Here’s Why Signing With an Agent Is Like Buying Into the Stock Market

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Photo Source: Spencer Alexander

I’ve been an active investor for quite some time. Putting money to work in the stock market is one of the smartest things I’ve ever done. The trick has always been to buy solid companies with the potential to grow significantly over the long term.

If you’re looking to get rich quick, the stock market isn’t for you. I know people who buy a stock, hold it for six months, and then sell it for a quick profit. Or worse, the stock drops more than they expected during those six months, so they panic and sell at a loss. I would argue that there’s a smarter way to invest. I’m in it for the long game, so I’ll buy that same stock, hold it for six years, not six months, and then sell it for a really sweet gain. 

This investing philosophy extends to my career as an agent, too. I’ve always believed signing an actor is a long-term investment. Sadly, there are reps out there who sign performers on a whim, hoping they’ll score a few quick jobs. If they don’t, the actors get dropped after a year. Is that a sane way to run a business? Some of those actors might have done really well if their agents had the vision to see their growth potential. But no. They sign, drop, replace, and the cycle keeps repeating.

I don’t work that way. If I sign someone, it means I firmly believe they have the potential to book work. Sometimes that happens quickly; sometimes it takes a little bit longer.

READ: How to Get an Acting Agent

A few years ago, I signed a kid out of New York University who got off to a sluggish start. He was overwhelmed by the industry—but that didn’t mean he wasn’t talented; it just meant he needed time to adjust. And just like a good growth stock, he went from having no callbacks to getting callbacks to booking work. It took a while, but that client turned into a solid investment, and he’s still with me today.

As an agent, I like to take chances. Sure, I’ll sign a bunch of young, attractive thespians because that’s what the business wants, but I also love signing people who are a little off-center, character types you don’t automatically expect to hit it big.

Here’s what I mean, from a financial perspective. Back in 2008, if you’d invested $1,000 in Google, it would have been worth just over $3,000 10 years later. Tripling your money in a decade is fantastic. (Think of Google as the super-cute kid who graduated from Juilliard.) But if you’d taken that same $1,000 and purchased Domino’s Pizza, your investment would have gone up to $18,000 in the same amount of time. (Domino’s is the quirky actor who was no one’s first choice to succeed.)

That’s why my client list resembles my stock portfolio: They both have strong choices no one can challenge. Those actors and stocks bring in enough money to allow me to take chances on a few long shots, and if those long shots don’t pay off, I’m well diversified, so it’s all good!

Warren Buffett, one of the smartest investors in the world, believes in buying and holding. If you ask me, that dude could have done really well in the entertainment industry. 

This story originally appeared in the Oct. 3 issue of Backstage Magazine. Subscribe here.

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Secret Agent Man
Secret Agent Man is a Los Angeles–based talent agent and our resident tell-all columnist. Writing anonymously, he dishes out the candid and honest industry insight all actors need to hear.
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