How To Find An Artist’s Agent

spunk-brophy-21A commonly asked question I get from artists is:  “Will you represent me?”  Or, “How do I find an agent to represent me?”

My quick answer is this:  Consider representing yourself.  It’s tricky to find someone GOOD to represent your work.  Any agent willing to represent you without requiring money from you up front is inexperienced.  You are better off representing yourself until you can afford to pay someone to manage your business.

Here’s how it works with agents:  A good representative will be responsible to help you get sales, put the sale together, deal with the contracts (in some cases), and do the follow up, make sure payments are made, and help with marketing your name and art.

Agents Pay:  Agents keep anywhere from 25% – 50% (depending on your deal with them).   However, to get a sale, it could take the agent up to 100 hours of prospecting and phone calling and footwork.  So, many agents will charge money up front (anywhere from $1,000 – $5,000 per month) so that they aren’t working for free, in the event that your art doesn’t sell.  In this case, unless the agent is super-connected, you may be better off paying a salary to a manager.

Warning:  Agents that charge up front can be a risk.  Be sure to get references and confirm that they are connected to possible clients and they are experienced and straight up.  Otherwise, you could be throwing your money away.  There are some great agents out there, but there are some hustlers, too.  Do your “vetting” before giving your money away!

My personal experience as an artist’s agent has been humbling, as I learned, after about 3 years, that I couldn’t make a good living representing other artists without monies up front (and most artists aren’t willing to pay up front).

I started out representing Drew Brophy almost 10 years ago.  Since then, Drew has become known as the top licensed surf artist in history, he has over 30 licensees that pay him to use his art on their products, and he is well respected in the art world.  Now, being Drew’s wife and CEO of our company, Son of the Sea, we retain 100% of his earnings (and then we both get paid out of that).

We were so successful with Drew, that when other artists started asking me to represent them, I said, “why not”?  So about 6 years ago I started representing other artists, charging only 30% of the earnings from what I sold.  This didn’t work out as a good deal for me, as I’ll explain below.

Right now, I’m not taking on any new artists, and I’m cutting back on the work I do for the current artists that I work with.

And here’s why:  I don’t like working for free!  Now, don’t get me wrong, I do make some money off of SOME of the artists I work with, when I get them a deal that’s over $10,000.  However, most deals are $1,000 or so, which means I get $300 or so, which means after all the hours that I put in to put it together, I’ve earned about $15.00 an hour.  Not good pay for someone highly educated and talented and knowledgable, like myself.  So I’ve cut back and I’m focusing entirely on Drew Brophy, where my company keeps 100% rather than 30%!

My advice to any artist looking for representation:   First put in the time and represent yourself.  Get better educated on sales, on how galleries work, on the business of art.  Read good blogs and websites for artists, like www.artbizcoach.com, and don’t be afraid to spend money on art consultants, which is actually a lot cheaper than paying an agent or manager.

Consultants charge by the hour.  They are great to use for specific questions or problems, as well as to help you plan your marketing and sales strategies.  I highly recommend Alyson Stanfield, a consultant that I’ve hired in the past to help us with tricky deals.  She’s great and extremely knowledgable on galleries, museums, most aspects of the business of art (except licensing).   Consultants typically charge anywhere from $100 on up per hour, and are usually worth every penny  -  you’ll save yourself years of research using consultants.

So go on, represent yourself! You can, just take baby steps and keep learning by reading books and blogs and articles and using consultants.  Once you get to the point where you can afford a manager, hire one.

I want you to be successful!  Keep reading these posts, and let me know what you think.
Spunk Brophy

(Follow me on Twitter – Click Here)

The most common money-related mistake artists make is a reluctance to invest in their own careers.” Carol Michels

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About Maria Brophy

During the last decade, acting as agent and brand manager, Maria has successfully built Drew Brophy’s lifestyle artist brand through licensing and special projects.

Maria writes a blog that helps other creative people to design the life of their dreams, too. Hop on over to Maria's blog at MariaBrophy.com

Comments

  1. Hi Maria,thanks a lot for all the knowledge.This was well said.Cheers :)

    Thanks,

    Errol

  2. Hi Maria:

    Thanks for putting up this blog and continued best luck with Drew and other endeavors that you’re involved in.

