For many musically inclined people, promoting events and shows is a natural introduction to the music industry.
There are lots of great reasons to promote shows.
You'll make great connections with artists and the teams they work with (agents, managers, labels, publicists, etc.).
You'll become an “industry person”, and will start to get approached by artists and other industry people organizing shows and events. Suddenly you have power! Fun!
Additionally, booking artists is very rewarding. Promoting a successful event can feel as satisfying as playing a great show.
There's also money to be made in promoting a higher caliber show. It can take a while to get there, but promoting a sold-out 500-person show can net you quite a bit of cash.
You never know what promoting shows could lead. My band’s manager started out booking indie shows when he was just 15, and has since had a slew of high-caliber industry jobs.
My friends and I have been putting on a festival for the last few years, and we’ve been lucky enough to have a decent talent budget. It’s been a trial by fire, but through it all, we’ve learned the ins and outs of booking all sorts of talent.
Also, if you're an artist, you immediately get a sense for what makes a good quality promoter.
So, if you’re trying to get into the promotion game or just trying to book an artist for an event, here’s the lowdown. In this guide, we’ll cover booking artists who have management/agents, booking independent artists, and booking cover musicians/wedding bands and the like.
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Booking An Artist With Management/Agent
For the festival I help run, we usually book a few larger acts that have a full team. They have a booking agent, who is our contact for booking them, negotiating a fee, and working out any details associated with performing.
Often, if an artist has a booking agent, they’ll also have a manager. Sometimes these people are one and the same, but not often. The manager is usually the one who handles day-of logistics, guest list, and so on.
And, they’ll also have a publicist. If the artist gets any media opportunities that are related to the event you’re promoting, media will typically have to go through the publicist to get at the artist.
So, when you are working with an artist at this caliber, how do you go about booking them?
Contact Their Booking Agent
Go to the artist’s webpage – on their contact page, they’ll usually have a Booking Agent contact section. Be sure to contact the booking agent that applies in your territory (artists usually have a separate booking agency for North America, Europe, Australia, etc.).
Simply send them an email detailing your role with the event, the artist you want to play the event, and ask for a quote.
Negotiate A Fee
Don’t tell the agent what your budget is yet – if it’s too small, they’ll dismiss you out of hand. If it’s large, they’ll ask more than the artist is worth.
Ask for a quote. If it’s lower than you had budgeted, perfect.
Most likely, the agent will quote you higher than the act is worth, just to see if they can make some extra cash. No harm done here, but you definitely need to negotiate.
Make them a counter offer, and continue down this path until it is all sorted out.
Remember that you can use things like: free food, drinks, lodging, etc. as leverage in your negotiations. If they are driving a hard bargain on the fee, you can drive hard bargains too.
Send A Contact
Once it’s all booked, write up a contract and have it signed.
It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, but it does need to contain some key details:
- The date and time of the performance as well as the set length.
- The exact dollar amount you are paying for the act, as well as any included benefits such as transportation, lodging, food, drinks, etc.
- A clause that protects you if the artist cancels (ensure that you get a full refund upon the artist cancelling).
- A clause that protects the artist (ensuring they still get paid even if it rains or the event gets cancelled).
- If necessary, a radius clause. This means that the artist won’t be able to play anywhere geographically close to your event for a disgnated amount of time both before and after the event.
And those are the basic. Typically, the agent will be required to sign off on this, as you are booking the artist through an agent.
Send An Advance
Finally, you need to send an advance to the agent, manager, and potentially the artist as well.
This advance should include sound load-in, set times, and any pertinent details about the sound system or the event in general. It should also include directions, accommodation info, meal times and information about the logistics of the day.
Other Things To Consider
For the most part, dealing with bands that have agents and managers is easier. They tend to be pretty punctual in their replies. Plus, talking to organizers, venues, and promoters is literally their job.
However, there are a few things you should be aware of.
The bigger the band, the more work it will be fulfilling their contracts. Many artists have specific riders that need to be fulfilled as part of the contract.
Some artists have certain rules about being videotaped and photographed.
For almost all of these things, you’ll be dealing with the artist’s management. This keeps the business part of playing a show separate from the artistic part, and it usually works out nicely for both the artist and the promoter.
Sometimes, if you’ve got specific publicity opportunities for your artists, they’ll want these relayed to them through their publicist, who will set up the interview. Other times, these will go to the management, or directly to the artist.
Also note that when you are working with booking agents, it’s common for them to request a deposit of 50% upfront.
How To Book A Musician That Manages Themselves
More commonly, you’ll be booking a band that manages themselves. There are usually one or two people in a band that do this kind of work, and that’s who you’ll be communicating with.
To book them, just go to their website and send them an email detailing: the place, time, set length, and any other event details. This way, you can get a sense for if the band is available and interested.
Then, you can talk money. Here, you can either make an offer, or ask the artist for a quote. Either way, the rate is negotiable. You probably have a somewhat limited budget for bands that manage themselves, so don’t be afraid to stick to your guns.
Once it’s booked, it’s not a bad idea to have the artist sign a contract. The contract should include all of the standard things I mentioned above: date, time, fee, set length, anything else that is required of the band.
Then, send the band an advance.
This is the step that many promoters overlook when booking smaller bands, but it saves a lot of time on both ends.
Include directions, load-in, soundcheck, any information on lodging and food, set length, day-of contacts, etc. The more detail the better, because then you avoid having artists constantly peppering you with questions that could have been answered easily in advance.
The more organized you are and the better you treat artists of all levels, the more well-respected and well-known you will become in your community. People love feeling valued, and you have an opportunity to give artists a great experience.
Booking A Cover Band, Background Musician Or Other
Finally, if you are having a wedding, putting on a fundraiser, or hiring a background musician for your office’s Christmas party, you’ll need to book the entertainment.
This is quite simple.
If you are going for a top tier cover band, you may have to go through an agent. This is mostly if you are hiring dedicated tribute bands (like an Elvis Presley tribute band).
If you are hiring any other kind of entertainment, you can probably just contact the musician through email, Facebook, or with a call and pitch the event.
Have a budget in mind, and stick to it. Musicians will always be looking to make as much as possible on these gigs, which is fair, but if one person can’t do it for the price you have allotted, there are a lot of other musicians you can hire.
Whether you're booking for a festival or a wedding, many of the same steps I've already shared with you apply. You probably don’t need to sign a contract for a fundraiser or a Christmas party, but feel free to send them an advance with all of the details of the day.
When it comes to hiring cover bands, you’ll need to be clear on a few things: who is providing the sound system? How many sets are they playing? What is the flow of the night? Are there any specific requests? And so on.
Booking a cover band should be pretty straightforward.
How To Book A Singer, Rapper Or Other Musician For An Event Conclusion
I hope this has helped you understand the basics of booking entertainment. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it.
Most people just want a pleasant experience and a fun show, so keep that in mind as you learn to promote!