We thought we’d start the week off right by jumping into a messy, and poorly understood, part of our business….costs and fees for talent. This past week we were involved in numerous conversations about talent costs, each from a different player in our business (photographer, producer, talent and agency)! So we thought the timing is good to address some of the questions.
Ready? Ok, have a seat and let’s chat (long post)!
Sunshine As A Disinfectant
Our business has far too many dark corners, where mystery, complexity and fear keep the status quo, especially where money is concerned. I hope we can clarify, or perhaps simplify, a complex subject for the sake of transparency. BTW, in this post, we’ll tackle still photography talent pricing and fees. Video / film will be a later post (we love our actors too don’t you know)…
"…because it’s always been done that way!"
Started back in the 1930’s, traditional model / talent agencies have a catalog of talent that they “broker” to advertising projects needing visual talent. The agencies charge a 20% agency fee on top of the talent fees, as well as charging talent a % for the booking (typically 20%).
Talent in this scenario, “pay” a percentage of the booking to their agency. They typically also pay for photo shoots, comp card design and printing, and sometimes training.
Talent Fees are amazingly complex, random and mysterious things. Agencies base a quote for talent on 3 factors (yes, this is a simplification)- who the client is (bigger businesses get charged more than smaller businesses), how long the talent will be needed (basically an hourly rate) and finally how the imagery is to be used (aka, Usage). Usage is where the magic and mystery happen. There are lots of factors that go into usage but here are the highlights most agencies use to quote a job -
"Be Seen By Thousands of Casting Directors!!!"
Along comes the internet and no surprise, the sharks and thieves find easier ways into talent’s wallets. Unfortunately, given that talent are highly motivated folks, it seems to make them easy pickin’s by these scams. These sites, of which there are thousands, make amazing claims, feature people who supposedly use their site, and success stories like “I got submitted to a potato chip promotion casting!” or my favorite, “Johnny was chosen to participate in Model Fest 2012”….of course they don’t tell you that Model Fest is a scam conference, or that the potato chip casting was open to anyone anyway.
Here are some easy guidelines to remember. First, anyone in this business asking for your money and making claims about anything is lying to you. Second, if something sounds to good to be true, it most definitely is. That’s especially true in this business! Third, legitimate projects (and their hired casting directors, casting services, etc) don’t charge talent to view a casting call..that’s completely idiotic. These websites are glorified brochures that sell a complete lie while charging talent. Talent pay for a portfolio that clients will never see and for access to “thousands of castings” that are copied and pasted from other places…again, if it smells like a scam, it is.
Oddly, we monitor our blog and see that lots of these scam modeling sites actually copy our publicly announced castings and load them into their system. They then charge talent for access. It’s called scraping and those scam modeling/ acting sites do it constantly.
"…and the truth will set you free"
When TalentSoup began back in 2006, one of the founding principles was transparency in our operation. Specifically, that meant making our fee structure as public as possible. Everyone understands the costs and value and this has served us well. Talent understand the “costs” of participating with us, clients have a clear idea of what their fees pay for, and now that we’ve added the Agency Access feature, talent agencies see how valuable inviting their talent into the Soup can be.
So let’s break down what’s different about us by who we serve-
Our definition of talent is professional models and actors, those that want to become professional, and “real” people (folks with no experience that are with us as a hobby). Those talent participate within 3 categories:
TalentSoup Agency was created last year when two different clients (Marriott and Procter & Gamble) asked about the option in the same week. Essentially, Agency was created to open our projects to represented talent. It’s been a resounding success as more agencies invite their talent into the system. Agencies gain access to projects that their talent would not have otherwise been exposed to and our clients get all of the power and ease of use that TalentSoup offers while having more great talent options. The agencies handle their own bookings and TalentSoup keeps a percentage of the booking for our fee (15% if the agent is signed up Free, 5% if they are Agency Pro). Put another way, TalentSoup becomes a marketing cost to a traditional agency to land work for their talent.
Everything we do revolves around serving the needs of our client. They have the checkbook and they make the buying decision. They love our tools, easy searching and especially easy bookings. If client loyalty is an indicator, we are doing things right! As a marketplace, it’s obvious we’ve got to have something, or in our case someone, to sell. So having great talent, in abundance and variety is key. Clients come to us because the know they get great options, often lots of them (larger cities have more talent) and we are one stop shopping for their entire talent shopping list.
Tying It All Up
Change is hard and seeing new ways to doing business can be a challenge for those stuck in the past. For talent, be diligent and think through what value your time and dollars are buying as you strive for more work. For agencies, we are thrilled to see folks with integrity reaching out to us and getting their talent in the Soup. And clients, well, you ain’t seen nothing yet! We’ve amazing tools being rolled out over the summer to make talent shopping and booking even easier.
We believe the best is yet to come for our talent, our clients and our industry as a whole…because Soup just tastes good.
Have a strong start to your week folks!
Your Talent Chef
Ps. here are some things I mentioned-
Pricing - see our Talent Usage Calculator if you want to play around with pricing and usage.
Agency - Agents can signup here
Talent - Entry and Pro Comparison