If you are a music lover looking to make a career in the music industry, you may have considered becoming a booking agent. Life as a booking agent is fast-paced and filled with interactions with musicians as you help artists book venues and negotiate contracts.
In this career field, you will get an inside look at the music industry and have the opportunity to accompany musicians at many different events. As you consider breaking into this exciting field, it is also a good idea to have a clear sense of your first steps. Keep reading to learn more about what you can do to be on track for your dream job as a booking agent in the music industry.
Consider Getting a Degree in the Industry
If you don’t already have one, a degree in a music-related field is an excellent first step to building your credentials and starting a career as a booking agent. Although you do not need a degree, it is valuable for many job applicants. Booking agents typically get degrees in the following fields:
- Music Business
- Business Management
Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list; any degree that involves communications and time management could also be an asset in your career as a booking agent.
As you decide where you can study, criteria such as location and access to opportunities should factor into your university search.
Where is the University?
If you’re hoping to be a booking agent, the location of the university you choose to study at is something to keep in mind. Although living in a smaller city or town might help you cut costs, it will not allow you access to opportunities.
Universities in major cities, including music hubs such as Nashville and Los Angeles, will likely have vital music programs and connections with the local music scene that can help you get a head start on your career path.
Think About Internships
A university with a strong program and reputation in the local music scene will be an asset. It can help you secure an internship—a crucial step in your journey toward a successful career as a booking agent.
When you look at colleges, inquire about internship programs within the music industry. Ask the university what it does to provide students with the resources. Seeking internships with booking agencies will help you get that experience.
Getting an internship with a booking agency can also equip you with essential skills and connections. This situation is true regardless of being a recent grad or current student.
Research the Field
As you prepare for a future in the music industry, research what life as a booking agent is actually like. You might find it helpful to explore the following things:
- Job responsibilities: Life as a booking agent requires you to juggle many different responsibilities. Primarily, you will be responsible for helping artists book record deals and schedule venues for concerts and tours. However, although you are working in the music industry, your work can sometimes include tasks unrelated to music, such as coordinating travel schedules and hotels for artists.
- Time commitment: The fast-paced lifestyle of a booking agent is often a combination of weekday hours spent in the office and evenings and weekends accompanying musicians and bands at concerts. If you are also an agent for a successful artist, your work might include domestic and international travel.
- Salary: Although booking agents for very famous and successful artists can make a great deal of money, most people fall somewhere on the average salary scale, earning between $31,000 and $122,000 per year.
If you are interested in this career path, getting a sense of the day-to-day lifestyle is essential to ensure that your expectations match up with reality.
Talk to Experts
You can research the music booking field by talking to people who are directly involved in it. If you know anyone already a booking agent. Other agents also may be a great source of advice on getting your career started. Other occupations in the music industry might also help.
If you are a university student, reach out to alumni networks or professors specializing in the music business who could direct you to professionals in the field that are willing to share insight.
Before you talk to a booking agent, it may be helpful to prepare a list of questions that you might have regarding the job beforehand. This preparation will maximize the information you get during your conversation.
Gain Some Entry Level Experience
Regardless of whether you have a college degree, every prospective booking agent will need some experience in the music industry to gain traction with their career. Internships may count for this, but if you cannot get one in a relevant field, some booking agencies offer entry-level jobs.
Sometimes an entry-level job can be working as an assistant. Although this might not seem immediately relevant to the career you want, it is essential. By performing an entry-level position within the industry, you will:
- Get a firsthand look at how the industry functions
- Get to know professionals in the field
- Build your professional résumé
If you think you might want a career as a booking agent, apply your learned knowledge. Also, get a sense of what the field is actually like through personal experience.
Enroll in an Agent Training Program
Some significant agencies have training programs where prospective booking agents can learn the ropes of the industry. For example, agent training programs are entry-level and may include many time-consuming and seemingly menial tasks.
However, training programs offer firsthand insight into the career and allow you to experience life at a large agency. Keep in mind that they also can be highly competitive. Consider having someone help review your résumé and application to ensure you are a strong applicant.
Focus on Building Your Soft Skills
Being a successful booking agent requires more than just a degree or knowledge of the music industry. As you consider pursuing this career field, seek out opportunities to develop the following skills:
- Interpersonal communications: You will have to speak with many people and navigate the needs of artists and performers. Booking agents spend a large amount of their time on the phone and sending emails.
- Organization: Even in an entry-level job, you might have to juggle many different tasks and responsibilities. If you don’t already, familiarize yourself with different strategies to organize your schedule and keep track of assignments. Organizational skills help regardless of what you do.
- Sales and marketing: Booking concerts and venues may require you to make pitches on the artist’s behalf. Practice your ability to convey “selling points” to others. This often means the talents and appeal of your performers in the music industry.
- Negotiation: Agents in the music industry often must negotiate terms for events. Speaking persuasively and getting a good deal for your clients will help you succeed as an agent.
- Adaptability: Life as a booking agent requires flexibility and have openness to change. Agents often need to free up their schedules to attend events or make last-minute changes to their plans.
