photo © 2006 Mike McC | more info (via: Wylio)This is a great post by Dave Cool on the Bandzoogle blog about how to get a booking agent. It is filled with great, yet simple and to the point, advice. Years ago, just out of college I worked with a management company that represented unsigned bands from Chicago… Unleashed, The Ultraviolet and Defcon. Booking the bands was always a top priority. We were always looking for agents who could help, but also taking on the task ourselves. This was before the internet era, but many of the same principles applied back then. You need to be the big fish in your small pond before you decide to go venture into another market.
My Key Points:
1. Mailing list – build it, build it, build it!
2. Rehearse – your live show needs to be as tight and professional as possible.
3. Respect – show the utmost respect to the venue bookers, stage crews, sound guys, door guys… everyone! If you piss off just one of them you may never be back. Buy them a drink, if you are going out to get some dinner, bring back something for the sound guy.
4. Think about the college circuit – Most bands only think about playing clubs. But you should think about playing the college circuit. Go visit NACA.org. This is a organization that represents colleges around the country. I spent a few years booking my unsigned bands on the college circuit. They will often pay better than a club. Will have much nicer venues to play, have better sound and lights. They also have campus radio, TV and newspapers which you can reach out to promo your appearance.
5. Know your cost – Do you know how much it costs for you to go on the road? Figure it out before you start booking shows. You may not always get that figure, but you need to know at what point you are losing money. This includes things like; airfare, vehicle rental, fuel costs, crew costs, gear rental, food, lodging, commissions paid, etc.
How to Get a Booking Agent to Book Your Band
One of the most common questions I was asked by artists during my time as a venue booker was how they could find a booking agent. I inevitably answered that they should just keep playing gigs, grow their fan base, and an agent would find them. But is the answer really that simple? In a word, yes. By far the best way to get a professional booking agent is for bands to book themselves until the point where they are selling out shows on a regular basis on their own.
What does this mean exactly? To put it in numbers, regularly sell-out shows of 100-150 people at around $10 per ticket in your home market. What’s your home market? Your home city, plus maybe 2-3 other nearby cities/towns. If you can sell 100-150 tickets at $10 each in a few cities on a regular basis (once every few months), then you’ll be generating the kind of income that would be interesting to a booking agent, and there’s a good chance they’ll come find you at that point. Easy, right?
OK, all kidding aside, I know how hard it can be to get to that point. And I know what you’re thinking: is it really all about the money? Yes and no. Agents are music fans too, however, they aren’t going to work for free. Think about it from their perspective: if you’re not even making $200 per show, why would they work for a % of that revenue? A professional agent makes their living from the commissions of a band’s show revenues, usually around 15%. So if your live show revenue isn’t in the $800+ range, it’s going to be very hard to convince a professional booking agent to get on board with your career.
So what if you’re not selling that many tickets just yet? What can you do to help build your career up to the point where an agent might be interested in working with you? Here are some key areas to focus on: