Notes from a booking agent

24 Jul
2011

Alien Typewriter

Old school booking agent.

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.

8 Responses to Notes from a booking agent

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Laura Marie

July 24th, 2011 at 8:14 pm

Great blog! Reminds me that I need to pick your brain a bit. Seriously, we need to do lunch and just hang. πŸ™‚

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janapo

August 2nd, 2011 at 4:40 am

Yes we do!!! I’m home in 3 weeks – we’ll plan πŸ™‚

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Heather

August 5th, 2011 at 5:06 pm

whoo hoo! Tell it like it is!!

I’d love to see a post from you for the artist who wants to know how to go about booking themselves. (not for selfish purposes, I swear. OK, maybe a little for selfish purposes, but only a little.) πŸ™‚

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Justin Stark

August 18th, 2011 at 12:00 am

Thanks for your post. If you’ll risk a half-hour, I’d like to speak with you. Thanks . . . Justin Stark

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janapo

August 18th, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Justin – I sent you an email! πŸ™‚

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» Music Management Jana Pochop

October 19th, 2011 at 3:53 am

[…] climbing the ladder in the music biz is to get a booking agent and a manager. I’ve already waxed poetic about when you need a booking agent and when you don’t, but a manager is an even stickier thing. When is it right to get a […]

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Karen Montemayor

July 24th, 2012 at 5:02 am

Bravo….
Hi my name is Karen I go by Kitty, I am a booking agent with Mud Duck Entertainment .
I am in San Antonio.
I have only been at this for 5 months now. It’s harder than most people think.
Club owners are the hardest to work with,they think it’s all fun and games for the artist.
DAMMIT this is there job for some, they have bills and need to eat just like you and me.
I could go on and on…….
I am will keep the faith but have not really booked a gig yet….sigh
Thank you for your time
Kitty

PS..love Susan,my fav. is cloud 9.

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janapo

July 24th, 2012 at 6:01 pm

Thanks, Karen! Hang in there…you build it up and it gets easier. Working on an eBook you might be interested in, too! More info soon πŸ˜€

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