How To Get A Booking Agent
This article was originally published on March 5, 2018. It has been updated and re-published to include a video on July 17, 2018. All our training’s are now available in both audio/visual (video) as well as written (article transcript) format. The article can be read directly below the video. When you’re done reading/watching this, make sure you download your free artist management start-up kit which comes with 10 free templates and guides!
Agents are one of the primary members of an artists’ team and one of the primary people that artists and managers do business with. Booking Agents are responsible for booking live performances and appearances on behalf of your artist. There are times where their roles can extend to tour sponsorship opportunities as well but their main focus is booking shows.
Before you pitch, sell, or try to build relationship with anyone, it’s important to deeply understand what exactly it is that you’re selling to them (meaning you need to know your art/your client/your product); and you need to understand the person you’re selling to and what exactly they want, or what they’re in the business of doing.
Before we get into it, please keep in mind that getting an agent (or any team member) is much less about “pitching and selling” yourself to them than it is about building relationships. The thing is, often before you get the chance to build the relationship, you have to pitch something, or sell something, to get the persons attention in the first place. This article is about doing the best you can to get the booking agents attention, and provide them exactly what they’re looking for.
1. Understand The Role of The Booking Agent
An agent’s role is to create touring strategies with management, book shows and appearances, prepare engagement contracts and handle financial aspects, work on other promotional and administrative tasks, as well as constantly seek new talent to represent (unless their roster is full). In the day to day, agents work in collaboration with managers on the following:
- Developing connections with talent buyers and promoters
- Negotiating artist fees and contract terms
- Detailing artist show features and proposals
- Planning out tour routing including optimal times and financial requirements
- Confirming sound, technical and hospitality requirements
- Searching for new talent to represent
- Preparing contracts and reports
- Monitoring ticket sales and measurable results
- Delivering various promotional and media initiatives
As a manager, it is your responsibility to oversee and collaborate with the agent. It’s important to work with an agent that the artist likes, however, you are the one working with agent on a daily basis, so it’s best to make sure you pick an agent that you like working with too. Agents feel the same way. They may love an artist but if they dislike the manager, they may not agree to represent that artist.
2. Understand Where You’re At
You need to consider if you are ready to give away 10% of your performance fees to your agent. You may not be ready to give that 10% away. Additionally, it’s very important to do all the work yourself before you’re ready for an agent. Most agents want to see that you’ve already booked a tour or can sell-out shows before they want to work with you.
Be aware of where you’re at and if you’re even ready for an agent. If not, keep building connections but know it might take a few years of doing it on your own. We have lots of other videos on booking shows and tours and email venue buyers yourself, so be sure to check those out.
3. Understand What Agents Look For & Model That
Step #3 is to know what they are looking for, and model that. They are looking for an amazing live performance that fits with the agent’s personal music taste, and fits with where the agent is at in their personal career. They’re looking for artists who have developed at least a local fan base, artists who have already created a national buzz, artists who have booked their own first full tours, artists who have clearly put in the time and worked their classes off, artists who have a plan, artists who can sell tickets and even better if you can sell-out shows on your own, and artists with good work ethic. Here is a bullet-point list to go by.
- Amazing live performance
- Work ethic
- Fits with the agent’s personal music taste
- Fits with where the agent is at in their personal career
- Artists who have developed at least a local fan base
- Artists who have already created a national buzz
- Artists who have booked their own first full tours
- Artists who have clearly put in the time and worked their classes off
- Artists who have a plan
- Potential for commercial cross-over
- Ability to sell tickets
- Ability to sell-out shows on their own
4. Understand How Agents Find Artists & Be Findable
Know how the agents find artists, and be find-able. Most of the time, well-known, quality agents sign artists based on recommendations from existing relationships with colleagues in other areas of the industry including managers, label reps, publicists, radio promoters, venue buyers, and promoters. Otherwise, sometimes they find them at a live show they happen to be at, or they heard them on the radio, or saw them on a popular chart, or in a popular publication, or in a discovery streamling playlist, etc.
Essentially, when an artist is making a move in the industry, and people are talking about it, an agent will hear about it. So get out there, build your fan base yourself, make relationships and network as much as possible and not just with agents but anyone in the industry. You can also cold-email agents and pitch yourself but it’s super rare they will sign you after that. But that’s not to say that it won’t work. As it’s also part of the relationship building.
5. Reach Out and Build Relationships
Now that we’ve figured out what a booking agent does, what they’re looking for, and how they look – we can take it a step further and attempt to be found by them and build relationships with them. In any scenario that we come in contact with booking agents (whether we’re found by them or we’re reaching out cold turkey) we first need to ask ourselves: “what are they looking for?”, “what’s in it for them?”, and “what are they in the business of doing?” Agents are in the business of selling live performances. So, you have to sell your live performance to them.
What’s the first step in selling a live performance to an agent? Inviting them to your show! That is, if you’re not currently meeting them AT your live show. To start, you’re going to draft an email (DO NOT CALL THEM), and include the following:
- A link to your best song
- A link to your best filmed live performance (if you have one – if not consider filming one for this reason)
- Include a few of your most noteworthy points – without a cold sell (considering the “what they look for” section above)
- An invite to your next show if you have one in their area (if not, use your live video)
Know the agents roster and make sure they have a similar taste in music to yours. If the agent is interested and likes your music they will get back to you. A helpful factor is if a trusted colleague suggested that you contact that agent, than note that in your email. If you have connections with trusted advisors, use those connections. Find opportunities to spend quality time with agents at events to build rapport rather than shoving your music in their face. Do the work on your own first until you can sell-out shows; this will help you get on an agents’ radar.
NOTE* Some agents don’t like receiving unsolicited emails from artists or managers they don’t know and say that you should find a better way to get on their radar. You might want to try calling their office reception (if they have one – do not call the agent unless you know they enjoy getting unsolicited phone calls) and asking if you’re allowed to email a live performance video link to the agent.
Have you reached out to a booking agent before? How do you build relationships with them? Let us know in the comments!