One of the most common questions I get asked by developing artists is “How can I find a booking agent?” This question seems more cut and dry than finding a manager. A manager usually makes between 10-20% of all of an artists income in all areas so for a manager a band that doesn’t sell a ton of tickets can still do well in song placement or streaming and still be a desirable client. Agencies make a percentage of what their clients make in ticket sales (and sometimes merch) so the most important thing to an agent is how many tickets you are selling and at what price. Other than one’s existing live business other factors are usually partner involvement (label, manager, publishing company etc,) Spotify steams, YouTube views and overall engagement on social media.
That is not to say that artists who haven’t built a following for their live show don’t get signed to big agencies. There are examples of a complete unknown getting picked up by a major agency. This does happen but it is the exception and not the rule and there is usually another strategic partner already in the picture who has leveraged his or her relationships to make this happen. What many people fail to realize is that an agent (no matter how great they are) can get you in several rooms in several different markets but they can’t keep doing so forever without people starting to show up. Many times groups with agents do wind up playing shows in new markets but with very little turn out. A good agent is worth his or her weight in gold but they are not miracle workers.
Like many parts of building your career (or building any business career for that matter) most people start with limited resources and therefore wind up doing everything themselves. While it is usually a strain on any artist just to stay afloat financially while consistently creating great music and marketing themselves- I think it is hugely important that every artist try their hand at booking (and the other roles filled by strategic partners) if for no other reason than to have an understanding of what the job entails so they can ask the right questions when they get to the point of hiring or selecting people to fill these roles. When I have tried my hand at various roles for my business and failed I was always able to make a better decision about who I could partner with because I knew exactly the skill set I was lacking and was better able to communicate that to a potential business partner.
The most effective way for turning a successful local band into regional one is always Gig Trading!
Can’t get into a new market but do well in your hometown? Trade a show with a band in a neighboring market. Don’t know any bands in the town over? You have every social network and concert listing to find them. Having trouble finding someone good? It can be tough! Remember this is why gatekeepers (agents, publishers, labels, promoters etc) are often jaded. They have been conditioned to expect something less than stellar – it’s not personal. Someone once told me that being an entrepreneur is mostly about separating the wheat from the chaff. Sadly there is a ton of chaff out there for all of us to dig through.
The more you interact and connect with the acts you play with the better.
When you make this happen make playing a show with another band a co-branding opportunity. Cross promote the show to both mailing lists and social media and come up with creative ways of making your crowd stay for the next band you trade with or come out early. I think we’ve all heard “stick around for the next band” far too often. This can have some effect but good cross promotion is key.