Everyone In The Industry Wants To Know How To Get A Booking Agent
Implement These Strategies Now To Get A Great Booking Agent
Booking agents might be the most in-demand professionals in the music industry. Everyone wants a great one for the artists they work with. The record labels, managers, lawyers – everyone. Artists with a booking agent think they need a better one. And artists without one want to know how to get a booking agent. This is because the booking agent can be the person who delivers the most money to the artist. The booking agent’s job is to solicit promoters for gigs. Great gigs can be ones with high payment, in front of lots of people, in lots of people likely to buy the band’s merch, or all of the above. When the gigs are strung together, they become a tour. Great booking agents are able to maximize paydays from promoters while keeping the travel time between gigs as small as possible.
Last week we answered the question Should You Go On Tour? Click here to check it out if you missed it!
The task of getting a great booking agent is almost never an overnight endeavour. If you have not had a booking agent before, implement this strategy today to build yourself into a band booking agents will be clamoring for.
Build Markets You Can Play Profitably
The Money Matters of Booking
Every booking agent wants to work with bands that it will pay to book. Booking agents get a percentage of all monies received from performing a gig they book. This percentage can vary, but industry standard is 10%. So, for a gig that pays a guarantee of $500, the booking agent gets $50. If the gig was a door deal and you made $750 from the door despite there being no guarantee, the booking agent gets $75.
PAY YOUR BOOKING AGENT PROMPTLY. The last thing you want to do is owe your booking agent money for long. They WILL stop working for you.
The Strategy You Can Implement NOW
For you to be a band that is profitable for the booking agent to work with, you have to be able to perform in markets and make money. Start with your hometown and begin building audiences in markets within a days drive of your hometown. This is easier in markets in the UK or northeast US than it is for those in the southwest US, for example. But it’s critical to do. Do this by building your audience in your hometown so you can predictably pull an audience of at least 100 people – the more then better. Schedule “weekend warrior” trips of 2 to 3 nights in different directions around your hometown.
For example, if you are a Boston band, you would go to Hartford and New York one weekend. The next, Springfield and Albany. Then Concord and Burlington. And so on. Once you’re able to build enough markets within a day’s drive, build markets within two. Then three. And so on, in concentric circles until you have the attention of a booking agent.
Martin Atkins wrote about this philosophy in his crucial book, Tour Smart. (Seriously, this might be one of the two or three most crucial music business books on every independent musician’s bookshelf. Click here to get yours.)
Build Impressive Social Media and Streaming Platform Followings
Data is king. Everyone in the music industry is looking at data. The streaming platform numbers, social media numbers, and Billboard results are data points you need to be building now. We write about this all the time at Outerloop because it’s very true. And it’s as true for labels, other managers, promoters, media… as it is for booking agents.
Make the Booking Agent’s Job Easier
Booking agents are looking for artists who will make them money and make their job easy. When their pitch to promoters is easier because you have great social media and streaming platform numbers, you become more attractive. Spend time every day building these data points by being active on social media and getting your songs on playlists on Spotify. These numbers will be attractive to everyone in the industry – not just booking agents. But for booking agents, these numbers are crucial.
But Build a Band Email List Too
As a side project, I also suggest building your email list. When you can directly email fans in markets to let them know you are coming you have a better chance of them showing up. These email addresses are not verifiable, and therefor not often used by booking agents when considering you to sign. But when they do you’ll be able to pull a better audience. This will keep booking agents, and promoters, wanting to work with you.
Develop Relationships With Promoters
Touring is about more than showing up, playing, and going home. You need to develop relationships with the people you work with on the road. Bar staff, sound guys, and door staff are often music lovers looking to get their foot in the industry. They can be future record label heads, future venue owners, future festival promoters, or just future lifelong friends. Most importantly, the promoter is the person who is talking with booking agents most every day. When a booking agent is considering an artist they will often call their promoter friends the artist has worked with to ask questions. How many people did you pull? Did you show up on time? Did you treat the venue and staff with respect?
Mike an I have a great course on how to make these kinds of connections in the industry, even if you’re shy like me! Check out Connected: Strategies for Modern Music Business Networking.
Going the other way, a promoter can tell a booking agent about a self-booked artist who deserves their attention. This can be you! Make an effort with every promoter you work with to make a personal connection. This will be valuable not only for future gigs but also for when you need to ask a promoter friend to call a booking agent you’re being considered by. And again, promoters make great lifelong friends!
Know The Promoter’s Role With The Venue
Sometimes the promoter is independent of the venue. Sometimes they work exclusively for the venue or are a representative of the venue itself. Always try to understand the relationship between the promoter and venue you are playing. If nothing else, it’s a great conversation starter. Remember the promoter is a music lover like you. If you have been professional leading up to the gig, making their job easier, they’ll be more willing to speak with you on the night-of. And when everyone makes money, everyone is in a good mood. Start your conversations with the promoter weeks prior to the gig by working together on the social media advertising and other marketing efforts.
Booking agents sign artists based on a number of different introductions. They could be frustrated by a self-booked band getting in their way for a tour they’re trying to book for a current client. They could be introduced by a current client wanting to add the band on an upcoming tour. The booking agent could be just hearing about them in several places around the same time and have their curiosity piqued.
Booking agents are also pitched by managers, record labels, and entertainment lawyers (on occassion) they have relationships with. Promoters can also be helpful in pitching you to a booking agent. Booking agents will often ask around before making a decision on a band after a pitch. Great managers and record labels won’t ask for a booking agent to consider a client until they are confident the band is ready for a booking agent. They’ll also be cautious about finding the right booking agent for the band. Some booking agents have different promoter relationships than others, and these relationships will make all the difference in what opportunities they can find for you.
The Perfect Booking Agent Pitch
How to get a booking agent takes a long-term strategy and approach. Start developing these now and they will pay huge dividends later, when you are actually ready for a booking agent.
The perfect booking agent pitch consists of a label or manager whom your ideal booking agent has a pre-existing, positive relationship making the initial pitch. The booking agent calls promoters with whom you have worked with and they have a relationship with as well. The promoters say great things about your ability to draw, how easy it is to work with you, and your dependability. Your streaming and social media numbers make the booking agent’s pitch to promoters on your behalf easier. And there are a lot of markets you can already play and demand a guarantee. And your music is great!
Start building these today and you’ll have booking agents calling YOU.