When you first start modeling you will likely hear the term “model mother agent” or “modeling mother agency“. What is a mother agency? Is a mother agency something you must have when starting out as a model? And, if so, how do you get one?
A mother agent or agency is usually the first modeling agency you begin working with when you start your modeling career. A mother agent can also be a scout that discovered you and helped you get your start.
When you are first starting out a mother agent will be the one that helps you learn the industry, helps you build your modeling portfolio or “book”, and gives you advice and guidance on the best direction for your career. They may also promote you to clients in your local area so that you can book jobs and build your book with tearsheets.
Model Agent Icons Eileen Ford and Jerry Ford, Founders Ford Models, New York
Mother Agents Watch Out For You
The iconic Eileen Ford, the Founder of Ford Models was the epitome of the mother agent. New models actually lived in Eileen’s personal residence in New York City and had strict rules to live by. Eileen Ford’s expert management and care for her models was legendary and made all the difference in the success of her models and her agency.
If you live in a smaller market (outside of New York, Milan, Paris, Tokyo, London) your mother agency will likely promote you to larger markets so that you can book jobs with major publications like Vogue Magazine, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, or with clients such as Prada, Gucci, Armani, Abercrombie and Fitch, Hollister and more. In other words, your mother agency will likely try to “sign” or loan you to larger agencies to help you further your career.
A Good Mother Agent Has Connections
A good mother agent will understand the industry as a whole. Rather than focusing on just their own market they need to have excellent connections to outside agencies and a good understanding of how the various markets do business since requirements for models can vary greatly around the world.
A mother agent will also have important inside information such as, which agencies pay their models in a timely manner, which agencies have the best bookers, which agencies are the most respected in their markets, and other important information that can make the difference in your success as a model.
They Get Paid Only When You Do
When a mother agency signs you to another agency in a larger market they generally earn a commission for doing so. For example, when you complete a job for a client the agency that booked the job will deduct 20% from you as their commission. In turn, they will give the mother agent a cut of their 20%. The larger agency will take their 20% regardless of whether you have a mother agency or not, so don’t worry, having a mother agency will not cost you any more than you would normally pay. However, having said that, it is not uncommon for agencies (particularly in Asian markets) to deduct an additional 10% or so in order to pay your mother agent. Getting signed to modeling agencies in Asia is usually a time-consuming job because of the special visa’s and travel arrangements necessary, so the additional commission to your mother agent will be money well spent.
Model Agent Icon John Casablancas, Founder Elite Model Management, New York
Being a mother agency isn’t exclusive to agencies from smaller markets, big agencies can be mother agencies too. For example, if you live in a small market but you were scouted by a big New York modeling agency that agency will become your mother agent. If the New York agency decides to send you to another market they will entitled to earn a commission from the other agency as well.
How To Get an Experienced Mother Agent
Is having a mother agency a good idea? Yes, yes, yes! A mother agency is there to guide and protect you. They have experience and knowledge of the industry you simply won’t have when first starting out. Just like you wouldn’t defend yourself in court without a lawyer you shouldn’t attempt a modeling career without the help of a professional agent. The trick though, is to find a good one. This can be very difficult if you live in a small market.
That’s why my colleagues and I founded ModelScouts – to help new models get the guidance and protection they need to navigate the industry. All of the agents at ModelScouts have been mother agents for 35 years and we fully understand all aspects of the modeling industry from modeling contracts, travel arrangements, overseas accommodations, work visa’s in foreign countries and more. If you are a new or experienced model who needs expert guidance or management we encourage you to create your model profile and upload your photos for our agents to review.