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Working With Booking Agents

booking agents

Tips from the Very Top from Steve Strange (X-ray Touring) and Martin Jarvis (The Fresh Start Company)

As we’ve discussed before, artists and bands need various services to make their way in the music business and market. In the early stages, you can do some of the work yourselves, especially when building your rep and fan base, establishing presence, refining your style and image etc. However, bringing pros on board helps you move to the next level. They’ve got skills and contacts that will help you. But when’s the right time to go looking for them? How do you pick the right one? And how do you make yourself an appealing prospect for the pro you’re wanting to engage? In this blog, we’re looking at when and how to engage booking agents, and we’ll be getting cutting edge advice from some of the major players in the industry, namely Steve Strange and Martin Jarvis.

Booking Agents

A booking agent is responsible for booking live performances for the band/artist – gigs, tours and festivals. The agent should have strong relationships with festival bookers and promoters. The agent will work closely with the manager/band/artist and be working together to achieve the short and long-term goals.

A booking agent is responsible for booking live performances for the band/artist – gigs, tours and festivals. The agent should have strong relationships with festival bookers and promoters. The agent will work closely with the manager/band/artist and be working together to achieve the short and long-term goals.

Agents may work on a commission percentage or alternatively, it’s possible they may take you on for a monthly fee. Sometimes it might make more sense to be on the top of a small roster than the bottom of a large roster, so this is not a relationship to rush into. Agents are super-busy and have quite a stressful job!"

They will be inundated by bands messaging them asking to join their roster, so don’t cold call without a plan and some strong evidence that you are ready for an agent. Be able to demonstrate a proven track record showing that you can sell tickets. Also, for example, that you have a strong following and can sell out venues your home town. The agent will also want to know you have a plan behind you and will want to know that you have a strong press campaign in the pipeline.

It’s all about joining the dots and gathering the team at the right time. It’s important to KNOW the right time and not rush into things too soon. Going in too early could actually be detrimental to your prospects.

Steve Strange’s Advice to Up-and-Coming Artists and Bands

Steve Strange of X-ray Touring is one of the top agents in the country and a highly influential figure in the music business.

Steve formed X-ray Touring Ltd., a new independently-owned agency, with his colleagues. Steve’s impressive client list includes Eminem, Coldplay, Snow Patrol, Queens of the Stone Age, Jimmy Eat World, and Bright Eyes.

Steve’s advice chimes with what Seven Webster told us in a previous blog on how and when to approach and engage management.

“I truly believe, in this day and age, where the landscape has changed so much in the last 10 years, that the right time to approach an agent is when the band have built up a local buzz in their local area plus a credible level of statistics on their socials. “As much as a booking agent plays such a vital role these days within a band’s career, some development has to be made by the artist themselves before our profession would be able to kick in and get results in earnest.”

Martin Jarvis’ Advice

Martin Jarvis of The Fresh Start Company provides Worldwide Management for The Amorettes and The Rising Souls, and also agency representation for Tyketto, The Dan Reed Network, The Kentucky Headhunters, Rock Goddess, Hawklords, Hogjaw and many others. He offers some exclusive, valuable advice on booking agents, as follows:

What do Booking Agents Look for in a Band?

“Booking Agents can be split into 2 camps: a booker and a career agent.

“A booker will take a band on just to book as many shows as possible, with no thought for development and growth. All they are interested in is how much money they can make from an act. A Booker will contact a band and just offer themselves, or will say yes to every band who approaches them.

“A career agent will work on developing a band in the live arena, and as such, may suggest you turn a number of shows down rather than just accept everything. A career agent will only be interested in a band who has a buzz about them, and a band that is building a crowd already; a band that seems to have their house in order; a band that has a solid work ethic, and who understands about building a great team around them. For the most part, a career agent will find the band, as it will come via a recommendation. Very rarely will they take an unsolicited approach from a band.”

When is the Right Time to Approach an Agent?

Again Martin Jarvis hits the nail on the head:

“How long is a piece of string? A career agent will rarely ever take an unsolicited approach. Instead, they will come to you when they feel that they can do something for you. At this point, you will have a value, and you agent will be looking to build on that.

“Approaching an agent with the immortal words “We need someone to get us to the next level” when you’ve no product, and only played a few shows in your home town, is the quickest way to having the phone put down on you. I reckon I get 10 of these calls a month, always from bands just looking for someone to do all the work for them.

“That being said, if you can regularly sell out a decent-sized venue in your home town, you’ve started to venture out further afield, and you have some reviews, maybe some product, have supported some bigger acts in your local area, are known to local promoters, then that might be a good point to put some pitches together. But decide who would be best to approach. Who is repping the acts that you consider you to be similar/compatible with? Don’t just approach anyone and everyone – it’s a small industry, and people talk…”

Martin’s Do’s and Don’ts:

  • Do make sure that you reply quickly. Most offers will be time-sensitive, so it won’t help if you have to take a week or more to find out if all band members are available.
  • Don’t expect that having a Booking Agent means that you will suddenly be rich and playing all the time. In the early days, you may not notice much difference, but they will be working on your behalf.
  • Do make sure you keep your agent in the loop with regards to all changes in the band, and don’t keep direct gig enquiries to yourself. Everything should go via the agent, and build a relationship with them.
  • • Don’t act the tough guy! Agents will always push for the best offers before bringing them to you, so you should be quick to reply. All the negotiation that could have been done will have been done.
  • • And remember… agents aren’t miracle workers. Just because you have an agent, doesn’t mean that they can get you main stage at Glastonbury. You still have to put in the hard yards!

Further Steps You Can Take:

  1. Trawl Facebook and find out which booking agents represent similar bands in your genre.
  2. Contact bands in your genre and get some intel on what their agent is like, and if they are happy working with that agent.
  3. Contact the agent and invite them along to a show. Be amazing – make sure you’re ready!
  4. Keep in touch with the agent to make sure they are working hard for you or your band. Make sure that you, as a band or artist, are delivering your end of the bargain too.
  5. Review the relationship after 6 months. If it’s working, sign a longer-term contract. Be sure to get it checked over by your solicitor. If you can’t afford legal advice, use the Musicians’ Union. And if it’s not working, go back to Step One and start over.