    I don’t expect a lot of your time but I was wondering if you might guide a fledgling agent to someone who could mentor me. I’ve been an art dealer, as a rep for a large company for over a year. Now I’m branching out and have several artists who I’ve committed to. I’m interested in several angles.

    As you know, some art lends itself well for licensing, some for reproduction and some for original gallery art. I’m interested in all these models and a few artists whom I work for go across the board. Others are strictly for gallery original oils on canvas and some are more illustration style, best suited for licensing. I’ve ordered equipment for giclee production and am about to pull the trigger on a fairly substantial investment in that field.

    It isn’t easy to find someone to learn from. Hope you can guide me.

    Thanks for your time!

    Best wishes,

  3. dear drew:
    I’m literary author of books produced in Brazil
    and would like too much to present for your consideration the synopses
    of my recent trilogy, Mayaya – whose plot is a small ET between us.

    if it is possible to have your attention, give me kindly
    a mailing address for shipping.

    thank you.

  4. I was recommended this website by my cousin.
    I’m not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my trouble. You are incredible! Thanks!

  5. I agree with Anthony.
    I’ve been an artist for 28 years and I never met an artist agent as Maria.

    Good luck Maria and pray for Drew Brophy dies after you, otherwise you’ll be unemployed.

  6. I had a fantastic agent but she retired. For years I have been trying to find someone new but if it’s not a local person… “someone you can work with in person” things seem to get complicated. Even though I did the art… she got involved… directed me.. taught me… I sure miss her!

  7. Thank u. luvoly.

  8. roland harrison says:

    Are you hiring?

  9. richard j parnham says:

    i do very nice work, but i need an agent,can you help?

  10. Thanks Spunk Brophy for your professional suggestions. Throughout my life, I have had about 5 “wannabees” Reps for my Art. Most of them had paid me a good chunk of money for my work….I was totally unexperienced at that time and would just gasp for air at the sight of money. This banker took out of his pocket around $3000 and bought all of my Sports 3D Art pieces of Baseball players, back in the days, the hottest players where Sammy Sosa and Mark Maguire. He bought my pieces, says, I would like to Represent you and then disappears. With age, I have gotten more experience and know how to avoid scammers who ask for money up front. I value your advice!
    Christiano

  11. Correction: NO reputable agent will ever ask for money upfront. Agents for any artist, from actors to photographers, work on commission. Only scammers ask for money before doing any work because then they don’t HAVE to work.
    If a potential agent asks for fees upfront, RUN far far away.

  12. I rarely do this, but as I stumbled across this site and started reading some of the posts, I thought I would shed some light on the typical artist agent/ publisher / distributor arrangement that exists in the commercial and fine art industry. To start off with, no legitimate agent or publisher will ever ask you for money upfront. Distributors and or agents will at a minimum work on a 50 percent split depending on how large the company is. In 90% of the cases, your work will be on consignment and you will get paid as paintings sell. Licensing royalties are typically 8-12 percent of sales for posters and Giclee prints. My company is one of the few companies that will actually sign an artist to a base salary plus a percentage of sales, but in this market you have to be pretty special to get that deal, so in most cases it’s a consignment arrangement. We are one of those publishers / distributors that get a larger pieces of the pie, but then again we have a distribution network of about 4,000 clients around the world. The take away is that you can absolutely represent yourself, but if you’re willing to take a smaller cut of a larger pie; It might feasible for you to work with a publisher / distributor / agent. My apologies in advance if I stepped on anyone’s toes with this post.
    Good luck to all of you.
    Anthony

  13. Ben Blankenship says:

    But what would you recommend for Illustration style art, it seems like you’re talking more about fine art. Are there any real differences between how those will work out?

