July 18, 2006 Terkel

We met with “Hoss” in his office on W. 44th street in New York City, where he told us his story of how he ended up at Atlas talent agency. He described the whole thing in his “Mid-Atlantic” accent, which resembles that of Bond…James Bond. So if you can picture Pierce Brosnan telling the story it will give you a better idea of what I we were hearing.

John “Hoss” Hossenlopp majored in History and attended Lafayette College, located in Easton, PA. John described Easton as the place where people who couldn’t get into Princeton or Dartmouth go. While in school, Hoss thought that he wanted to be an investment banker or a lawyer of some sort, perhaps to follow in his father’s footsteps, who was a high-powered corporate attorney in London. But when he graduated he found that there were only limited opportunities available in those industries. If firms were hiring then, they certainly were not hiring students from Lafayette.

After graduation Hoss had a number of different jobs just to get by and of course have enough money to go out at night. He reconnected with a college classmate whose father was Howard Stern’s agent. The acquaintance suggested that he interview with her father’s firm. Not seeing any other alternative, he did so.

He was hired for as an assistant in the commercial department, which he really enjoyed, While Don Buchwald and Associates (DBA) was no William Morris or ICM, Hoss received some great experience at a mid-tier talent agency.

He was in his first real job, and was doing something that could potentially lead to a career. The opportunity then arose for Hoss to move into the company’s promotions department. He jumped at the opportunity, recognizing that the voiceover business was a high growth area. He worked as an assistant to two agents, who gave him a client to work with. The client was Paul Turner, the “voice” of the Howard Stern show. He was told that he could focus on the radio imaging business, but that there was no money in it, but that the experience would be beneficial.

Hoss took that advice and turned the three radio stations that he was responsible for into into thirty stations, then into eighty, and soon enough, two hundred. He now does business with over one thousand radio stations across the country, and has stake in every major market city around the world.

He and three other agents left Don Buchwald & Associates in 2000, and despite a lawsuit on their tails, managed to form Atlas Talent Agency. Six years and one lawsuit victory later, Atlas has become the market leader and a dominant force in radio and television station imaging. They represent over 500 clients, 100 of whom specialize in radio and television imaging (most of their competitors have less than 20 clients working in that field). They also have a hosting department, an on-camera department, some theatrical clients, and have even done film deals, most recently the smash hit Ice Age 2.

Hoss’ primary focus remains representing people who are the voices of radio stations. His clients are people that use their voice to create the segues that you hear between the music.

Hoss’ favorite part of his job is finding his radio actors work.

“To give an opportunity to people to make enough money with voiceover so they can pursue their theatrical aspirations is what gives me the most joy. Also, building someone’s career, regardless of if they have a theatre degree. My life’s work is helping clients retire from their day jobs and do voiceover full time.”

When we pointing out that a history major had little to do with being a talent agent, Hoss begged to differ. Hoss made an interesting point about history’s place in business:

“The beauty of the history major is that you always learn from your past. Understanding this is something that has really helped me out in business. You learn by what has gone on before, and it’s the best gauge of what is going to happen in the future.”

Needless to say, I have a newfound respect for history majors.

The most important thing regarding one’s education is that you take something out of the experience and the information that you learn.

One thing that we found out is that a voiceover actor can make as much as You can make as much as $2 million a year! This, of course, is not common but is possible with a fine-tuned instrument and the necessary experience.

When we asked Hoss about mistakes he had made he told us that one time he had elected not to represent a talent based on his inexperience. He said that he has gained a reputation equal to that of American Idol’s Simon Cowell in the sense that he sometimes turns voiceover clients down based on his own reservations. He explained that he once turned down a client that would later become one of the top voiceover actors in the business. At the time, Hoss felt that the actor was not ready.

Hoss’ advises that anyone who wants to get into the voiceover business needs to get experience first. While he does develop talent internally, he only does so if a talent has a proven record or a very strong demo tape.
“Gaining experience, is like flight time. You have to get hours behind the mic, just like you would a plane.”

His advice to students regarding college was:

“Find out what you want to do. Don’t go into something just because you have to find a job. Figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are. Then don’t take “no” for an answer. Being persistent will almost always reward you. You are rarely faulted for being persistent.