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Anyone using a booking agent?


992gnt

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Pros? Cons? Our goal is to play the A rooms, and I'm not sure we can get there without some help. There are a handful of bands in the area that have most of the good rooms locked in, and I can't even get anyone to talk to me at most of them. Just curious what everyones experience with them was.

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Pros? Cons? Our goal is to play the A rooms, and I'm not sure we can get there without some help. There are a handful of bands in the area that have most of the good rooms locked in, and I can't even get anyone to talk to me at most of them. Just curious what everyones experience with them was.

 

 

 

Depends on your goals, location and how your particular scene works. In my local market there are no agents. The best rooms are booked independently by the best bands and bands lower down the food chain fill in the gaps or cover a cancellation. Outside my market there are different regions to play in all dominated by different talent agencies. 2-3 agents might compete for rooms and talent in a particular market. An agent may have exclusivity over a specific room or a specific band. For A-list rooms it's an absolute that you need to use an agent... which means the agent must choose your band to work with. You audition or come packed with referrals and experience and they can find you work. It will never be on your terms and you are always just a gig away from getting dropped. We book 80% of our calendar ourselves and will use an agent to travel and play rooms in other markets.

 

But that is the east coast. It's quite competitive. Other markets may be different.

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We use an agent for about 50% of our gigs. Here in Indy it's not necessarily the bands that have the A rooms locked up but the agents. They control all booking into those rooms and you don't get in without going through them. The hard part for us was getting their attention. They have every band in the city trying to get them to book for them so we had to establish ourselves as a solid act with a good draw on our own and generate enough buzz around what we were doing on our own to get them to notice us. We are still not as front of mind to them as we would like to be when big gigs cone up but we do get a fair rotation on most the A list rooms. We also don't have any exclusive agreement with them so we can still book our own shows and if we book a private event because of a gig we did in one of their rooms we don't have to pay them a cut of that event. Works well enough for us.

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The norm will be different with each region and area. Around where I live, there are no A rooms, just some clubs nicer or larger than others. None of them but one casino pays over $400/night. Most pay $300. The casino pays $500/night.

 

As for "booking agents": there are a couple but they work for the clubs,not the bands. They aren't so much agents as headhunters for venues. A real booking agent pitches his bands to various clubs and gets them the best deal he can. The "agents" here work for the clubs and get the clubs the best deal they can, and take 10% from the bands, which I always though was curious, since they work for the clubs, not the bands. You cannot get into these rooms without the agent's cut, even if you book it yourself. It's "his" room, you see.

 

The last gig I did for one of these "agents" was at the Casino. It is a huge place, with a big restaurant and lots of hotel rooms. I asked the agent if we could each get one meal and a couple of rooms comped, and he told me I'd have to work that out with the manager. I said "excuse me, isn't that your job as the booking agent?" And he said flat out, "no, I only represent the lounge, not the whole place". I said "Well, dang, I thought since I was paying you 10% of what I make, you represented ME." There was a long pause, then he said "well, I guess I can talk to them." Of course, after getting to the gig, I found that he never did call and ask them. And I didn't figure he would. He has to protect his interest in keeping the venue. I've never used him again.

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We have very good luck with one booking agent. He's gotten us into some really good rooms and is working on a few more. He's an honest guy. We've never signed a contract, it's just a handshake deal. I mail him 10% of whatever we make on gigs he books. They are generally in the $1500 range, so he makes about $300 a month on us. He's working on getting us into a few casinos which would be a nice pay bump for both of us.

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Problem here is, there aren't really any "B" rooms so to speak, and the "C" rooms that are popular don't cater to our music (Top 40/Dance). They are mostly Classic Rock/80's Rock kind of places. So it's difficult to get big enough to get noticed by the A rooms. My big worry is I'm technically NOT the band leader, and someone else in the band is handling it who thinks we should be playing $1500 rooms right out of the gate because that's how it used to be. :facepalm: I don't even know if there are any of those rooms left around town.

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It's been years since I worked the circuit....but in my experience, few if any of the A-list type places do their own booking, and rely almost exclusively on agencies to do all their booking. It's a mutually beneficial relationship; the agent books his better bands into the better rooms, which means a steady income for both....and the clubs don't have to worry about auditioning bands and weeding out the amateurs, because they trust the agent to know what they're looking for.

