BOOKING AGENTAlternate Career Titles:
Booking Manager, Agent, Booking Representative
Career Overview: Secures bookings for musical talent at venues.
Career Salary Range: $20,000 to $1,000,000+
Become a Booking Agent
The main responsibility of a Booking Agent is to handle engagements for the Artists or groups they represent. 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 is an excellent choice of a music career 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, Talent Buyer 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 pop 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; these licenses are usually obtained through state agencies. To find clients to represent, Booking Agents often seek out Artists generating a buzz online, with their own organic following. 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 or online 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 who 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 get a job in booking at a big agency right off the bat. However, one can build up experience in booking by booking local talent or even their own band.
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 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 or online. Successful Booking Agents 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. Clubs will call to negotiate booking an act for less money and 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.
- 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 at a booking agency.
- 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 Agent training programs at bigger agencies.