While everyone enjoys live music, the process of arranging concerts is rarely considered. Yet for any show, there is a complex layer of transactions occurring just beneath the surface. While there are national booking companies that handle much of the business, a great many booking agencies will not work with talent without national distribution. This leaves plenty of room for interested parties to facilitate and profit from new talent not yet managed by the major music conglomerates. Understanding the basics of booking can be helpful to those interested in becoming booking agents and to musicians or performers who want to take an active stake in their own distribution. A few facts can help arm anyone looking to book a gig for herself or her clients.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Become a concert buyer. One of the best ways of breaking in to the booking business is to offer your services to a facility in booking a show. Bars and venues that have frequent live shows often have a dedicated staff member who handles all aspects of booking shows. It is this person that a booking agent would work with to arrange shows for her clients, making experience as a concert buyer invaluable to understanding the perspective of a potential venue.
Develop relationships with local venues. While having a band to book may seem like the most important first step, the booking agent's primary networking should be with the venue. Knowing the venue can be the first step in convincing band members that you can serve them effectively and book gigs. Get to know restaurant and bar managers. Building up an effective contact list can be as simple as learning names and shaking hands.
Find some talent. It will be impossible to convince a venue to accept your acts unless you have confidence in the group you are representing. College shows are likely your best opportunity for discovering talent eager to expand into citywide or statewide shows. Another advantage to college acts is that they are unlikely to need gigs to eat. This will give you the freedom to ramp up operations slowly, first arranging shows at the venues most familiar to you.
Find a promoter or produce shows yourself. Many of the venues available to underground acts are known as "four-wallers" because only the walls are provided. Having easy access to amps, wiring and microphones can be the difference between booking a show and having to wait for a venue with its own equipment.
Negotiate terms. As a booking agent, your profit comes from a percentage of your talent's gross. That means that amenable terms for you translate to amenable terms for your talent. Negotiating shows based entirely on earnings at the door can be a risky proposition, but it can also provide an opportunity for personal promotion. Make sure to work out a performance agreement in writing well in advance of the show.
Use your reputation to bring in new talent and venues. As the number of shows you have booked increases, the frequency of your bookings is likely to increase. Commensurate with this growth should be other planned expansions, such as in the signing of additional talent.
Seek out uncharted territory. Look for venues that don't traditionally book shows. Convince a restaurant manager that live music could enhance the profile of her restaurant. Consider cruise ships, outdoor festivals, even trains. The possibilities are endless for the creative booking agent who builds her own opportunities.
Tips and warnings
- Often booking has attendant rules, either stemming from local statutes or union associations.
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