This article originally appeared on the Sonicbids Blog
Last week, we provided a breakdown of the most desirable qualities your booking agent should possess. This time around, we’ll be providing you with advice on how to find the right booking agent who will play a vital role in enhancing the quality of your live performance opportunities. Finding someone you can trust with such an important aspect of your career as a musician may seem like a tall task, but if you keep these four areas at the forefront of your overall strategy, you’ll put yourself in a great position to find the booking agent who’ll take your show value to the next level.
1. Learn the ropes yourself first
Before you reach the point of a booking agent being interested in working with you, there will be an extended period of time in which you have to do your own booking. You won’t be met with the desired results instantaneously, and the process may be painful initially, but the growing pains involved with booking your own shows will morph into valuable learning experiences after several months of putting the power in your own hands. Work with a few people close to you who are naturally proficient marketers who know how to promote without shoving the same flyer in people’s faces every 30 minutes. Once you have a proven track record of selling out small- to medium-sized locations on your own accord while making a decent profit, you’ll become much more of an intriguing prospect to a booking agent, and you’ll have your own experience at the job.
Also, don’t be afraid to do research on your peers who seem to be having success when it comes to booking awesome shows. If you know an artist or group personally, don’t be ashamed to ask for advice! And if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, head over to their website and click on the “about us” or “contact us” sections, and you may stumble upon the exact information (name of agency, booking agent email address) you’re looking for. Moral of the story: do it yourself first and learn from others around you who have laid down a solid blueprint to learn from and utilize.
2. Develop relationships with venue owners
Developing relationships with venue owners may be the best way of increasing chances in finding a qualified booking agent. Venue representatives and booking agents are in talks on a daily basis, and when they aren’t discussing the details of business deals already in place, there’s a high likelihood that they’re talking about artists who are making a lot of noise in their area and beyond. These are the types of conversations that you want to be in, and this is when networking pays off.
Along with forging relationships with venues you’ve already performed at, be sure to attend shows at locations a level up from your current status. Connect with the folks who make things happen – not with obvious opportunist motives, but rather just as an artist who respects what they do for the local music scene. If you do this consistently enough, you’ll eventually strike up a conversation with a booking agent who knows you who are (because you’ve taken the aforementioned steps!) and from there, it’s on you to make a great impression. Once you lay the groundwork as a respected musician who’s taking his or her career to the next level, finding a booking agent will be simpler than you ever imagined.
3. Search booking agent directories
While we all know that real-life connections tend to have the most lasting power, no one can deny the power of the internet to bridge gaps and build connections that would never happen otherwise. This also holds true when it comes to finding a booking agent. After a simple Google search, you’ll find several directories that claim to have the keys to the locked doors of the music industry, which includes the information (contact info, professional requirements/specialties, etc.) of “influential” people in the industry.
However, navigating these directories can be a bit of a challenge. Many of them are either outdated or request a fee that may or may not be worth paying, and no artist wants to spend his or her hard-earned money on a list filled with empty promises. To make your life easier, here are a few directories that are trustworthy and have the information to make your booking agent search much more efficient.
- Indie on the Move: One of the primary online destinations for show/tour booking for independent artists. Access to detailed information about venues and booking agents across the country.
- Indie Bible: Substantial directory (split up by regions/states/cities) which is continuously updated with venue, booking agent, festival, and college info that provides an organized, detailed, specific listing of what you need to find someone who will book you shows.
- Music Business Registry: Longstanding publisher of contact information for artist manager, A&R, booking agents, and music blogs.
4. Reach out to agencies for information
If you find yourself spending too much time on the business aspects of your career and not the actual music-making process, contacting a reputable creative agency may not be a bad idea (this directory is a great place to start your search). You’ll need to be fairly established in order for them to be interested, and you may not even want to fully enlist their services considering the costs involved. However, you may be surprised at the information you can gather from a series of harmless, not intentionally intrusive emails.
When speaking to an agency representative about a potential partnership, inquiry about your desire for a qualified booking agent, and ask what they have to offer when it comes to that detail in particular. Start off with a simple Google search of music booking agencies in your local area (since this will increase the chances of them already being familiar with your work) and expand from there. If you strike up a conversation with the right person, they may send the desired information over to you without a dollar having to come out of your pocket.
Even if you have no true desire to join onto an agency roster, contacting them for informational purposes such as this can’t do much harm, and may lead you to the booking agent you’ve been searching high and low for!
Eric Bernsen is a marketing/public relations professional and music journalist who specializes in the genre of hip-hop. You can find more of his work at HITPmusic.com (where he is an editor/writer) as well as HipHop-N-More.com, where he contributes album reviews. Follow Eric on Twitter @ebernsen.