“Why am I not getting booked for shows?” you ask.
Good question. Don’t’ worry, though. You are among many artists right now who are battling the same issue: No booking agent in a saturated market and no clue how to make the job easier for people who can book you. Well, I am here to offer some professional words of advice to hopefully help you move forward and grow as an artist. In this article we will go over some of the basics of Booking Agent Artistry 101.
For those who don’t know, a booking agent (or talent agent) is a person (or company) who is responsible for finding opportunities for individuals working in the entertainment industry. A booking agent will help clients find work around the world, secure the artist contract work, and negotiate with the venue or promoters if any problems arise. A booking agent might also handle some of the roles that a manager might fulfill, but more so from the live performance angle.
How To Land A Booking Agent
One of the best ways an upcoming artist can secure a booking agent is to grab their attention. Pursuing an agent can work, but if you make enough noise in the industry, they will come to you, which is the best scenario. One way to have them approach is by having a song that starts to buzz hard. Also, solid social media presence, fan interaction, and a supply of consistent new music will also be attractive to agents on the watch. More importantly, if you have a growing fan base and can mobilize fans to come support when you perform it will increase potential ticket sales, which is what promoters and venues want most. When the venue and promoters want an artist, the job is much easier for a booking agent to land shows.
Do you need a booking agent to get shows? The short answer is no. Without an agent you will have to hustle to land shows. This is only temporary, fortunately. Even though you are cutting out the booking agent, you are also taking on added responsibility. This is manageable if you are only doing a few shows each month. But as things progress, managing these duties will subtract from your ability to develop as an artist. Routing a tour correctly, dealing with promoters, shifting guarantees, contracts—all very time consuming—not only take away precious hours of your day, but maybe even altering the vibe needed to create. Also, if a show goes bad or you are dealing with a shady promoter—as an artist handling this situation—you may alter the relationship promoters and venues have with you even if you aren’t necessarily wrong. In this business, relationships are key.
The job isn’t over once you land an agent, though. Rather, it has just begun. The market right now for artists is saturated because touring is the most reliable way to make money in the modern music industry. Most artists must tour. You want to be that artist that promoters and fans want to see over and over again. You also want to be the easiest artist for your booking agent to work with.
The Live Performance Is Super Important
One way to do this is to be as professional as possible. This includes not only keeping up your social media presence and managing it as it grows, but also your willingness to support other performing acts (even though you may feel your show is better than theirs). You should also focus on putting on the best stage show possible in any situation, and more importantly building a team around you, which includes a good manager. A manager is an individual or a company that guides the professional career as a whole for an artist. Finding a good booking agent and manger is something you have to be patient about and let happen in a way where things just fall into place at the right time. Even though sometimes you will go through a number of them before you find the right one, when you do and they are sincerely interested in you as an artist, things will work.
Here are four additional things to consider when attempting to land a booking agent:
1. Good Hard Numbers: The number of tickets you sold in a particular market on a particular ticket price on a specific day with a specific line up makes up to your ticket sales history. Track the final numbers from your shows diligently.
2. Willingness to Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: Will you go and take the $0 dollar guarantees and prove your value? A guarantee is saying that you will make a certain amount of money no matter if two people show up or 2,000 people show up. It is basically just a loan against your performance. It is obviously safer for promoters and venues because less money is lost if the show flops. But it is a disadvantage for the artist because you don’t know how much money you will make at the end of the night. Without hard ticket sales numbers, promoters and venues will be more hesitant about giving an artist a guarantee. If you know you have a solid fan base that will turnout, it might be in your favor to do the show without a guarantee, promote extra hard, and pack the house. You will not only get paid, but just may throw a show that you may not have landed if a guaranteed deal was required.
3. Respond Quickly: Nothing annoys agents more than having to hold tour routing dates or show offers while not being able to receive confirmation from an artist about performing on those dates. Even if you’re still unsure, act with certainty and don’t wait until the agent is ready to pull the dates.
4. Crew Love: Are you part of a collective or crew that will afford great packaging opportunities for a tour? Having the ability to come to the table with a group of other artists that make strong tour packaging helps the agent focus on what they do best: Negotiate the best possible deals for the best venues for your level. The time booking agents spend negotiating with managers and other artists about tour specifics can delay the final show booking.
I hope this article has helped you understand some of the basics of a booking agent’s role and how you as an artist can make their jobs easier, which in turn makes it easier for you to build your audience. All of this is the product of the15 years I have spent as a professional artist and producer.
Each month I will provide advice to artists on every level. If you have any questions about the topic, please email me at AskAmp@HipHopDX.com and I will answer them in next month’s article.
Amp Live is one half of the Bay Area’s Zion I crew. For the past 15 years, the producer-slash-deejay has performed all over the world as part of Zion I as well as a solo artist. Follow him on Twitter @AmpLive.