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Tuesday
Oct092012

How to Find a Booking Agent

A while ago, I wrote an article for Music Think Tank: 5 Tips on Getting a Label, Sponsor, or Booking Agent.

This week, I got some follow up questions on the best route to go for choosing and pitching to a booking agent or agency. Here’s my thought process on how to find the right partner for your music:

1) Make sure that you are ready for a booking agent

A common mistake is for artists to oversell themselves. If you aren’t ready for serious regional and national touring (spending 4-6 months touring), then you probably aren’t ready to take that step yet. A booking agent is going to want to see solid tour history with a track record of success (making money at shows, around $800-$1000 per show). You almost always should have a publicist or PR agency, a manager, and some kind of distribution in place first. All of these things will help you when you make the pitch. Have you been playing industry festivals like SXSW or CMJ? That’s a good sign too.

Think about the reasons why you want a booking agent. Is it worth cutting up to 20% of your income? It is possible to book your our tour, that’s how I got started. I even wrote this piece on how to book your own tour, step-by-step. Besides, booking your own tour gives you a better insight into the process so you know what they’ll look for and if you are ready.

2) Find the right booking agent

There are many agencies out there. Try and find one appropriate to your level, genre, and fits with your goals. Don’t leave your chances to a Google search. Find similar bands or artists who you’d like to work with and see who they’re using. Is that agency booking similar venues that you’re playing (or even slightly larger)? Do they specialize in a certain region or do they cover more territory (national, multinational, etc)? Also, figure out if you want to go with a smaller, boutique agency or a larger firm with many artists. You can also ask your manager, distributor, or other members of your team for recommendations.

3) Making the pitch

Once you’re ready, go ahead and make the pitch. Remember, the main objective of the booking agent is to make money. Find a way to prove how you will be valuable to them, worth their time. Read my article on pitching your band. A booking agent will want a different press kit than anyone else, cater to that. Specially address your average show attendance, detailed tour history, stage plot/tech needs, attendance records (if available), and the fees charged or guarantees you command per show.

4) What booking agents charge

Most booking agencies charge a percentage of your fees (10-20%) and a 3 year exclusive commitment is fairly common. These are usually more established agencies who only work with well-established artists, most who have strong label support or exceptional tour history. Some agents charge a flat-fee ($25-$45 per show). These usually do not require a contract and provide another option for up-and-coming artists. Determine what is the best deal for where you are at in your career. However, remember that often times, terms can be negotiable. If you are skeptical, hire a good entertainment lawyer to help you with the agreements.

5) Bring the team together

Make sure that everyone working with your band is working in concert together. Keep communication lines direct and clear so that the publicist knows immediately when you get a gig booked, that your booking agent knows when your record’s sales are picking up in a certain market, etc. Unfortunately, it’s common for things to devolve in the music industry where every member of your team will be working independently from one another, trying the best that they can instead of having an overall strategic plan. That’s where having a competent manager comes in handy!

I hope you find these tips helpful. Got other questions about booking agents? Post them below!

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Simon Tam is owner of Last Stop Booking and author of How to Get Sponsorships and Endorsements. Simon’s writing on music and marketing can be found at www.laststopbooking.com. He is on Twitter @SimonTheTam 

Reader Comments (4)

These are some great tips for finding a booking agent.

I hadn't given a lot of thought to the type of agent I should be working with, but I can now see that would be a mistake. It seems like common sense, but it's easy to overlook.

October 27 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Wiebe

Simon, most of the advice I've seen focuses on rock/pop bands. I am a jazz singer and not interested in a large national career and tours. I have a small local following and am more interested in venues like college lyceum programs, or large corporate functions, jazz festivals, and doing some concerts. I know that jazz is a very different genre and has a select audience, so I'm thinking I don't really need a booking agent, but how do I set up shows with these venues?

Thanks for this post it was helpful. I have no working experience nothing that paid. I am able to play almost anything I can hear though and wish I could begin to be a professional.

I'm not doing it for money but as it were because if were gonna be in the rat race might as well work at something we like.

I do agree we should be able to read music and listening then transcribing any song we like sounds like a good way to learn to read music.


thanks,

July 1 | Unregistered Commenterjason

We are already booking our owning tours and making good money but we want someone to take that over from us and book us better gigs. We haven't had good luck with booking agency in the past. sometimes they charge a monthly fee and book me once a year. I'm a big hit at small venues but I want to become a big hit at large venues too. I have 19 CD releases and a fan base across the country. I tour full time now. Where do I find someone who can book a Celtic fusion artist?

July 17 | Unregistered CommenterArvel Bird

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