Booking is one of the most interesting activities in the live music industry, although it is the most alien to audiences.
If there is an area within the music industry that is particularly unknown to the general public, it is booking. A fundamental piece in this business and always hidden.
The truth is that the world of music, in general, is a fairly complex framework in which the artists and their works are the essential and visible part, the irreplaceable engine. But behind them there is a whole universe that is not exposed and, consequently, with which few are familiar.
Record labels and festivals are topics that are frequently discussed among the average listener. We know to a large extent the roles that promoters and managers play. But the same does not happen with music publishers and bookings. Today we are going to focus on the latter because no, this word does not refer only to a famous hotel search engine.
What is music booking and what is its purpose?
Booking is the activity through which an agency or a person, the booker, seeks performances for an artist or group. Although being strict, more than looking, it’s his job is to sell.
In this way, the booker, as a commercial agent, sells the show of its artists to promoters, festivals, programmers, city councils, private events, etc. Their main task is to find the appropriate date and place where the musicians who have hired their services can perform concerts.
A priori, we associate this professional activity with managers. Many tend to carry them out, but it is usual to leave them in the hands of professionals specialized in this task. In fact, it is not unusual to find a booking department in a management agency. Although, of course, there are also booking agencies as an independent entity.
What is the main difference between booking and management?
The main difference that defines one figure and another is that the manager ensures that his clients develop a satisfactory career, advising and managing in multiple aspects that go from the control of numbers to the suitability of establishing an advertising commitment, getting appearances in the media and other decisions that are relevant to their career. While the booker, as we have pointed out previously, is in charge of selling the performances, obtaining advantageous contracts and ensuring that they are fulfilled, of course always under the guidelines of the managers, when it comes to closing a negotiation, the manager has the last word.
We can say that booking professionals are something like the intermediaries between managers (and artists) and event organizers. However, it would be a mistake to reduce them to a mere nexus, since their profile is enormously valuable to focus and develop the career of artists properly.
What profile should a booker have?
The booker has always played a relevant role in the business of the live music industry, but it became vital with the paradigm shift brought about by the record crisis at the dawn of the new century. In the past, the artist’s main income derived from the sale of records, and live performances were an opportunity to promote them. Now the picture is very different. The tables have been turned, and the album has become the excuse to go on tour.
With live experience turned into the main source of income for artists and, furthermore, the center of the industry, the requirement of expert knowledge becomes essential. What skills must you have to be a solvent professional?
Knowing how the industry works
Who are the different agents you have to deal with, how negotiations are carried out and at what times, know the industry terminology and the types of contracts.
Knowing the different genres and musical styles
This way you can define the profile of the artists you work with and appropriately direct your efforts to connect them with your target audience.
Knowing the musical circuits
Each genre has its circuit of venues, and each venue, as well as festivals, has its own programming criteria. The potential audience that we alluded to in the previous point congregates in these venues. A folk group, for example, has no place in a hardcore punk festival. In the same way that a flamenco artist doesn’t come up in a disco focused on EDM.
Know the right promoters to negotiate with and to sell the performance to. The promoters know their areas, their audiences and the ideal places to carry out the concerts well.
Knowing how to negotiate
This is the basis of your professional practice. You have to manage the best dates, the best venues and events, and the best contracts. You must know when to give in and when to demand, since you are exposed to many variables. Have you ever wondered why several festivals have the same groups on their poster? Because many times they are “packs” that bookers sell. When a festival wants a headliner, the booker who negotiates the performance doesn’t miss the opportunity to add smaller bands to their roster to give them visibility.
Having social skills
As we have said, it is essential to have contacts, and these are not exchanged like .mp3 files. They are guarded with suspicion, so there is no room for shame. The booker has to be where the action is, starting conversations, making himself known and having a good contact list. But what he has to be really good at is building trust. You may have a group with great potential on your hands, but it will be of little use if you cannot convince the promoter or festival on duty to give them a chance.
Being up to date with the news
Get to know the new groups that are causing the talk, the release dates of the new albums and the new fashions. It is possible that a group contacts a booker to work with them in the same way it is this the booker who takes the initiative to work with an artist if they see possibilities of profitability. This professional, if he is aware of emerging talent and smells the next best seller, can sign an exclusive contract with the artist to find him shows in exchange for a commission that usually ranges between 8% and 10%. If your nose does not fail you, the agreement can be perfect. In these cases, until not long ago intuition reigned, but now, with our service, that instinct is closer to becoming certainty.
Having a strategic vision
Signing exclusivity agreements or optimally scheduling and planning tours are not actions to be taken lightly. The concerts are not planned from one day to the next, but are projected several months in advance. The different appointments must be very well located and follow a logical sequence. Drop.Show facilitates this purpose, since the Single Reports show the cities where the artists have the most listeners, which allows better targeting the points of action and the marketing actions. Regarding the logical sequence, it goes without saying that it would not make sense to act one day in the north of Spain, the next day in the south and again in the north the following day. And all without neglecting the different conditions that can alter your plans and that you cannot, under any circumstances, go through something, as we explained to you here: holidays, inappropriate times, other events that may attract more interest or the weather.
The music industry world is a sea of troubled waters, so this skill is very necessary to quickly and satisfactorily solve any unforeseen event. You must think fast and act accordingly.
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