The shakeup of live music in the last few years has ushered in an era of rapidly shifting industry dynamics. While music professionals scramble to figure out how to tap into new revenue streams and maintain clients, staying organized on the bookkeeping side has never been more critical to success. Booking agents who have a handle on the business fundamentals and use the best management tools and systems will be in an excellent position to take advantage of the new normal of live music.
The good news for booking agents is that live music is expected to resume a rapid state of growth now that the dust is settling from the pandemic. Although the last couple of years have been historically chaotic, booking agents who have weathered the storm can anticipate that industry changes will be at the center of an exciting new frontier.
What the ‘new normal’ means for booking agents
Live music’s new normal is a story of revenue diversification, adapting to change and trying to do more with less.
All of a sudden agents had to be aware of rapid developments in streaming, fan interaction, and a new crop of smaller venues that didn’t even offer live music before the pandemic. Add in the growing potential of the metaverse and it’s clear that booking agents have to remain extremely flexible and savvy to help artists reach their potential. Some industry trends to keep an eye on include:
Tracking revenue streams in real time is now expected
Tracking revenue streams in real time gives both booking agents and artists a tremendous advantage in capitalizing on a successful show. As an upcoming event begins to take shape, agents who can tap into real-time data will have an easier time turning buzz from one show into the booking of another.
Booking agents who are not able to pass along real-time sales and revenue updates can look dated in their approach. Without help from automated software and systems, agents will have a hard time remaining competitive. Artists can lose confidence if left in the dark on fundamental information – like how much they can expect to earn going into a show. More tips on how to increase artists’ confidence in you below.
Quicker settlements build stronger relationships
Building relationships in live music is about reliability and confidence. Everyone from the venue manager to the artist wants to know that their hard work will be swiftly rewarded after a successful show. For booking agents, this means doing a majority of organizational work before the show to ensure you can move quickly from a preliminary to a final settlement without a hitch.
To pull that off, a well-crafted concert budget template is mandatory. Agents who do not plan on using management software for assistance doing this will need to spend extra time preparing the budget before the show. When it’s all over, the quality of the budget template will directly affect your ability to settle.
The settlement process can then be a booking agent’s time to shine. The worst thing a booking agent can do is prolong the settlement. With the right system in place, any issues can be resolved without delays, and the final settlement can still move forward as quickly as possible. If everything is in order with a settlement, venue managers will ultimately be far more inclined to work with an agent again and a stronger relationship takes shape.
Artists have more options than they did pre-pandemic
Because booking agents don’t usually have the same contract protection as a record label, musicians are able to easily look elsewhere for an agent. While this has long been a part of the equation for a booking agent, today’s industry allows for a more DIY approach from artists. It also allows other booking agents easier access to talent, making it quintessential for booking agents to always be on their A-game.
A disorganized or slow approach can undercut even longstanding relationships. Booking agents who appear to offer less than their counterparts can quickly signal to a musician that it’s time to try a new tactic. These days, that might even mean the DIY approach or hiring an inexpensive amateur to help them with future bookings.
Tips for seeing the industry from the Artists’ POV
Although real connections can and will develop over time, relationships between musicians and booking agents usually begin in a very transactional way. With this in mind, it’s helpful to be aware of exactly why musicians typically involve booking agents in the first place. By understanding the musician’s mindset, a booking agent can create and sustain long-term and productive relationships with artists.
Here is how to improve your management process while maintaining focus on the artist’s expectations.
1. Don’t be afraid to change your approach
“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, is not something a booking agent should adhere to. For experienced booking agents, it can be very tempting to stick with what has worked for years or even decades, but this approach can also erode a booking agency from the inside. Instead of being implacable in the face of new technology and shifting industry dynamics, the savvy booking agent finds the right balance between the old and the new.
For example, successfully keeping track of a collection of spreadsheets might feel like a victory, but how well does this serve the client? Today’s software management tools can save time and help agents keep all essential documents in one secure location. Ultimately, being flexible and open to the right innovations allow agents to work anywhere and adapt to the changing needs of musicians.
2. Make it clear that time isn’t being wasted
Musicians tend to focus on their craft first and foremost, which is exactly why they need professional managers to take care of the business. While artists are dreaming up fresh music and planning their shows, booking agents can step in and help provide the type of efficiency that gets results in today’s fast-paced music industry. A band may or may not be organized, but they need to see that a booking agent has a system that will provide the professional touch that they can’t get elsewhere and save them time to focus on their craft.
This is why booking agents need to be able to market their services to musicians and show why their process doesn’t waste time with inefficient systems and methods. If a musician doesn’t recognize how efficient your process is, they will be less likely to see your value and may be tempted to look elsewhere. When it comes down to fundamental aspects like generating contracts and settlements, booking agents need to showcase that they are at the leading edge of the industry.
3. Prove that you are earning your commission
A standard commission between 10-15% for a booking agent can feel like a lot to a band. Booking agents who prove reliable, professional, and forward-thinking regularly showcase exactly why they are essential to the process. Meanwhile, agents who seem set in their ways will inevitably struggle to showcase their value.
One way for an agent to strengthen a bond with an artist is by seizing fresh opportunities that simply weren’t there before. With the industry shakeup, more live music is being performed at restaurants, coffee shops, and other venues that didn’t even offer live shows before the pandemic. Making connections with operators of alternative venues can be a conduit for generating buzz and creating momentum for an artist’s ambitions.
While seizing new opportunities and building a unique network, an agent will need to maintain a firm grip on financials and contracts as their operation diversifies. For many agents, having all information held within one easy and secure management platform is a game-changer.
Stay focused on what matters with a management platform
Putting together a live show can often feel like a labor of love for a booking agent, especially when there is a genuine connection with the artist. While hard work will always be critical, the next generation of technology can help streamline the entire management process and keep an agent looking forward. As we move into an exciting and uncertain era of live music, management software and systems will continue to be a driving force for booking agents who are eager to maximize their impact.
For a look at what a single-source solution built by music professionals can do for you, contact Prism to get started.