The Las Vegas model/talent community over the last few months seems to be undergoing a re-invention of sorts with new and seasoned models jumping on the train of exclusivity which Envy Model & Talent Agency pioneered with much success. Nevada is a "right-to-work" state, which means every employee has the right to work without being required or compelled to join a union. What this means for the sake of our topic is that, even if you are signed exclusively as a model, to an agency, if you work independently for another company, or take a job that's not directly from your agency, the particular agency cannot sue you if you refuse to fork up their requested percentage, as agreed upon by your contract with that agency (We're not saying any particular agency is acting as a union...Per Se)
The obvious fact is this: Las Vegas doesn't have a huge fashion market. Top agencies such as Ford and Elite offer exclusive agreements to brooding fashion models with infinite potential. All other divisions are non-exclusive (I.e commercial, lifestyle, fitness, etc) and those models freely sign with multiple agencies across the country. Las Vegas has a small pool of good models (and an even smaller pool of fashion models), and for as long as one can remember, the same models have been featured across these agencies, making it less profitable as a model because a client could find the same talent for less money simply by calling up another agency and requesting that model. Agencies have also resorted to undercutting each other and reserving percentages, lowering rates, to accommodate the clients at the expense of the talent. The truth is, there isn't enough work for one agency to sustain an exclusively signed model for any lengthy duration, which is why the non-exclusive business model has worked so well all these years. The other issue is that a lot of times, the work doesn't come through agencies, rather by direct bookings from the client or company, referrals from friends, directly from photographers and video companies, or any other means which wouldn't involve the agencies. Many clients don't want to go through an agency if they can directly book a model, and if the model now says they can't take the job anymore because they're signed exclusively, that client will simply find another model and the first will lose out on the job.
If one agency is able to exclusively sign every working model in the city, they will inadvertently monopolize the industry, thereby giving themselves complete autonomy regarding the matter, which could also be a good thing. Here's why. A good agency with rooting interest in a model's success, will keep the rates fair, and avoid undercutting issues. They want to make a healthy percentage, and therefore will fight for a higher rate. The client will have no choice because that agency fully represents the talent. It gives a young professional, getting into the business, a sense of peace and calmness, because the agency will put together everything necessary for the success of the talent (i.e. comp cards, portfolios, etc) and will sought great photographers to work with the models to build a strong book. They will also try their hardest to export that model to bigger markets, because as the mother agency, the success of that model equals more money for the agency. Models need to also realize these are completely fair and accurate expectations on their part. In other related industries (lets pick music for example) the manager invests in the success of the artist, and along with the label, promotes the artist to stardom (at least that's the goal) in hopes that it would lead to record sales, which leads to more money for everyone. It's all about money. The Las Vegas modeling industry is largely seen as an ironic epitaph but that's because no one is taking the initiatives necessary to elevate this lovely market full of potential, to the level of success experienced in Los Angeles, Miami and New York. The decision solely rests in your hands, but remember, you (as the talent) have to do what benefits you first (and what works for your market, and what gets you the most work, and money, and keeps you from living on the streets), because at the end of the day, the agency's success is only directly proportional to yours, which means you control the outcome. The agency isn't doing you a favor, it's all business.
Do you agree with this article? Do you have experiences of your own you'd like to share? We're encouraging an open discussion on the topic because we'd like to stay informed. You may choose to comment anonymously as well. All opinions are encouraged!
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