A booking agent is an absolute must if you’re trying to break out. He will keep you working and keep bringing in cash flow. Booking agents normally charge from 10 to 15% of each show that they book. When you consider how many promotional packages you would have to send out on your own, and how many cold calls you would have to make, just so you continue to have gigs to play, you can see that a really good booking agent can be worth his weight in gold.
A booking agent’s most valued assets are his knowledge of music, his ability to market and sell his acts, and his Rolodex with all of his contacts throughout the music industry. A good booking agent has his finger on the pulse of what is happening with all types of gigs, and he knows where to put his acts so that they can make the most money. He has a great rapport with all types of clubs, festivals, and medium and larger venues.
Not only does he handle all aspects of getting gigs, but often he makes sure that you get paid, because he’s the one who has the contracts with both you and the venue where you’ll be playing. Since he gets a piece of the action, it’s in his best interests to get you as much money as possible.
How much do booking agents charge?
But you will have to decide if you can afford to work with a booking agent full-time. For instance, if you are playing gigs for only $500 a night, and the booking agent gets 15% ($75) for booking the gig, neither of you will make much money. You will only have $425.00 to pay the band and all of your expenses, so the band could be making less than $50.00 a piece per night, which is less than the booking agent.
But I have always looked at that situation this way: If you are a working band, you should take as many gigs as you possibly can. In time, you will begin to make more and more money as you grow your fan base and expand the areas where you play. When you are starting out, even if you make only enough money to survive for that day, it’s better than being stuck at a day job.
What should you contract cover?
In most instances, the booking agent will require a deposit from the venue so he gets at least get some of the money for the gigs he sets up, just in case there is some unforeseen circumstance such as weather problems. Your contract with the booking agent should cover what happens to that non-refundable deposit if the venue needs to cancel for any reason. Your contract should also cover what types of gigs you will take and how much money you require for all of your gigs. This way you will ensure that your gigs are actually profitable for you. It is also a good idea to get some type of performance rider to set forth all of your band’s needs, such as how much equipment you need, how much power you require for your equipment, the size of the stage, a place to setup a merchandise stand, etc. If you have your needs set out in writing in a performance rider, you are much more likely to have what you need when you get to the venue, and much less likely to encounter any problems, such as insufficient power to run your equipment.
Your main concern should be that your booking agent believes in your act and is going to keep you working! Unfortunately, some booking agents require that you sign with them exclusively. After all, they don’t want to compete with another booking agent to coordinate your schedule. You should not sign any exclusive agreement unless you know that the booking agent is going to keep you working. If you sign an exclusive booking agreement and you are not working much, you could be missing a lot of opportunities. Furthermore, even if you get gigs on your own, your booking agent may expect to get paid for those gigs. If the booking agent demands an exclusive arrangement, you should insist that you be working a certain number of dates per week or month. If the booking agent can’t deliver on that promise, don’t sign!