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Music Agents - Who are They?:

In the music world, booking agents are different from talent managers. Booking agents are the people that actually book shows for the artists they represent. They make all of the arrangements with the promoters of the shows. The booking agent presents the promoter or producer of the concert with a performance agreement, which stipulates the artist’s requirements. Items may include lighting, sound, meals, hotel accommodations, and transportation. For concert buyers, they work to find the right artist that will fit in the need and available budget.

What Jobs Should a Music Agent Do?:

While the scale of the responsibility for a music agent may differ depending on the level of band they are working with, the basic tasks involved in the job remain the same whether booking club shows for smaller indie bands or arena shows for major label acts. Agents should:

  • Liase with bands/labels/management to agree on a window for tour dates, the financial and logistic requirements of the tour, and the goals of the tour (promote a new album, etc).
  • Contact promoters and venues to pitch bands and agree on performance dates.
  • Arrange contracts with promoters regarding pay, rider, guest list, and equipment.
What is the Pay Like?:

Music agents get paid a percentage of the proceeds from a tour. These proceeds are limited to the actual payments for performances and do not include money earned from merchandise sales. The most common arrangement between a band and an agent is for the agent to get between 10% and 15% of the money paid to a band for a gig, though 18% or even 20% is not entirely unheard of. For this reason, it is obviously in the best interest of an agent to get the most money possible for a band from a promoter - the more money the band makes, the more money the agent makes.

What Can a Good Agent Do for a Band?:

Music agents hold the keys to the good shows, and as an up and coming band, a good agent on your side can mean playing in front of bigger audiences sooner than you probably would booking your own gigs. If you sign with an agent who works with larger bands, you will have the inside track on getting the support slot on tours with these larger bands. Music agents also have the ear of all the good promoters, which means you have an immediate in with venues and promoters, instead of having to convince them to give you a shot. Agents likewise have the pull to get you more money than you could on your own.

Many of the major booking agencies refuse to represent clients who are not already signed to a major record label and have national distribution of their music. Because of this, artists on independent record labels often seek representation with an independent booking agency.

Bars and nightclubs that specialize in presenting live music on a regular basis often employ an individual to assemble the schedule of events. These people are the venue’s buyers, and should not be confused with the booking agent, who presents their roster of available acts to the buyer. Booking agents may also have contacts known as free-lance promoters. These are individuals that agree to produce a concert by locating a venue, providing a sound system and assembling a staff. Producing a show in this manner, at a location that is rented out for a single evening, is called “four-walling,” as it entails renting a venue and receiving no additional services or technical equipment other than the space itself. This has often been the only available option for underground musicians lacking enough popular appeal to gain access to more conventional performance venues (see: Punk rock), but is also used among the genre of raves and various DJ-related events.

How Can You Become a Music Agent?:

If you think a job as a music agent might be right for you, there are two ways you can get started:

  • Approach established agencies and seek an internship. You'll make great contacts and learn the ropes from the pros.
  • Try your hand at booking gigs independently.
If you want to try building your own agency from the ground up, look to your friends who are in bands, and start out booking shows for them in your area. Make use of the contacts you make booking these shows to expand to booking with promoters outside of your area. Be prepared for putting in long hours for little pay (or no pay) while you are proving yourself as an agent. If you're willing to put in the time, however, you'll build the right reputation to make your agent dreams a reality.
A&R Careers Agent Cover Art Designer
Manager Music Journalist Music Teacher
Producer Promoter Radio/PR Plugger
Session Musician
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