approach them.
If you know something you might be right for is coming up, make direct contact with the relevant casting directors, venue managers, music producers and bands with vacancies.
Do your homework and research which projects these professionals have been working on previously and then send them a letter in which you’ll be able to talk knowledgably about their work – don’t forget to include your CV, headshot and contact details!
2. Know What You Want
This is a career in which you need to be fully invested. Who are you? Where do you want to be in five, ten, twenty-five years time? Be realistic: if you’re lucky enough to fall into a niche – exploit it!
Sometimes the parts/styles you see yourself singing/acting don’t marry-up with those that casting directors/band members/venue managers see for you. Recognize this early on and adapt.
Once you become a household name you can play any role you want but in the early days it’s vital to build your CV. This may mean taking jobs for little or no money in the beginning but it will pay off in the long run.
There will hopefully come a time when you have to do the opposite and turn down “cover” roles. Don’t be afraid of this; turning down a cover part can make people think of you as a more valuable asset.
Turning work down requires both thoughtfulness and bravery; you have to consider the optimal time to say ‘no’ and have the guts to actually say it! I have two clients who are now leads in major West End musicals precisely because they reflected and took the bold move of saying ‘no’ to a lesser role.
3. Constant Contacting
Again, I cannot stress enough the importance of networking; this is probably the most important part of your business.
Ensure you have an up to date copy of Contacts: Stage, Television, Film and Radio (published every November)
Here you will find details of agents, casting directors, photographers, producers and much more.
Writing letters and communicating with industry professionals is the best way of getting your name out there, especially if you don’t have an agent.
Make sure your CV is up to date and that it is on the casting database Spotlight (everyone should be on it: www.spotlight.com) and have a headshot that tells the person looking at it who you really are, not who you aspire to be!
Whether you have an agent or not, remember that an agent works with you and for you but never instead of you. The most dangerous thing you can do is to let go of your career by imagining that someone else will do it for you—you need to be in control!
There are few things as unhelpful to your career as panic!
The key to moving ahead in your career doesn’t lie outside of you but within you, with the ongoing realization that you are your own business.
Take some time, right now, to research these three areas. Increase your understanding of this business; get to know what is going on, the trends and the opportunities. Take some time out to search your own soul and determine where your drive to succeed lies. Finally, keep contacting people and make plans to stay in circulation—no matter what.
There is never a substitute for being your own agent.
Alastair Lindsey-Renton read music at Royal Holloway College, University of London, where he majored in both Performance and American Musical Theatre. He studied both practical and academic music and drama at postgraduate level at GSA Conservatoire and Goldsmiths College, London, respectively.
Whilst enjoying professional engagements as an actor in both the film and theatrical worlds, and as a lecturer at drama schools, Alastair was delighted to be invited to join the theatrical agency Grantham/Hazeldine as an associate. Alastair also works as a producer, most recently staging concerts for artists including Jason Robert Brown and promoting the work of new American musical theatre writers with Joel Fram’s New Voices collective.