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Booking Agent

Also Known As:

Booking Manager, Theatrical Agent, Booker, Agent, Booking Representative

Career Description: Schedule and books venues for musical talent.

Salary: $20,000 to $1,000,000+

Booking Agent Jobs

About This Music Career

The main responsibility of a Booking Agent is to handle engagements for the artists or groups for which they are working with. If their act is unknown to the general public, the Booking Agent must work to book engagements. On the other hand, if the artist is well known, clubs and promoters will contact the Booking Agent to request performances at their venues. This career is an excellent choice of a job in music if you love music but are not a musician.

After a Booking Agent makes a deal, he or she will send out contracts to be signed by the Promoter, Club Manager, or whoever booked the talent to perform. These contracts include all necessary information including the name of the group, dates and times of the concert, number of required performances, how much money will be paid for each performance, payment terms, and any other necessary terms.

As a rule Booking Agents require a percentage of their money up front when the contract is signed. While the amount may vary it is usually about 50 percent. The agent will collect the money, takes his or her percentage, and then pay the group. The remaining money is usually paid at the performance. When agents send contracts they may also have a rider attached that stipulates any extras the group may receive. These extras may include expense money, hotel rooms, food, limousines, or instrumental augmentation.

Agents in large agencies are often separated into categories. For example one agent may handle classical music acts, while another will handle country music acts. Agents representing top artists may set up complete concert tours for the acts, dealing with promoters all over the country. Agents work with the artist's Manager and record company (need some record industry contacts? Click here) during concert tours, deciding when and where concerts will be most effective.

In many states booking agencies and agents must be licensed in order to hold employment; licenses are usually obtained through state agencies. To find clients to represent Booking Agents often audition new talent to see if they are a good fit for them to represent. In addition, many Booking Agents attend showcases and clubs looking for talent to book.

Depending on the circumstances Booking Agents may represent a client exclusively or non-exclusively. It may also be that an Agent may represent a client exclusively in one area (e.g. personal appearances) and non-exclusively in another area (e.g. concerts). A Booking Agent can represent as many acts as they can handle, and will often book artists who compete with one another in the marketplace. Agents strive to build up a roster of clients, aiming to sign clients who command large fees.

The Agent is responsible to the artist and his or her manager. Most agents spend seven to eight hours per day on the phone trying to sell acts as well as negotiating terms.

Booking Agents are paid on commission, receiving a percentage off the top of the artists' fees. Commissions vary but they usually range from 10% - 20% of the act's per show gross income. If a Booking Agent is working in an agency, they may be paid a salary plus a percentage of the profits they bring into the agency. Booking Agents that make the most money are the ones who handle more than one act, bringing in anywhere from $200,000 to $1,000,000 or more per year. Those just starting out make much less, but average salary is difficult to estimate due to the number of variables involved.

It is extremely difficult to break into booking on a large successful scale. However, entering booking on a local basis by booking local talent, even their own band, allows for better prospects. Instead of working on their own a Booking Agent can work for an agency, but agencies usually do not book major talent.

Agents can advance from booking locally and moving on to booking larger acts. They can also advance by gaining entry into a regional agency where, after obtaining experience, he or she might be able to move into a major agency. Agents frequently become talent buyers for concert halls, clubs, arenas, and other venues. Agents with large rosters sometimes start their own talent agency.

Education and Training

Booking agents do not need a formal education, but there are seminars, workshops, and courses available in booking entertainment. Courses in business at a university may also be useful, along with classes and seminars in contracts and contract law.

Experience, Skills, and Personality
A Booking Agent must possess sales ability as they are expected to sell a group or an artist. They must be aggressive, as much of the selling is done on the telephone. Successful Booking Agents of major groups may stay on the phone pushing their acts for seven to eight hours a day.

As is the case with most jobs in the music industry, agents must be able to work under extreme pressure. This pressure is comprised of acts constantly calling to see if they have new jobs, and managers calling to say they want more money for their acts. Clubs will even call to negotiate booking an act for less money. Not to mention, even after everything is set up, the group might cancel. All things considered, the Booking Agent must be able to keep his or her composure under these conditions.

Unions and Associations
Major Booking Agents may work under a union contract, such as those of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) , the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA), the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), or the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA). These unions specify what percentage an agent can get from an act, as well as how long contracts can run, and more.

Suggestions for Getting Started

  • Book groups in your local area and make sure the groups you book know that you will be taking a percentage. This won't provide a lot of income, but it will give you valuable experience in this type of position.
  • Consider calling clubs in your area to try to set up a meeting with the owner or club manager to see if they need entertainment for their clubs. Let them know that you will hire the entertainment under their direction in terms of their budget and style. Then place an ad for bands looking for work.
  • Always try to establish some form of contract as protection for yourself.
  • You might have to accept an entry-level position as a secretary, receptionist, or mail room clerk to get started.
  • If you are familiar with the business and have some experience, be persistent. Agencies often say that if you can sell yourself to them, you can certainly sell the acts.
  • Look into training programs.