What are booking agents?
Booking agents are responsible for representing a singer. Their job is essentially to make sure a singer gets the best live music opportunities. Agencies for singers tend to go hand in hand with management.
Like artist management, signing to a booking agency is a two-way process. You may want to work with them but they might not feel the same unless you’re ready. Singing agents are most likely going to want to see income streams already coming in before they work with you.
Therefore, it is vital to have a strong, loyal fan base already built up. Having people pay to see you live will give a strong indication that you are likely to gain more fans. This is the foundation of your career and it’s one of the first things agencies look for.
What is the difference between an agent and a manager?
One difference between an agent and a manager is that the latter tends to be with a singer from much earlier in their career. A manager will set out initial goals and implement a strategy to make it happen. This can involve performing live but also other factors such as recordings, publishing and merchandise.
Whilst a great manager will be well connected in the industry, many aren’t at first and they build their network as they go along. A booking agent usually will work for an agency that has a strong network and a prestigious global name. This enables them to open doors for an artist that a manager may not be able to.
Booking agencies tend to help singers get better live music opportunities and are well connected with promoters. However, they may be able to offer other opportunities such as brand partnerships and endorsements.
When do I need a singing agent?
Singing agents only really come into play when you’ve reached a certain level. This is when your management is unable to make the most of opportunities because they’re simply too busy. The right agency will be well connected with festivals, promoters and be perfect for getting support gigs for established artists.
Getting an agent may be your goal but you have to be realistic with yourself. Aggressively pursuing a booking agent can put them off you and ruin future opportunities. It is good to network with the intention of wanting to learn instead of trying to get a deal. This will help you understand what they are looking for and help you achieve your goal faster.
How to approach booking agents
Approaching booking agents can be a daunting task. You might want to drop an email but they will get so many that it is likely to be missed. Face to face interaction is the best form of networking so you need to be at gigs and any other live music environment.
If you’re approaching someone directly, respect is the most important thing to remember. Don’t be rude and barge into a conversation and don’t linger around. You may not be able to talk to someone right away so don’t feel bad if you don’t get a chance.
Once you are able to talk to an agent, simply introduce yourself and ask how they are doing. Don’t push them to sign you up to their agency. It’s far better to ask for insight into what they look for in new artists. Compare this to where you are at in your career and see if you can get any more advice.
An agent’s time is valuable, especially when they aren’t working. They don’t want to spend an evening educating you. Keep it short and sweet, leave a business card and move on. At the end of the day, a booking agent should be approaching you, not the other way around.
How do you get a booking agent?
There are a few factors that determine whether you’re ready to get a booking agent. The first is that your live show needs to be brilliant. This will include great original songwriting as well as strong musical arrangements through your band. Once you have that, you should be able to bring in fans. They should want to come back for more and even pay to see you if you are really good enough. This will help set a platform for you to tour and build a fan base across the country.
You’ll need to have a strong digital presence too. Be active on social media and really engage with your fans, no matter how many you have. If you start to grow your fan base live on online, people will start to notice your momentum, including booking agents.
Having a distinct and original identity is one of the most important things to remember. Agents don’t want to sign an act that is similar to one they already have. Likewise, fans don’t want to see rip-offs of other artists. Stay true to yourself and stand out.
What Booking agents do for singers?
Singing agents build contacts
A singing agent’s main role is to book shows. Therefore, it’s important that they build contacts within the music industry. Networking is a vital part of becoming successful and a booking agent can use this skill to their advantage. Building relationships between the music agency, the venue and its promoters improves the chances of you, as a singer, to perform at a show at a particular venue or tour.
Negotiating event contracts
The singing agent’s role is to also make sure that every aspect of a contract that is offered to you is suitable for your act. In most cases, it will be their agency contract that the promoter will have to sign. This contract is where they can ensure everything you want and need for the show is catered for and any equipment required is available to you. Your singing agent will need to know all this information before negotiating the contract so they know what to ensure is on the contract whenever you play a show.
TV and radio appearances
As well as booking shows, singing agents may also have the job along with management of getting you other media opportunities to promote the events or tour. Becoming known in the media isn’t always the easiest task which is why singing agents will have the responsibility of trying to get the act radio and TV appearances. As radio and TV are open to more people that may be at a show, these opportunities are priceless.
Booking agents for famous singers
- Ariana Grande – CAA
- Bruno Mars – WME
- Khalid – Cara Lewis
- Billie Eilish – Coda
- Dua Lipa – CAA
- Stormzy – Primary Talent International
- Lewis Capaldi – Coda
Top booking agents for singers
There are some huge talent agencies out there that represent singers. They also represent producers, actors and other talents from creative and sports industries. Check out some of these top booking agencies and learn more about what they do.
- Creative Artists Agency
- Coda Music Agency
- United Talent Agency
- William Morris Endeavor
- International Creative Management
- SME Live Nation
- Paradigm Talent Agency
How does a booking agent get paid?
A booking agent will take a percentage of whatever deals they negotiate for you. This is typically around 10% but it could be higher depending on your situation and the success of the agent.
You ideally want to go into a negotiation with as much leverage as possible. A booking agent may be willing to take a lower percentage if you can show you’re earning money independently and have a lot of momentum and hype.
How much do music booking agents make?
The amount agent makes completely depend on the success of the artist and the agency that they are a part of. It can range from tens of thousands of pounds to well over £1million. Their income can vary year to year and could stop abruptly if an artist decides to stop touring.