"has a singer made it once they have an agent"?
This is indeed an interesting topic.
I remember in my PAD (pre-agented-days), thinking that singers who had agents were the 'professionals' who were singing the leading roles in the A,B,and C houses where I was apprenticing. And that was fine, because according to the 'shining path' (ok, LOOSELY use that term! lolzz) of having a singing career, it was: Undergrad, grad, apprenticeship at summer program, year round apprenticeship, and then either that company loved you and gave you a chance on the mainstage, or an agent heard you at one of the previous two things and wanted to sign you..because now you were "of age", "of maturity" and "of talent" enough to get their attention.
That or your b00bs looked awesome the day you sang for Placido via your teacher's personal recommendation into some competition that he was judging. j/k
OR, I believed, one could make their own path, and quite successfully do so for a few years:
Having finished school, and as an un-managed singer, approach both agents and houses of CERTAIN levels (CERTAIN-ly NOT A houses), and request an audition based on your previous work. Now, this only works if you actually accumulated about 10 to 20 roles in your Pre-Professional days (ie, school, summer workshops, apprenticeships, local/regional shows)...because, otherwise, I don't think you'd get much of a response from houses to book you for an un-managed audition unless you had the voice of an angel and they happened to listen to your recording that day instead of throw it in the trash along with the folder that all of your materials came in.
And it also only works if you are indeed ready in ALL sense of the word--you know, package, looks, voice, whatevs...that has been discussed previously.. to audition for these levels in the FIRST place.
Why does an agent make a difference?
Some math. (I'm a math hater- ...although according to "Outliers" it's just because I wasn't given enough TIME in my 42 minute classes to be a math-person)
Ok, let's say there are like ten to twenty 'top'-ish agencies, each of which (excluding the huge ones like CAMI) have..let's say 10 to 20 sopranos on their roster.
Ok, so rounding UP to include some of the bigger rosters that have more than 20, and some of the "more than top ten" agencies to include their sopranos as well, let's say 20 agencies times 20 sopranos are competitively managed in the US.
Now, out of those, I assume there would be an about equal distribution of years that those sopranos have been managed.
Some are world-class, world famous sopranos. Some have been at a career steadily for over 5 years, and some have been signed within the past five years.
Let's focus on the ones that have been signed within the last 5 years...since that is who you are in essence 'competing' against to get a spot on a roster.
And I won't even get into inner soprano 'faching' categorizations.
So of the 400 sopranos---take 1/3 (the number who have been signed in the past 5 years and are in their "early" careers) == 133.333..etc. Ok, 134 sopranos who are around YOUR level of development THROUGH five years ahead of you.
How many of those 134 sopranos will actually be in New York City (and not have a previous engagement for October-December) at all of the auditions in which YOU would like to request and audition.
Ok, I don't know what the 'rate of work' is for singers, but let's HOPE that Just Under Half of them are "working singers" and they Happen to have a Fall 2009 gig.
Let's say that leaves 60 sopranos.
Those 60 sopranos from 20 different agencies will be put up for consideration for audition requests each time an opera company comes to New York for two to five days.
Let's assume sometimes a company is not interested to hear a soprano a 2nd year in a row (sometimes true), and that for SOME kinds of sopranos, there is no need for their voice type in the repertoire for the next season.
Thinking generously, let's SAY that thirty are now left.
Thirty managed SOPRANOS who have been accepted to mainstage audition...and these are just the ones who are in their 'early' career---this does NOT include the ones who are a bit ahead, maybe DON"T even HAVE to audition because they are a 'name', etc.
If THESE thirty (who will take an an entire day of the one to three days of auditions...but not all on the same day) had to already go through a certain weeding out process already--ie, an agent heard them..somewhere..(school, performance, YAP audition, competition), and they have been SIGNED, isn't a company more likely to agree to hear a certain number of these thirty sopranos instead of the I'm sure ..hundreds of request letters that they receive every season for an unmanaged audition?
Now, of course... companies DO hear unmanaged singers. Many GDs have written in the past about how they go through recordings, resumes, looking for that diamond in the rough or that raw talent or sometimes just that one that went unnoticed for a few years and suddenly has the 'it' voice of the moment and just hasn't been snatched up yet.
Of course, this math is no where near precise. I haven't counted up the actual number of sopranos--either managed of any age and level, or unmanaged of any age or level. There are many more agents than just 20. Unmanaged singers get heard all the time and get jobs out of it. Managed singers get heard all the time and don't always get jobs.
What is my final thought IF I were to HAVE a final thought--since I have seemingly gone on forever and ever in this little math experiment only to debunk my own formulas?
Well, here it is.
It helps. a LOT. It means that SOMEONE has given you a seal of approval.
And, hopefully, that someone ALSO has a good reputation themselves. The win-win is when someone sees your potential, and knows how to get other people excited about it in the form of 'getting you out there'...getting heard by the right people at the right time.
Singers can do a very large amount of their own 'business managing' on their own, of course. But at the end of the day, the person that can call up this or that company, find out about some season in 2012, be in the know about the upcoming cancellation, premiere, or audition...before anyone else...and actually be able to DO something about it (in terms of throwing the artist's name into the mix for consideration at any of these moments) is the person's who has the job title of artist manager.
So- to answer the FIRST question now that I've gone on some tangential dalliances, has a singer "made it" once they have an agent?
Well- of course not. But there are certainly incredible advantages to having a name besides your own attached to your work, work ethic, and marketability.
It also means that you have to maintain and, what's more, strive to excel in your level of talent, ability, professionalism, conduct, business savvy, etc.- for the same reason-- You are now attached to a name that also strives to achieve a good reputation, respect, and representation of the top talent in the field.