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Booking Yourself vs. Hiring a Booking Agent

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“Play live to survive”

Booking gigs and organizing tours is a vital part of being a performing musician today. It's a job that must be done so that you can play live in front of an audience and get paid for it. Most independent musicians working in the modern music industry must play live to survive.


Most indie acts today sell just as much if not more music at concerts than they do online or in a store because going to a concert is a unique experience for fans and also because it has become 'status quo' for listeners to download or share great music for free. Going to the concert of an artist whose music we love becomes a special memory and for music lovers, it feels good to buy records at live shows. A lot of fans even collect and keep their ticket stubs from live shows because to them it is nostalgic.

'Playing live to survive' is the reason why so many popular bands from the past have been reuniting to tour. These bands release a new single, album, or 'previously unreleased songs' or 'best of records' for touring and not the other way around. This also explains why the losses Pomplamoose deplored on their last tour got the whole industry talking so much. Indeed one should not end up touring for the sake of it: you want to make a plus and that means you have to do it right.

What you want

Whether or not to hire a booking agent is really a matter of what you want to achieve by working with them. Hiring a talent agency or a booking agent will not magically bring an audience to your gig. You should only consider hiring an agent when you are confident your act will bring a crowd and when you have specific goals in mind, such as when you are planning to tour or perform at a larger venue that works exclusively through booking agencies and concert promoters. It is important to know what you want because there are many possibilities of how to utilize a booking agency. You could hire an agent to help you book a few gigs or just one tour or for a series of tours and it is best to make your game plan several months in advance.

Working with a booking agent...

Be realistic about where you are in your music career as there are booking agents for almost every kind of music genre, venue, and festival. If you are looking for an agent be sure that the contacts and types of live venues and circuits that they offer fit to your needs. Check the artist roster on the agent's website and find out where their artists are playing. Be sure to be honest with any booking agent about how many tickets you will potentially sell at the door for your concert, don't exaggerate, only if you are realistic can a booking agent help you.

There are many ways a booking agency can help you even if you are not signed to them exclusively and are not yet able to fill a large venue on your own. Many agents are looking for local acts that have a moderate fan base to play 'support' for more established acts that are on tour. Playing 'support' is a great way to attract new fans and get to know the inner workings of the industry better. Also a booking agent can help you to fill in the gaps while booking your own tour and help you find venues that you can't book yourself that could offer you a guaranteed fee for your concert.

...or being your own agent

Booking your own tour requires painstaking effort, planning and persistence but it can be very rewarding and educational for any musician. If you book your own tour be sure to be as professional and authentic as possible when communicating with the event coordinators of the venues where you will play; don't pretend to be a booking agency in your emails. Always try to fix with the organizer a guaranteed fee for your gig, as well as provisions like food and a place to sleep after your gig.

Be sure to logistically organize your tour so that all the gigs are at the most only around three hours traveling time between the cities where you will perform. The further the distance between gigs the more room there is for setbacks such as getting stuck in traffic, missing a connecting train or flight, or just being plain exhausted from traveling too much with not enough sleep because you are playing every night.

What to look out for

When you sign a contract with a booking agent it is a good idea to be sure that in your contract you can still book your own gigs and that you never are obligated to pay a booking agent a percentage of income from a gig that you booked yourself. Also when you hire an agent you should still double check on the details of the work that they are doing to be sure that they are finding you gigs that make sense for your act and your goals.

Never leave the responsibility of creating a tour completely up to the agent you hired, you must work with them together to get the best results. You most likely will be paying the agent 20 percent of the income that you are earning from your gig. Booking any kind of show with any kind of act is a meticulous process that is best achieved by those with first-hand, real life working experience. When you reach a point in your career that demands hiring a booking agent it will be beneficial for you to have previously booked your own shows so that you will know the job inside-out and feel confident about getting your live show into the spotlight.

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All You Need.
All in One Place.

Get tips on How to Succeed as an Artist, receive Music Distribution Discounts, and get the latest iMusician news sent straight to your inbox! Everything you need to grow your music career.