For those looking to enter the exciting live music and entertainment industry, becoming a booking agent or running a booking agency can be lucrative and rewarding. Booking agents build relationships and develop artists’ careers through the booking of live events and performances. Many booking agents are themselves musicians, and they rely on their network of industry and venue contacts while on the job. Moreover, equipped with a computer and a phone, booking agents can conduct their business from anywhere in the world, which makes the job a great choice for those who travel a lot.
Whether you are looking to augment your musical career as a booking agent, start your own booking agency or work for a major booking agency, earning a master’s degree in music business, such as the Frost School of Music’s Master of Music in Music Business and Entertainment Industries (MBEI), can give you the knowledge and practical skills you need.
What Exactly Does a Booking Agent Do?
A booking agent is responsible for booking live performances for artists at music venues, theaters, festivals or anywhere else offering live entertainment. Typically, they do this on a contractual basis by agreement with either the artists themselves or the artists’ managers. Booking agents contact venues to pitch performances, and they act as points of contact for talent buyers interested in booking an artist.
The booking agent negotiates compensation in the form of guarantees, flat fees, and percentages of ticket or bar sales. They also handle details such as hospitality riders, accommodation and food buyouts, performance duration and even technical equipment specifications. Once all parties agree, the agent draws up a contract (formally or informally) that includes all the details, including load-in times, set-up times, performance time and duration. The agent then advances all this information to the artist or their manager. Booking agents are also responsible for the collection of all fees in full from the venue.
How Do You Become a Booking Agent?
There are many ways to become a booking agent. Studying the business-focused aspects of entertainment booking in a master’s degree in music business program can be a direct path to this career. (These degree programs offer the added benefits of developing industry contacts and hands-on experience in the music industry.) From there, you can apply for a job at a large agency and work your way through the ranks. Alternatively, you can start your own booking agency with local artists and develop your network.
A good case study is Alan Brown, owner of Please and Thank You Booking as well as talent buyer, agent, and promoter for Spune Productions. Brown started as a music scene regular in Lubbock, Texas, running an independent record store and booking shows around town. As his friends’ bands started to take off locally, he began helping them book national tours, thus becoming a booking agent. As his roster of artists and his network of national contacts developed, Please and Thank You Booking was born. Brown has since leveraged his experience to work for larger agencies and industry companies, including Spune in Fort Worth, a production company and a national booking agency where he currently works.
How Much Do Booking Agents Make?
Independent booking agents generally work on commission: the industry standard is 10 to 15 percent of the overall earnings from a performance. Simply put, it is in an agent’s best interest to book lots of shows at the highest fees possible. At a 15 percent commission, a 30-day tour for an artist booked at $1,000 a show would earn an agent $4,500. Larger booking agencies charge similar commission rates, though the agents they employ usually work for a percentage of that commission or a standard hourly wage or salary. The rest of the agency’s earnings cover overhead, management salaries and stakeholder profits.
Becoming a booking agent — either on your own or with an established agency — can offer a rewarding career path for a music-oriented person with strong business and people skills. An online master’s degree program in Music in Music Business and Entertainment Industries offers you the opportunity to develop these skills and establish industry contacts, which can help you succeed in the enticing world of live music and entertainment booking.
Learn more about the Frost MBEI online program.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.