The music industry has never been more valuable, and yet many live-concert venues are struggling to find a lane in a complicated post-pandemic world. Even with more opportunities than ever to connect musicians with fans, laying the groundwork for successful shows can feel nearly impossible without the right tools and outlook. Despite the complexity, however, motivated booking agents now have plenty of opportunities to play outsized roles in the still-recovering scene of live music.
By embracing the chase for meaningful relationships and utilizing the right tech solutions, any booking agent can find success no matter the challenges ahead. Combining the tried-and-true techniques of yesterday with today’s best methods can yield the connections that will make all the difference. Despite the industry shakeup, booking agents have never been more critical as we move into the wild new frontier of live music.
What You Can Do to Fortify Connections as a Booking Agent
Whether you’re just starting out or looking to enhance your footprint as a booking agent, there are some basic ways to improve your business. Some steps to consider include:
- Focus on your niche
- Be as flexible as possible
- Look for creative ways to build relationships
- Ensure efficiency behind the scenes
Even if you consider yourself an eclectic agent with an ear for any genre, mastering a smaller portion of the music industry can be enormously beneficial. Finding a niche can help you earn a reputation for being an expert within your subgenre, helping you keep the talent you have while organically reaching new artists. When you build a reputation on a smaller scale, you should be able to spend more time reacting to musicians who want to be in business with you instead of chasing new acts.
Being flexible has also never been more important. While being versatile within social media will help you find the right venues to fit the talent, utilizing local newspapers and connecting with prominent local organizations can also be routes to success. As always, connecting venues and musical talent is more of an art than a science; the path forward may be one you have never even considered before.
While consistently following up on all opportunities can help craft successful professional relationships, the nuts-and-bolts part of the business needs to be as efficient as possible. Cloud-based calendars, contracts, and accounting will save you time and ensure your agency looks like it’s built for the future. Instead of spending extra time on spreadsheets and old-school contracts, a booking agent should be focused on building relationships with venue managers and musicians.
How Networking Changed with the Pandemic
Two years after the Covid-19 pandemic forever changed music, independent venue operators came to Cleveland for the first-ever National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) conference. What transpired was two days of music and optimism as hundreds of industry pros plotted the way forward. After NIVA successfully pushed for the $16 billion Shuttered Venue Operator Grant, it became clear that connecting independent venues is the clearest path to regaining a critical foothold in the industry.
The mid-summer Independent Venue Week also highlighted the importance of connecting venues that once were fiercely independent. By forging exciting new partnerships and playing a series of well-produced shows, a decentralized network of venues was able to make a powerful statement about the cultural importance of live music.
Beyond the statement of unity, however, the events highlighted an important principle that any booking agent should pay attention to. In order to hold a place in the post-pandemic world of music, new alliances and relationships will need to be considered. This might even mean forming connections with other agencies that might have been strictly competitors before the pandemic. More than ever, booking agents all over the globe are embracing the possibility of win-win relationships that might have been rare in previous years.
Agents also need to consider novel ways of connecting musicians to fans. Some industry pros suggest tearing down barriers between musicians and fans, offering connections that can’t be duplicated via streaming. A band willing to work the door to a venue or share a drink with fans can be invaluable outreach that can generate terrific buzz for both venue and artist. To make such connections possible, booking agents need to have a great feel for the strengths of a venue and of the band. By knowing the talent and landing the right venue, fresh opportunities can spring from anywhere.
What Hasn’t Changed
A lot of things have changed, but not everything. There are still some essential parts of networking that every booking agent needs to keep in mind, such as:
- Creating realistic expectations
- Keeping your word
- Meeting face-to-face whenever possible
- Cutting the right deal
- Basic professionalism
It’s OK to have high expectations—as long as you can deliver. While musicians tend to be hungry to get their music out to as many fans as possible, a booking agent needs to be able to set expectations that straddle optimism and reality. Setting unrealistic expectations about an event is a surefire way to destroy confidence and diminish a budding professional relationship. Correspondingly, keeping your word remains essential throughout all parts of the booking process; same as it ever was, an agent who can’t be trusted will quickly undercut their own reputation.
Music before the pandemic was also predominately a face-to-face business, which is still mostly true today. Emails, social media messages, and phone calls are important aspects of networking, but venue managers and musicians want to know a booking agent by face. While this might mean the occasional video chat, business relationships that rely upon face-to-face communication establish higher levels of trust. This certainly extends to building relationships with venue managers and musicians.
Consistently cutting an equitable deal is also critical to the success of any booking agent. Agents with stronger relationships will have an easier time landing a deal that everyone is comfortable with, laying the foundation for successful events. And when a concert wraps, nothing will showcase an agent’s professionalism better than quickly handling the settlement process. Agents who tap the power of bookkeeping automation will have a leg up when it comes time to finish an event and send all parties home happy.
Seizing Opportunities as the Future of Music Takes Shape
Any booking agent who made it through the challenge of a lifetime deserves credit simply for hanging in there. Moving forward, the rebalanced music industry will have many challenges, although versatile and committed agents have a world of opportunity before them.
Even as intimidating developments like live-streaming and eventually the metaverse come into maturity, booking agents who know how to network will always have a place. As Forbes points out, the future of music will still come down to making connections between fans and artists—whether that’s in a physical, virtual, or hybrid space.
That is exactly why mastering the networking component is and will always be vital to a booking agent’s success. Although new aspects will become mainstream (e.g., augmented reality), there is still a need for professional agents to match the right artist with the right venue. Any agent who can emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic with strong networking habits will be positioned to make an impact no matter where the industry goes from here.
How Automation Paves the Way for Booking Agents
Although booking agents are often the unsung heroes of a concert, the days of having to do all the heavy lifting behind the scenes are now long behind us. As we head deeper into the digital age, automation can now dramatically lighten the busy work, enhance an agent’s professionalism, and allow more time for building a business via networking. Agents who are still manually entering data and not taking advantage of cloud computing run the risk of an entire operation appearing backward-looking.
With an easy-to-integrate platform designed by and for industry professionals, Prism can provide an automated lift that can make all the difference. For a full demo, contact Prism to see the benefits of bringing your booking agency into the future of music management.