Most visual artists dream of having an agent that will market their work, gain collectors for them, and help them by doing all that tedious, non-artsy stuff like marketing and selling.
But the reality is that it’s extremely difficult to find a good agent, and one that you can work well with.
HERE’S HOW IT WORKS:
The agent-artist relationship works differently in every situation. Typically, the agent will agree to represent an artist in exchange for payment, either on a percentage basis or a monthly retainer.
A % payment ranges from 30% to 50%. In this case, the agent would be paid when artworks are sold and paid for.
A monthly retainer or stipend arrangement is where the agent would be paid a specific dollar amount each month. Some agents charge $1,500 per month, others charge $2,500 per month. The downside to this arrangement is that they get paid regardless of what sells.
WHAT GOES WRONG:
The reason it’s difficult to find a good agent and then make it work is that if you paying someone on a % basis, the agent ends up putting in many unpaid hours. Over time, the agent will lose steam and you will lose faith.
Most artists cannot afford to pay an agent a monthly retainer, and so that arrangement is very rare.
THE BEST AGENTS:
The best agents are well connected, and because of that, they put in less time to connect you with buyers and deals. But, to get one of the best agents to work with you, you’ll have to be a proven seller, or the next best emerging artist in their eyes.
ALTERNATIVE TO AGENTS:
Consultants: You can hire consultants on a need basis. I’ve often hired consultants to help me to solve a problem that I have little experience with. They charge by the hour, and they are a great resource.
Represent Yourself: Representing yourself is the most common way to go. It’s preferable, in my opinion. You’ll have more control over what happens to your art, your brand and your connections. You’ll also get to keep all of your proceeds. The down side is, you’ll have to work harder. But many artists do very well representing themselves.
To do the best job of representing yourself, take time to get education on marketing, sales, promotions. Read books for artists – there are many good ones out there. Take classes, online and live. Use the expertise of consultants.
And remember, you aren’t in a race. Take your time and you’ll get to where you want to go.