Quick question. Do agents need a license to do what they do? And are they required to go through any sort of training before becoming an agent?
No. And no.
Anyone can call himself an agent. No rules, no degrees, no training required. You don't even need experience in the industry. If you want to be an agent, poof, you're an agent. There is no regulatory agency. While organizations like the NFL require agents to be registered with the league and meet certain specifications, television news has no such rules.
That said, most agents have experience in the industry. Some are former reporters, News Directors, producers, etc. Others worked as assistants to veteran agents.
You have to keep a few things in mind when considering an agent. There are very good agents and very bad agents. And getting an agent is no guarantee of getting a job. Even the best agent cannot wave a magic wand and create a job for you.
Many young people are lured by the prospect of getting an agent. It's impressive to say, "I have an agent," but it doesn't mean anything if you have a bad one. And just because an agent contacts you, that doesn't mean you're talented or ready to move up. Some agencies sign everyone in the hopes of getting a commission by using the "volume, volume, volume" approach. When you've got a kazillion clients, some of them will find jobs and you'll get a commission.
Another thing that clouds the issue is the "moving on" section of websites like tvjobs.com. It seems that every single person has an agent. But people who get jobs on their own don't bother sending notices about their career moves. And there are a lot more people without agents than people who have them.
Remember, a good agent knows your talent and your goals. He'll send your tapes to stations at which you might be a good match. He doesn't send your tapes to Minneapolis if he knows you hate the cold. He doesn't send your tapes for morning show openings if he knows you have no desire to work that shift. He returns your calls or emails promptly and is realistic about your chances. Hopefully he has contacts that can open a few doors that might otherwise be closed.
A bad agent puts your tape in a box with every other client in the hopes the ND will pick someone and create a commission.
Be very careful when choosing an agent. Do your homework, talk to other clients, and even ask your former News Directors.
Signing with the wrong agent can be devastating to your career.