The main responsibility of a rock band is to make music, not spend all day on the phone trying to book the next gig. That's why many musicians hire booking agents, also known as talent agents. A booking agent is half employment agent and half salesman. It's the booking agent's job to find work for his clients by convincing club owners that the band will generate ticket sales.
A booking agent negotiates with promoters on behalf of the band and the band's manager. Promoters are the people in charge of booking acts at a concert venue. The booking agent not only reserves concert dates at clubs, but negotiates the band's fee or percentage of the ticket sales.
A booking agent spends his day in constant communication with managers, promoters, theaters, clubs and artists, booking gigs six months to a year ahead. In many cases, the agent is trying to assemble a regional, national or international concert tour for a band. This requires careful scheduling and routing to ensure that the band can get to every venue on time.
Not only does a booking agent have to book gigs for her existing stable of artists, but she has to be constantly on the lookout for new talent. She might receive tips from friends in the recording industry or from the bands she already represents. She'll spend hours listening to CDs of new artists and browsing MySpace pages. In the end, she has to trust her musical instinct to figure out which bands have the best chance of making it big.
Booking agents can either be independent or work for a larger talent agency. For an up-and-coming band, there's a distinct advantage to being signed by a booking agent at a large talent agency [source: Wavra]. Let's say your booking agent works for the William Morris Agency, which also represents The Killers and Snoop Dogg. It's much easier to land an opening spot for one of these big-name acts if your agents share an office.
At a talent agency, bookers are often assigned a specific region of the country or part of the world. They get to know all of the major concert venues in that area and establish relationships with the promoters. So when it's time to schedule a major tour for one of the agency's clients, the booker can go straight to the promoters and start reserving dates.
Nearly half of all states in the United States require a special license to be a booking agent, but the strictest regulations are in California and New York [source: Agent Association]. In California, booking agents fall under the legal umbrella of talent agents. They're required to get a license from the Labor Commissioner, submit standard contracts for approval and are forbidden from charging more than 20 percent commission (10 percent when working with union talent) [source: Agent Association].
Many booking agents pride themselves on doing more than just booking dates for a band. They see themselves as part of an artist's team -- manager, lawyer, agent -- looking out for the interests of the band and helping it develop a successful career path.
Now let's look at a second kind of booking agent: movie bookers.