team of young entrepreneurs from a boutique music agency

How To Go From Independent Booking Agent to Building a Boutique Agency

Establishing an independent booking agency is no easy feat. It requires meticulous attention to detail and top-notch organization in the fiercely competitive live music industry. But for many, running a one-person operation is just the beginning, and the ultimate goal is to transform it into a successful boutique agency capable of expanding into new territories. Unfortunately, the prospect of scaling up can seem overwhelming, causing many agents to abandon their aspirations.

However, with the right mindset and tools, growing a boutique agency is more achievable than it might initially seem. By taking things one step at a time and leveraging music-first management tools, agents can gain a significant organizational edge and establish the foundation for a thriving boutique agency. As live music continues to experience a resurgence, those who rise to the challenge will position themselves to seize opportunities that may be out of reach for a one-person agency. Don’t let the fear of the unknown hold you back – the time to act is now.

Laying the foundation for a boutique live music booking agency  

Before moving forward with any plans for an expanding booking agency, it’s critical to know what your specific goals are and to create a personalized roadmap for how you’re going to achieve them. To get started, consider these six principles that can help you come up with a viable plan for making the transition.

1. Build your network

The true value of a booking agent often comes down to the viability of their network of contacts – a principle that is true no matter the size of your operation. Your network is especially important as you look to move from an independent organization to a boutique agency. The right contacts can help you break new ground, form critical relationships, and hook you up with other industry professionals who can assist in the growth of your business.

Your network is also a vital asset that can attract artists hoping to make industry connections. For a talented musician or band looking to make their mark, your industry connections can be a catalyst to taking their career to the next level. Instead of always having to find talent as you expand your business, new talent can end up seeking you out simply because of the strength of your network.

It’s important to think of networking as more than just selling a new contact on a show or an artist. The goal is to create long-term relationships built upon reliability, expertise, and mutual respect. By focusing on the horizon and working with other professionals on a human level, you can not only expand your network but do so on solid footing.

Related: Spend your time doing less repetitive admin and focus more of your attention on booking more concerts

Beyond connecting with managers, promoters, and venue operators, it’s also crucial to ensure your current network of contacts is as reliable as you think it is. In expanding your business into new territory, the strength of your network will be tested. Checking in with important contacts – even ones you’ve worked with for a long time – can be an excellent way to ensure you’re ready to make a big move.

2. Know your niche

You might have dreams of representing artists in a variety of genres one day, but it’s important to have a more refined view of your strengths as you set up an expanded shop. This will help you retain consistency as you take on new employees, work with new artists, and expand your reach to new venues and shows. The last thing you want to do is have your judgment questioned as you’re moving into fresh territory; sticking with your musical niche during this transitional period will help you maintain an authoritative edge.

That said, this doesn’t mean that you need to pigeonhole yourself. Once your boutique agency is established, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to move beyond your niche if that’s part of your long-term goals. While setting up a boutique agency from scratch, however, it’s much safer to be disciplined and stick to your professional experience. This might even require you to turn down opportunities you would otherwise love to explore under different circumstances.

3. Let technology do the organizational heavy-lifting

In this business, it’s essential to fully consider how much additional bookkeeping will be required as you move from an independent agency to a boutique agency. Everyone has their own organizational style in live music and entertainment – especially independent operators that are used to doing things exactly how they want. 

Before moving to a different level, it’s important to audit your entire system of organization and bookkeeping, from holds and contracts to how you handle settlements. If you’re not already using a modern software platform to track and manage this process, it’s time to consider the advantages.

More than just showcasing a more professional and efficient system to new contacts and employees, today’s software can track revenue and expenses, generate contracts and settlements, and even provide real-time ticket sales numbers and information from venues and promoters that can be beneficial in a variety of ways. 

While you might get away with more antiquated styles of organization as an independent agency, that choice could prove difficult or even impossible as you expand. Whether you’re looking for a professional touch or simply to save time with less busy work, a music-specific agency platform can be an invaluable tool for an operator of a boutique agency.