 

That being said....all the agency bands I've known over the years did a TON of traveling, and basically lived out of their suitcases. I don't know how it is in the northeastern states, but in the southeast, very few markets can support more than one or two big clubs.....so the bands that wanted to stay busy had to be willing to drive hundreds of miles each week. (When I was gigging steadily in the '90's, most of our gigs were 6-10 hours away; anything less than 4 hours' drive time felt like a local gig.)

 

Of course, the A-list clubs means higher visibility and bigger paychecks....but that doesn't necessarily mean you'll make more money. You gotta figure the agent will take 10-15% off the top of each gig....then you'll probably spend at least $100-200 per week on gas. Some places will provide a hotel room or band house....but if they don't, then that's easily another $200-300 in expenses. Production costs are also a consideration; most A-list clubs expect A-list production.....so unless you have a huge PA and great light show, you could easily end up spending upwards of $500 to hire a production company for the weekend.

 

At the end of the day, I usually pocketed a little more money with an agency band than I do playing locally.....but only a little. So you can choose which you prefer: driving 5 hours each way to a high-profile A-list club gig and clearing maybe $150/night..... or driving 20 minutes to a local watering hole for $100/night.

 

Two more huge considerations are your job and family situations; if you have a steady job and/or a good family situation.....are you willing to sacrifice them for the band? Not to be a wet blanket....but in my experience, very very few wives or employers can tolerate a husband or employee who runs off to play rock star 3-4 days every week. They might think they'll be okay with it going in.....but they tend to change their tune after a few months. (Ask anybody who's ever been in a steadily gigging road band; the overwhelming majority of them have been married multiple times, and in far too many cases their professional success has left their personal lives in shambles.)

 

But I digress......

 

Before getting too far off the beaten path, let me say that very few agency bands deal with agencies based in their hometown. You'll probably find that most of the big A-list clubs are handled by a small handful of agencies....and if you want to get into those clubs, you'll have to talk to the agency that books them.

 

Assuming you present yourself professionally and convince the agent that you can be relied upon, don't expect to immediately land on the A-list. At first, you'll be playing small clubs and bars for little or no money as a means of establishing yourself with the agency. Part of it is paying dues, and a way of weeding out the pretenders...but it's also because they want to know that they can rely on you to show up and put on a good show before giving you their choice dates.

 

In most cases, your first A-list booking will be your agent calling you on Friday afternoon because one of his top bands blew their motor in Schenectady, and can your band be in Dover DE in six hours? (And don't despair....you'll be surprised how often this happens.) Once you've played that particular A-list club, if they give you a good review, then you'll probably be added to their rotation.....your first steady A-list gig! And once you've had success at one A-list club, the agent will be more likely to book you at other A-list clubs.

 

The good news is, it's a fairly quick process. Assuming your band is up to the task, you'll probably have your first A-list club within a couple months....and within 6-12 months, you'll probably find that A-list clubs make up a significant portion of your calendar.

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Like others have said, it's all regional. I don't have the first clue what stuff is like in KY. Out here, we do a mix of booking agents and booking stuff ourselves. The casino gigs---both in Nevada and the California Indian casinos--are pretty much held by agents. The private event stuff is hit and miss.

 

We try to have a hand in everything we can. We book some stuff directly, some through our website, some through online site like Gigmasters, some through agents. We try to be in contact with every agent we can.

 

In this day and age you really have to just try and reach every possible avenue. If you think an agent can get you gigs? Then by all means hook up with them. If that agent can't do anything for you? Then don't bother. I think it's as simple as that.

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There won't be much if any traveling involved, the very best cover bands around here travel only a few hundred miles and we are definitely not in that league. Yet.

 

 

DOH!....I didn't even notice your location.

 

Yeah, you're definitely in a very good area for a gigging band. You've got several good-sized markets and several major universities within a four-hour radius; I would think you could easily stay booked and make pretty good money without ever driving more than 3-4 hours.

