I’d eventually like to write some grandiose manifesto about how to form a team to back an independent musician for guaranteed success in business and life…but in the meantime I have some thoughts for folks out there who either:
a) don’t know what a booking agent does
b) want to know if they need a booking agent / if they don’t
c) which booking agent they need if they need one
These are all of my own opinions and not gleaned from anywhere else, but I’ve been doing it for 3 years now and these are the situations I have encountered.
1. Booking agents book shows for musicians to play and to make money. This involves tour routing (so you’re not driving 10 hours, back-tracking, playing too close to other venues, etc). This takes a lot of time, and each artist’s needs/wants/circles are different. Some like to play every night, some don’t want that. Some tour north, some east, some in Texas, some never in Texas, some all of the above. Some play solo some play with a band. All of them should, ideally, make money doing it. I mean PROFIT, not just break even. That’s the ideal…there’s situations that counter that assertion but they are special and always an investment for a higher goal.
2. You need a booking agent when it gets too crazy to do it yourself. Not that you just don’t WANT to do it yourself…most people who are sane do not want to book themselves (see above, it’s hard) but should do it anyway. When you are at the point where your schedule is too intense and your other artistic obligations are inhibited by the time spent booking (because your shows are successful and your fan base is growing and it’s getting crazy!)…THEN you find a booking agent. Don’t think a booking agent is going to advance your career if you are not ready. You as the artist must to the work and prove that you need the agent…your shows are crowded, your fan base is growing, there’s buzz. Booking agents don’t create buzz; they find venues appropriate for your buzz level.
3. Here’s the deal – sometimes I get asked to book artists because I have a good reputation from working with who I work with. This is fabulous and affirming and flattering. Sometimes I get asked to book artists I have never seen or heard before. Like I said, it’s flattering…but you don’t WANT me booking you if I don’t know you. You want your booking agent to be so 100% on board that they are begging you to let him/her book you. You and your band are probably great, but if I’m not on the train, find someone who is…even if they are not a full on booking agent. Enthusiasm and willingness are worth a ton, even when experience is lacking. Experience comes. Enthusiasm cannot be forced or faked. The other thing artists need to do is pick the agent who has experience with the things they need. I book solo artists mostly…sometimes a band gig comes up, but I don’t typically book toward venues who only take bands. That’s for another agent. I don’t book rock music, or jazz, or country. I book singer-songwriters, who have a particular culture, set of demands, and venue set that I have gotten familiar with over the past few years. Find the right fit! Interview, investigate, ask around. People love to talk about good folks they have worked with and encountered out there.
That being said, and I know I sound cranky but I just want y’all to seek the right fit, I DO love talking about any sort of booking, and I probably do have ideas. Never be afraid to hit or anyone up who works in this business because there will be some good nugget of knowledge gained, I’m sure.
Now go out there kick some butt. We’ll be knocking on your door before you know it.