How to Earn the Trust of Booking Agents

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Bill Leigh

Aug. 29, 2018

By Bill Leigh, originally published on the Eventbrite blog

In the business of live music, there’s nothing more essential than your ability to book top artists. And that means you need to develop solid working relationships with their booking agents.

Build trust with booking agents by helping them achieve their goals: to plan efficient tour routes, hit markets that will build their artist’s brand, and get the best possible pay for their artists.

But as a promoter or talent buyer, you’re looking for the best possible deal while scoring the hottest artists to perform at your venue or festival. Working together to meet both sets of objectives is the key to building a good working relationship.

Here are three key ways to build and maintain trust with booking agents.

1. Think beyond the show you’re working on

Every time you negotiate over an artist, remember that you and the agent may have years of shows ahead of you. So don’t just think about getting the best deal for today.

“Yes, you should be looking for a deal,” says Eventbrite venue success team leader Justin Nordan, who has more than 15 years experience booking artists for everything from small rooms to huge festivals. “But don’t act thirsty. You never want to seem like you’re just trying to pull one over on them.”

Instead, Nordan explains, you want to establish a relationship with the agent over time by considering terms that will foster years of mutually beneficial bookings to come. “The more you book through them, the more confidence they’ll have in you.”

What you can do: Check in with booking agents every few weeks. Email them asking if they have new or up-and-coming artists that they’re excited about. Keep the lines of communication open.

2. Be upfront — and able to say no

You try to come to a compromise when negotiating with agents, but there will be times when the artist or the deal simply won’t work, and you need to say no. It could be the price, or you just don’t feel the artist will draw many fans in your area. Be gracious, and let the agent know you should keep each other in mind.

“You don’t want to waste time in a lengthy conversation, only to find out the artist’s price won’t work with your budget,” says Nordin. “Be upfront about your budget and as transparent as possible.”

What you can do: Be clear about your budget. If you pass on an artist because of price, ask if the agent has another act closer to your budget.

3. Deliver what you promise — and more

In the live music business, your reputation is everything. Keep yours in top shape by delivering on what you promise. Don’t get known for not living up to your contract. Make sure artists feel taken care of.

Make sure to get the artist’s stage plot, input list, backline needs, and lighting package. If you say you’re going to provide food and arrange a hotel, make sure those are taken care of when they arrive. Don’t become known as a shady promoter who’s always cutting corners.

Feedback — positive or negative — always gets back to the agent. So don’t over-promise; instead, save the day by exceeding artist expectations. “You don’t want the band saying that you or your team didn’t live up to the contract,” says Nordan. “You want the band to say your venue was awesome, and they’d love to play there again.”

What you can do: Develop easy, inexpensive ways to delight artists and exceed their expectations beyond the contract rider requirements.

For expert ideas on working with agents, check out 4 Ways to Build Relationships with Booking Agents.

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