A booking agent is one of the most important team members to bring on board. Many artists actually start with an agent, even before they have management and label support.
The reason for this is that there are many levels and types of agents, and you are not obligated to stay with the same one forever. You can move to different agencies as your career changes and progresses, or you can stay with the same one forever if it’s working out for you!
Basically, an agent is there to book your shows, handle booking requests and help you build your fan base. That means getting you on support tours and slots that are going to make a difference for your career.
Beyond that, agents can be great cheerleaders in an industry that needs other industry people jumping on board before they will do the same.
So how do you go about attracting the attention of an agent and finding the right one for you?
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Lay The Groundwork So Music Agents Want To Work With You
The first thing you need to do is lay the groundwork for an agent to come on board.
The first step in this direction is crafting an amazing show. Your show needs to be completely planned out with transitions and stage banter, etc. You need to have built a following in your home town and have started to branch out to satellite markets.
Even having done a self-booked tour is beneficial, because it shows the industry that you are ready to work and willing to hit the road.
Not to mention the fact that you really need to be making money before most agents will consider jumping on board. Agents get paid when you get paid, so if there’s no money, there’s no reason for them to sign you.
The last part of laying groundwork is doing the research and finding out what your options are.
The easiest way to do this is to go and look on different band’s websites under the Contact Us sections. There, they’ll usually list the name of the agent as well as the agency they work for.
This is a great way to learn about the different agencies – big and small – and find out what agencies similar bands are signed to.
Start Making Relationships With Music Agents And Venue Owners
When you're trying to secure a booking agent, there are two types of people you need to be talking to: agents and venue owners.
Agents are always talking to venues, whether it’s booking a show or getting the lowdown on the local scene. Venue owners know a lot of agents, so making friends in those circles will be of great help.
Beyond that, you need to start meeting and building relationships with agents. The best way to do this is to get them out to a show. It’s much easier to talk seriously with an industry person if you’ve just shown them your show – otherwise they know basically nothing about you.
Going to shows and seeing new bands are a part of an agent’s job. If you invite someone enough times, they’ll eventually come out… or at least send an assistant!
On that note, it’s often much easier to get agent assistants out to shows. These people are typically waiting in the wings to become full agents, so they're more willing to come check out a local show.
Your relationship may not immediately go from no booking agent to having a booking agent. It may happen slowly, and that’s alright.
Anyone who works with you is going to want to get to know you first. How are you to work with, do crowds like you, is there other industry interest? These are things that take a while to figure out! An agent may start throwing you shows here and there and make it official later.
Look At Different Types Of Agencies
Depending on your genre, you’ll have quite a few different agencies to choose from. There are agencies for every level and genre.
You can start out with a small, local agency. They’ll have connections in the local and surrounding scene. If you’re in your first year or two of development, this can be very helpful.
Any major agent is going to want to see a strong hometown draw, and a local agent can do a great job.
Much like record labels, there are boutique agencies that book a certain style and very select artists. These can be great relationships because the agents are motivated to book you a lot of shows – it’s the only way they get paid.
On the other hand, having a larger agency is useful because of the support act opportunities that will become available. Agencies like to team up to acts on their roster (big and small) and keep everything in the family. More money for them, and big benefit for you!
Wondering where to start? Start visiting the websites of the agents who rep your favorite local bands. Here a few of the big agencies to get you started:
- The Windish Agency
- UTA (United Talent)
Start Reaching Out To Different Agencies
Starting local is always a good idea. If there’s a chance that the agent has heard of you or heard you before, they’re way more likely to jump on board.
Beyond that, you might be surprised at what a respectful, non-annoying email can do. You may get some interesting information, or find someone who is willing to come out to a show.
Use FindTheData (and search for “top music talent agencies”) as a starting point.
As a final piece of advice, one of the best ways to catch an agent’s attention is to have a friend in the industry introduce you – even over email.
A simple email to both you and the agent saying “Hey Agent, I thought I would introduce you to my friend Jon Bandman. His music is great, you should take a listen!” will do wonders. It can work if it’s from an artist they work with, but is best when it comes from the mouth of someone in the industry.
Have you had any experience working with an agent? How did it go?