A Guide on Entertainment Agents and Bookers

wedding bands

Trawling the local circuit for paid work will inevitably introduce you to the local ‘Entertainment Agent’ or ‘Promoter’. Both provide an essential service to artists and bands by removing the hassle of finding gigs.

Their main function is to find the acts on their books as many gigs as possible. A good entertainment agent will be in touch with other agents and promoters who may exchange information on who they currently have touring or swap/share gigs. This gives their artists the opportunity to open a show, appear with a more established act or deputise for a last minute booking.

Commission and Booking Fees

Agencies collect their fees in various ways depending on the type of client and act they’re dealing with.

Commission

The Agent will advertise your services and negotiate your fee with the client, venue or promoter on your behalf. They will then charge you a commission for arranging the booking. The standard commission fee is between 15-20% of your gross earnings on each booking and subsequent rebookings.

Booking Fee

Charging a booking fee to clients has become more popular in recent years. Rather than charge the artist a commission, the agent will take a deposit directly from the client at the time of booking, which will then be their fee. This means there’s no need to collect a fee from the artist at all. Booking fees are typically 15-20% + VAT.

Buying and Selling an Act

Some agents prefer to ‘buy’ the band for a set fee and then ‘sell’ the band on to a venue or client for a higher fee. The difference between the purchase and selling price is the agent’s profit. This is more common with corporate bookings. Agents may switch between the two methods depending on the type of act, client or venue they are dealing with.

Finding a Reputable Agent

Since registration with the DTI ceased to be a requirement, anyone can set up their own agency and there’s very little regulatory control. Many agencies are here today and gone tomorrow or have been known to collect artist fees and not pass them on. Be careful about which agents you work with, research them on Companies House, read reviews on Google and talk to other performers using their services.

Upfront Fees

Never pay upfront fees to an agent! Agencies are only allowed to charge artists an upfront fee to pay for promotional material or listings in publications.

live music agent

The Entertainment Agent

An entertainment agent deals with all styles of cover bands, musicians and entertainers, ranging from classical to cabaret and comedy. Entertainment agents often have a large roster with a myriad of artists, all looking for more work.

The range of venues and clients they work with varies depending on the reputation of the agency and the chosen area of specialisation. Most local agents are independent and book acts/bands for pubs, clubs, weddings and corporate events, whereas others concentrate on providing entertainment for Cruise Ships, Theatres, Hotels and International Venues. To find out which area an agency specialises in, visit their website and view the roster.

Exclusive Contracts

If you’re searching for one agent to represent you exclusively, look at their past endeavours and talk to musicians who have used their services before signing a contract. Unless an agent can guarantee regular work, it isn’t beneficial to use one agency. Most agents have many artists on their roster, meaning bookings are shared between acts.

The ‘Entertainment Agency’  is often made up of several agents, each of whom may cater to a different type of venue or client.  Some specialise in new artists and original bands, but the majority are similar to independent agents and deal with a variety of entertainers, including dancers, singers, musicians and comedians.

The Music Promoter 

Music promoters book cover bands, tributes and original acts/bands for regular showcases, festivals and venues, sometimes running a circuit within an area to promote specific styles of music. The Promoter is not an agent but organises events where they book acts to appear. Many promoters work on behalf of a venue and don’t charge a commission to the act/band. More established promoters will often give local original artists a support gig for one of their more popular or major acts/bands with ‘Audition’ or ‘New Band’ nights to encourage and promote live music.

Payment to the artists varies, with many promoters handing out tickets to the band members which are counted after the gig and a small percentage of the takings paid to the artist. More established headline acts/bands may be offered a flat fee. The promoter either takes a percentage of the door fee or is paid by the venue.

It’s true that many artists have lost money through dishonest promoters, however, those that are not on a weekly wage invariably pay out all expenses, advertising, p.a. hire, sound engineer and other staff fees from the door money. In other words, don’t expect to get paid if there isn’t much of an audience unless you have signed a contract or made an agreement with the promoter for a standard fee.

It’s a completely different ball game for signed or popular artists who can command a fee, specify P.A. & lighting requirements and provide their own sound engineer.

Read our Example Agency Contract and Confirmation Booking Letter

Agents’ Association of Great Britain
The Official Association for Entertainment Agents and Bookers. Search for registered agents in the UK providing every style and genre of music.

singer working as booking agent

Be Your Own Agent

Beginners and established performers often find that their bookings still need some padding out despite using several agencies! A competent manager should organise and co-ordinate an act’s public performances, but there are many singers, bands and musicians who gain the majority of their live work through their own efforts, recommendations and gig swapping with like-minded others.

Whether organising bookings for your own act/band or a selection of musician friends, you will need to be organised! Here are some pointers to get you started:

  • Keep records/database of all enquiries, contacts, venues, artists and deputy musicians. You can use a simple Excel/Google Sheets table or a more advanced CRM/Booking system.
  • Create a standard set of documents and emails, including booking formscontracts, confirmation emails, invoices, and receipts.
  • Create a website showcasing all of your acts. Each profile page must include photos, mp3s, videos, reviews and a biography. Find out more on our EPK article.
  • Create social media pages for your acts and keep them active. There’s nothing worse than an abandoned social media page!
  • Create promotional material, including business cards, posters, flyers and press releases.
  • Keep receipts and records of all incoming and outgoing finances. We recommend using accounting software such as Xero, Quickbooks or Freshbooks.
  • Online contract software such as Adobe Sign or DocuSign. Gone are the days of paper contracts in the post!
  • Reliable phone line and voicemail.
  • To-Do lists. Never assume you can remember everything for every booking. Create a to-do list using Apple Reminders or Google Calendar.

Being an agent is about promoting your acts, building contacts, providing excellent, reliable entertainment and keeping track of payments and bookings.

As your own agent, you’re responsible for ensuring that there’s suitable P.A. and lighting equipment, agreeing on performance times, and dealing with the financial side of the business.

It’s unlikely you’ll be as successful as a dedicated agent, especially when you’re also trying to create, rehearse and perform on a regular basis. However, acting as your own agent gives you some insight into the workings of an agency, which will help when seeking agencies to represent you.