 

Interestingly enough, back when I did most of my gigging during the 1990's, several of the most popular A-list bands working the "I-75 circuit" through the southeast were based out of your neck of the woods....Cincinnati, Louisville, and Indianapolis. Bands like the Hammerheads, Push Down & Turn, Velcro Pygmies, and Spit Shine Nine, just to name a few. Learned a lot from watching those guys. Good times. :)

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It sounds like you're fighting what we were fighting with the local classic rock scene. The best thing we did was to focus on *our* product. We had something different and it has only gotten better. Here's our short story... maybe it will apply to you?

 

Started band in 2008: Played mostly $350 gigs in local C-rooms that catered to classic and modern rock crowds. We also played pop, dance, and 80's and very little classic & modern rock. No one else around here was doing that and we found that some people welcomed it as a change from the local status quo. We concentrated on rooms that welcomed us and played others when/where we could.

 

Fast-forward to 2009: We got a phone call from an agency and booked a coveted room. Bottom line - we weren't ready. We didn't have a stable lineup and there were a lot of other issues that got in the way of that gig. We thought we were ready, but we weren't. BOOM - dropped like a hot potato.

 

2010 - 2011: we worked on our show, our PA, our lights, and our setlist. We paid attention to details - things that other bands didn't. We built up a fan base and slowly increased our draw.

 

Fast forward to today. We are now one of the most popular bands that play that same room from 2009 - and they chose us over agency bands for St. Patrick's Day (the manager specifically told me this as he was writing our check). We're also playing as many shows that we can handle this summer. I'm not saying we've reached A-list band status, but we've discovered that we don't need an agency to play good rooms. You probably don't either - but you still need to build your rep, agency or not. Having a good rep and a draw to go with it is pure gold!

 

FYI - that agency I mentioned has since downsized... a lot. We've only gotten busier. It can be done. :thu:

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Those are encouraging words. I never would have thought that a C room that books classic and modern rock would be a place a top 40/dance band could get any footing in. We have a joint show next weekend at exactly this type of venue, so I guess I'll get to see first hand how we are received. Our drummer is totally against playing "sh@# holes" like that though. :facepalm: It's a stepping stone, the other bands guitar player also owns an SR company - one of the biggest in town - and books a lot of the festivals and such. We are "booked" to play them this summer but he wants to see us first, so this will be an audition of sorts, determining whether we play at 5 on Thursday or 8 on Friday or Saturday. That's the only reason my drummer is on board.

 

Thanks! :thu:

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It sounds like you're fighting what we were fighting with the local classic rock scene. The best thing we did was to focus on *our* product. We had something different and it has only gotten better. Here's our short story... maybe it will apply to you?


Started band in 2008: Played mostly $350 gigs in local C-rooms that catered to classic and modern rock crowds. We also played pop, dance, and 80's and very little classic & modern rock. No one else around here was doing that and we found that some people welcomed it as a change from the local status quo. We concentrated on rooms that welcomed us and played others when/where we could.


Fast-forward to 2009: We got a phone call from an agency and booked a coveted room. Bottom line - we weren't ready. We didn't have a stable lineup and there were a lot of other issues that got in the way of that gig. We thought we were ready, but we weren't. BOOM - dropped like a hot potato.


2010 - 2011: we worked on our show, our PA, our lights, and our setlist. We paid attention to details - things that other bands didn't. We built up a fan base and slowly increased our draw.


Fast forward to today. We are now one of the most popular bands that play that same room from 2009 - and they chose us over agency bands for St. Patrick's Day (the manager specifically told me this as he was writing our check). We're also playing as many shows that we can handle this summer. I'm not saying we've reached A-list band status, but we've discovered that we don't need an agency to play good rooms. You probably don't either - but you still need to build your rep, agency or not. Having a good rep and a draw to go with it is pure gold!


FYI - that agency I mentioned has since downsized... a lot. We've only gotten busier. It can be done.
:thu:

 

Mike's band is an excellent example of pulling back when things aren't working, being patient and retooling with the resources they have. :thu: I remember a few years back when that incident happened there was the urgency that this was a one time offer. We all feel that way when an opportunity presents itself. I look at where they were then and where they are now and it's like night an day. A band that is progressing.

