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!
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