What a Booking Agent can do for you, and how to find one!

Posted by Daniel Hodson (Updated: Tuesday, January 12, 2021)

Approximately 4 minutes reading time

Playing shows is imperative in the pursuit of achieving success in the music industry for any band or artist. Performing at as many shows as possible with respect to territories, supply, and demand is important to develop reach and exposure; this is where booking agents come in. In a nutshell, the role of a booking agent is to book events and spaces for a band or artist, such as gigs, festivals, radio performances, and TV appearances. A booking agent is responsible for keeping in touch with promoters and venues, ensuring the acts they represent are performing at a suitable venue, with all requirements catered for.


Finding a booking agent

In most cases, finding a booking agent involves an agent finding you. That's right! It's not that easy finding somebody to book shows for you, because it's not the easiest gig to maintain for starting musicians. Booking agents normally work on a commission basis, meaning if you, as a musician, are not pulling in a large following or consistently large crowds, the agent has little reason to work with you.

To find an agent, you need to amass a reasonable audience, play as many shows as you can in as many different venues as you can, and diversify your presence as much as possible. Perform in all your local venues that fit your brand and style of music, establishing a following there, and stay consistent with your performances. As you play shows, you'll be meeting other musicians and performers, and you'll become friends with the promoters and venues you frequent; this is how you starting networking. Meet as many people as possible and get to know your fellow musicians and venue owners/promoters. Either through them or your own luck/research, you'll find other venues and events to play. In doing so, you're getting your (or your band's) name out there; word travels fast if you're good!

In essence, it's a two birds, one stone situation. You're improving your musicianship and performing skills by playing live shows often, and you're spreading your music out there to a variety of audiences. Sooner or later, you're bound to be in the presence of a booking agent, especially if you're good enough to play in larger, more established venues. Once an agent is impressed with your work, they may approach you if you qualify.


What you'll need

You'll need a few things to truly impress a booking agent. As mentioned above, you'll need a loyal fanbase to get noticed by an agent. This is because they're looking for bands/artists that can always pull crowds. In other words, you need to have fans that will always come out to your shows when you play live. Booking agents work on commission, usually getting about 10% of a band or artist's booking fee. To guarantee both their livelihood and their reputation, they only work with artists who can pull in crowds at a consistent rate. 

Beyond a large audience, artist brand and online presence play a big role too. Your online following says a lot about your success, it's a sign that people are engaged with you and actively follow your news. One of the best ways to ensure engagement is to be active on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook. These platforms are avenues for you to communicate with your fans, they're designed to keep you in touch with one another while letting them in on your goings-on as artists. A booking agent will look at these interactions and gauge how well your brand might work with their existing roster and promoter/venue network.

Mailing lists and newsletters are a great way to keep your fans informed, too. They are guaranteed to get information about your latest events or shows since it goes straight to their email; use these to maximize reach and get attendees to your shows to impress those agents.

It goes without repeating, but stay consistent with your live performances. You want to show both your fans and your future booking agent(s) that you're serious about performing music and making it into the music industry. Your fans will appreciate your presence (and your music, of course,) and the agents will hopefully see the passion behind your efforts. 

It doesn't hurt to mix up your sets here and there. Keep the spark alive by playing new songs, testing out new ideas, and having fun on-stage. If you're still working on a song and it isn't quite ready to track, road test it and play it at a couple of lower-profile live gigs. Talk to your audience after the show and see how they liked it. It also helps to perform it live. It gives you an idea of how the song feels in a live context; you might find exactly what needs changing to elevate it to the next level. In a nutshell, change it up now and then, and don't be afraid to take some risks. You want to show the agents that you're all about interacting with your audience and trusting their judgment, be it in giving feedback about a new song, or vibing with a different set every night. 

All that said, it is possible to reach out to a booking agent and ask them to attend one of your shows. That avenue exists but rarely works out. You need to have an already-established following with a highly impressive back catalog to catch the attention of an established booker; a raised-eyebrows level of impressive. If you do reach out, show them why you are worth a shot, and maybe they'll bite. If they do, put on a killer performance, and ready yourself with your pitch and your numbers. Having concrete goals won't hurt your chances, and it'll show the agent that you're serious about this opportunity; again, showing them you're worth the investment. Chances like these are rare, and you wanna put it all out on the table, so show them what you're made of.

Daniel Hodson

Daniel Hodson is a co-founder of Music Missile, and the drummer and founder of various UK bands. His passion stems from both studying and working in the music industry for the past decade.

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