The Business is Changing

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I was talking to an agent friend of mine this week,-- I know, I know:-- ---agent,--- ---friend,--- ---mine--- --- these things don---t often go together.-- But in this case, I really was talking to an agent friend of mine.-- I was telling him about an internet venture that I---m involved with --- a new twist on internet-based video --- and when I was done sketching out the project and how cool it was going to be, and asking him what he thought of various domain names we---ve come up with, he got very quiet and had a relieved-looking smile on his face.

---What?--- I asked.

---I---m just so glad to hear this.-- You guys really needed to---reinvent yourselves.---

---Us guys?---

---Writers.-- You writers.-- It---s just a whole new world out there.-- There are new ways of delivering and creating content, more channels of distribution, more downward pressure on compensation, smaller backend profits --- it---s just a totally new business.-- It---s really changed.---

---I know.---

---I mean, I have been an agent for six years.-- And I---ve seen some stuff.-- The business is changing.-- I tell all of my clients, ---The Business is Changing--- --- you---ve got to be more entrepreneurial, you---ve got to take more risks, you---ve got to keep your overhead low --- I mean, take you guys: lateral movement, no real success, solid rep, know.---

---No, I don---t know.---

---I mean, I hear you talk about your internet business and I hear you talk about your little radio thing and I think, ---Good!--- --- you know? ---Good!----- The upheaval in the business is going to hit writers hard --- you---re going to have to get your fingers in a lot of different pies --- it---s not going to be just show up, get a studio deal, get another studio deal, get a show, consult on a staff, get a deal, live on Georgina, pay Crossroads, boom.-- You know?-- It---s going to be scramble scramble scramble, scratch scratch scratch, think about Chatsworth, substitute teach.-- You know?---


---And I---m not saying this to depress you.-- I---m actually giving you a compliment.-- Is the internet thing going to work?-- Probably not.-- Does the radio whatever pay anything?-- Peanuts, right?-- But you---re moving in the right direction.-- You---re diversifying.-- You---re not waiting.-- You---re being entrepreneurial.-- That---s what---s important.---

Unfortunately, the guy was right.-- But what he forgot was, the great thing about upheavals is that they upheave everything.-- And everyone.-- Especially percentage players.

---You---re so right,--- I said.-- ---The business is changing.-- I mean, it must be really hard to be an agent these days.---

---What do you mean?---

---Well, downward pressure on costs means a smaller slice for everyone.-- And limited back end participation means no more rich package fees, right?---


---You---re probably having to do a lot more client-selling and business pitching these days, too, right?---


---The business is changing.---

---Yeah, but not the agency business.-- That will never change.---

---Let---s be honest --- you guys weren---t making real money off of commissions for the past ten or fifteen years, right?-- It was all package fees.-- Or multi-year deals.-- And with those gone or waning, you---re going to have to do business the old way: one piece at a time, scrambling and scratching for your ten percent, setting up your clients on multiple projects with multiple buyers.-- I mean, for the past twenty years, the image of the agent has morphed from loud-talking salesmen in plaid jackets and pastrami sandwiches to sleek Armani businessmen in subdued corporate offices and toro hand rolls.-- But you---re going to have to go back.-- The business is changing.-- But in lot of ways, it---s changing back.---

At which point, my car arrived.-- Didn---t I mention that we had this conversation while outside a restaurant, waiting for our cars?-- That---s when all of the really juicy conversations take place.

That---s it for this week.-- Next week, I get fired.-- From my own show.-- For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.



Rob Long