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Getting a Booking Agent

Getting a booking agent - marketing for artists

Many artists fail to understand the importance of a booking agent and how they can help to further the artists career.


Obtaining a booking agent is one of the first few steps on the path to more frequent and profitable performance opportunities. Despite this, many artists do not understand when to approach a booking agent and then pass up the opportunity when it finally presents itself. In order to understand when to approach a booking agent it is necessary to understand the agents income stream.

The formula to getting more gigs through music agencies and booking agents is quite simple. The agent will act on the artists behalf, soliciting contacts at venues in order to obtain gig opportunities. The agent will handle the negotiation of the artists fee, their performance obligations and any other considerations such as riders or breaks during the set. In return for this the agent will take a percentage of what the artist is paid for each gig or performance.

The fee is to cover the agents work negotiating and handling the contracts that will protect the artists payment. It is also to compensate the agent for his contacts. A performance that may require many cold calls and press kits from an artist to acquire can often be obtained with greater speed by an agent who possesses a good reputation and rapport with the venues promoter.

Finding a Booking Agent

Getting a booking agent

It is often best for an artist in search of a booking agent to make enquiries within their local music scene. Honest opinions of a booking agency will always come from the artists already using the agency.

The size and number of booking agents available to an artist will vary depending on the genre. For example, an established wedding band will be spoilt for choice. Conversely an artist in a less profitable genre such as metal will have less choice in booking agents.

Aside from making enquiries with fellow musicians, it is possible for artists to find booking agencies through a number of mediums such as phone directories and the internet.

Most booking agencies will have a web presence which will usually detail the acts and artists they are looking for and will often feature a list of their current clients.

Phone directories used to be the first port of call for an artist in search of an agencies but due to the increasing use of the internet to find businesses combined with the increase of agencies, it is likely that only a few agencies will be represented in the phone directory.

The Booking Agent’s Fee

The agent will typically charge 15% as their fee and through this number it becomes easier to understand what a booking agent looks for in a client. Essentially they want clients who already have a proven value in the eyes of venues and can therefore command a fair fee for their performances.

An agent will have no interest in a band who possess a small fan base and earn £50 per performance.

Whilst this may be a disappointment to very small acts it is the agents pursuit of greater income that will pay off in the artists favour. Where possible the agent will seek to increase the artists performance fee in order to increase their own income.

The agent is also motivated to ensure that the artist has performances in the pipeline. Often the artist will discuss their availability for performances with the agent and set a maximum number per week before embarking on a contract with them.

Thanks to this, the relationship between artist and booking agent is far more trusting and honest than that of artist and manager or artist and label. The booking agents income is linked directly to their actions for the artist and so only by acting in the artists best financial interests can they profit themselves.

Booking Etiquette

There is great debate over the proper etiquette when performances acquired by the artist directly. Even though the booking agent may not have negotiated on the artists behalf it may be likely that the agents past efforts have led to this performance opportunity. If this is so then it is professional and courteous for the artist to notify the agent and pay the agent their contractual fee.

Marketing for Artists

Getting a booking agent - promotions

Obtaining and working with a good booking agent is an integral component in an artists attempt to earn a liveable income from their live performances and to expand the physical reach of their performances.

A good booking agent can open doors for artists and provide enhanced credibility when approaching venues.

Aside from the methods described above, there are a number of searchable online directories of booking agencies, these will be of particular use for artists in areas with smaller music scenes or who are just looking for alternatives to the current major booking agencies known in their area.

Two large directories of this type are, The Music Biz Academy Directory and The American Federation Of Musicians Booking Agent Search.

Working with a booking agent is a fantastic way for an artist to further their career, reputation and financial gain. It is a key stepping stone on the path to greater musical success further down the road and a route that all artists should consider in their marketing plan.

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Advance Marketing for Touring


Advance Marketing for Touring

When an unsigned band books its first tour (see Getting Bands Out of Their Own Back Yards), chances are that it will have to accept some undesirable time slots for many shows. It is going to take some work to fill a venue for a gig booked on a Monday or Tuesday night in a city where the band has no established fan base. Putting some effort into public relations ahead of time can pay off, however.

Local Venue Advertising

While the band can hope that the venue into which it is booked will market the upcoming show, it should not rely on that happening. Many venues will save marketing dollars by only advertising for special occasions or weekends. A band can locate local Internet sites that offer free advertising and post ads at two-week and one-week intervals prior to the scheduled show.

There is generally at least one publication in each major city that features a calendar of upcoming events (for example, in St. Louis, The Riverfront Times would be considered). Additionally, sites established especially for musicians can attract an audience, even if those audience members are other musicians who simply wish to check out the competition. Again, by way of example, in St. Louis, the site on which to post would be

Finally, a band should not forget nor discount the reach of sites such as, which has a specific category established for “Events” in different locations. Ads should be well-worded, mention any other acts with which the band is playing (and which may have a draw), and make note of the fact that band merchandise will be offered – perhaps at a discount for the first fifty people at the ‘merch’ table. (Merchandising will be discussed in an upcoming article in this series.)

Social Networks and Email Marketing for Upcoming Tour Stops

Advance Marketing for Touring - social media and email marketing

This is one area where a band’s social networking presence can make a real difference. Maintaining an online calendar is a given, but a band should take extra steps to hype upcoming shows in other cities. When posting updates and reminders, the inclusion of a request to forward the post to other subscribers in the targeted geographic location can net better results.

Starting at least a week prior to the show, the band should alert fans on its social networking sites of the upcoming appearance and increase the frequency of such alerts right up to the day of the show. For instance, the first post could go out about a week and a half prior to the date of the show, with follow-up alerts two days later, then two days after that, until about four days prior to the show when daily posts can be made.

Similarly, if a band has an established distribution list for an email newsletter, sending an extra alert prior to the scheduled tour, then prior to each scheduled stop on that tour should be considered. Care must be taken, however, to prevent the band from appearing too “spammy.” As with ads, emails should mention anything about the venue that will be attractive to potential audience members, including a mention of the other acts with which the band will be playing.

Radio Airplay Requests to Promote Stops on the Tour

Advance Marketing for Touring - radio airplay requests

Probably the most difficult advance marketing endeavor for an unsigned band is to request radio airplay in each city prior to a performance there. If, however, a band has an EP suitable for radio play, it should attempt to take advantage of this marketing method. Doing so can be somewhat labor-intensive, but can pay off with a packed house.

The band can locate local radio stations (not forgetting college stations) by accessing sites such as By entering the city’s Zip Code, the band can find all the stations in that locale. From there it will be a matter of making calls to determine who to contact and the goal will be to reach out to the Program Director.

If the band’s representative cannot speak directly with this person, a message should be left, and the band should follow up by sending a promo package with a cover letter addressed to the Director that explains that the band will be in that city, and would appreciate some advance airplay to promote the show. About a week prior to the show, a follow-up email to that person will be in order. The email should mention the message and the promo kit, and again respectfully request airplay prior to the show.

Creatively Marketing Upcoming Shows

While it would be nice if a band could afford a billboard that announces an upcoming show on each tour stop, doing so is probably not going to be the reality. Putting some time and effort into advance promotion will pay off, and a band should apply its creative side to doing so. Doing Internet searches such as, “free advertising in Memphis,” can turn up methods of marketing that the band may not have considered.

Finally, even if only five people turn out for that Monday night show in Topeka, the band should give its best performance to those people (especially if they paid to be there), maintain its professionalism, and keep working toward the goal of playing to a packed twenty-thousand seat amphitheater.

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