If only being a live band was as simple as just turning up and letting rip. It’s all the other stuff that gets you down. Cold-calling venues. Hassling promoters. Chasing payments. Apologising to the Holiday Inn for the drummer’s streak through the buffet. And this pile of admin is only going to get worse as you grow more successful. What you need is someone to handle all the boring stuff so you can get back to being an untouchable rock god. Enter the booking agent…
What is a booking agent, anyway?
A booking agent is employed to oversee a band’s live activities. They’ll handle almost every aspect of your live operation, whether that’s booking the venues on your tour, negotiating your fee, arranging contracts, pitching you to promoters, scoring you a support slot with The 1975, getting you bumped up a festival bill – and making sure the cash rolls in when it should. All you have to do is stumble onto the stage.
I bet they charge for all that legwork?
Well, obviously. Booking agents work on commission, and they’ll typically take between 10 and 15% of your live revenue, depending on how much mollycoddling you require. That might sound like an outrageous slice of the pie. But the potential rewards are huge. As we all know, it’s live music (not album sales) that fills a musician’s pockets these days, and a good booking agent can break you into bigger, better-paying venues.
So do I actually need a booking agent?
That depends where your career is at. Realistically, a booking agent won’t touch you until you’re playing serious venues (10% of your takings from the Dog & Duck just isn’t worth their while). The best approach is to let it happen organically: play your heart out every night, build a diehard fanbase, achieve a sense of unstoppable momentum – and you’ll probably find that a booking agent comes to you. If they don’t, it’s down to you to start banging on doors.
How do I choose the right one?
Don’t just sign up with any slicked-back shark in a suit. You need a booking agent with a healthy contacts book, who has worked with artists that you respect in your genre, and has a proven track-record for getting bands further up the greasy pole. When you find the right one, do everything in your power to get onto their books. This could be one of the most valuable handshakes of your career…