Why We Wrote This Guide
Every new artist knows how challenging it is to book and manage their own live performances while simultaneously creating and performing their music. Some artists prefer to manage all aspects of their career independently, but more often than not the pressure of being entirely in charge of their career is too much for an artist to handle on their own. Performing artists often will recruit individuals to help them handle the obligations and duties involved in booking live shows and planning tours. These individuals are referred to as an artist’s team. An artist can have managers and agents of many different types, but one of the most important is a booking agent.
This guide is for anyone who wants to understand more about touring and the importance of a booking agent within an artist's career. This guide also explains the roles of a booking agent, how to find one, and how much a booking agent costs.
Who Is This Guide For
- Recording Artists who want to learn about what they should look for in a booking agent.
- Anyone who wants to learn more about booking agents and touring.
- What Is A Booking Agent?
- What Are Booking Agents' Roles/Tasks?
- How Much Do Booking Agents Cost?
- Where do you find a booking agent?
- Who are some of the most well-known booking agents/agencies?
What Is A Booking Agent?
Taken from our other guide, “The Team”, the foundation of the artist’s career often begins with gaining an audience through live performances. Concerts tend to grow more valuable for artists as they gain mainstream appeal and begin booking increasingly larger venues. Booking agents are responsible for the logistics surrounding an artist’s live performances. To understand the scope of a booking agent’s responsibilities, it is important to know the various tasks required to pull off a live show.
What Are Booking Agents' Roles/Tasks?
An agent’s first role is that of a salesman. They must identify well-suited venues and pitch the artist to the owner or the promoter of the venue to negotiate a good deal. The venue owner’s goal is to sell out the club, get people to spend money at the bar, and make an overall profit. This means that they are trusting the acts they book to bring a crowd, so they need to be convinced that the act has a chance of attracting a sizable crowd. For more desirable and sought after acts, booking agents are responsible for sifting through performance requests to find the most lucrative and beneficial opportunities for their clients.
Artists playing local venues typically make agreements orally or online through entering an implied contract. However, booking agents always enter formal agreements. There are various benefits for artists who create and enter legal agreements with venues for their performances. For the most part, these contracts act as self-defense for both parties by outlining their respective expectations. These contracts include all details that are often overlooked in causal agreements. Contracts not only detail the obligations each party commits to, but also the consequences for neglecting them and the policies surrounding cancellation. By compiling all of this information and negotiating an agreement about all the details, artists and venues are protected from surprise fees, lowered profits, and issues with loopholes in the contract.
One important responsibility of an agent is to collect deposits on behalf of artists. Deposits are a portion of the agreed payment delivered to the artist (or agent) ahead of the performance. Tours require special attention from a booking agent, which is why some artists hire a separate specialist for booking them. Agents in charge of tours are not only responsible for the details and legalities of each show, but also for the logistics between each show.
How Much Do Booking Agents Cost?
Often booking agents work for agencies, which can affect their costs. However, most often 15% of the tour proceeds is the max a booking agent will charge. The standard is anywhere from 5 to 10 percent of tour proceeds.
Booking agents handle most of the money during touring, so if the show is paid in advance, the booking agent will receive the money and then take their cut before paying everyone else within the artists team.
Where Do You Find A Booking Agent?
As explained earlier, most booking agents work for an agency or a music management company. So, often artists will find a booking agent through a music management company, but sometimes booking agents may work as freelancers. Artists may also be able to find a booking agent through friends, managers, family members, the internet, and asking other artists.
Who Are Some Of The Most Well-Known Booking Agents/Agencies?
One of the most famous and well known booking agents was Brian Epstien. Brian discovered The Beatles. He launched their career and helped them gain the major success that they did. He managed them from 1962 to when he died in 1967. He was so influential within The Bealtes career that he was referred to as the “fifth Beatle ''. Without Brian Epstien The Beatles would not have gained as much popularity as they did, which shows the importance of booking agents within an artists team. They manage and book the shows that help your career soar.
A famous booking agent from today is Kirk Sommer. Sommer is a booking agent with the agency William Morris Endeavor Entertainment. Sommer has booked some of the most influential artists of the last 20 years. He has worked for Adele, Sam Smith, The Killers, Ellie Goulding, Arctic Monkeys, Weezer, Foster the People, Passion Pit, Empire of the Sun, Teagan and Sara, Amos Lee, and many more.
Here is a list of famous booking agencies:
- Paradigm Agency
- Creative Artists Agency (CAA)
- ICM Partners
- William Morris Endeavor Entertainment
- X-Ray Touring
- The Windish Agency
- AEG Live
- Live Nation Touring
- BBE Booking Agency
Author: Isabella Weaver
Want to use this guide for something other than personal reading? Good news: you can, as long as your use isn’t commercial and you give Exploration credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.