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Considering starting VJ agency

Discussion in 'The Business Side' started by evomedia, Mar 2, 2006.

  1. evomedia

    evomedia Control Freaks

    Hi all, right after all the sampling debates I've decided to start a thread with some positivity rather than ethical debate.

    I'm strongly considering starting an agency that offers some truely exceptional VJ's to the wider world. I've never had problems getting in work for our Control Freaks Crew, if fact I only look occassional as we don't have enough time to fulfill any more obligations.

    So I'm considering starting a decent agency of Visual Talent, this is really an initial discussion to see what people think. We as a crew have always tried to encourage a open approach to VJing and would love to embrace a wider marketplace.

    So lets open this up to some discussion, I'd love to know how many people here would like to be involved in an agency based business model? What would people like to see as a standard fee? Would people like the agency to handle rigging, contracts, equipment hire etc, like a complete service with VJ performers part of a team, or just as a standard booking agency where the work gets passed on?

    I of course will be prepared to look at as many showreels as possible, but I'm really looking for a decent standard. I've been considering the benefits and can see that with the right selection of artists we have the opportunity to raise the bar for reputation as well as hopefully pushing up the money for performance and content creation.

    Ideally I think as a community we should be thinking about pushing a more professional standpoint, DJ agencies demonstrate the power of a one stop shop for promoters with the knowledge that they are getting quality. By ensuring quality should raise our fees and hopefully feed down through the VJ community as a whole.

    Ideally I would like to get all the top players involved, you know who you are...
  2. InsideUsAll

    InsideUsAll immersive

    getting established VJ's who have spent years building up their client list & reputation to work under an agent may be more difficult than you think. I would imagine you would have to have a very impressive client list of your own in order to tempt an artist to work with you & you would also have to have invested a year or two building relationships with the artists in question in order for them to trust u enough to share their reputation with you.
  3. evomedia

    evomedia Control Freaks

    Alright there.

    Does it hurt to be on a agencies books as well though, not taking away your own client list just giving the option for more bookings maybe at a higher paid rate. To have an agency with decent VJ's means that those that approach the agency are ensured a certain quality which they will pay a premuim for.

    Big name DJ's have there own reputation, doesn't mean they view getting there name on a agencies books a bad think, just means they don't have to spend all there time hunting for bookings. A single crew has to chase there own work, but if several all are available through an agency then people start to approach us rather than visa versa.

    What harm does it do if we hold your name on our rosta? It costs you nothing, the only thing that could happen is you get some work you wouldn't have had otherwise. As long as the rosta of artists is the best quality then your reputation cannot do anything other than improve surely?

    Incidentally, how many Vj's really have a reputation that means they get booked on their name alone? I can't help but think repuation is still quite isolated, no VJ is a household name, are there any superstar VJ's yet? I think anyone here who really believes they are too big to be involved with an agency as it's stealing there rep or just using them to boost is alittle short sighted as to the size of marketplace. There is bucket loads of work out there that really is too vast for single crews alone.
  4. Amukidi

    Amukidi New Member

    You have a PM!
  5. sleepytom

    sleepytom VJF Admin

    are you talking about a non-exclusive agency?

    most music / dj agencys are exclusive - ie people that are members of the agency cannot do their own bookings, all work is done through the agents. This means that people cannot do cheap gigs for their mates etc etc.

    I'm very interested in the idea of a non-exclusive agency - what are your proposed rates / fee split?
  6. Anyone

    Anyone New Member

    Hi Evo,

    as you may know, I've got experience VJ agencies
    I'd be happy to share some thoughts with you,
    please email me if you think I can be of use.

    but so far, Dave-inside has a point,
    a big obstacle for you will be to resolve exclusivity issues with VJs.


  7. evomedia

    evomedia Control Freaks

    I'm indeed thinking of non exclusive, we all all friends here after all, hence the reason I was asking for sort of fees people would like to earn per gig, I imagine a fee to the agency as a booking fee, to cover sales, marketing and promotion of the artists on the books, but this would be clear to all artists and not a pisstake, after all I'm lookig to be on the rosta so I'm intersted in getting promoters to start paying fair prices for the skills, I would like the actual artists to get what they view as a decent payment, and I don't mean current standard pauper payments, but simular to decent DJ rates. I'm still working out running costs, tax etc to work out what the actual running cost would be on the agency side.

    When we have worked with larger clients we have broken down payments into sections, equipement (including stuff like custom screen printed branded screens) performance (per hour) and content (custom content creation charged by 30 secs for branded etc with a few free clips)

    I'm also interested in setting up some deals with some of my AV companies to get hire of kit with a markup, decent advanced schematics of rigs, branding elements, back end design.

    I have no wish to start telling people they can't keep their own clients and regular gigs, I'm more interested in increasing the reputation of VJ's and working to get a mainstream outlet for us all.
  8. evomedia

    evomedia Control Freaks

    Didn't get your PM amukidi...
  9. DrEskaton

    DrEskaton Triple Hexagon, Osaka

    not all agencies are exclusive in creative fields...

    I have an agent for my Visual Effects post production freelance booking already. It's non exclusive, if she introduces me to a client she gets a cut, if I find the work myself she doesn't. It works well and both of the main agencies in this field, Soho Editors and Satusfaction work this way, non exclusive....

    I'd sign up to a non exclusive vj agency no worries
  10. evomedia

    evomedia Control Freaks

    Thats the way I've always worked with design agencies too, its a much fairer model than DJ agencies. I reckon there is a good opportunity here, its not about making the agency money but raising the bar and making our industry alittle bit more appealing to those interested in using visuals but are worried about the quality of what they would recieve. It should also open doors to the events and staging markets that are closed to most here.
  11. Anyone

    Anyone New Member

    In my experience, non-exclusive VJ agencies don't work.

  12. evomedia

    evomedia Control Freaks

    I've been looking for a new career outlet to be fair, design agencies after 10 years have started to get a little boring, I'm keen to do something I enjoy more and that's probably this, so I want a platform that at present doesn't exist. So I really am open to suggestions as to what people would like to see.
  13. holly

    holly WetCircuit.com

    Jobs, would be my guess. That is what would make your agency worthwhile. Not just being another name on a (free) roster. A name on a list is what you get from festivals.
  14. InsideUsAll

    InsideUsAll immersive

    it all sounds well and good, especially in light of you preffering the non-exclusive arrangement.

    Just don't underestimate the promoters, if they can deal direct with the VJ's and pay less, they will, they're often as skint as we are, so even if you've spent a few years building up a solid relationship with them, they're likely to always go with the cheapest option.

    I respect your ideals for sure, and if you stick at it then what your talking about doing would be great, its just not an easy thing to do, when the industry works on the premise of 'who you know'.

    If you were to setup an agency getting work internationally, then you may find it a bit easier, somewhat ironically. Cos the UK, London especially, is cut throat when it comes down to the promoters working on the same bread line we do.

    The most frustrating part of it all is getting a promoter to actually value the difference between a crap VJ and a competent one. Its very rare I've found one who can tell the difference, unfortunately for us there is some logic in that though, from a promoters point of view, because only a very small percentage of the audience notice the difference between a crap VJ and a competent one too.
  15. evomedia

    evomedia Control Freaks

    Ok let put together some more detail and get back to everyone, I'm wont be working on a chicken and egg situation where I can't get work without artists and can't get artists without work. So I'll start talking to people who may be interested in using such an agency, get some promotional material together and start testing the water. As long as people here are not adversed to the idea then I'll go on the basis that VJ's will sign up if I fulfill my promises of quality work and payment. Hehe who would resist if I had the work sitting there.
  16. DrEskaton

    DrEskaton Triple Hexagon, Osaka

    the potential for this is opening up new markets.... if the agency could be a bridge between the vj world and post production/design/corporate events/music videos it could work.

    eg the vj's do their own bookings in the traditional vj world and the agency helps them with stuff outside that market. From what I've seen most VJ's don't know where to start when it comes to these area's outside the club/festival area.

    that way the non exclusive part could work....

    but for it to work, there has to be a deal that if the agency introduces a vj to a new client (eg a new promoter design house etc) the VJ is forbidden to work direct with that client, it's the agencies client and is hands off.... likewise the VJ's existing clients are handoffs to the agency.. VJ's who won't respect this get dropped from the agency.

    again that's the deal with vfx agents, everyone knows it and it works
  17. holly

    holly WetCircuit.com

    Respectfully, this is an old arguement that needs a beating to whack out the flees and dust. Rather than blame 95% of the world for being too stupid to know the difference, logic begs the possibility that there simply isn't enough difference between "bad" and "good" VJs for 95% of the non-experts to tell them apart.

