Booking Agents 101: The Basics

Music consists of a lot moving parts. If you are a recording artists it’s imperative that you become knowledgeable about all the avenues through which you can generate income. One major revenue source available to recording artists are fees received from live performances. In order to maximize fees from live performances, artists should become well acquainted with the workings and responsibility of a booking agent.
So let’s begin, so you are clear let’s define what a booking agent is. A booking agent is a person who secures and negotiates fees for artists to appear and/or perform at concerts, shows or events.
Who does the booking agent work for and work with?
A booking agent works directly for the recording artists.  In fact, the booking agent is paid by the artists.
Why is it important for artists to work with or sign with a booking agent?
Many recording artists lack the network to align themselves with experienced promoters locally, nationally or internationally. Artist sign with or work with agents because of their vast network of promoters. A good booking agent usually has a rolodex  full of reputable promoters who are experienced at promoting and producing great shows. Moreover, artists trying to achieve maximum exposure for their record want to hit as many different markets as they can. A good booking agent also gives artists that opportunity.
How do artists determine whether or not to sign exclusively with a booking? 
In the music business everything is driven by leverage.  First, an artist must assess their leverage.  When signing with a booking agent you must determine what level of priority you will be given. You must remember there are many artists jockeying for the same dollar and same markets you are. Furthermore, you must also try to determine what type of reputation the booking agent has. Does he get his clients top dollar? Does he put artists on successful tours? For new artists your leverage may not be strong, however you need to get a booking agent to believe in your future earnings potential.  In this new world of social media, you must demonstrate that you are steadily building a following.  (I.e.) Twitter, Instagram, Facebook etc…. in essence you must show the booking agent that with a little help from him you can be a top draw soon.
Why do booking agents want to sign artists exclusively?
It’s simple.  Booking agents earn their livelihood from booking shows and concerts. They particularly earn the most money from the artists who are most in demand. Since there are many different booking agents not representing an artist directly will diminish the amount of money you can earn from that artists. In essence every agent will  be bringing offers to that artists.
On that let me say something about artists remaining independent and not signing exclusively with an agent. If you believe leverage is great as artists, you may consider having agent in the universe sending top dollar offers. The only concern is making sure you know the reputation of the agents bringing you the shows. Remember there are a million scams in the music industry.  It’s a gamble. Do your homework.


By Dave Nelson for