  14. Liam Shaw says:

    Hi maria, i live in south yorkshire in England and have worked as an artist since i was 17, mainly working with adults with learning difficulties and children who have been ejected from mainstream education and ended up in pupil referral units, since the recession, i must admit that work has consistantly dried up and i struggle to keep a young family on track. One thing that ive always wanted to do though is illustrations for books and educational leaflets and text books. I love what i do and panic a little as i really cant do anything else, ive practised my craft since i was 3 years old. This is all i know. If you could help me in anyway, i couldnt tell you how much i would appreciate yor help and guidance.

    Thank you for your time.

    Mr Liam Elias Shaw

  15. Hey Jim, it sounds like you have quite an impressive resume. Looks like you’re doing just great on your own! Not sure what it is you want help with – can you be more specific?

  16. Dear Maria:

    My artwork has been displayed in fifteen major galleries across the US.
    * I have entered three competitions winning 6 awards (including; 1995 & 2008 Best of Show and First Place at the Marin County Fair – both competitions judged by Hollywood Producer George Lucas’s Industrial Light & Magic – Special Effects Dept.)
    * My artwork has been featured in seventeen national and international magazines and on four network television programs.

    art-website: http://www.jamesepridham.net ……….. youtube: miniature village by James Pridham
    email: miniatureescape@aol.com………………. phone (510) 537-5949

    Any suggestions?

    Yours truly,

    James E. Pridham (Jim)

  17. Thanks so much for your insight, and experience! Very helpful!!

  18. i had an agent when i was sixteen. she placed my work in galleries all over florida and took a percentage from sales. it was fine with me. i could just keep on painting. pretty soon i couldn’t paint fast enough.

    right now i am unknown. not even ‘emerging’. but i have been painting in los angeles for ten years and have thirty framed oil paintings and a pile of watercolors, silkscreen prints and saleable drawings.

    i just want to keep painting. isn’t there anyone out there who will take exclusive rights, with a contract for a percentage of sales they have generated, go out there, place paintings in shows and work towards a gallery ‘one man show’?

    scott cumming
    http://www.hungryeyegraphics.com/oils/html

  19. Thanks for all the great advice, representing yourself
    In the early days makes a lot of financial sense.

  20. hi, thanks for the wonderful information… I am a visual artist and am getting into the groove of agenting/marketing myself, for now that is!… and i appreciate all the work you put into your post… Brophy’s art is just amazing! keep up the great work you two!…:)

  21. Thank you for sharing your time and wisdom in such matters which I still dont understand after all these years
    Best
    E

  22. Steven, thanks for visiting my blog! Hope all is well with you on the North Shore…

  23. Very nice of you to offer good advice for free:)
    There are reasons why starving artists are starving.
    Please say hello to Drew
    Steven Power
    Haleiwa, HI

  24. Great ideas and I agtee with 100% of what you say about marketing your own work. After having over 45 years as a marketing manager for 5 top # 1 and #2 corporations in their fields I have put that experiance to work for myself.

    Please injoy my web site at http://www.colorimageart.com/ron

    Peace be with you,

    Ron Hauser of Ron Hauser Enterprises LLC

  25. I could not agree more, the only way in the beginning is to knock on doors, get a feel for your “business” and product understand the galleries and once you know what is selling where then one employs a manager to manage the business of art. you can teach from experience. Any artist who thinks that a agent can do it for them will come short purely based on lack of experience. Whether we like it or not art is a business.
    Keep exhibiting and “agents ” will find you.

  26. thank for the relief.pulling it all together is hard and i am confident and as i continue my work so will the process of getting it out there.thanx Sue Ann Givens artwanted.com/sueofwolf

  27. Hello Spunk thank you for the info it will be very help full i don’t no if you answer questions from this site but if you do I am a disabled vet now and i am not employable so i am going to make my own job doing what i love to do anyway my question is this how do you not under sell yourself. Thanks Sincerely, Gerald

  28. thank’s for your infos,
    I will try now to go on my own, until I’ll found the one faitful agent who will work with me,
    good day I am from France, Monika.

  29. Thanks Spunk, great info, especially for someone just starting out.

  30. when are we going back to the Hard Rock??

  31. hey maria,
    GREAT info.
    thanks for the insight!
    alohas, tom

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