- Working under pressure: Strict deadlines and demanding schedules keep booking agents on their toes. Handling a complete plan and taking on new challenges is an essential characteristic of successful booking agents.
Current workers should seek out responsibilities in your workplace where they can continue to develop these skills. You can also seek out a job or other opportunities where you will have exposure to applicable situations. The right experiences will equip you for the demands of working as a booking agent.
As a highly interpersonal field, it is vital to get to know the people you will be interacting with as a booking agent. Creating professional networks within the career field can result in many benefits, such as:
- Helping you locate jobs and internships
- Providing advice and support once you are in the field
- Promoting your skills and reputation
As people see that you are serious about a career in the industry, your reputation as a committed professional will build. Creating a network of like-minded individuals in the field will have both immediate and long-term benefits.
Connecting with Employers
Do some research on different talent agencies in your current region or across the country. Keep an eye on their open positions and what requirements they look for in applicants. Your existing professional connections can also be an excellent opportunity to ask for introductions and make connections within their agencies.
Use your time in an internship or training program to get to know your company and make connections within the agency. Some can turn their internship or entry-level job into future offers and promotions. Many in the booking industry work their way up from a humble beginning to their desired position.
Connecting with Record Labels and Venues
If you’re hoping to work in a specific area, research the venues and record labels that exist there. Having a solid sense of the music scene around you will be an asset to your career and make it that much easier to set up concerts and tours in the future.
As someone interested in music, you might know people who work for record labels or concert venues. If this is the case, do not be afraid to ask your connections for help securing bookings early on in your career.
Many record labels and venues are very busy and can be selective about who they book and when. Forging relationships with these locations can be critical in securing deals for your artists.
As you start your career, working locally will allow you to get to know up-and-coming talent and potentially work with them in the future. Frequenting local venues can also help you get in touch with current booking agents who might provide insight on furthering your career.
Join an Association
Joining an association for talent agents or professionals in the music industry will keep you updated about events going on in your career field. There are numerous career benefits to joining a professional association, such as:
- Expanding your professional network
- Connecting with agents across industries
- Staying up to date on best practices, news, and more
Think About the Future
Whether you are just considering becoming a booking agent or are already on your way to doing so, think about your long-term plans and where you hope your time as a booking agent will take you.
Working for a Large Agency
Booking agents in the music industry usually work for a talent agency. Large talent agencies can have their benefits. This can include:
- Access to a substantial pool of clients
- Established connections with venues and labels
- Internal opportunities for promotions
- A base salary with benefits
However, there are some potential downsides to consider, too. You might not have as much say regarding what kind of musicians you work with, and while time and hard work may gain you promotions, at the start, you will likely not have control over your schedule and responsibilities.
With time and hard work, you can gain some footing within your agency. Promotions in the music booking industry often look like attaining more high-profile clients or taking on leadership responsibilities.
When you interview for a job, consider asking the employers what career advancement looks like and what steps they take to provide ongoing training to their employees that can be an asset to future leadership roles.
Starting Your Own Agency
Some established booking agents choose to take their career one step further and start their talent or music management agency. This career move can allow passionate individuals to be their own boss and specialize within the music industry, perhaps choosing to represent artists from a particular genre of music.
Starting your agency should be seen as a long-term career goal and not something you aspire to do right away. Founding a reputable agency can require pre-established, strong connections with some of the following:
- Record Labels
Additionally, getting started could require you to invest some of your own money or work for a while without seeing an immediate profit.
If you would like to start your agency someday, do as much as you can to learn about how talent agencies operate at every level. Hone your business savvy through ongoing training or further education and be realistic about how soon you will see a return on investment.
Work Hard and Care About Your Clients
You probably first wished to become a booking agent because of your love for music. While the hectic schedule of an agent can be challenging, commit to doing hard work and keeping musicians’ best interests as your driving motivation.
The booking agent career field can be very competitive because of its fast-past nature and proximity to musical talent. Do your best not to get overwhelmed by the environment and push yourself to work hard and take on new challenges.
Even if you graduated with a degree in music business or a related field from a top college, you still need to work hard and constantly seek new opportunities to grow your skills to be a competitive job applicant and agent.
Maintain Client-Centered Relationships
The booking agent career field would not exist without musicians, and it is essential to keep client needs a priority if you want to be successful in this field. Your clients, like you, are passionate about music, and helping them secure labels and venues is critical to their career trajectory.
Musicians look for booking agents who are knowledgeable about the music scene and committed to helping them succeed. If you can be adaptable and keep track of your clients’ needs, you will be far more likely to keep your clients satisfied.
Your clients are people, too, with individualized needs. An atmosphere of respect and trust will go a long way in furthering your reputation as a top-notch agent.
Life as a booking agent is challenging but exciting and rewarding. As you build your reputation in this industry, be open to new experiences and continuous growth. Your love of music is (likely) what led you to consider a career as a music booking agent.
With some tenacity and training, you can establish yourself as someone who knows how to help musicians navigate the logistics of a complex and thrilling industry.