Time is running out for many on getting a jump start on their music careers. And the weakest link in nearly every single situation is booking. There are so few competent booking agents available to an over saturated music market, one has to wonder why.
The answer is this: The old model is bound to fail in the current music market.
The old model for booking agents makes it one of the most thankless jobs imaginable due to an antiquated commission-based situation that works for very few. That is to say a booking agent incurs all the expense of phone, fax, internet service, postage, some travel, booking conferences, and going out to see live performances. The agent has to wait to get paid when the band gets paid. That could be as long as six months to a year. Summer festivals are booked in the fall and early winter, so if the festival is in August, the agent has waited an awfully long time to get paid for their effort.
In this music climate, bands are not getting huge fees to play. So let’s say an agent has booked a band in a local club for $300. Fifteen percent of 300 is 45. Therefore, the agent should receive $45 for this gig. Now let’s say the agent booked 10 gigs that occurred in one month. That’s a total of $450. That’s not much money for all the time, relentless phone calls, and one gigantic whirlwind of activity. No one can live on that kind of monthly income.
The situation has to change. There are lots of people out there who would love to become a booking agent, but many are fearful of failure, not having the right contacts, contracts, and most importantly the behavior of an impatient band. So it’s no big surprise there aren’t a surplus of agents in this market.
Business-minded musicians should take it upon themselves to create a working relationship with someone who wants to do this with 21st-century sensibilities. Here are a few suggestions:
Talk with friends and associates about potential candidates to do your booking rather than spending time looking for an established agent.
Once you find more than one candidate, talk to these people about what your realistic expectations are and what kind of retainer it would take to cover their overhead for one year taking into consideration all the amenities like phone service, fax service, postage, mailing supplies, printing and copying, travel allowance, internet service, etc. Once you find a good fit for what you need, sign a one year agreement delineating goals, monthly retainers, fees for actual bookings, and any other information important in the relationship.
Things to be careful of:
Verbal agreements lead to nothing but misunderstandings as a general rule. Put your agreement in writing.
Anyone who wants to do booking for the love of music is not a good choice. Yes, there is passion in that person’s agenda, but there is no business acumen. Remember above all, music is a business.
The band must be in agreement with the overall goals you want the booking agent to meet.
Appoint one, and only one, spokesperson for the band to interface with the booking agent. No one other than the appointed band member should interface with the agent about business.
Do not under any circumstances hound, harass, or otherwise bully the booking agent to get something done. If the agent is not performing well according to the goals you put into a written agreement, determine what the problem is. There are many reasons why things don’t run like clockwork in this situation.
Dedication on both sides of the business relationship should prevail in increased bookings which stimulates the growth of your career. Instead of running in circles, dedicate one year to a truly professional situation to get your performance calendar full. From there just rinse and repeat, or refine your approach and try again.
Remember that anyone providing services to musicians do not have magic wands. For as many struggles as musicians have, these people meet just as many challenges as you do.