If you are a model or a client who is constantly booking models for shoots, you know how challenging the exchange can be. From delayed payments to missed call times and on-set harassment horror stories, a whole myriad of things can go wrong on any gig. Looking to add some more transparency to the industry, the Agent app was created to make interactions go smoother, match models to perfect jobs, and offer a support system for users who encounter any job difficulties. Richard Magazine exclusively spoke to Mark Willingham, the CEO of Agent Inc., to hear all about the app and how it’s changing the fashion industry. Check out our Q & A below.
Can you tell us about what prompted the creation of this platform?
The idea for the Agent platform arose from our belief that the world needs a safer, more efficient and completely transparent modeling industry where models can work safely and be paid in a timely manner and where clients can save time and money while supporting the safeguards inherent to the Agent platform.
It all started when my business partner, Dustin Diaz, was awarded a book deal on photography and lighting. He was trying to hire 20 models to shoot for the book, not knowing where to find them, he ultimately ended up reaching out to models on Instagram and Model Mayhem. Well, his experience was less-than-desirable with more than half of the booked models not showing up and, of those that did, there was a range of issues from not being very experienced to not being able to accept payment by credit card. One model even asked if she could give him weed as change for a $100 bill!
All of this got Dustin thinking that if he had such a bad experience trying to book models for one job there must be a much bigger overall problem in the industry. It turns out he was right. He and our other business partner, Ashley St. Clair, did some research and discovered a highly fragmented $1.4B industry that is extremely inefficient, has little to no transparency and little to no safeguards against predators. Agent was conceptualized as an answer to these problems.
Agent provides companies with the tools to quickly find and book the perfect model for every job, while empowering models to take control of their modeling careers and increase their billings in an environment that is safer and completely transparent.
Image Courtesy of Agent App
Our goal at Agent is not to replace traditional agencies, but to re-imagine the entire industry where all the players – models, companies that hire models and agencies themselves – benefit from the efficiencies and safeguards which are core to the Agent platform.
Who would you say your targeted user is: the seasoned model, someone just starting out in their career, or anywhere in between?
We currently have more than 10,000 registered models on the Agent platform and they range in experience from entry-level to seasoned. We believe in diversity and opportunity.
Can you explain how the interface works, and what some of the Agent app highlights are?
Agent is a technology-based platform which was developed in support of our goal to reimagine the modeling industry; making it safer, more transparent and, all around, more efficient.
The modeling industry, at its core, has pretty much remained the same for the past 70 years, with modeling agencies representing models (often on an exclusive basis) and connecting them with companies that want to book models. The traditional modeling agencies take a commission of up to 20% from both the model and the company. And, the process of booking a model can be quite time consuming as the companies need to search through an agency’s book of models, either online or in print, identify which models are of interest to them and then communicate this to the agency – via phone or email – who then need to determine the model’s availability for the proposed job. Depending on the complexity of the job and a variety of other factors, this process can take from a few hours to a week or more. Then, there are issues around safety (does the person booking the model have a criminal/sex offender background?), payment (will it take weeks or even months for the model to be paid?), lack of transparency (how much is the modeling agency actually getting paid by the client) and career control (exclusivity agreements between models and agencies tie the model’s hands, preventing them controlling their own destiny).
Now, with the Agent platform, things are much different… and much better. Agent offers companies more diversity and overall options than a traditional modeling agency. Agent provides real value to both sides of the marketplace, empowering companies to efficiently find and book highly-vetted models in minutes by utilizing powerful, granular search filers. The Agent platform is free to use and a small fee of 5% is only charged to companies once they have completed the job and electronically paid the model. Further, for companies which book models, Agent provides a guarantee of 100% satisfaction and offers 24/7 customer support. This type of guarantee or support is unheard of in the industry.
For models, the Agent platform is focused on empowering them and providing the tools and guidance to control and grow their careers. We have created a much safer work environment for models by running a criminal/sex offender background check on every person who wants to use the platform to book them. In addition, the models set their own rates on the platform and they are electronically paid immediately (direct deposit in to their bank accounts) when the job is completed. Further, Agent is non-exclusive, free for models to apply and be listed and only charges a 10% booking fee when they are paid for a job (as opposed to the 20% fee charged by traditional agencies). We are also developing an extensive education program for the models where they can develop and enhance their skills. In addition, the Agent program provides for total transparency, giving both the models and clients the power to rate each other at the completion of each job.
Image Courtesy of Agent App
How does Agent Inc. work to help the process, like by conducting background checks, etc.?
The Agent platform and process offers many benefits for both models and clients.
The benefits to models are: Lower cost: only a 10% service charge when model is paid for a completed job. Empowered to manage and grow their careers. Scheduling, booking and job tracking features. Safer environment – criminal and sex offender checks on every person/company which books models. Free to download app and apply to be listed on the platform. Full transparency – nothing hidden, set own rates. Non-exclusive… no “exclusive agency contracts.” Reviews ratings of clients. Automated and immediate cashless payments upon job completion,. 24/7 live customer assistance (“Agent Assist”).
The benefits to clients are: Quickly find the perfect model for every job using granular filters. Scheduling, booking and job tracking features. Artificial intelligence to perfectly match models with rands/jobs. Free to download app and search the database. Lower cost: only a 5% service charge when model is paid. Reviews ratings of models. 100% satisfaction guarantee. 24/7 live customer assistance (“Agent Assist”).
How do you hope models will use this platform to report their experiences?
We have built the Agent platform so that it supports total transparency. At the completion of every job models are able to review the client. This review is visible to other models, so that they can make informed decisions when deciding on whether or not to accept a job. Also, the models have the ability to provide detailed feedback to Agent regarding their experience on a job. If the feedback is negative and against our guidelines we reserve the right to deactivate the client’s account. In addition, we will soon be providing other reporting innovative features that will provide, if needed, real-time support and intervention for models while they are on a job.
Image Courtesy of Agent App
Especially with everything going on in the news right now, how do you hope this platform will take the silence out of negative experiences in the industry?
While we cannot control what happens outside of the Agent platform, we do know that the models who book through Agent will have more safeguards available to them than anywhere else including knowledge through our education initiatives and ratings features, safer environments due to our background checks and real-time access to support. Also, clients who book through Agent are well aware of our extensive model safeguards and those companies and brands which support initiatives focused on preventing, and hopefully eliminating, sexual harassment and coercion are more likely to book models through us, creating an even safer environment. We are implementing so many safeguards in the Agent Inc. platform that, in addition to our zero-tolerance mindset, we believe that we will eventually come close to 100% eradication of harassment.
How do you spread the word about the Agent app, and recruit others to join?
Everything we have done so far to get the word out about Agent has pretty much been word of mouth, a little online advertising and some strong media coverage. Even though we are still only in live beta, we are already the fastest growing modeling platform in the world with more than 10,000 registered models and we receive, on average, close to 100 new applications every day. We will formally be launching the Agent platform in January 2018 and that is when we will begin our outreach to companies that hire models. We are super excited about the great traction and positive feedback we have had so far with companies booking models on the platform and are looking forward to ramping up as we head into 2018!
Do you see the Agent app expanding outside of the professional modeling realm, or is it something you want to keep tight-knit?
We believe that we will be able to increase efficiencies and transparency across a wide range of vertical markets, but will stay focused on entertainment-related industries. A few of these verticals include photographers, stylists, makeup artists, actors and musicians. But, for now, we are staying focused on the modeling.