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What is a Booking Agent?

Playing live is one of the most important things you will ever do as an artist, there is no denying it. It’s where your reputation is built as an artist, where you gain new fans, how you can create a buzz – gigging frequently and to a high standard will set you apart from the crowd. There will be a point in your career when you have built a large enough fanbase to start headlining your own shows, begin to start looking further than your local clubs for shows, and maybe even start touring. This is when a booking agent comes in.



Fundamentally, a booking agent has the responsibility of booking gigs for you. They liaise with promoters to get you on the bill, negotiate the gig contract to suit you as best as possible, and they make sure the entire live proceedings run as smooth as possible. An agent will work with promoters to make sure that everything you need will be at the venue, that you have enough time to soundcheck, and most importantly, what the payment will be for your performance. Only want yellow M&Ms on your rider? Your agent is the one who ensures the promoter knows.

Here is a quick run-down of the main responsibilities a booking agent has:

  1. Liase with promoters to book shows.
  2. Convince venue owners & promoters that you can pull a crowd.
  3. Negotiate fees.
  4. Organise travel & accommodation for gig days.
  5. Get you as high on the bill as possible.

You may be saying to yourself: “I do all of these things myself already, I don’t need an agent”, this may be true, you might be booking all of your own gigs, however, there comes a time where you want to play bigger and better venues, in towns and cities where you may have no contacts with whatsoever, this is when an agent starts to become more and more helpful.

Here are some of the main benefits of having an agent:

  1. Allows you to focus on your music by taking the responsibly of booking gigs off your shoulders.
  2. Books better and bigger gigs for you.
  3. If the agent is a part of a large agency who represents prominent artists, then they could get you a support slot to a big name artist or band.

So that was a quick run-down on the main responsibilities and benefits of a booking agent, I hope it may be of use to you in the future. With regards to finding a booking agent, a quick Google search will list hundreds, then just browse through their roster, see if they fit your sound, and get in contact. However, the most common way of getting a booking agent is simply by being incredibly tight as a band, gigging relentlessly, and building a large fanbase. Then, an agent will come to you.

Check out for more. 

James is currently working as an Intern at Music Dealers and is the Editor-In-Chief and Founder of He considers himself a Music Business Enthusiast, Artist Manager, Music Consultant and Social Media Strategist. For more, follow him on Twitter

Reader Comments (4)

"Playing live is one of the most important things you will ever do as an artist, there is no denying it. It’s where your reputation is built as an artist, where you gain new fans, how you can create a buzz – gigging frequently and to a high standard will set you apart from the crowd."

Many, many thanks for this brilliant opening comment. Sounds like a plan to me.

For a cracking new song go here:

August 8 | Unregistered Commenterdaznez

Thanks man! Glad you enjoyed reading.

Typically agencies don't take care of travel arrangements or or hotels unless included in payment. For example, if payment for a show includes accommodations, the agent will forward that information to management/artist, but they wouldn't set up hotel reservations otherwise. Most of those duties fall to the tour manager. Also, agencies will vary on how much 'advancing' they do as well, typically because most tour managers also take care of this. Of course, they do act as liaison between parties for related issues. FYI James!

August 17 | Unregistered Commenter@ismybandcool

How To Approach Booking Agents

You have reached that point in your career development when adding an agent to your team would be a logical next step. Before you pick up the phone and start calling around, I suggest you do the following three steps.

Take inventory and create an overview of your career position to date. This process and information will help you present a clear picture of your career for yourself and assist you in making a more powerful pitch to any agent you are considering.

Taking inventory includes re-evaluating your past two year's growth. I would include a list of all your past performance venues, the fees you actually received, the capacity of the venue and the number of seats you sold. If you haven't been keeping track of this information, it is not too soon to begin. Along with these details, I would also list the merchandise sales you had for each venue. All of this information helps assess your growth from year to year and venue to venue especially when you play a specific venue a number of times during the year. If your numbers increase each time, there is good indication you are building a following. This is exactly the type of information a booking agent wants to know when determining whether they will invest their time and money to add you to their roster. When you present an organized evaluation of your career development to an agent along with your promotional package, you immediately set yourself above most scouting for an agent. This presentation tells the agent that you are mindful of your growth and are organized in the manner in which you conduct your business. These are attractive aspects of an artist's livelihood to any agent.

Create a set of career goals, timelines and projections. Most artists are looking for an agent to relieve them of work they dislike doing for themselves-making calls to book gigs. Look for an agent to help you raise the level of your performance dates and increase the number of dates and the performance fees. Set career goals for the types of venues you would like to play and present this to prospective agents. Determine a specific time line in which you would like to have these goals accomplished. Then based on the kind of concrete information you've gathered from your evaluation (step 1 above), you can make some realistic projections about what percentage of increase you foresee in the next two years. For example, based on last year's information, you are able to determine that your bookings, fees and merchandise will increase by 20% during the next year and 20% the year after. When you present an agent with hard numbers they can more effectively evaluate whether or not it is worth their involvement.

The final step before making phone calls, is to do some research. It doesn't matter how well organized you are or how talented you are, if you are calling the wrong type of agent, you are wasting your time. There are many different databases or agency listings one can review. You may need to purchase some of these directories, but it will be well worth the expense when you begin calling appropriate agencies for the type of performance you present. Some resources with agency listings are:

Musical America,
Chamber Music America,
Association of Performing Arts Presenters,
The Musician's Atlas,
Some agents book specific genres music or styles of performance. When researching agencies, determine if the genre of music or the type of performance is compatible with your own. Check their roster of artists to see if you recognize anyone. There may be some acts for which you might open-when finally speaking with someone at the agency, mention that. Create a list of appropriate agencies and make sure you get the names of one or two or the head of the agency if it is a small company. If you know any acts that are working with a specific agent with whom you might be compatible, ask that act if they would mind sharing some information about their agent. You may get some insider information regarding whether or not it is a good time to make your pitch based on who the agent just signed or if they are looking for new acts to add.

Another method of researching agents is to attend booking and showcasing conferences. Agents often use these conferences to scout for new talent. Seeing acts in live performance help agents get a sense of audience reaction as well as getting a better picture of what they might potentially be selling. The other great benefit to attending booking conferences is that you can walk around the exhibit hall and meet all the agents who are representing their acts. View their booths to see who is on their roster as well as examining how the agency presents their artists with their booth display. You can get a sense of the agents organization and creativity by the manner in which they represent the talent. Stand by and listen to the way they pitch their artists to prospective buyers.

In conclusion, with these three tasks under your belt, you can confidently present yourself to appropriate agencies when you feel you are ready to make a pitch. You will present a much more professional overview of your act with a clear evaluation of your past performance and a realistic projection of your future.

And, I invite you to learn more about this and other topics important to your career development and to sign up for free weekly audio Biz Booster Hot Tip! Every Monday you'll get another valuable strategy and technique that you can put to use immediately. You'll find helpful books, career development seminars, Booking & Touring Success Strategies & Secrets online course and information on booking tours, the music business and performing arts. It's all waiting for you at Jeri Goldstein is the author of, How To Be Your Own Booking Agent The Musician's & Performing Artist's Guide To Successful Touring 3rd Edition.

August 18 | Registered CommenterJeri Goldstein

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