We know how many young singing actors get their first agent. They perform in a New York City agent showcase hosted by their musical theater program in the final semester of college and are approached by an agent that later agrees to sign them. Cool. If you’re currently enrolled in a program at a school with a showcase, this article might basically be done for you. Do well at your showcase and knock ‘em dead! But for the rest of us, this is not the case.
Here are some tips on how to get a musical theater agent when your college days are behind you.
1. Define who you are and what you do.
If you get a meeting with an agent or manager, their very first question for you will most likely be: Where do you see yourself in the industry? In the past, we’ve called this your “type.” For example: “I’m a blonde ingenue.” “I’m a character tenor.” Most actors have interpreted this to mean there is only one type others will see them as, that their type is based solely on their appearance, and that they need to figure out what that type is so they can adhere to it as closely as possible. Let’s all ditch that, shall we?
An actor’s appearance shouldn’t be the sole and most defining characteristic when being considered for a role. Period. Instead, start with who you are. Internally, as a human. What roles make you say, “that’s me.” Conversely, which roles would feel most to you like artificial posturing? Start making a list of the ones that feel the most like you that are your age and that you could step into today. Are the plurality of those roles edgy and alternative? Free-spirited and folksy? Professional and precise? Winsome and youthful? Blue-collar and middle-aged? Define what you are and—as you go—what you’re not.
Have this list of roles ready for when an agent asks. Be able to describe succinctly what story emerges when you look at all those roles in total. This will inform your brand.
2. Brand your materials.
When you can explain to a rep where you fit in the industry and the kind of work you want to do, you need your materials to tell that story too. Even if you understand who you are—even if the rep understands who you are—it will be their job to get others to see who you are. They can’t do that without strong, clear materials that speak on your behalf when submitting you.
So you’ll also need a headshot and a website that’s on brand or that telegraphs the variety of roles you’re best suited toward. Color consistency is a great place to start. If you want to focus on edgy Off-Broadway work, maybe something stark, black-and-white, and modern might make sense. If you’re gunning to play roles like Glinda and Elle, using pastels on the website and for a headshot shoot might be the way to go. Use that color palette on your website, your postcards, in your headshot shoot, and your business cards.
Another neat trick is to just look at the ad campaigns for the shows or theaters you’d most like to be a part of. Borrow an advertising look and feel from their materials and apply them to you.
3. Video footage is a must.
However well you brand your headshot and website, these elements aren’t enough anymore. Once just a “nice to have,” singing actors now need to have clean, clear recordings of their work to get representation.
Here’s why. Especially if you don’t have a lot of heft on your résumé yet, a casting associate or director needs a reason why one of a casting office’s very limited numbers of audition appointments should go to you. They need to be able to prove your talent and how right you are for the role to casting.
There’s a number of reel companies in the business that will record for you. It’s also totally possible to go it alone. If you go this route, just make sure you use a white or solid color background, ensure there’s no nearby noise, use live piano accompaniment, and make sure your vocals won’t either be covered up by the piano or become too loud and “clip” on the recording. It means your job is more complicated, but you can save money and micromanage more if that’s more your jam.
The result should be 3–5 examples that show the full musical range of what you do best, that look beautiful, and sound crisp and clear.
4. Send your materials to your friends with reps.
Once you can explain exactly where you fit in the industry, have materials that reflect that, and footage that backs it up, you’re ready to submit yourself and be submitted. A large number of agents and managers get new talent through submissions. Every so often they’ll put out a call to their own clients and ask for them to submit their colleagues. So, it’s totally fine to email your friends and say “hey, if your agent is ever looking for submissions, here’s my headshot, résumé, and link to my website and video footage.”
Now that all those things are ready and prepared, your friend can go to bat for you.
5. Take classes and establish relationships.
In addition to asking where you see yourself in the industry and looking at your materials, agents will ask what your relationship is like with casting directors. Finally, it’s now your job to be a known quantity within the industry.
Classes are a great way to meet CDs and let them get to know your work. Classes with other industry professionals can also help get you referred since they’ll often bring in agents and managers to the final class, or submit you to them once the class is finished. Agents themselves also run classes, so you can meet agents and managers directly.
Let me be very clear: there are lots of actors in New York City if that’s where you want to work as a musical theater actor. That can be scary and it’s outside of your control. But, there are far fewer actors who have done the above work and doing the work is inside your control. If you have a clear sense of where you fit, a brand that tells that story, strong materials, and professional relationships, you’ll be in a whole separate category for finding an agent.
Do the work and go get ‘em.
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and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.