    VJs are like wine. There are so many and you likely won't see the same one again another night out. It's not really worth remembering their names if your not a connoisseur.... VJs need to be more like beer where you can ask for your favorite everywhere you go!
  18. freakowen

    freakowen I've given money to VJForums

    From what you're saying so far it sounds like a good plan - as long as the work is there.

    Most of our gigs so far have been through word of mouth or people being at our gigs rather than from show reels - which I never feel do a performance justice (maybe I just need to get better at making them).

    As others have mentioned the non-exclusivity section would be important. On the flip side, I've been in a situation before where I've had to turn gigs down, obviously at the moment first place to pass it onto is other VJ's I know - if there's an agency that I have a good working relationship with would I pass it on there? Possibly.

    Goodl luck with it and I'd deffinately be intersted to see how this one progresses.
  19. Amukidi

    Amukidi New Member

    vj agency

    sent again
  20. vjpixylight

    vjpixylight AKA Will O' The Wisp

    wether you call it an 'agency' or a 'union' it does the same thing.
    raising the quality of VJ work and therefore the fees that VJ's can charge.

    the problem is, how do you keep the scabs from underbidding the agency for contracts.

    Dave is right. We as VJ's need to form together a strong VJ representational group for our art. If we don't, it will stay a cut-throat economics, and promoters will widdle away any kind of collective bargining we(as an agency/union) might have..
  21. DrEskaton

    DrEskaton Triple Hexagon, Osaka

    no they are not the same thing.

    An agency represents vj's who choose to join and are found to be of high enough standard.

    the strength of an agency is in it's reputation, a client who is not happy with them can always book elsewhere, if paying the higher fees for an agency vj is not good value for money the agency won't survive.

    a union doesn't work this way, they want every vj to join and to set minimum fees across the board and to block vj's who don't want to join from work.

    to me there is a big fundamental difference.
  22. evomedia

    evomedia Control Freaks

    an agency is different from a Union, an agency is designed to be selective therefore ensuring only a certain standard of performer is represented. That in turn gives clients the security they want that they won't be let down, which they will pay a premium for. A Union however represents everyone and fights for the individual workers rights within their own organisations.

    the quality is what makes the difference, its the same in any industry, you could go to a design agency like Conran and pay a fortune, or go to a freelance designer at home and pay next to nothing, but your taking out the risk element by paying the premium. Also by going through an agency the client/promoter gets a professional service, the people I work with are AV professionals. So you don't get sheets slung up, they get their branding correctly displayed, liability insurance, decent kit and advice.

    Also if the agency model works then those on the books will slowly become very well known throughout the industry, its all about building expectation and reputation. The DJ marketplace again is a good example, you can find a local DJ and get them to play cheap, or get a Big name agency DJ which provides perceived quality and value.

    I can't stop them going cheap but from my experience, making clients feel they are getting an exclusive service has an amazing effect on getting them to part with cash.
  23. vjpixylight

    vjpixylight AKA Will O' The Wisp

    I guess it's like tom has stated..

    Unions in the UK are non existent, so you blokes don't really understand union concepts..but that okay.
    A Agency in the white collar world does essentialy the same thing that a union does in the blue collar world.

    A agency makes it's money by getting clients where a union shop gets its cash by securing better and bigger contracts.

    By providing a more reliable pool of talent/workers, both succeed(or fail should they not be able to provide such).

    In Colorado, union work is thus much more commercially oriented, where the non-union workers are much more the undeground ecomomy.
    Same would happen if VJ's were organized in a similar manner. The organized VJ's would be doing big events, and would have to be more professional at what they do.
    There of course would still be the underground VJ's doing what they do now.
    An there seems to be a misconception by some that unions take anyone. That isn't true, and to join a union you have to take aplitude and compency test, along with proving work ability. (if you can't pass the required tests, you can choose to start an apprenticeship to learn what you need to know.
    How would an agency be any different in weeding out the better quality VJ's? and don't say you can tell be a VJ 's showreel, cause if you do, I don't want to be in that kind of agency..

