The position also carries an administrative and financial responsibility.
Because bookers are often dependent on an artist/agent in order to develop their programme and
profile in the direction they want, they sometimes agree to terms that are not affordable or impede the
venue or festival in other ways. In these cases, it is important to remember that a venue/festival and an
artist/agent are always mutually reliant upon each other. Without the venue/festival, there will be no
show and vice versa: without the artist, there will be no show. Most artists rely on income from touring,
as record sales alone are not enough to sustain an artist’s career. Less established artists also rely on
the exposure and experience they get from playing shows, in order to build their fan base, potentially
attract new entities to their team, and develop artistically.
So, the booker has a central, but complex role in a concert organisation. They must work closely with
the person in charge of finances, the technical staff and the marketing team. Everyone needs to
communicate with each other to make the organisation run smoothly.
Understanding an artist’s strategy
The following points are important to understand an artist’s strategy and to be able to plan ahead.
An established artist will have an agent handling all enquiries about touring and live performances. The
agent will work closely with the manager about every decision made on behalf of the artist. The
manager will have developed the overall strategy for the artist, and playing live is usually a big part of
any artist’s business. A strategic timeline may be laid out well in advance often several years and
usually binds together the release of new music with live activity. A tour will be set to a specific period in
order to maximise momentum for the artist. Decisions about which festivals to play will be part of the
overall strategy. For these reasons, the artist may not be available to a booker in the preferred time, and
alternatives may need to be sought.
The booker and the agent
An agent will have a set of expectations of any booker, even if you are doing it unpaid and are new to
the industry. The first one is trust. Most artist bookings are based on trust and the expectation that you
are honest about what you are offering.
A second expectation is communication, and the ability to stay in touch and give answers within an
expected timeframe. If a booker takes too long to respond, the agent’s trust can easily be lost.
Decisions are often made quickly, so you have to be prepared to respond quickly.
The booker needs to have a clear overview of all local conditions, and should be able to create an
accurate budget for the show. If you are talking to an agent, but are unsure of what you can deliver in
terms of technical equipment or what the costs are, you should always ask for extra time to clarify the
details. Most agents will understand and respect this. An agent will always prefer to have all terms and
details in order, before confirming any agreement. Reach out to other bookers you trust and use the
internet for guidance. Certainly, do not pretend to know!
If you are a new booker at a venue, a valuable tip is to set up meeting with all the agencies you will be
working with and tell them about your plans. This will help them understand your ambition and put a
face to your name. Get in touch with the agents of artists you are interested in as early as you can.
However, some artists will not be able to give you a clear answer sooner than 3–4 months before the
proposed date, and some even later than that.
The booking process
The process of booking an artist has multiple phases, and, while the agent will expect rapid decisions,
it’s wise to find your balance and take the time needed to make sure everything is in order. Know the
finances of your venue, which economic factors will contribute to your budget, and keep your budget at
hand and updated.
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