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How to avoid serious mistakes when choosing an agent

Role of an Agent

If you want to succeed as a live act in the music industry, you will likely need an agent. Agents strive to find great gigs for their clients at good venues and earn a nice commission in the process. Although they are also often involved in commercials, television events, tour sponsorship and other areas, music agents don’t generally have quite the same status or influence as those in the film business. This article contains some useful information on selecting the right agent for you.


Agents should not receive income from any aspect of recording or songwriting (with the possible exception of film music) and they should NEVER ask for this.

In the US, music agents are regulated by the union AFM (American Federation of Musicians), which allow them to charge a maximum of 10% (it can be more in some instances, but agents should agree to this 10% limit)

Some agents will take a lower percentage at around 5% for artists who generate substantial revenues at concerts. This rarely happens for film and TV unless you are a big player in these areas. They may also offer a sliding scale where they drop their percentage as you earn more, which can work out really well for both parties.

It is very important you check what is right for your situation.

Negotiating a contract

The agency will probably ask for 3 or more years, but you should only grant them one year. This way, you can ditch them if things don’t work out, or try to negotiate bringing their commission down if you start to really progress as an artist.

If you do decide to go for more than a year, make sure you have a clause in the contract so you can exit each year if they or you don’t meet certain targets.

Choosing an agent

If you have a manager, you’ll only deal with your agent occasionally, meeting them at your gigs or to discuss setting up a tour. Most of the time, they will talk to your manager. You should feel confident in allowing your manager to find an agent for you, although you should make the final decision.

If you don’t have a manager, you should be very particular about choosing an agent as they will report directly to you. When you pick an agent, ask yourself, how hard will they work on finding great shows and concerts for you?

Are they powerful and well connected, with one or more major clients and happen to be extremely enthusiastic about you and your music?

If you’re a megastar, this should not be a problem, but if not, then it is very unlikely they will have a keen interest in working hard to find those lucrative gigs for you or your band.

Remember it takes more work to establish a new artist compared to one already at or near the top and which one do you think pays more?

Although you can find a reputable agent like this, it is rare and you may find it better to find a young and enthusiastic agent who will work day and night on getting shows and concerts for you. Check their credentials and find out if they come recommended from a trusted source.

Would you like some great tips on how to write a song and compose music in any style? Download a FREE 10-page guide on “5 Essential Elements On How To Improve Your Music Making In Any Style” at

Reader Comments (3)

Good post, I'd love to see a more in-depth article on agents or even a solid interview with an industry agent. In particular, classical musicians very much underutilize agents and I'd like to see the success stories. Cheers,

September 18 | Unregistered CommenterBradford

Same old stupid BS advice that may seem nice in theory BUT doesn't work in the real world! If it did, I'd have my choice of agents right now instead of continuing to net mid-six figures from self-booking 300 dates annually for the past 10 years! YOU DON'T NEED AN AGENT to SUCCEED in this business, and I'm living proof. This business is NOT rocket science, but it IS TOUGH being DIY. Your life will consist of 5% performing and 95% behind-the-scenes stuff. Still, this article is backwards in it's presentation because successful agents DON'T come looking for you(because they don't need you). You need to be wary of those that DO approach you because they probably aren't successful and are simply looking for a sucker to bleed dry(financially). Indeed, YOU don't have your choice of agents...they have the control and final say of whether or not THEY want to work with you. If you can do it, I say go it'll save yourself a lot of wasted time, money, and heartaches by doing so!

September 25 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Oprisko

Thank you for contributing your comment to my article Peter. Whilst I accept there are some bands and artists who feel they don't need an agent, I know a few guys who use them and get a lot of work out of it. Yes, maybe they could do it alone, but it is a lot more work, and they feel having an agent frees up their time to focus on other aspects. This article is merely a guide for those who are interested in using an agent and what things they should consider.

September 26 | Unregistered CommenterMarcel Williams

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