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/bands by removing the hassle of finding gigs. Their main function is to find the acts on their books as many gigs as possible, some may even help to put together a sensible gigging strategy.  A good 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 or appear with a more established act or deputise for a late cancellation in a venue otherwise unavailable.

An Agent can either negotiate on your behalf with the venue or promoter for a fee and charge you a commission for arranging the booking or the agent will ‘buy’ the band for a fee, and then ‘sell’ the band on to a venue for a higher fee. The difference between the purchase and selling price is the agent’s profit. He/She may switch between the two methods depending on the type of show that the venue requires.  The standard commission fee is between 15-20% of your gross earnings on each booking they provide and for each subsequent rebooking in the venue. Avoid paying more than 20% if at all possible and don’t bother with those that charge more unless they getting YOU loads of work for lots of money!!

Since registration with the DTI ceased to be a requirement anyone can set up their own agency.  There is very little regulatory control, many agencies are here today and gone tomorrow or have been know to collect artist fees but not pass them on, so do be careful, check them out prior to using, chat to other performers using their services, contact local venues for recommendations.  There were some rumours that the DTI regulations where going to be re-instated we don’t have any further information at this time.  Seek advice from local artists/bands, use long standing agents with good reputations and read the trade newspapers for news of agents who have defaulted or stopped trading.

Stop Press!! Up-front fees prohibited!! Agencies that charge up-front fees to entertainers, models and extras before finding them work have finally been outlawed in legislation published by the Department for Trade and Industry. – read more at The Stage

The Entertainment Agent

An entertainment agent deals mainly with all styles of ‘Covers Acts, Bands and Entertainers’ ranging from Classical to Cabaret and Comedy with a myriad of artists on their books all pushing for more work!  Their range of venue 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.  The only way to tell which area the agency specialises in is to visit their sites or find their ads in local and trade papers, directories etc.  If you are searching for one agent to represent you look at their past endeavours and talk to musicians who have used their services before signing an exclusive contract.  Unless an agent can guarantee regular work it is not productive to use one agency, most have many artists on their books and are required by their bookers to provide a variety of entertainers.  This limits the amount of paid bookings you are likely to receive, so find several reliable agents who like your act and are perceptive enough to place you in venues that are going to appreciate your style of music.

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

The Music Promoter 

Music promoters books covers, tributes and original acts/bands for regular Showcases, Festivals or 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 do not 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 vary 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/s.  More established and 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 dodgy 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 prior agreement with the promoter on a standard fee.

Its a totally different ball game for signed or popular artists who can command a fee, specify P.A. & Lighting requirements plus provide their own sound engineer.

Read our Example Agency Contract and Confirmation Booking Letter

Agents’ Association of Great Britain
54 Keyes House
Dolphin Square
London SW1V 3NA
Tel: 020 7834 0515  Fax: 020 7821 0261
Email:- association@agents-uk.com
The Official Association for Entertainment Agents and Bookers.  Search for registered agents in the UK providing every style and genre of music plus an Artist Search facility at the Directory of British Entertainment.

National Entertainment Agents Council
PO Box 112
East Sussex, BN25 2DQ
Tel: +44 (0) 870 755 7612
Professional Trade Body for Entertainment Agents. This site provides fully searchable contact details for UK Agents, as well as describing the Rules, Code of Conduct, Aims of the organisation, and the Benefits of Membership.

Be Your Own Agent

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

Whether organising bookings for your own act/band or a selection of musician friends you will need to be Organised!

Keep records/database of all contacts, venues, artists (or deputisers)

Create standard letters, i.e., booking formscontractsconfirmation letters, invoices, receipts.

Create promotional material for yourself/acts and/or agency, e.g., Business Cards, Posters, Flyers, Press Releases

Keep receipts and records of all incoming and outgoing finances – Manual & Computerised Book-keeping courses are available at local colleges or a range of finance software packages can be found via local stores and on the internet.

Reliable Telephone, Fax and Answering Machine should, if possible be kept on a separate line.

Most Important – Keep a Desk Diary or Wall Calendar next to the telephone for a quick view of dates booked/available and a ‘To Do’ Board for notes of ‘call backs’, payment requests etc.

Create an office area, complete with a filing cabinet or shelving and fax/phone and set aside time to concentrate on bookings and paperwork.  A computer, printer, mobile telephone or pager and your own website promoting your act and/or agency services are also handy!

We covered the basics on how and where to look for paid bookings in How to Be Heard, the rest is a matter of building good contacts, providing excellent, reliable entertainment and keeping track of payments and bookings.

As an agent for yourself you are responsible for ensuring that the venue/promoter has suitable P.A. and Lighting Equipment or providing your own, agreeing performance times, negotiating and collecting fees/commissions.  If you choose to liaise and share/swap gigs with other agents/artists, ensure all contracts and information are clear before sending/signing with copies available to all parties (including one for your reference).

It is unlikely you will be as successful as a dedicated agent, especially when you are 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!

Start Your Own Talent Booking Agency
Learn how to own your own Entertainment Agency, a step-by-step guide by Randy Charach instantly available as a PDF eBook easily downloadable to your PC or Mac. Includes: Types of Bookings, Types of Acts to Book, Types of Events, Where the Money Is, How to Find Acts, How to Find Clients, Positioning & Packaging, Additional Revenue Streams, Your Business Structure, Your Business Plan, Your Office, How to Get Started Now, How to Sell your Agency.

Admin/Management Software
Booking/agency/management/tour managers software and online solutions for organising/syncing data, keeping track of artists/bookings and much more Click Here for our listings.

Agents & Live Work
Musicians Union Article provides information on the contractual differences between an employment agent and an employment business.

Read How to find an Agent
Article at The Stage