How to decide if it's better to have a bad agent or no agent
I was an agent for 3 years before commencing on an acting career full time.
To answer your question, it is far more effective for an actor to be pro-active in securing representation for themselves with a bona fide acting agent or agency that's published in industry directories rather than be represented by a 'bad agent'!
It also really depends on what anyone's definition of a 'bad agent' really is!
Each & every artist's representation experience's will vary; For example, two actor's can have the same agent but have contrasting fortunes as far as getting regular castings, auditions & bookings are concerned.
A 'bad agent' could be described as one that rarely communicates with their clients, (or not at all), doesn't attend show's, fringe or otherwise where their clients are performing or doesn't pay their client's booking fees on time!
As an agent, I was always being pro-active on behalf of my clients by submitting them for suitable castings or work opportunities swiftly together with a follow up on every casting or audition they attended.
As an agency we were a 'home from home' so to speak as some of our clients were from overseas & needed to have valid work permits, accomodation & in some cases per diem's. We also attended artist's events & shows & gave constuctive feedback on their performances where appropriate & generally provided a full support & ongoing back up service for them.
We also invested finalcially in our clients from the 'get go' by producing portfolios, model cards ect.
I'm not saying that all agents should be providing All the above elements but we did; This was simply the level of faith, confidence & commitment we gave our clients to give them the best chance of getting booked. You have to be take what's relevent into consideration before concluding yours or any agent is actually a 'bad one'. If so,secure a new agent/agency BEFORE leaving your current representation as this will provide you with a stronger negoitiating position to secure a 'good agent'!
All the best with the quest.