-In your own words, and based on your own experiences, define "Booking Agent".
A person whom an artist designates to procure employment for them. Employment consisting of any kind of performance engagement.
-What are the responsibilities, goals, and tasks of a booking agent?
The main responsibility is to procure employment for and develop artists. So much of this job is development. That also is a lot of the fun taking an artist from A to Z over a period of time. As far as goals go everyone has personal agendas but the artists goals are really what matters. The main goal is to take a baby band and bring them to the top. There are so many tasks associated with being an agent. To shine a general light on things the task overview is to keep each of your artists as busy as possible while keeping them on an upward trend building their fan base through perpetual touring. This consists of a lot of phone / email time spent pitching your artists for support slots, the actual booking of a tour (routing the tour, getting holds, soliciting offers, negotiating deal points, confirming the dates), and being a general loud speaker for the artist to get people excited about them.
Here is a few key terms you should know:
ROUTING - Routing is the process of mapping out a tour. Using past tour history, market changes, future plans, etc... to effectively plan where a tour will go and when it will go there. A lot of this depends on availability of the rooms you are looking to play as well.
HOLD - After you route your tour, you need to get holds. Take your routing and make the appropriate calls / emails to the promoters of the rooms you are looking to play in the cities you've routed and asking to put dates on hold for your tour. It is similar to making reservations at a restaurant. You are basically going to the promoter and telling them your tour wants to play their room and if they are interested they will hold the room for you. In the high traffic rooms a lot of times someone will be holding the dates you want ahead of you for their tour. In this instance you work together with your routing and the promoter to decide which is the best date to target based on which day they feel the tour ahead of you will target. This hold serves to buy time for A: the agent / band's routing to come together before they confirm the dates and B: the agent and promoter to work on negotiating the deal.
OFFER - An offer sheet / deal sheet is what a promoter will submit to the agent detailing their expenses and how much they want to pay the band based on past history current market trends and what they feel the artist is worth. Based on the original offer the agents job is to negotiate the points it contains.
-Usually, what does a normal day of work involve for you?
I get in around 9:00 AM, check voicemail, make any calls on my call list from the previous day that I didn't have a chance to get to, return calls from voicemails, check my tasks / to do list for the day, reply to emails, start executing to do list, make calls, etc... It all depends on what I have on my to do list.
-How long have you been booking for? How many months/years do you think a person should pay their dues and gain experience before seriously getting involved with the industry.
I have been involved in the music industry in some capacity for 3+ years. I don't think you can put an exact period of time on it. Everyone has to earn their stripes, but the best way to do that is just get involved in something. It is very hands on. Your best bet is to get in on the ground level while you are young, try working at the hip venue in town or something like that and just start learning the ropes. Once you get in in some capacity, keep working towards what it is you want to do stay focused but let nature take its course as well. Always seize opportunity. BE NICE TO EVERYONE! Be a sponge. When you are learning ask questions but most of all soak everything in. Buddy up to someone with some experience. Not by asking them for something but by being friendly. People in the industry have to deal with countless people hitting them up for help or favors take that in to consideration and be the person who isn't looking for anything.
-What are some of the best features and personality traits a solid agent normally possesses?
Some traits that make a good agent are usually charisma, being well versed, intelligence, being aggressive, having tact, being determined, and being passionate about your artists. If you are not passionate about what you are doing, YOU WILL FAIL!
-Why did you decide to get involved with booking? Why not a different field?
I got involved in booking because my four best friends were in a band together back in my hometown and I just wanted to help them. I kept meeting more and more people and seizing opportunity I never really thought twice about it. There was something about getting my friends on a big show with bands they idolized that turned them in to little kids on Christmas when I broke the news to them. It was an incredible feeling to make my friends dreams come through, even if it was just temporary. I wanted to be able to do that for a living.
-What are the ups and downs of booking these artists?
Good question. In a lot of ways it can be a rollercoaster ride. So much goes in to each artist. Maintaining a personal relationship with my artists is incredibly important to me. That in its own right has a ton of ups and downs. Mostly ups though. Some of the downs are when the chips aren't falling the way the artist hopes and they get down. Then again watching it turn around for them after that is a huge up.
-When booking a tour, how do you go about routing it? Do you have promoters contacts for each and every city?
Yes I have a database that has a countless number of promoters. Through experience you build relationships with these people and you'll determine who you like working with and who you don't'. Who does a good job and who doesn't. The bands past touring history as well as record sales help determine the routing. I basically know who I want to use in every major market in the US for each of my artists. A lot of the time with developing artists you as the agent aren't routing the tour because the band is out supporting.
-Let's say you had to book a tour for Terminal right now, what would be the steps you'd take to get it done effectively. from beginning to end.
