Funny title for today’s blog post right? Well, there’s a reason for that. Last November, I received an email with the subject line “CASTINGS / BARN TALENT/ SEEKING MGMT REP”. For this post, I used fake names for the agency and the owner’s name, as well as marked them out on the email screenshot as I don’t wish to slander. I sensed this email was blasted to many people all at once and upon reading the note, I was right!
The first sentence as you can see, says: Hope all is well. This email is only being used for submissions of new talent. Then someone who called themselves Barney’s Assistant (not the actual name) wrote a poorly fashioned letter asking if I was seeking representation, talent management, or more opportunities.
Next, there was a super short description of the agency being around for 10 years and working with top casting directors, producers, etc, a request to visit the company website for more information, and an invitation to submit my demos. Oh, they also included the phrase “We are freelancing with talent and understand what that entails.”
Unsolicited emails are nothing new and I get them often. But I decided not to respond to this particular one for quite a few reasons:
As I mentioned above, I could tell the email was blasted out to lots of people. It started with “Hello” instead of “Hello Mary”, or “Hello Ms. Morgan”. It wasn’t directed solely to me.
Barney’s Assistant didn’t give their real name or even explain who Barney was.
Why was I specifically being contacted? Yes, I’m a voice over but there’s no mention of what genres they work most with or where I’d fit best in the agency’s VO department (if they have one): commercials, animation, video games, promos, etc.
Something told me I needed to find out if other colleagues received a similar email. So, I went on social media to visit a few voice-over groups and lo and behold, almost every talent and colleague I knew as well as many, many others had received the EXACT same email! Everyone questioned the legitimacy of the agency and who was Barney’s Assistant? But alas, there were no answers, just memes, and jokes.
A friend and colleague discussed some very interesting points as to why this email backfired the way it did, and I got his permission to share them:
The email was impersonal/generic. They didn’t address their message to anyone in particular and therefore had no idea who they were contacting.
The message felt arrogant, as though the receiver was expected to know who exactly Barney was and expected me to trust that they really know the business.
The proposal seemed fake and much like a scam. With no name from the sender, “Barney” was either acting as his own assistant or he had hired someone inexperienced at writing emails. The note felt like a “jump in the bandwagon while it’s hot” scheme or a “let’s make lots of money together in this new venture” propaganda completely ignorant to the nuances of what a successful voice acting career would entail.
The email was poorly planned with terrible use of phrases, typos, and little to no knowledge of voice-over other than starting up a department for it. If this is how they communicate with voice actors, what does their communication with casting directors, ad agencies, producers, and directors look like?
The sender didn’t do proper research on whom they were emailing. They more than likely found a list of names somewhere and sent their email to anyone with an address.
Instead of curating a roster that fills a need for the agency or their existing talent, they just wanted to add as many names as possible, which means they didn’t value the people they were contacting.
Lastly, the so-called owner of the agency, Barney himself, made a video on Instagram defending the email blast by explaining it was legitimate, how much he wanted to build the VO department at his agency, and finally mentioning that his Instagram page was in fact verified.
What’s more unfortunate is that new and unsuspecting voice-over talent are likely to fall for this gimmick which is why I wanted to blog about it. Always do your research! Legitimate agents/agencies DO NOT mass solicit talent. It’s also been reported by various sources that “Barney” shares jobs on social media that are supposed to be confidential, thus violating NDAs!
All in all, it’s not unusual to hear from an agent interested in representing you. It can be rare for certain due to agents being incredibly busy. Nonetheless, beware of generic emails that don’t address you by your name or mention how they found you.
Do your research, ask questions, and be careful out there!