Finding A Booking Agent
Or how to make your musical act more marketable
By Brett McCarron
It's a catch-22: You need a booking agent to get gigs, but the agent needs to see you in a live gig setting before he/she will sign you.
There's a logical progression in the life of a band. There's the startup phase where the band members learn to get along and agree on a direction. There's the build-up phase, where the band builds up a repertoire sufficient for a 4-5 set evening. Then there comes the performing phase where the band starts honing the sets to a razor's edge: cutting the chaff, eliminating dead spots between songs, and learning to be entertainers. Then comes fame, fortune, and success.
But wait! How does a band get to the performing phase? There's a myth that all a band does is contact a booking agent, and while the agent hussles gigs, the band sips mint juleps by the pool and waits for the phone to ring. The money follows soon after.
Okay, let's get real. A booking agent needs a product to sell. The agent takes a cut of the proceeds for their livelihood. The agent has a stable of working bands, and won't sign any newcomers without seeing them in a performance situation. After all, they can't take the chance that a new band will ruin the agent's reputation. That could have dire consequences to the agent's bottom line.
So the agent will insist on an audition. Most agents will require that the band perform in a club environment with a stage, lights, and PA system. The agent will judge the merits of the band based on a number of criteria. First of all, is the band marketable? Will a club owner pay money to hire the band? Will the band attract paying customers to the club owner's establishment? Does the band have a local following that will bring in extra customers to the venue?
The agent may first of all require a press kit and a performance video that he/she will review before committing to seeing your band in action. One way to aquire this video is by performing free shows, open mics, and possibly even taping a few rehearsals. Keep the video short: perhaps 5-6 songs total. Don't accept anything less than perfection on this video. Be sure that it contains no performance flubs, the sound is legible (especially the lead vocals), and it shows the performers. Dancing audience members are a plus, as is the applause at the end of the songs.
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