How to find a booking agent for your band
Learn some of the ins and outs of the live music industry and how to find and attract the right booking agent for your project.
Once you’ve learned the thrill and excitement of live performance, there’s no turning back.
One of the reasons musicians end up choosing to become artists and joining bands in the first place is because they love live performance and simply can’t get enough of the adrenaline and dopamine cocktail.
That is, of course, until they’ve been rejected by 10 venues in a row and grow tired of trying to grind it out.
It’s usually at this point that the bassist chimes in with – “I know! We should find a booking agent!”
But is now the right time for a booking agent? And, if it is, how do you get one?
First, the cold, hard facts
The right time to get a booking agent is when you no longer need one.
What do I mean by that?
Well, to get to the point of finding a booking agent – a feat some would consider even harder than finding a label to sign you – you’ve got to be selling out your shows. Meaning – you’ve got to hit the pavement and do the work required to get to the point where hundreds of fans are hounding you for tickets to your shows.
Sure, if you can find a new, independent agent or intern who loves your music, you might be able to convince them to work for you. But not for the standard 10 to 15% commission rate.
A new band is earning…what? $150 to $300 per night, If they’ve managed to book anything other than their local dive bar?
If you’re only performing four times per month for $200 per pop, an agent earning 15% is going to bring home a whole $120 for a month’s work. Since they’d need to work with multiple acts to even make this worthwhile, guaranteed you won’t be top of mind when they’re looking for the next opportunity for a band in their roster.
Okay, that got real o’ clock fast, but don’t worry. There are proactive steps you can take to get an agent to book your band. It will take hard work, but if you’re committed to whipping your band into shape, read on.
Get your act together
The first step is easier said than done, and it’s to get to the point where you can figuratively play every note of your set forwards and backwards, in your sleep.
And even that may not be enough. You may need to iron out kinks in your set list, work out your stage presence and stage moves, develop your transitions, and more, to get to the point where you’re a big fish in a small pond.
Basically, not only are you going to need to take your act on the road, but you’re also going to need to gather feedback from as many people as possible to fine-tune your show.
Make your brand market ready
It’s been said before, but it’s worth saying again – labels generally don’t sign artists that aren’t ready to be packaged and sold to the masses. And the same can be said for booking agents.
Here’s why your branding matters. Agents don’t want to try to figure out your image, your angle, your persona, for you. That’s for you to figure out. So, you need to be clear on your mission and purpose, in addition to your colors, fonts, logos, costumes, and so on. A well-crafted brand will help agents envision how they can sell you, and that makes a big difference.
Your branding should also be apparent from your online presence, where you want to ensure consistency across all channels.
And while there aren’t any “set in stone” figures, you should set up a website and build towards that “magical” first milestone of 1,000 followers, 1,000 listeners, 1,000 subscribers, virtually everywhere it counts – Facebook, Instagram, Spotify, your email list, and more.
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Find the right fit
Bands will sometimes reach out to booking agents and are surprised to find an agent who primarily books hip-hop acts, isn’t interested in working with metal bands.
There are different types of agents out there, and you can’t afford to waste killer pitches on agencies that don’t even do what you need them to do for you.
For agents, the right fit is crucial. And bands should be mindful of this too.
It’s not that booking agents can’t book bands they aren’t passionate about – it’s that they shouldn’t. Because they’re not going to be able to talk enthusiastically about your act. And that harms your reputation. It doesn’t help it at all.
Before doing any kind of outreach, research prospective agents in depth.
Know your numbers
Conversations about data in the music industry may seem tired, but moving forward, they’re only going to grow in importance.
Everything you can provide your prospective booking agent with is helpful. Especially important, of course, is how many tickets you’re selling at each show. That helps agents plan their next course of action in determining when and where to book you. If there isn’t a clear pathway, agents will find it very difficult to book you.
While not essential, the following can make a big difference in you finding an agent who wants to work with you:
- A manager. Many agents either prefer not to talk directly with a band or prefer to talk with another industry professional in considering your act. Managers understand the industry and are fluent in jargon, facts, and statistics that matter. Artists often aren’t.
- A track record. This is the old “chicken or egg” question. But if you have previous experience working with an agent, or if you’ve launched a successful national tour, your chance of finding an agent goes up considerably.
- A draw. Conventional views hold that you’d need to be drawing an attendance of at least 100 at a handful of cities before an agent will even consider you, and this is still very much the case. There are exceptions to the rule, but it’s better to assume you won’t be one.
Now, from the outside looking in, it may appear booking agents are cruel gatekeepers who will never open the door to your dreams. But that’s not it. Agents are generally very passionate about their work and want to work with bands they can get excited about.
Yes, there are some boxes to check if you want to hand off booking duties to a capable professional, but these are things you should be thinking about whether you’re working towards becoming a successful independent or signed band. So, if you want an agent to book your band, it’s time to get to work!