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
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.
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
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.