4. Develop your brand

To help a nascent boutique agency flourish, building a brand is critical. Word-of-mouth certainly helps too, but today’s most successful agencies tend to have a forward-looking digital marketing and social media strategy. While few independent agents have the time to properly develop their brand, it’s an essential operation for an agent setting up a boutique agency.

To facilitate the building of a brand, it can be helpful to have one or two employees who are social-media and digital marketing savvy. While you can drive the main strategy and monitor progress, having employees who can lighten the overall workload here is extremely helpful. Remember, your brand is your reputation, which can be the gateway to residual business or the thing that holds back your agency when trying to get new clients. 

5. Hiring the right team of professionals

By staying within your niche (at least for now) and using automated methods for bookkeeping, contracts and communication, you’ll be better positioned to hire personnel to flesh out your budding agency. You may need a mix of full-time agents and independent contractors for various roles.

Experts in the hiring process recommend that employers try to be as flexible as possible while defining requirements, which is especially important for an industry that has gone through so much upheaval. Being a little more generic in your requirements might provide an entry point for a less experienced candidate who can still be a valuable addition to your team.

Although you should be open to candidates outside of your network, a referral from someone you have directly worked with can be invaluable in a fast-paced industry like live music. If you are not having success finding new hires with the help of your network, there are wide-ranging live music job boards that can help you get started. A mix of both approaches can also yield positive results and help you cover your bases. 

Related: Tips for booking agents to keep track of financials and artists

If you are hiring a team, it’s also important to consider the infrastructure you have to support their workflows, which is where a music-based managing platform can assist. An easy-to-use cloud-based platform can significantly improve the onboarding process and get everyone on the same page for communication and document sharing. For a young boutique agency bringing on new hires, creating a smooth onboarding process can give you the professional touch you’re looking for as your new team settles in. 

6. Be creative about looking for new opportunities

The post-Covid music world is one of reinvention and seizing innovative opportunities. To strengthen the business, it can be helpful to explore many different types of gigs within your preferred niche – even if they’re not what you originally had in mind.

As an example, booking an artist at smaller, more intimate venues can create incredible buzz, with the digital impact often going beyond the ticket sales if the event is a hit. For a young boutique agency, positive publicity from an excellent small-scale show can be extremely valuable.

It’s the spirit of versatility that has led even some of the most famous artists in the world to embrace more private shows than in previous eras. An agent who can establish a reputation for connecting the right artists to the right private gigs might end up with a recurring stream of revenue and thriving industry relationships. Although some caution should be exercised when expanding into new territory, a booking agency that demonstrates some flexibility can take advantage of whatever comes next in the world of live music.

Build your boutique agency one show at a time

Making it through the pandemic in live music was no easy task, and now there is ample opportunity for independent agencies to grow into boutique shops capable of doing much more. While making such a move is not the path of least resistance, having a fine-tuned plan and taking advantage of today’s best technology can help you walk with confidence.

A passion for live music may be the driving force behind starting a new booking agency, but to succeed in today’s fast-paced digital world, utilizing automation-based tools is essential. Adopting a centralized, cloud-based platform can provide a significant advantage for agencies, enabling them to streamline communication, enhance collaboration, and improve data management. 

By doing so, agencies can position themselves for growth from day one, impressing new employees and partners with their professionalism. Cloud-based platforms also offer real-time updates and remote access, allowing teams to work efficiently from anywhere. Additionally, by staying up-to-date with the latest technology and industry trends, agencies can remain competitive and offer clients the best possible service. 

Prism is the perfect tool for live music professionals looking to expand their business. Designed by and for the music industry, Prism provides critical assistance to booking agents seeking to streamline their operations and increase efficiency. With Prism, you can easily manage your bookings, track financials, and communicate with your team all in one place. Learn more about how Prism can help you take your agency to the next level.

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