In your attempts to pursue a modeling career, you may or may not have come across the term "mother agency." Not all models deal with this type of agency arrangement but it does help to know as much as you can about the industry and all its aspects, including this concept.
While reading this blog post, keep in mind that having a mother agency is not mandatory, nor does a model need one to be super successful. The choice to become involved in this type of deal should be based on each person's needs, goals and situation as it relates to becoming a model.
So what is a mother agency? Like regular modeling agencies, mother agencies sign models, use contracts and market them to clients in order to book paying assignments. However, the major difference is the fact that mother agencies also groom, develop and prepare their models to work not just in other markets/locations but with other agencies as well. HUH????
Your brain is probably firing off tons of questions after reading that part but be patient--hopefully the rest of this post will answer those questions and demystify this concept.
It's helpful to think of mother agencies as "loaning" out their best models to other agencies as needed. This often happens when the mother agency is located in a small to medium-sized market where there isn't as much high caliber, top paying work. Because they know the good stuff is in places like New York, Los Angeles and even in international markets, they'll use their industry know-how and skills to market their models to attract the big fish agencies in those desirable places.
However, there are mother agencies located in big markets, too. They also operate the same way and for the same purpose but will typically focus on getting their models work in other countries, as well as other large markets nationally (i.e. a model could have his/her mother agent in Los Angeles and, as a result, have the ability to travel and work in New York and/or Miami when bookings come up in those areas).
The benefits for the mother agency includes but is not limited to:
- Gaining more paying work and exposure for their models.
- Vital networking connections with bigger, well established agencies.
- The opportunity to make more money.
- The chance to work in one or more larger markets.
- The opportunity to make more money on assignments and work with big name clients and agencies.
- The chance to travel either nationally or internationally.
However, while regular commission rates are typically added on top of the rate a model will be getting paid, mother agency commissions often take their cut directly from the model's paycheck. They're allowed to do this legally but that doesn't mean it's fair. While there are instances where the mother agency will directly charge commission to the agency they're loaning their models out to, it isn't uncommon for them to simply take money from the model's earnings because it's easier and the model doesn't have a say in the matter (hey, I don't support this practice and I don't make the rules so don't shoot the messenger).
An additional downside is that signing to a mother agency sometimes involves paying fees related to training and development. This includes professional photos, comp cards, runway training, etc. I'm sure you're thinking to yourself, "But Dania, you always say that upfront fees are red flags and that legit agencies train new models for free!" Yes, this is true BUT remember, mother agencies don't operate like regular agencies. And the fees related to the costs of grooming and preparing a model for work in other markets normally are not upfront fees--they come into play after a contract has been signed, which they are legally allowed to do.
While this may seem like a total ripoff to some of you, there are times when working with a mother agency can be beneficial for a model's career and justifies investing the money. However, like I said earlier, it isn't mandatory to sign with a mother agency.
Here's when it's okay to look into a mother agency situation:
- If you're in a small market where you know little about the industry but want to prep yourself to make the jump to a major market (and realistically know you meet the requirements to make this possible).
- If the mother agency in your area has legit and solid connections to not just top agencies in big markets, but well paying and recognizable clients that want to hire you.
- If the mother agency has proven experience with placing models from small and medium markets to larger ones, especially overseas.
- If you already have sufficient knowledge about the modeling industry to find a regular agency on your own.
- If you currently live in a big market where you're close to all the major traditional modeling agencies.
- If you're signed to an agency already and are doing just fine with your career.
Do not feel pressured to try and hook up with a mother agency--again, they are not mandatory or necessary to be successful in modeling UNLESS you live somewhere that isn't known for getting much action in terms of the types of modeling assignments or agencies available. Also keep in mind that there are scammer operations that use the mother agency method to get money from people.
If you're thinking about possibly submitting to an agency that offers mother agency services, do your research and check out their site. If they have a proven track record of placing models successfully in bigger markets and getting results, then chances are you'd be working with people that know what they're doing and will be your partner in helping you reach your goals with modeling.
Otherwise, you can stick to seeking information about the industry on your own and by opting for the more affordable way of seeking traditional agency representation by attending open casting calls and sending in your pictures and info via email or snail mail.