How musicians can launch a corporate function band
Adam Mezzatesta from Bands For Hire give us his essential advice for musicians and getting corporate function gigs...
There are numerous ways to fund your musical projects while you pursue your music industry goals - whether that be as a session musician, band manager or artist in your own right.
Along with private music tuition, playing functions is all part and parcel of the deal, and probably one of the most obvious ways to make a living as a jobbing musician.
The question is, what avenues are available in order to get away from your local pub scene and on to the more desirable corporate function scene? There are many options, each with their own pros and cons - check out our essential advice...
DIY: Going it alone
If the idea of building up a function band on your own terms appeals and you have the time, money and business acumen to boot, then going it alone is definitely an option. You'll need to treat the band in much the same way as you would your own originals projects.
From promotional material to marketing, everything will need to be completely pro in order to fight your way through what's now become a saturated and highly competitive market."
In alignment with the music industry, doing things DIY can be a more gradual process based around word of mouth and re-bookings. That's not necessarily a bad thing though, as many bands find they can earn higher fees from clients who've already seen them play live.
Even if you've never delved into the world of online marketing before, you'll find unlimited resources online teaching you the basics of everything from social media marketing to SEO (search engine optimisation) and PPC (Pay-Per-Click) advertising such as Google Adwords and Facebook ads. Assuming the quality of your promotional material is in line with your fee, you should be able to get enough hits on your website to get the ball rolling.
The downside to going it alone is the initial and ongoing financial outlay; you'll need to bear in mind costs for PA system, lighting, transport, website design, hosting and advertising - with wedding blog directories costing anything from £100 - £300 and Google Adwords costing around a pound per click, you're going to need a healthy budget from the outset.
Don't let that put you off though: while my band was registered with a number of agencies, the majority of our work came in directly through our website which meant we could offer highly competitive fees as a result of saving on commission.
Working on a non-exclusive basis with agencies is often something bands do in conjunction with their own marketing efforts. Depending on your relationship with your agent, you may find you're either inundated with enquiries every day or don't hear a peep from them in the first year of signing up. Speaking as an agent myself, we (like to think we) have a very clear understanding of what clients are looking for, so when we find something we love at a price we know will sell, we're going to make sure our clients hear about it. On the other hand, agents occasionally add bands to their books to fill out their roster, which is rarely of benefit to anyone.
Get yourself found
There are literally hundreds of agency/booking websites out there, ranging from established agencies with a high quality threshold to booking platforms that will literally accept anything and everything.
Where you place yourself in the market is entirely up to you – but if you're looking to build up a healthy relationship, my advice would be to not spread yourself too thin."
While most agents are happy to work with bands on a non-exclusive basis, they also don't want to be competing with every single agency in the country. This inevitably reduces your band's booking conversion rates, which ultimately leads the agency to list you lower on their listings.
The downside to working with an agency is, of course, the cut they'll take, which will usually be somewhere around the 15-20 percent point. However, depending on your priorities, this may seem like a worthwhile trade off with your time, as you avoid the hassle and admin that marketing and managing your bookings brings. Add that to your reduced outgoings and that morsel of resentment you've built up may start to fade.
Exclusive Agency Deal
The benefits of an exclusive band-agency deal can be significant for both parties. To briefly outline the terms, your band would sign to one agency only who in turn would agree to market you heavily.
This type of agreement works well for musicians keen to make a living with a steady income. By signing with an agent exclusively, you'll be looking to negotiate a minimum number of bookings from the agent each year. This in turn should see you promoted heavily, with increased visibility on their website.
If you don't currently have promotional material in place, the agency will likely front costs for a video, photographs and studio time as part of the contract - perhaps with a term to slowly recoup these costs as bookings come in. Not only does this pass on all financial risk to the agency, but it's also a great incentive for them to fulfil their side of the agreement!"
The agent may also take a more active role in the running of the band – for example, calculating quotes on the band's behalf and managing your diary on a day-to-day basis. This will seriously cut down your daily emails and phone calls, leaving you more time to concentrate on what matters most.
With less admin and a steady flow of gigs coming in, it's clear to see why this can be the preferred route for some – but of course, there can be disadvantages.
One drawback is the lack of freedom you may experience; you'll be required to keep those peak Fridays and Saturdays available and may have to make decisions well in advance about tour dates and studio time for your originals projects – bearing in mind that many clients book function bands over a year in advance.
You'll also have to ensure you're happy to forgo any gigs that have been coming in from other agencies, and accept that re-bookings and enquiries through Facebook or other channels will still incur the usual agency commission.
Finally, agencies prefer bands to have a set local fee with structured pricing based on travelling distance. Whilst this seems reasonable, a band working independently may alternatively choose to quote using a more haphazard approach, adjusting fees depending on what they think can be achieved. This method is used widely in the music industry, but is usually something to avoid from an agency's point of view in order to sustain a trustworthy reputation.
If emails and organisation aren't your thing, you may just decide to look for a manger who can do absolutely everything on your behalf, from providing you with equipment and transport to booking out your diary and generally leaving you to get on with your day.
There are numerous ways to structure a management deal, often with very similar terms to an exclusive agency agreement. Managers will, however, always be the main point of contact for clients, so you'll no longer need to get involved with the ins and outs of logistics or payment.
While this reduced responsibility might be an attractive route for a function band in its early stages, it could also mean a set wage per event without the prospect of building a business on your own terms.
Whose band is it?
In certain circumstances, the management company may put the band together themselves, arrange rehearsals, cover expenses, provide equipment and possibly even transport. In this scenario, they are officially the 'band leader', so there are no limitations on the commission they take – you are, after all, a member of staff on their books.
Every management company is different, so it's important to negotiate the right deal for your circumstances. Talk to your peers about deals they've been offered, and find out what's worked for them and what the downsides were."
Being somewhat of a control freak myself, I found that taking charge of every aspect of a booking suited my personality. I was more than happy to get involved with the everyday booking process and business side of functions – but then perhaps that's why I'm now the owner of a booking agency and not an international rock star!
Visit bandsforhire.net for more information.
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