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Getting The Gigs Part 2 - By Tom Leu
Previously we discussed the ins and outs of booking a band on your own.  We identified that normally before a booking agency will work with a band or group, you need to have already had some success booking on your own.  Now let’s look at some tips on using booking agents. 

Many musical groups or bands eventually opt (and need) to use booking agents to secure gigs for them.  Typically, agents come into play when a band has grown beyond their own local scene and expanded their efforts regionally or nationally.  These are people and organizations that charge you a percentage of the earnings from live shows and events they book for you.  You are essentially paying for their contacts and connections (usually between 10%-20%).
It can normally take years to cultivate and develop the proper relationships with the necessary people and places that your band or group needs to be affiliated with.  Working with a good and reputable booking agency can greatly reduce the amount of time necessary to get into the good clubs and venues you need to be playing on a regular basis.  Getting a good booking agent however is not always as easy as it may first appear.

The initial questions a prospective agent may ask you are “where are you playing now?”  “How big is your draw?”  “Where and when can I come see you play next?”  Obviously if you have good answers to these questions, you may not necessarily need an agent in the first place, at this time.  Good booking agencies will usually only take on new clients who have already proven that they can successfully book themselves and build a following.  As with anything else, this is a game of dollars and cents.  Their goal is simply to get you playing more often for more money.

Agents want bands and artists that have earning potential for their companies.  It’s the old “you need experience to get experience” dilemma.  In a sense, this is your audition for the agents.  In most arenas of the music business, the “industry pros” first want to see that you’ve been successful on your own, without their help.  Then, and only then, will they be inclined to take you on and work with you. 

Once you have built a reputation and some momentum on your own, booking agents can come in and help take your band or group to the next level.  Usually with a single phone call, an agent will get your group into the clubs and venues you were unable to get into on your own.  Get used to the fact that it’s who you know sometimes, rather than what you know.  Avoid signing any exclusive or long term contracts at this time.  Find out what other acts the agency is booking and talk with them.  If possible, go through a trial period until you are convinced they are representing you properly.

At this point, you’ll need to be ready to field many offers to play live, a lot more often.  You and your band need to be clear on what you’re willing to give to be successful.  How many times per month are you willing to play?  How far are you willing to travel?  Will you play weeknights?  How much money will be necessary to keep the show on the road, etc.?  Be honest with yourselves and have these answers in place before talking with any booking agency.

The Bottom Line: Remember that perception is reality.  Always maintain a professional appearance and attitude regardless of the situation or circumstances you find yourself in.  This is especially important as you begin to move up the ladder and garner more “professional” representation.  Time is a terrible thing to waste.  Make sure everyone involved is on board the proverbial regional RV of rock-n-roll before pulling out of town.

Tom Leu - The Musicians Corner
For hundreds of techniques & strategies to market, promote, and sell your music more efffectively, more often...check out Money, Marketing, & Myths Inside the Musician’s Corner Volume One by Tom Leu at

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