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Music Agent

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Music agent Sam Hunt
Ben Gabbe/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Music Agents - Who are They?:

Music agents, who are also called booking agents, talent agents, or simply agents, are the people who make the live music happen. A good agent with well placed connections can make all the difference in getting a band in front of the right audience and increasing their profile. Agents work closely with promoters and record labels to make sure they bands on their books are getting the proper exposure. Music agents also take care of the neogtiations with promoters and venues when it comes to the pay for performances and to arrangements for things like backline and accommodation.

What Jobs Should a Music Agent Do?:

While the scale of the responsibility for a music agent may differ depending on the level of band they are working with, the basic tasks involved in the job remain the same whether booking club shows for smaller indie bands or arena shows for major label acts. Agents should:

  • Liase with bands/labels/management to agree on a window for tour dates, the financial and logistic requirements of the tour, and the goals of the tour (promote a new album, etc).
  • Contact promoters and venues to pitch bands and agree on performance dates.
  • Arrange contracts with promoters regarding pay, rider, guest list, and equipment.

What is the Pay Like?:

Music agents get paid a percentage of the proceeds from a tour. These proceeds are limited to the actual payments for performances and do not include money earned from merchandise sales. The most common arrangement between a band and an agent is for the agent to get between 10% and 15% of the money paid to a band for a gig, though 18% or even 20% is not entirely unheard of. For this reason, it is obviously in the best interest of an agent to get the most money possible for a band from a promoter - the more money the band makes, the more money the agent makes.

What Can a Good Agent Do for a Band?:

Music agents hold the keys to the good shows, and as an up and coming band, a good agent on your side can mean playing in front of bigger audiences sooner than you probably would booking your own gigs. If you sign with an agent who works with larger bands, you will have the inside track on getting the support slot on tours with these larger bands. Music agents also have the ear of all the good promoters, which means you have an immediate in with venues and promoters, instead of having to convince them to give you a shot. Agents likewise have the pull to get you more money than you could on your own.

Do Agents Need a Contract?:

Absolutely! A contract will help fend off any misunderstandings down the road and let everyone know where they stand. A contact will also clarify what the band expects of the agent and the agent expects of the band. You won't be fighting about money or arguing over whether the agent was supposed to arrange for a drum kit or the band was supposed to bring it if you have everything written down in black and white.

How Can You Become a Music Agent?:

If you think a job as a music agent might be right for you, there are two ways you can get started:

  • Approach established agencies and seek an internship. You'll make great contacts and learn the ropes from the pros.
  • Try your hand at booking gigs independently.
If you want to try building your own agency from the ground up, look to your friends who are in bands, and start out booking shows for them in your area. Make use of the contacts you make booking these shows to expand to booking with promoters outside of your area. Be prepared for putting in long hours for little pay (or no pay) while you are proving yourself as an agent. If you're willing to put in the time, however, you'll build the right reputation to make your agent dreams a reality.
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