The Increasing Challenges for Talent Buyers
Talent buyers are an integral part of the live music industry. They are responsible for booking the talent for a venue or event, such as a live music festival, and also act as the liaison between talent and the venue. Most talent buyers balance their time between wooing acts to their venue and fielding calls from bands and their agents who want to book their performance at that venue. They may also be responsible for hiring the production team and preparing the venue for the event. Seems easy enough, but in today’s market, competition has heated up, challenging talent buyers to keep their venue in the game.
The music industry is hotter than ever globally. The live music industry in the U.S. is forecasted to grow from approximately $9 billion in 2015 to nearly $12 billion in 2021. Live music concerts top the list of where Americans are spending their music money, followed by small, live music sessions. The demand is there, and it’s up to the savvy talent buyer to seize on the opportunity to deliver what music fans want.
For talent buyers looking to get ahead, even small adjustments in tools and practices can yield significant results. It’s easy to get complacent and do things the way they’ve always been done, but if you never evolve, your business will remain stagnant. Follow these four booking strategies to bump up your game.
Get to Know Your Audience
One of the biggest differentiators between talent buyers is how well they know their audience. According to The Balance Careers, “It’s the talent buyer’s job to understand the music audience in their town, and to book bands that will appeal to that market.” Depending on where you operate, your audience may be predictable or dynamic. For instance, Austin is the self-proclaimed “live music capital of the world.” It’s also one of the fastest-growing cities in the country and a major destination in Texas for tourists. This creates an interesting dynamic for talent buyers who must find all kinds of talent to please differing audience preferences while making their venue stand out.
Typically, a talent buyer represents one or more venues. It’s their job to keep the calendar filled with acts that will draw an audience. Most of these venues have their own vibe. They have a regular following who frequents the venue because of the music they’ll hear. This is the easy part for a talent buyer – maintaining the expectations of the regular audience by booking the bands they know their audience wants to hear.
But we all know that a venue can’t count solely on its “regulars.” People are fickle. Their tastes change and so do their lifestyles, proximity and financial means. Similarly, new venues are popping up all of the time. Much like a restaurateur who keeps crowd favorites on the menu while changing things up with daily or weekly specials, a talent buyer can help keep things fresh and attract new guests by frequently booking new talent.
The key to doing this right is still to know your audience. Do your “regulars” typically come on Friday and Saturday nights? Consider booking an unexpected, up-and-coming band on Thursday night. Or, book a new band in a similar music genre open for a Friday night headliner to expose the audience to something different. Is there a local event that draws visitors to your area? What kind of live music do those people typically go see? Work with agents to book popular bands in that genre to leverage the influx of tourists.
Keep an Eye on Social
In order to understand which bands are trending, particularly those who may yet to be mainstream, look no further than social media. You can track downloads, views, likes and followers easily and for free. The best time to book the bands people are talking about is when they’re still in their infancy. Social media is the ideal place to get a good sense for a band’s music and the audience that follows them. YouTube and other social channels are giving even the most obscure bands a platform where they can become instant fan favorites or viral disasters. Justin Bieber was discovered on YouTube, so you never know. It’s better to have a sense of which way it may go on YouTube than at your venue. If you like what you see and think the talent will resonate with your audience, bring them to your venue to give them the opportunity they’re looking for while attracting their fans and new listeners.
You can also see if that performer has ever been to your city. Be the first to offer them a venue and you may end up becoming their local venue of choice every time they pass through. With so many venues from which to choose, it’s always a good thing to be the venue that gave them their break.
Make Friends with Agents
Booking agents should be your best friends. As just stated, agents are always looking for the best venue to host and take care of their bands. Markets like Austin have lots of options, making it challenging for talent buyers to get the attention they want for their venue.
By working closely with key agents, giving their up-and-coming bands a venue and their tried-and-true bands a regular place to call home, talent buyers will build loyalty. Making sure the band and those working with them have all of their needs taken care of doesn’t hurt, either. Here’s the key: you must establish and nurture relationships with those agents. It’s easy to get busy and lose track of agents, particularly if you haven’t worked with them in a while. Make a point to check in on them regularly to ask about their business, the new talent they’re representing, their existing talent status, etc. By staying on their radar, even when you’re not actively booking their talent, you’ll be less likely to fade into the periphery as other talent buyers gain traction.
Beyond taking the time to engage with agents, consider sending them a monthly newsletter where you highlight the talent you’ve booked at your venue, upcoming shows, any venue enhancements, and open calendar dates. Invite them to follow you on social media and be sure to return the favor and follow them. Finally, get feedback from them and the band they represent any time you book their talent. You want them to feel like you care about their and their talent’s experience and are continuously working to improve those experiences.
Stay Organized and Efficient
Finally, consider investing in talent buying software to help you stay organized and more efficient. If you want to have time to nurture those relationships and keep tabs on talent, you need your operations to run as smoothly as possible, and that means automating them. Manually tracking holds, calendars, offers, expenses and communications or using disconnected systems sucks valuable time and introduces risk. Remember, you have competition and want to get your venue booked up with the best talent. The more responsive and accurate you can be, the less likely you’ll lose acts to other venues who talent buyers are more automated and streamlined.
The software offers proprietary functionality or can integrate with existing tools (like ticketing platforms and QuickBooks) to help talent buyers, promoters and venue owners have everything they need in one place, often from their mobile device. This frees you up to do more, add flexibility and balance to your life, and run your business like a business.