Essential tips on being a successful booking agent
We chatted with Will Church from ATC Live to get his advice on how you can become a top booker…
For anyone looking for a music career in London, live music can offer a wealth of opportunity from gigs as a sound engineer to work as a tour manager.
One often overlooked but essential role in the live music eco-system is that of the booking agent. Agents act as a bridge between artist and audience, taking on much of the administrative and logistical work when it comes to planning and plotting tours. They help negotiate fees and win artist’s opportunities at festivals and more so play a huge role in helping advance careers.
Our music business students were lucky enough to recently received a visit from ATC Live’s Will Church who has worked with plenty industry success stories such as Whitney and Shura. We picked out his top advice on what agents do, landing the role and how to reach the top of your game...
Agents exist to make an artist’s life easier
As well as being a primary source of a band's income, our job is to make an artist’s life run as smoothly as possible while on tour. That can involve really basic things - from making sure they have showering facilities to ensuring all their catering needs are met. These are things you’d take for granted in real life but can make all the difference when you're out on the road.
Managing expectations can be key
Both artist and manager expectations need to be carefully managed. For example, a manager might ask for a fee increase from a festival offer when an artist isn't necessarily worth the tickets in that territory. You’ve got to make sure that everyone is ambitious of course, but thinking realistically at the same time.
Trust between agents and artists is also important
To begin with, artists can be slightly wary of agents as they’re in essence handling an important part of their livelihood. So trust between all parties is really important."
To do this, I feel it’s important for agents get to know an artist to ensure they know exactly what everyone wants from the relationship.
At ATC Live one of our core values is ensuring each agent has a smaller roster, allowing us to devote more time to each artist and to come up with bespoke strategies for each.
Doing a free show can be a good way of getting a band off the ground
With Whitney, for example - ahead of the LP release - we chose to do a free show at Moth Club (250 cap). We made 500 tickets available on the ticketing platform DICE. Not only was the show extremely busy, we were able to target ticket "buyers" from the database we generated from the free signups when we announced our next London show.
Social media analytics can help you plan a tour
We use social media analytics from Facebook and Spotify to help us plan tours. Looking at these stats can help show you where a band’s audience is.
Word of mouth is crucial for agents looking for new acts and vice versa
We hear about new acts from lawyers, promoters, A&Rs but also artists.
Ultimately the most important thing for booking agents when finding new work are the recommendations from the artists they're already working with. Artists talk to each other and if you deliver on a band, and they tell their contemporaries, you may find they want to come and work with you too."
Be patient, good at communicating and get organised
Successful agents need to be well organised - there is information from all sides of the industry coming at you that you need to process. You need to be patient, driven and committed - nothing is going to fall into your lap. You need to work for it. Agents need great communication skills - a lot of the work is done on the phone, face-to-face or over email.
Always plan ahead
Formulate a plan with your artists. Where do they want to be in a year, 18 months, 5 years time? Always keep this plan in your mind when booking shows. Is doing this festival going to help the artist reach that target? If it isn't, don't do it.
When booking a tour far in advance you don’t necessarily know where that artist is going to be next year in terms of size, so holding a variety of room sizes is incredibly important.
Visit atc-live.com for more information.
Booking agents often work closely with tour managers on looking after the live interests of artists. Read our recent article by Savages' tour manager Andy Inglis on how a new band can survive their first tour.
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