Indochine's Top Shelf

Urban Modeling Managers

Managers in Urban Modeling - Part I

I've gotten several emails regarding model representation and how to find a manager. In this article I'm going to discuss: 1) What managers do (or should do) to assist you in the urban market; 2) How to find a manager; 3) How to make the most of having a manager (aka how to work with your manager); and 4) Why you might need a manager.

What a Manager Does

There is a lot of misinformation where it concerns model management. For instance, many people believe it is a manager's responsibility to book work for their client. That's incorrect. In fact, in California it is illegal for a manager to procure employment for his or her clients under the Talent Agency Act. So then, "what does a manager do?" you're probably asking. A manager's role is to advise and counsel his client to facilitate their advancement in the entertainment industry. It's a very unique role that requires a lot of personal attention. A manager can advise a client on anything that impacts their career, from maintaining the ideal body weight to curbing a drinking problem to taking diction classes.

Ideally, your manager should be fairly well plugged into the entertainment industry. They should have direct lines of communication to the key decision makers in the urban modeling industry: magazine editors, casting directors, photographers, other models, acting coaches, producers, music video directors, etc. I say "ideally" because it is entirely possible for a manager not to have these connections and still serve your interests well. When I met Bria, she knew more people in the urban modeling world than me. (Note: it is the model's responsibility to make sure their connections are re-trained to go their their manager once that relationship begins).

A manager may also be helpful because of his or her particular skill set. At the very least, your manager should be able to write well, communicate effectively, and move fluidly through the world of business. Remember, a manager is a facilitator - they should never get in the way of something good happening for their client. If they do, there's a problem.

Sometimes photographers will take on the role of being a model's manager because they develop a personal relationship with the model. Models should be wary of this. If the photographer does not have the business skills to assist the model, they may wind up being more of a handicap than a help. When I started working with Bria and Koi, I had been practicing law for several years, so I felt perfectly capable of handling any business matter that came their way.

So what should the manager do to assist the urban model, in specific. While certainly not exhaustive, this list is illustrative of some of the tasks a manager can undertake to earn his 15%:

1. Coordinate photo shoots with quality photographers who will help the model stand out from her competition;

2. Send out comp cards with introduction letters to magazine editors, casting directors, etc. regarding his client, as well as creating posts on the relevant message boards about the model;

3. Assist in the development of an online presence, including development of a website, Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter account. This includes recruiting graphic artists and website designers to brand the model;

4. Assist in the maintenance of the model's appearance, including assisting in finding a personal trainer and good hair and make-up artists;

5. Help find a talent agent to book work for the client;

6. Counsel and give input on how to improve the client's career;

7. Help develop new and unique opportunities and venues for client exposure. For example, an urban manager might reach out to the comic book community to see if his client could make a cameo in an issue and thereby introducing her to the comic book audience;

8. Provide transportation (where practical) and moral support at major casting calls and photo shoots, etc.

How to Find a Manager

I cannot tell a lie: it is not easy to find a good manager these days for an urban model. The main reason for this is that the money making opportunities for urban models are scarce and becoming even scarcer by the day as supply far exceeds demand. This is the result of the deluge of aspiring models that appeared on the scene because of Facebook, Myspace, and digital photography. Managers only make a fraction of what their client makes (usually between 10 and 20 percent), and if a model is only making peanuts its obvious the manager won't make much. To make matters worse, many of the "fringe benefits" for urban modeling do not translate to managers. For example, if a celebrity or pro athlete contacts a model and invites her to spend a luxurious weekend in the Bahamas (this happens often for top urban models, believe it or not), how can the manager realize 15% of this??? It's an intangible. Often the benefits of urban modeling fall into this intangible category: gifts (Bria has received several iPods from fans), invitations to the best parties and red carpet events; magazine features, television appearances, etc. These are all things that are great for the model, but don't pay any money and will not benefit the manager (although he may very well be stuck assisting with the coordination of these things).

With that said, good managers, like good business, are where you find them. If a capable individual expresses interest in steering your career, interview them and see if they are worth trying out. Have they managed other models/actresses successfully? Are they intelligent, knowledgeable about the business, well spoken, etc.? If so, you might want to give them a month trial period with no contract to see how things work out.

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