 

That being said a good band is not defined by agency work. I look at agents as a necessary evil but honestly they have no bearing or impact on our long term success. And we prefer it that way. We limit the amount of work we do with agents simply by the terms we expect to get booked for. It doesn't make sense for us to take a gig 100 miles away, pay, gas, tolls, incur a hotel stay and pay an agent 15% (and be taxed on top of it) if it's less than what we make at home. We traveled monthly for 4 years...1-2 times a month trying to get our foot into other markets... there were always other bands that would play for cheaper and quite a few were just as good as us. It's hard to build and maintain a room when you are there only 3x per year. It was fun, but we decided we could invest more of that energy at home, earn more and build more of a following than traveling 3 hrs to Boston 3-4 times a year. A few of the other bands that latched onto agency gigs did the same.

 

When I look at an agents band roster I'd put us in A-level for talent and presentation, B-level for marketability. We're an older band (ave age 38), high energy and put on a big show but lacking the commitment to 'rockstar' presentation. We're only available weekends, don't like to travel far and we're expensive. All things agents hate to see. When I look at the bigger destination venues in the NE the bands our 4-5 piece bands and look like they just stepped off a tour bus. It's always been that way really. And that market is as bad as it's ever been. 10 years ago the top bands were earning upwards of $10-15K per week... were gigging Tuesday thru Sunday. These days most bands are earning in the $800-1200 range... minus the agent fee. Also many longstanding rooms have dried up. The Jersey circuit is dead (couple of NJ Shore clubs)... Long Island is a graveyard. CT-RI-MA seriously challenged and on life support. I see bands in those markets looking to play more and more in my back yard. What does that say? I have a good friend in one of the top touring agency acts in the Northeast. He lives in NY and travels nearly every weekend to Baltimore to gig. Now they are agency dependent... all gigs are booked through the agent. The agency keeps them working but in concentric circles... MD on Thursday, NJ on Friday, RI on Sat. Tons of mileage. This is their job, this is the way they make their living.

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That's just it - we haven't even gotten to the point of "it" not working yet. We played for one hour at a benefit last weekend. That's it so far. Actually it was only 45 minutes, as our bass player couldn't get our sequences to play thru the board (love 15 minute setup times between bands) and continued to screw with it until I pulled the plug (pun intended) and said we're playing non-sequenced stuff tonight. I think I ticked everyone off, but we had no more time to screw with it and needed to play. Once we started, it went well, people dug us, and we had a good time. Of course after we finished, the singer looked at me and said "That will never happen again!" in reference to the sequence problem. :facepalm: Of course I'm the guy that suggested having a non-sequenced set list ready just in case, but everyone else thought it was a slam dunk. :poke:

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From what I've seen around here (Philly burbs), once you have what's needed to get the attention of any notable agency types (slick show, following, etc), you essentially have what you need to do it yourself anyway. As far as the real high level agencies, they don't even take whole bands--they take individual musicians and assemble the bands to fit their needs.

 

There are some lower level "agents" out there just getting started that are looking to build their thing, but they're not really getting much work for anyone at the moment. They're competing with the bigger agents just like we're competing with the bigger bands.

 

Obviously YMMV depending on your own scene.

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From what I've seen around here (Philly burbs), once you have what's needed to get the attention of any notable agency types (slick show, following, etc), you essentially have what you need to do it yourself anyway. As far as the real high level agencies, they don't even take whole bands--they take individual musicians and assemble the bands to fit their needs.


There are some lower level "agents" out there just getting started that are looking to build their thing, but they're not really getting much work for anyone at the moment. They're competing with the bigger agents just like we're competing with the bigger bands.


Obviously YMMV depending on your own scene.

 

 

The other thing with big agencies is that even if they do take you on, they keep their top clients working first and if you're lucky, you get thrown a bone from the scraps. It can take a very long time to move up the food chain.

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The other thing with big agencies is that even if they do take you on, they keep their top clients working first and if you're lucky, you get thrown a bone from the scraps. It can take a very long time to move up the food chain.

 

 

Yep. That's pretty much the position we're at with the big agencies. And it requires bugging them a lot so they might actually throw us a scrap once in awhile.

 

But, with the right agency, the scraps can be pretty good sometimes! They're just few and far between.