Terminal isn't the best example as they will be supporting larger tours for a while but we'll roll with this scenario of them headlining. I would consult band and management and come up with a game plan for the tour. What are we looking to accomplish this time around? What size rooms do we want to go in to? Who do we want to take as support? Etc... At that point we would route out the tour, I would call / email promoters to get clubs on hold. I would then contact agents to get ideas of bands who want to support them, go over all the bands who are interested with Terminal / management and make a decision on which bands to take on tour. Then I would go back to the promoters who are holding rooms for me and solicit offers, negotiate the deal points, and eventually confirm the dates. At which point they go on sale and the rest is promotional time leading up to the dates.
-How do you go about getting the bands on your roster on bigger supporting tours? Example: June on The Academy Is...'s tour.
It is a case by case scenario. A lot has to do with the artist actually being friends with the headlining band whose tour we are submitting for. Bands want to take their friends on tour. Another big part of it is selling the headlining bands agent on your artist and what they have going on, making them see why your artist is an asset to the tour. Usually the whole team works together to try and attack support tours from all angles. Agent, band, management, and label usually put their heads together on it and figure out who has the best relationship with people on the headlining bands team and then they approach.
-How did you hook up with Lucky Artist and where did your initial leverage come from in regards to obtaining the acts you have?
I met the owners of Lucky Artist through mutual friends in the industry after I left my old job. I came for a meeting and fell in love with their ideas and them as people and knew this was a great place to be. I had fairly deep roots in the industry already when I came here so initial
leverage just came from prior relationships and hard work.
-Where do you feel the industry is heading, and what changes should kids and
fans expect in the future?
Unfortunately, the industry isn't in great shape right now. Everyone is a little too money hungry and it affects the fans. The artist wants to make money and the promoter wants to make money that leads to high ticket prices and fans feeling alienated. There is also a severe lack of exciting acts right now. The major artists are not iconic anymore most are just a flash in the pan and there aren't that many rising artists who have what it takes to sustain a successful career.
-How much impact does a college degree have when trying to get into the business ends of the music business vs. getting actual experience through internships and connections? What would you recommend to try and get that experience?
Just as in any industry a college degree helps if you are looking to work at a major corporation. I honestly don't feel its that important as most people in the industry who do have degrees don't have their degree in anything dealing with music. The best way to get in to this is to get in low, intern, build relationships, work hard and work your way up on your own.
-Did you attend college? If so, what did you learn in college that you wouldn't have learned hands on, and if you didn't attend, why not?
I attended college for two semesters. I didn't learn anything pertinent to what it is I'm doing. If anything college for me was a hinderance to what I was trying to do. It was getting in the way so I had to cut it and go back later. In my path I had to seize opportunity to learn hands on.
-When would be a good time for a band to look for an agent, and how do they know if an agent is right for them?
Honestly you don't need an agent until you have signed with management. A good manager can do a lot more for a completely unknown band than a good agent can. You don't really need an agent until you have made somewhat of a name for yourself and have built some resemblance of a fan base. If you have management and a label in place but are still new you could benefit from having an agent. Remember, agents work on a commission basis so you're not paying them unless you're making money.
-What do you look for in a band that you'd like to work with?
A combination of a lot of things. The main thing is the songs need to be there. No matter how much you have going on, if the songs aren't there, it won't last. For me it is ideal to walk in to a relationship where the band is set up to be a success. This could mean having a great manager on the team, signing with a great label, etc... I need To LOVE the band as well. It is a huge investment to take on a new artist. You dedicate so much time and effort in to developing an act that it is so important to be passionate about the band. As an agent you also have a reputation to worry about. You want to make sure the bands you pick up are a good representation for you throughout the industry.
-When you are interested in working with a band, how do you initially contact them, and what do meetings/talks with these bands consist of?
It depends their management could have contacted me, someone at the label, the band could have sent me a demo themselves, or I could have found them somehow in which case I would look for the best channel to contact the band. This could be attending a live show, calling their manager or someone at the label if I have a relationship with them, or as simple as sending an email to someone in the band.
-How do most agents make money?
The standard agent pay is 10% commission of all monies that the artist takes in from the engagement excluding merchandise sales.
-Are contracts/lawyers involved in booking? If so, what do the contracts usually consist of? Are the bands binded by amount of albums released or by weeks/months/years?
No contracts between agent and artist unless special circumstances.
What is a common mistake agents make and what would you say to young agents in hopes of steering them away from this common error?
Being complacent and just waiting for things to take shape for the artist before doing any work. Too many agents don't want to get their hands dirty.
-Anything else you'd like to add is welcomed. Advice, thank yous, shout-outs, plugs, etc.
Stay true to yourself, work hard, and keep your nose clean. There is a huge difference between saying you work hard and working hard.
Feel free to email me if you have any questions or you live in California and booking is something you're interested in as a possible career choice.
As a struggling college student who has no idea what he wants to do with his life, it's nice to hear about stories like Josh Lacey who are doing something (that at least I consider) important that they like without a degree.
This is probably the best, or at least most interesting and informative interview I've seen on this site in a very long time, great job Frank and Josh (for taking the time to answer all the questions as thoroughly as he did)