Do You Really Need a Rep? Or Can You Go It Alone?

Jason Lau Posted by Jason Lau on Sept. 25, 2014

I’ve been asked this a number of times from artists and the honest answer is, “Yes and No.” Like the industry itself, this answer changes and evolves. The need for a rep differs from artist to artist, agency to agency and magazine to magazine.

When I’m looking for an artist, I have several criteria to keep in mind. Most importantly, I need to consider what the creative team is looking for, existing relationships, and the budget for the job. Timing is also critical. Typically when a job is briefed, there’s very little time from when I start bidding on it to when the job is then awarded.

I know that most art buyers and producers go to agent sites because they provide the confidence that you’re getting an artist who has the business side of things taken care of. A rep takes care of business so the artist can concentrate on the creative side of things. This usually makes my job much easier, especially when timing is vital. A quality rep is a great communicator between the ad agency or magazine and the artist, leaving the artist to do what they do best.

Those are key factors that I consider when looking for an artist. However, there are times when I’m looking for the diamond in the rough – someone who has yet to be discovered. This is always exciting and keeps my job interesting. When I come across artists through blogs, magazines, shows, etc, I catalog them so I can refer back to them for future projects. Market yourself wisely! Getting your work out in the open, by whatever means available to you, can always open doors in the future. Just recently I met an artist who was putting on a show for someone else’s work. She invited me to dinner where I was able to see some of her own work, which I love and will definitely try to use on a project at some point. Just by getting herself out in the art world she was able to connect with me.

If you’re an artist who is just starting out, and lack representation, then it’s crucial for you to do the networking that a rep would otherwise do for you. Although it’s challenging to get these meetings, it’s necessary to build key relationships with editors, creatives, art producers and buyers. Do it as often as you can. You never know who could be the one to help you move to that next step and give you the opportunity you need to show your work. Aside from having exceptional work to show, being organized, friendly, professional and charismatic goes a long way to build these relationships.

I personally try to meet people that contact me, especially if their work pertains to what I’m currently looking for and the caliber of what I need is there. It is very important to know who you’re trying to market to! Research, research, research! The more specifically you can meet someone’s needs, the better of a shot you have at connecting with them. Sending a concise and thoughtful email as to who you are, what you do and why you’re unique is much better than a cold call.

That being said, if you’re an established artist and in-between reps or just needed a break, I don’t find it necessary to have a rep. If you’re well established you should already have the network you need. It boils down to this… Are you able to dedicate the time and attention to the business side of things while concentrating on the creative aspects of your jobs? That’s the question you need to give serious thought to. Both of these sides are just as important as the other and balancing them, or getting a rep to help you balance them, is the key to your success.

More About Jason Lau

Jason LauFor over a decade Jason has been bringing his passion for art and integrated production to the advertising industry. In 2018 he joined the Giant Spoon team as a Senior Integrated Producer.

The 2016 award season awarded Jason's first Cannes Grand Prix for Good including 4 additional Lions for the films he produced for UNICEF while at 180. Amongst other notable awards included the Brand Film Festival, D&AD, The One Show, Radio Mercury Awards and Clios.

Over his career, he created and curated the Team One Art Gallery, which exhibited professional and emerging artists. While at Team One he also received the agency’s annual “Slash Award.” An award given by leadership to employees who exuded and went beyond the agency’s CORE values. Jason also has experience managing associated art producers and out of scope projects as needed.

More About Jason Lau