In this industry, the term “agent” is commonly used to refer to a party whose specific role is booking live performance gigs (“engagements”) and arranging for payments from the hiring parties. In this regard, then, the music artist agent, commonly referred to as a “booking agent”, commonly assumes a more limited function than would the agent of, say, an actor or model or dancer. Agents in those disciplines are very often more like artist managers in terms of their scope of activities and responsibilities.
Nonetheless, music industry agents do come in all variety of shapes, sizes and colours. For instance, a booking agent might also handle some of the logistics for promotion of a gig, although that is commonly left to up to the hiring party, and some may take an even greater role with certain performers by finding such things as endorsement and sponsorship opportunities or song placement/work in commercials.
It is worth noting that in some jurisdictions, such as certain provinces and states in Canada and the US, regulations have been enacted to protect artists from the practice of “double dipping” by representatives, whereby the party takes one commission as agent for booking the engagement and a second fee as manager out of the artist’s general earnings. This eliminates a major financial incentive for one party to act as both agent and manager. However, where for whatever reason that isn’t a factor, the agent may cross over into the management realm and may be more open to helping with such things as talent development, choosing song material, offering advice regarding elements in the performer’s show, promoting and publicizing the artist, and so on.
Some agents deal with gig opportunities primarily or exclusively in their local region while others deal nationally or internationally. Some specialize in one genre of music, others work in several and still others just about any style. They range in size from one-person operations to sizable staffed enterprises.
In light of the above, if you are an artist you should check out well any agent you are considering before committing to any particular one. Indeed, many don’t require an exclusive arrangement. So, you might find yourself in a position where it is possible and, indeed, most appropriate, to be working with more than one.
Why would an agent not want to tie you up to an exclusive arrangement? The reasons are mainly twofold:
1) the agent wants to build as large a list as possible of available artists in order to reduce the likelihood of situations occurring where they would not be able to fill the needs of their hiring party clients. For most agents, requiring an exclusive would significantly reduce the number of acts willing to sign with them; and
2) the agent isn’t prepared to accept the higher level of commitment to obtain work that would be expected of them by the act in a relationship based on an exclusive arrangement.
Regardless, the basics that any agent will want to know about you are: the number of people in your act, your availability, your repertoire, your stage presence and how you conduct yourself, both on and off stage.
I’ll have more to relate concerning this particular industry player in future blogs, including the realities of working with an agent, more about what they do and how they do it, things to consider when looking for one, how to find an appropriate one and what your agreement with them might look like. I welcome your questions and comments.