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That's just it - we haven't even gotten to the point of "it" not working yet. We played for one hour at a benefit last weekend. That's it so far. Actually it was only 45 minutes, as our bass player couldn't get our sequences to play thru the board (love 15 minute setup times between bands) and continued to screw with it until I pulled the plug (pun intended) and said we're playing non-sequenced stuff tonight. I think I ticked everyone off, but we had no more time to screw with it and needed to play. Once we started, it went well, people dug us, and we had a good time. Of course after we finished, the singer looked at me and said "That will never happen again!" in reference to the sequence problem.
:facepalm:
Of course I'm the guy that suggested having a non-sequenced set list ready just in case, but everyone else thought it was a slam dunk. :poke:

 

Again, sequences, backing tracks, automated sound fx.... if your act is dependent on those elements you will find a time and situation where they won't work as planned, and they you need to have Plan B. We have one Hip Hop medley that covers House of Pain, The Beastie Boys, Cypress Hill..etc we use backing sequences on and the sequences is run by our other keyboard player. Last weekend he had a situation with a family member and could make a local gig and I covered keyboard parts for all the remaining songs (sweating trying to remember parts). We skipped the sequenced stuff and had plenty of material to spare. We pulled it off and the audience didn't know or care. I see alot of bands box themselves in with pre-recorded tracks that the performance is dependent on and my first thought is... what happens if one day those tracks don't play (laptop crashes, cable doesn't work, hard drive or thumb drive fails). We always have some redundancy.

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From what I've seen around here (Philly burbs), once you have what's needed to get the attention of any notable agency types (slick show, following, etc), you essentially have what you need to do it yourself anyway.

 

 

Same out here. At least promo-wise. You won't even get looked at unless your promo is already slick and ready to go. They aren't going to do any of that for you.

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Same out here. At least promo-wise. You won't even get looked at unless your promo is already slick and ready to go. They aren't going to do any of that for you.

 

 

Yep, yep,and yep for here, too.

 

In the 80s, our agency had between 15 and 20 bands on the road full time, and actually represented the bands, not the clubs. They handled everything for us- arranged photo shoots, put together our promo kits, printed up our bios and songlists on agency letterhead, when a regional record company wanted to sign us they negotiated the deal and had their lawyers review the contracts and arrange the album artwork, with final approval up to us, etc. But even more, they set us up with their accountant to do our taxes, handled problems with venue owners or management, provided bands/band members with lawyers if needed, paid bills for some of the band members on extended road trips, arranged for replacement band members if a band had someone quit or fired, pretty much whatever any bands needed done. Man, I wish those days were still here sometimes!

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In the 80s, our agency had between 15 and 20 bands on the road full time, and actually represented the bands, not the clubs. They handled everything for us- arranged photo shoots, put together our promo kits, printed up our bios and songlists on agency letterhead, when a regional record company wanted to sign us they negotiated the deal and had their lawyers review the contracts and arrange the album artwork, with final approval up to us, etc. But even more, they set us up with their accountant to do our taxes, handled problems with venue owners or management, provided bands/band members with lawyers if needed, paid bills for some of the band members on extended road trips, arranged for replacement band members if a band had someone quit or fired, pretty much whatever any bands needed done. Man, I wish those days were still here sometimes!

Are you sure you weren't in Rock & Roll Heaven and accidentally got re-incarnated or shipped down to Hell (AKA the here-and-now) ?

 

;)

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Yep, yep,and yep for here, too.


In the 80s, our agency had between 15 and 20 bands on the road full time, and actually represented the bands, not the clubs. They handled everything for us- arranged photo shoots, put together our promo kits, printed up our bios and songlists on agency letterhead, when a regional record company wanted to sign us they negotiated the deal and had their lawyers review the contracts and arrange the album artwork, with final approval up to us, etc. But even more, they set us up with their accountant to do our taxes, handled problems with venue owners or management, provided bands/band members with lawyers if needed, paid bills for some of the band members on extended road trips, arranged for replacement band members if a band had someone quit or fired, pretty much whatever any bands needed done. Man, I wish those days were still here sometimes!

 

We didn't have quite THAT active an agent back then, but close. These days we have do everything, but I suppose the other side is no one is exclusive with any agencies any more. Back then if we had even THOUGHT of taking a gig and not including our agent in on the deal, we'd be screwed.

 

Now we not only pay for all our own photos but we go out of our way to put the different agency's logos on them before we send them copies. :facepalm:

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