What is a Booking Agent?
A booking agent is one of the most important parts of an artist’s team. They advise and execute the touring part of an artist’s career by coming up with ideas for shows and tours, book those tours and see them play through to make sure everything goes smooth – they make sure the artist gets paid, tickets are being sold, shows are being marketed. A booking agent, therefore, not only books shows but also figures out everything around those shows. They come up with an entire touring strategy and always try to put the best shows possible together.
Skills Required to Be a Booking Agent
- Booking agents need to be on it 24/7 because they are dealing with a lot of different people in different time zones.
- Problem-solving skill is highly required because the whole tour depends on the booking agent’s ability to put things in order when needed.
- Throughout a booking agent’s career, they are dealing with how to work with people because the personalities are different. An approach a booking agent takes with one artist may be completely different from another artist even though the result may be the same.
When Does an Artist Add a Booking Agent to Their Team?
It is a different requirement for every artist. A booking agent could find the artist they end up working with online and approach them to be on their team or an artist could reach out to a booking agent to work with them. It can be everything in between but the general theme here is that it all depends on networking.
The Communication Process Between a Booking Agent and an Artist/Management
The simple protocol for communication between the booking site and the management side is that the booking agent talks to the management and the management then talks to the artist. However, it does not always work like this, and the communication process depends on how much the artist is involved with their touring. Some artists want to be a part of the decision-making process from the start and some artists don’t. If they are involved in the business part, the booking agent directly communicates with the artist along with their manager. Plus, the manager is not only involved with touring but also the marketing, distribution, publishing, and legal stuff – they are looking at the bigger picture. The booking agent, therefore, needs to filter all the information and figure out the best way to present it to the manager.
Also, it is now becoming more and more common for some artists to be self-managed. In such cases, the booking agent directly communicates with the artist.
How Do a Booking Agent and a Tour Promoter Work Together?
The tour promoter is the person the booking agent is partnering with to get holds and issue challenges. A lot of times, a booking agent goes to a different promoter in every city but if the tour promoter buys the tour and works alongside the booking agent, then the booking agent does not have to communicate to different promoters in each city one by one. The booking agent communicates to the tour promoter, issues the challenges, and gets the deals from them.
The Booking Process
Creating a Tour Lineup
To put a tour together, the first thing a booking agent does is to decide with a specific artist that is going to headline and then come up with ideas of bands/artists that should support them. The thought process here is to find the best possible lineup because it is more compelling for fans to buy a ticket to a show where the openers are ideally the bands they like. Once the booking agent has the ideas, then they will approach the agents of those bands/artists and negotiate with them to find common grounds.
The booking agent puts a routing together based on where the band is going to play which depends on lots of different factors:
- The Market: If the band just did a major market, the booking agent generally does not prefer going back to the same cities. Instead, they create routing for the secondary market. For instance, if a band’s last tour included Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, the next tour would include Anaheim, Milwaukee, Poughkeepsie, etc.
- Venue Sizes: The booking agent also compares venue sizes. For example, in their last tour, the band played in 1000 capacity rooms which were sold out a month in advance. The booking agent then looks for 1500-2000 capacity rooms.
Once the booking agent puts the routing together, they reach out to the promoters to give them holds. This means the promoter will tell the booking agent which order they are in for a specific date. After getting the holds for the entire tour, the booking agents start to piece together what could and could not work based on those hold statutes.
Challenging the Dates
When the booking agent is ready to confirm a tour, they go back to the promoters to challenge the dates for the venues where they are not the first holds. This means the booking agent tells the promoter that they are ready to confirm. The promoter then calls the people holding before them and gives them 24 hours to either confirm the date or release it to the tour that is ready to confirm.
The process is all about putting the pieces together. If the booking agent loses a challenge, they have to reroute the tour.
Contracts & Negotiations
While challenging the dates, the booking agent also negotiates with the promoters. Promoters send offers that state details about the show that is based on the offer parameters that the booking agent provides beforehand. These offer parameters include:
- ticket prices
- artist guarantees
- transportation expenses
- support expenses
- catering expenses
- marketing expenses
- misc. expenses
Once the challenge is cleared and the deal is confirmed, then the booking agent has a confirmed show and when they do it for all the dates on the tour, they have a confirmed tour ready to go on sale.
After the Booking
After the tour is booked, the booking agent monitors everything to make sure everything is going on track. However, sometimes things don’t work out as planned and they might run into some problems that could be anything as simple as a tour manager having an issue on-site with settlement, or disagreements, or the support band has to drop off the show because someone got sick. The booking agent then has to get involved and make some calls to figure out what to do. Problem-solving skills come in handy when such situations occur.
- First and foremost, find a job that you enjoy and find a way within that job to enjoy it. That opens up your ability to be at it all the time because finding something you love to do is only going to make you do a better job. You are not showing up for a paycheck – it’s part of living your life and you care. You are going to look forward to working every day and as a result, you are going to do a better job.
- It might be difficult for some people in their early career to be versatile and to navigate between clients who choose the terms of which business relationship works for them or how they are going to communicate it. Yet, over time, these skills are learned with experience.