There’s actually a pretty simple answer to this question: Keep doing your thing, improving and growing your fan base until a booking agent finds you.
Ok, maybe that's a little oversimplified. But in short, you want to get to a point where a great booking agent is trying to convince you to work with them, rather than the other way round.
Think about it from their perspective. A reputable booking agent will work on a commission basis – rather than a flat fee – so you need to be bringing in enough ticket sales to make it worth their while.
We’ll discuss exactly how to make this happen and find your booking agent further down. But first let’s discuss what a booking agent actually does.
What does a booking agent do?
A booking agent's main responsibility is to book and coordinate live shows. That can be anything from festival slots and one-off headline gigs, to special appearances and global tours.
A booking agent should have great relationships with venues nationwide, or even globally. They need to build a strong reputation and gain the trust of promoters and venue owners by bringing in awesome bands for sold-out shows.
They should also understand the intricacies of touring and the reality of different audiences, knowing which bands and artists suit which venues and locations to maximize success.
How much does a booking agent cost?
A booking agent will generally charge around 10% commission on your earnings from any given show. They may sometimes charge less or more, but it’s unusual for them to go higher than 15%.
What do booking agents look for in musicians?
A booking agent taking a 10% commission fee will only want to work with a band or artist from which they can earn enough money to live. Everyone’s got bills to pay!
Here are some of the best practices and targets you should be aiming towards if you’re looking to land a reputable booking agent to help progress your career on the live music scene.
Play live often & sell plenty of tickets
Your track record needs to speak for itself. If you’re consistently playing live music and selling out shows in your hometown and the surrounding areas, a booking agent can help you break out further, whether that’s nationally or overseas.
Have a killer live set
This follows on from the last point. An agency only wants to work with bands who pull in crowds. Bands who pull in crowds put on great live shows.
Build a network
It’s often said “it’s who you know” that helps you in the music industry. And while this is a little cliché, it is very much based in truth. Build friendly relationships with every music industry exec, venue owner and other musicians you meet. Recommendations from friends and colleagues can go a long way in the industry.
Strong social media following
Perhaps the first place a booking agent (or anyone else for that matter) goes to scope out the size of a musician's fan base and potential is their music social media pages.
In reality, you’ll want – at the very least – one thousand followers on all of the main platforms (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook) to get their attention. Whatever you do don’t just buy fake followers. It's pretty easy for anyone with even a basic understanding of socials to sniff out fakes.
Mailing list subscribers
Fans subscribed to your music mailing list are like gold dust. If they’ve purposefully signed up for email updates from you, they’re a true fan. Email is a much more direct marketing tool, compared to social media, so a strong mailing list is always an effective way to show off your dedicated fan base.
A professional and consistent music brand
If you’re looking to work with industry professionals, it’s important to convey yourself as a professional too. This should go without saying really, but make sure your image, branding and artwork is all up to scratch. How you present yourself online is key to earning respect and generating interest in your music.
Where can I find a booking agent?
As mentioned at the very start of this blog, if you’re making an impact and developing your career in the right ways, a booking agent will likely find you in time.
You could search online and send emails to booking agents with samples of your music and invite them to your show, but this might have a limited success rate.
Generally, a booking agent will find new clients through trusted colleagues, so building a network and making friends in the industry is important. If you play enough shows, you’re bound to run into a booking agent (or someone who can introduce you to one) eventually. So make sure you're working on every part of your music career and make every show count!