    We actually disccused this type of VJ organizing at the AVit retreat(on tape somewhere?), and even got into talking about pushing for a sub section that would concern visuals in the lampy/stage workers unions..(Nice one Bryan!)

    I think that many here still look at unions the way they existed 50 years ago...:nono:
  24. DrEskaton

    DrEskaton Triple Hexagon, Osaka

    can you have multiple unions competing for the same skilled people? or does a union have an artificial monopoly on all workers in a certain trade in a certain region?

    that's the difference to me...

    In a healthy vj market there would be multiple high end vj agencies and they would compete to attract the most talented new vj's.
  25. evomedia

    evomedia Control Freaks

    The problem is Pixy that your model only work in countries that respect the Union as an organisation, here in the UK setting up as a union is entirely pointless, you have to just run it as a business. I can see the comparision but you simply can't organise a VJ wide organisation that has any power. You could in addition to an agengy create an industry standard, that VJ's have to comply to, but again, these things in the UK are volutary.
  26. vjpixylight

    vjpixylight AKA Will O' The Wisp

    All unions have business agents. These BA's go out and get the work. They are the agent representing a collective of worker. it really that simple.
    There is no mother union monopoly, and each individual union has to make enuf money to pay it's own way.
    the competition isn't between different unions for the work, but between the companies that get their labor thru the union.

    An example of this in the VJ world would be that a parent VJ union would exist, that would have many branches. (perhapse a branch in each major city). the branches would be more like the agency that gets the talent, and provides it to the clients..
    the clients would be guarenteed by the local agencies, that they would be getting the best talent available in there area, and there fore pay a premium to do this kind of bargining with the agency/local..
    Therefore the local union/agency would be the business conduit, or middleman, and would live or die by it's reputation..
    However where one local union/agency fails to do this in one market/city, the remaining locals in different cities and markets are unaffected.
  27. vjpixylight

    vjpixylight AKA Will O' The Wisp

    all I'm saying mate is that agencies in the UK are doing what unions do here.
    They are the go between for the talent and the contractors and get the right workers to the right people who need them.
    The difference is that Agencies do it for a profit(for there owners/stock holders, where as unions take what profit is made, and put it back into securing more work and benifits for the members.(thru paying the BA's that nogoiate more work for the union workers..

    So call it an agency if you must,(because of the situation you face in the UK)
    but think globally, knowing that there are unions that do the same things elsewhere..:D
  28. evomedia

    evomedia Control Freaks

    The word UNION here is synominous with the word STRIKE, and I don't feel like educating the whole of the UK marketplace as to the difference in between UK unions and the American union model.

    Pixy in the UK its a word, that reminds people of violence, government intervention and misery for many. The 80's miners strikes really don't provide people a warm feeling about joining Unions when our government essentially viewed the unions as the enemies of their perfect state.

    Not that I disagree with what your suggesting, just that the UK has a depessing history when it comes to Unions. Now adays all we hear is this Union or that is going on strike and thats not something that clients would buy into.

    Probably is the same meaning as agency here, maybe its just avoiding a name which would put people off.
  29. DrEskaton

    DrEskaton Triple Hexagon, Osaka

    ipixy, it still sounds from your description that the union does have a geographic monopoly on a particular trade. eg there would be one and only one "official london vj union"

    if my agent is doing a lousy job finding me work, I can quit from that agency and sign up to another one.

    can I do that with the system you are suggesting?
  30. vjpixylight

    vjpixylight AKA Will O' The Wisp

    If there was a London Branch of a VJ union, that say wasn't getting you the work/pay you disired, then you quit the union..
    That doesn't keep you from finding a union place to work while not being a member of that union..
    That might be the main difference between unions here in the US, and those in the UK. We have a right to work clause within the law that states that you don't have to join a union to get work in that particular "unionized" trade or field. and even if a union contractor hire primarily union workers, that they have to still consider non union workers..(based on skills/work history ect)
    Therefore union contrators compete with non-union contractors for work, but
    unions hold the upper hand here, because they are guarenteed (in most cases) TO provide a better workforce than non union contractors(which can undercut the market with cheap labor/materials ect. much like the so-called bottom feeders do now with the UK VJ market..)

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