This is the first blog in a series of three blogs about Artist’s agent or representative services. The first blog is a general introduction to these services, the second is an overview of the various services included, and the third is an overview of what the various services cost. As always, I welcome your comments and opinions.
Artist’s Agent or Rep: An Introduction to Services
As an alternative to gallery representation, some artists prefer having an independent agent or representative who works for the artist. The titles “artist’s agent” and “artist’s representative” are, to the best of my knowledge, not legally defined professions and therefore are subjective in meaning. Ultimately the services that each provides are whatever is understood and agreed between the artist and the services provider. In a previous blog, for clarification and points of discussion purposes, I described the roles of each of these services providers as follows:
- Artist’s Agent: An artist’s agent, as it sounds, represents an artist (or usually multiple artists), is normally independent and is either a person or a business entity. The agent will have knowledge, expertise and experience in the selling and pricing of art, the business of art and promoting of artists. The artist pays the agent, usually on a commission and/or fee basis, to primarily market and sell the artist’s art work. The agent may also act on behalf of the artist to find and secure venues for the display and sale of the artist’s work, such as art shows, exhibitions and festivals, or to find and secure opportunities for juried competitions or commission work. In representing the artist, the agent may have an “agency” relationship with the artist (where the term “agent” comes from), including responsibilities to conduct business, such as processing payments, negotiating deals or signing purchase orders and agreements, on behalf of the artist. The agent may even receive direct payments (from art buyers) for the artist’s work, much as a gallery receives payment for the artist’s work that it sells. This is most likely in the case of Internet sales via the agent’s website. In such cases, the agent assumes the associated legal and fiduciary responsibilities to the artist. However, unless the agent is also a lawyer, the agent cannot offer legal services for the artist.
- Artist’s Representative: Much the same as an “Artist’s Agent”, except without the “agency” relationship. The services are more marketing and sales, less business. The “artist’s rep” is more of an assistant to, “matchmaker” and advocate for the artist without being a conductor of business for the artist. The rep will market and sell the artwork, but will not have the transactions run through the rep’s business. All transactions remain direct between the artist and the art buyer, even if processed by the rep. The rep will seek venues for the artist, and perhaps prepare applications to those venues for the artist, but the applications, and any resulting agreements, will be directly between, and executed by, the artist and the venue sponsor. The rep may find promotional or advertising opportunities for the artist, but the artist will directly authorize any related purchase orders and sign any related agreements. The rep may also help the artist by handling shipping and/or installation of the sold art work on behalf of the artist.
By contrast, an artist’s agent or rep is not typically an “artist’s advisor“(who helps the artist with career development), an “art consultant” (who works for art buyers to find art for the buyers and negotiates the purchase of art on behalf of the buyers), an “art dealer” (a person or entity that purchases and sells art) or an “art gallerist” (a gallery owner or director who represents a gallery first, an artist second). This differentiation is offered simply to clarify the usual meanings of the titles. It is not to say that an artist’s agent or rep could not also be an artist’s advisor, art consultant or art dealer as part of diversified business activity.
Artist’s Agent or Rep Services: The Intangibles & The Tangibles
With either an agent or a representative, an artist is buying services. Services consist of intangibles, such as knowledge, skills, experience, education, reputation and contacts/connections put to use to achieve tangible results, such as sales, venue & commissioned work opportunities and completed tasks. The intangibles are delivered in units of time and the tangibles are delivered as accomplished goals.
Caution: no one can guarantee tangible results such as sales, acceptance or awards, because such results are dependent on the actions of others that no one can control. An agent or rep may be able to increase the likelihood (or probability) of such tangible results, but certainly cannot guarantee such.
Artist’s agent or Rep Services: Value & Benefits
There is value to both the intangibles and the tangibles of services, but, as for any given transaction of business, the value is only what the consumer (the artist) will pay and the provider (agent or rep) will accept for the services. So, what are these services worth to the artist? The artist needs to consider several potential benefits of these services when trying to assess the value of such services to the artist:
- The likelihood of increased sales and/or profits due to the agent or rep’s ability to expand sales and/or increase the value of the artist’s work;
- The likelihood of increased artist productivity due to the delegation to the agent or rep of tasks, activities and supporting research that have been typically performed by the artist, thereby freeing the artist’s time for more art production;
- The likelihood of increased exposure for the artist due to the efforts, connections and contacts of the agent or rep;
- The likelihood of increased business operations efficiency and profitability due to the efforts, techniques and ideas from the agent or rep for improved business and marketing practices;
- The convenience and reassurance of having an “on call, go to” consultant, who is familiar with the artist and the artist’s business, to help the artist when new or unforeseen business matters crop up and need quick troubleshooting or problem solving efforts.
For some artists, these services may be unnecessary and/or unaffordable luxuries. For others, these services may be valuable necessities that pay for themselves or better. For any artist to make such a value judgement, they need to know:
- what the services include, and
- what they cost.
These are the subjects of my next two blogs to follow shortly hereafter.