The Rockstar Agent – An Interview with Lena Morgan
The Rockstar Agent – Rockstar Entertainment in LA
VO Chef Deb interviews Lena Morgan
You will learn:
- What it’s like in a day in the life of an agent
- Lena’s pet peeves
- How the industry is changing
How did your talent agency begin?
RsE was started in 2013 when I left my old agency that I was a partner of.
Were you a talent before becoming an agent?
I was NOT a VO talent. I’m a former session musician and songwriter.
Describe the day in the life of an agent – so talent can truly understand what you do.
I have the good fortune to work from my “home office” with an amazing assistant that I get 3 days a week. My day starts at 9am or sooner. Sometimes I get phone calls early in the morning from creative directors on the East Coast who don’t know that I’m on PDT time zone. It’s not at all odd for me to be awakened by a 5am call to put out a fire on an early morning session. With coffee in hand, I start to tackle my emails. Whether they’re from creative directors, talent or for breakdowns for new pitches, I get 100’s of emails a day. I then go thru all the breakdowns that are due that day and upload what I already didn’t from the night before. I read new projects and get ready to pitch to my talent pool. Despite my having over 300+ VO talent scattered globally – I pitch to 15 people for men and women on any given pitch. That means that I am selective. I don’t cast a wide net to everyone because I simply do not have the man hours to listen to every mp3 that comes in. Whether I’m pitching new projects or scheduling a session – I’m emailing or texting to confirm avails and bookings. As an agency, we also provide post production services and from time to time, I direct VO via Skype or phone patch on certain projects. I get to wear my “producer’s hat” rather than just be an agent. We also represent producers and jingle writers and have a small music cue library for our vendors who seek a one stop shop needle drop cues for commercials. In this regard, I play sub publisher and music clearance administrator. So between calls, emails, scheduling, cutting audio in post to uploading new submissions at 11pm, my day is long. I love my work and my roster and I’m grateful everyday that I get to run my agency without a boss to answer to and make $$ for my Rockstars!
What are some of your biggest pet peeves as an agent? About Talent and about clients
Because VO is everywhere and there’s so many people who are vying for a limited number of VO jobs – it makes me nuts to get the call by some newbie who thinks just b/c he/she has a good voice, that they think they can do VO without ANY training. I’ve had a few heated conversations with these folks who insist on having an argument with me about how it’s so easy to do it and with just a good voice, that they can voice for McDonald’s too! Pet Peeves from new talent is getting audition files that are improperly labeled without any identifiers at all. Don’t make me have to rename all of your submissions. Getting super long emails delineating every job you’ve had with 15 links to your Soundcloud is crazy. Send me your top 3 reels. Label them correctly. Tell me who you are and where you’re based.
My pet peeves regarding clients: closing a project before the deadline. That’s bad time management. OR seeking VO at the 11th hour. You know you’re gonna need VO for your spot – why are you waiting till the day before you ship to pitch to us? It’s undue stress on everyone!
What would you like talent to know about you and your company
We are the Little Engine that could…we’re small but have the good fortune to work with some amazing talent and production clients on such diverse projects. It keeps my days busy and interesting. I want my talent and clients to know that I strive to do my best to advocate for you daily!
Is labeling important?
VERY Important, because your demo reel will get lost in the shuffle. I receive many submissions daily. If I forget to rename your file that came in with just numbers next to an mp3, I will not remember who it’s from.
Do all auditions get sent to client as you receive them?
No. I listen to all the auditions that come in by deadline. If I don’t feel you hit the mark, I won’t send it to my producer.
Do some auditions get cast before deadlines?
Yes – How often? From time to time, the agency will close submissions before their deadline. It’s actually a pet peeve of mine.
What do you look for in a talent Package – demo, branding, personality, time investment, education etc?
Your demo is important. Is it well produced? Is your voice appropriate for the copy/brand presented? Have you invested in training and setting up an adequate recording environment to provide quick auditions?
What is the best way for a talent to stay in touch with you – without being a bug?
Email works well. A phone call to say “hi” once in awhile is always welcome.
How has the internet changed your business for the better?
The web is amazing for the most part. It has provided many more opportunities and avenues for VO placement. It also allows agents, talent and vendors to connect globally with ease!
Is your roster full?
Our roster is pretty full so we’re very selective in any new signings. Right now, we’re only doing trial periods with prospective new talent.
I understand the industry has changed and it’s getting harder and harder for talent to book several projects as they once did.
Campaigns are ever changing. In the past, advertisers used to run campaigns with the same VO talent that ran for multiple cycles. Now, brands change campaigns nearly every cycle and recast talent every time. In addition, many campaigns require exclusivity so talent are precluded to voice in similar categories.
What are typical hours that an agent keeps? I work at least a 12-13 hr day. It’s both a blessing and a curse that my office is down the hall. It’s hard for me to completely “unplug”.
Are taking holidays difficult for you?
Yes! I recently took 4 days off not having had a vacation since 2011. While it was good to get out of town – it was a working vacation. This is the reality of being a small business owner.
Run us through a typical audition – eg: you receive the audition – do you go back and forth with client on rate, script, specs etc. Then how do you decide who gets to audition? Once the auditions are sent out is your job done at that point? Do the auditions just come in and you send out? Or is your system automated? Do you have to deal with several talent/audition issues – such as late auditions, questions about audition etc. (I’m looking to show talent why they pay the commission they pay and how many days you put in several hours only to get zero income in return.
We get many breakdowns every day. I read all the copy and pitch to my top 15 who fit the specs. If the rate is low for the category, we will send an email to the creative director to check to see if the budget has any wiggle room. If it does not and we feel the rate is lower than where it should be – we exercise the option to not pitch it at all. Sometimes the rate is TBD in the breakdown – in good faith, we will pitch it and see where the rate ends up if we book it then try to come up with a fair and workable rate for everyone.
What should talent watch for when looking for an agent – WARNING Signs against bad agents.
If Agency is based in a state that requires licensing and bonding, make sure the agency is up to date and current. Ask your peers about a prospective agency/agent. Word of mouth and recommendations go along way. Avoid any agent that is always up selling extra services like headshots – chances are, they may have alliances with specific vendors to push their services.
Anything else you can add to help make talent respect your work.
I don’t make a dime unless I can help book you a job so respect my skill sets as much as I respect yours.
What would you like to say when you hear statements like, “I can’t believe I have to pay 15-20% for an agents commission”.
Then they should be unrepresented. They have no concept of what we do before, during and after a pitch to secure that gig, collect that check and retrieve that spot for their reel!
Can you give us an idea of the ratio or percentage of bookings between men/women in the following categories:
Commercials70% Male- 30% Female
Animations 85% male 15% female
VideoGames 90% male 10% female
If a talent wants to let you go as an agent, how should they handle it?
An email stating your intentions are sufficient. I do not hold any ill will if talent seeks to find a more suitable situation that’s best for them. Do you take it personally? Not personally—but I do miss them!