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What’s a Talent Buyer and How Can You Benefit From Hiring One?

Talent buyers can often be a critical linchpin for managing live music events, but knowing when to hire one isn’t always easy. For venues that need to elevate their insight into the local music scene, working with talent buyers can be a way to improve reach and maximize a venue’s potential. Talent buyers focus on the intersection of talent and business (specifically contracts), but the role of a talent buyer can significantly change from gig to gig and market to market. 

An experienced buyer should be an expert at fitting talent to a specific event, often having an impressive knowledge base about local or national musicians and markets. Finding the right buyer can ultimately make or break a show or event, giving you ample incentive to understand their role and how you can best tap their expertise.  

Buyers must work closely with booking agents, promoters, and other music professionals. It’s their relationships with booking agents, however, that are particularly important, as buyers look for the best talent to bring to their venue. Maintaining good and growing relationships is essential to a talent buyer’s success.

How a talent buyer fits into the live music scene

Like a booking agent, talent buyers usually have a well-defined area of expertise: knowing where to find talent and understanding how that talent can fit into the business end of live music. While the knowledge base typically starts with a strong understanding of music itself, they tend to be experts at connecting certain artists with the right type of venue or show. This means knowing the ins and outs of the music scene, understanding where to find fresh talent, and pinpointing where a given band or artist is in their development.

Beyond having tremendous knowledge of the music side, experience in handling contracts and the financial aspects of live music is often what can inspire a venue operator to hire a talent buyer. This is where having an effective system of organization and communication is essential. As a venue aligns with a buyer, documentation and communication need to be seamless. 

Being on the same page from an organizational standpoint will be a benefit as the buyer reaches into their network to begin the process of finding talent, and the more organized a talent buyer is in their dealings, the more others in the industry will be enthusiastic about working with them and sending the best talent their way.

Related: What to expect from the concert and event promotion industry in 2023

The benefits of bringing on a talent buyer

Any type of live music operation might consider a talent buyer, as an experienced buyer can step into that role and provide a critical dose of professionalism. Some areas where a buyer can specifically improve your show or event include:

Guiding the budget

You may hire a buyer because they have an excellent ear for talent, but their knowledge of the bottom line is equally as critical. A buyer should be able to help you scrutinize the budget for a show and offer guidance about how to lower costs or improve revenue—or both. 

Because they should have intricate knowledge of how an artist and the intended market align, they should be able to provide an insider’s perspective that can be invaluable in many situations.

This often involves making difficult decisions about an artist in relation to the budget, but that’s exactly why you can benefit from an experienced professional evaluating talent for your venue. Being able to understand what the local music market can support and planning a budget to fit its boundaries might not be the most exciting part of the business, but it might also be the difference between a thriving live music venue and one still struggling to break even.

Different benefits for different types of buyers

At a basic level, there are two prototypes of talent buyers: those who are good at organizing shows from a list of known talent, and those who are experts at finding artists flying under the radar. The needs of a venue or an event will dictate the type of talent buyer you are looking for, although many of the best buyers are adept at both approaches. For venues that are really looking to expand and make a mark on the music scene, hiring a more aggressive buyer highly attuned to the rise of new talent can be an especially good move.

On the other hand, sometimes all a venue really needs is an experienced buyer who acts more like a manager than a talent scout. If a venue already has plenty of incoming offers from artists and booking agents, a talent buyer can focus on maximizing a lineup’s potential by matching the acts to the local music environment. Sometimes a tweak is needed more than a wholesale change—a distinction to consider when looking to hire a talent buyer.

Determining the level of promotion needed

Even though buyers don’t typically do much in the way of actual promotion, they are usually very knowledgeable about how much promotion will be needed for an event or artist. While some well-established events or acts won’t need much promotion at all, the buyer should know when a boost in promotion is needed to help a show reach its potential.

If you already have an in-house show promoter for a venue, a talent buyer can be a valuable collaborator who can help determine the right amount of promotion – all within the broader context of the budget. The same goes for working with a concert promoter representing the talent. Experienced buyers should be able to work well with a concert promoter and help to balance the interests of the venue and the band.

Tips for hiring talent buyers

Hiring a talent buyer will depend on what kind of venue or event you’re running, but there are some basics to look for that can streamline the process. Although a buyer will represent the venue, they should also have a proven ability to keep artists on the same page throughout the engagement. 

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Because they will be effectively representing your venue to the artists, talent buyers are responsible for building a venue’s good reputation and encouraging other talented artists to consider your stage. Artists who feel like they were treated unfairly by a talent buyer can create the opposite association with your venue. 

Under these circumstances, talent can drain away from your roster and it can be more difficult to attract new artists to fill out the calendar. Experience is a must when hiring a talent buyer, but so is having excellent communication skills for dealing with a wide range of other industry professionals.

Venue managers can improve their odds of success by taking proactive measures, like ensuring they have the right management system in place before bringing on new hires. Those using more antiquated management software—or none at all—could discourage some of the top buyers in the field, who might think your operation isn’t staying current. Worse, they may think your venue isn’t serious about improving the operation. Not having a viable organization platform can also undercut the very efficiency you’re trying to bring on board with a talent buyer.

Talent buyers can be an essential part of a successful music venue

Talent buyers play a vital role in the success of a music venue. They are responsible for booking talent that will attract audiences, keep them engaged, and ensure that the venue generates revenue. At the end of the day, a talent buyer must have the expertise and experience to evaluate talent, negotiate deals, and plan a calendar of events that will cater to the tastes of the target audience. 

Many hands-on venue managers essentially assume the role of the talent buyer, although this may or may not be a winning strategy. For those who want to improve their ability to evaluate talent and maximize their event schedule, a talent buyer can provide a critical boost. With the enormous opportunities ahead for music venues that persevered through tough times, the right buyer can help your entire operation take a step forward just as many audiences are comfortably back into their live music rhythms. 

With that in mind, the best talent buyers know how to set the tone for a win-win relationship between all parties involved. A talent buyer who can represent the venue’s interest and still make booking agents and talent happy can provide substantial value for any live music venue.

Prism’s data management software is designed for the music industry and built for the busy professional. We can help ensure you have the organizational infrastructure necessary to streamline your operations and maximize the services of a talent buyer as you consider new hires. Contact us today to see how a centralized, easy-to-use platform can seamlessly connect your team and help in all phases of live-music planning.

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