Playing live is absolutely essential if you want to be successful as a musician, so landing a good booking agent can make a world of difference to your music career. Agents can get you in front of the right crowds at the right venues to help you grow your fan base, sell more music and generate more press coverage.
Of course, finding that perfect agent is a big challenge. Competition is fierce, and the process can be frustrating as you knock on door after door, waiting for someone to even respond to your emails, let alone sign you to their books. There are, however, a few things you can do to increase your chances of finding an agent. If you want to know how to get an agent, put these simple steps into action.
One of the most consistent mistakes people make when they're trying to find ANY member of their music team - including an agent - is to just reach out and contract EVERYONE. If, for instance, they're looking for a label, they send their demo to EVERY label they can find - even if that means sending their metal demo to classical labels, jazz labels and so on. This strategy is just plain bad. It wastes your time and everyone else's, and it makes you look inexperienced and unready for taking the next steps on your music career.
Instead of throwing your music at anyone who has ever booked a tour, do some research and make a short list of the agents you think would be most suited to your music. Who books for bands that are similar to you? Who books shows in the venues you'd like to play? It will be time well spent. You'll save the time and money of throwing your music around willy nilly, and your targets will be much more likely to actually pay attention to your songs.
Nothing excites a agent more than a musician who has a track record of playing a lot of shows with increasing audience numbers. Why? It makes their jobs a whole lot easier. Instead of trying to book a completely unknown band into a bunch of venues - and then wondering if the musicians know how to handle themselves on stage and deliver a good set - they can go to promoters with some proof positive that you've got a bit of a buzz going on the live circuit and that you will turn up ready to deliver the goods.
If you're thinking, "but how do I get all of these shows without an agent" - well, you can. It's not necessary to try to book yourself a gig at Madison Square Garden to get an agent's attention. There's nothing wrong with playing very small venues on a very small regional circuit, as long as you do it well. You can book these shows yourself, or your manager can book them, working with local promoters or directly with venues. The relationships you build while booking your own shows will only make your case better with an agent, since they know they can call up those people, use your name and not hear dead air on the other end of the line.
This suggestion is tied to the notion of playing live often, but in addition to playing your own shows, go out and seek every relevant opening slot you can. Being the opening band for a touring act not only puts you on the radar of that band's manager and label, but it also puts your name in the ear of their agent - which can be a very good thing. If someone from the touring band's team takes a shine to your sound, then you may find that YOUR phone starts ringing from agents looking for YOU.
How do you get these gigs? There are a few ways to get that coveted support band slot. First, make sure all the bookers at all the venues in town know that you are actively seeking opening band status, so they'll think of you when they're charged with finding local openers. Second, if you get wind of one of your favorite acts hitting the road, reach out to their manager and agent and let them know that you'd like to be considered. Though the first way is easier than the second, trying to make those direct contacts will put your name in the right ears (and sometimes it even works.)
Just remember - even if you're used to packing out the room in your town on your own, when you're the opener, the night isn't about you. Don't get bummed about taking a second string position, and definitely don't be a diva. This is your chance to expand your fan base in one swoop, plus attract the right attention, so even if it kind of feels like a step down - it's not.
After you've reached out to your dream agents with your promo package, don't leave them hanging. Agents tend to become more interested as your story grows, so it's important to keep them updated as your wrack up the success stories. If you get a great review, let them know. If you head out on a big tour, let them know. Don't be a stalker and don't email them every time you get another gig at your usual spot, but definitely do periodically let them know how your career is progressing.
It's also important to keep your website and other online profiles completely up to date with your live shows, and maintain a list of previous shows. This lets agents research you on the fly - something they're more likely to do then if they'd have to call you every time they want to keep tabs on your moves.