“Let me do the talking” are five words you likely heard for the first time from an older sibling when you were about to get into trouble for some childhood misdeed. As you progress musically, the opportunities to have others represent you will similarly arise. Knowing who these representatives are, what their roles are, when you need them, and how to make best use of them is crucial to your success as an independent musician.
Booking Agent. The sole job of a booking agent is to get gigs for musicians. In order to keep a high standard of professional practices, some states require booking agents to be licensed in order to represent talent. An agent is different from a talent booker who works for a venue, or a concert promoter who are “buyers” that hire musicians for gigs.
Manager. Often referred to as the CEO of a musician’s business, a manager works closely with musicians with long-term goals in mind. Managers help musicians develop short-and long-term strategies, make industry contacts, build a business team, and coordinate the efforts to create and build an audience and a career for a musician.
Lawyer. Lawyers represent and advise musicians on legal matters on a case-by-case basis. While most known for the representation of musicians for entertainment law matters dealing with negotiating contracts and industry-related lawsuits, lawyers are called on for a variety of issues ranging from criminal matters to advising musicians on writing their wills.
Deal-maker/Connector/Consultant. There are multiple titles for the go-between who “knows somebody” that can move a musician’s career forward. Ranging from casual acquaintances to established music industry executives, these connectors are of varying levels of experience, professionalism, and integrity.
Regardless of who you allow to represent you, here are some key questions to consider and clarify when letting someone else do the talking for you:
● What is the scope of the representative’s agreement with you? Is it to broker a deal, book you for the next three years, or assemble your band and find a record label? The clearer the job description you can articulate, the more professional the individual you attract to represent you will be.
● What are the limits of the representative’s authority? Are there geographical limits or time limits that they get in order to represent you? Can they speak on your behalf, obligate you to contracts, or receive money on your behalf?
● What do you know about their reputation? Remember—your reputation is carried along with the reputation of the person representing you. Are they transparent about their reputation? Do they encourage you to check out references?
● Is there an expectation of payment for the representative’s services? If so, are you both clear about how much the payment is to be, as well as where the money will come from to pay for those services?
The clearer your idea of what you want from your career, the better prepared your team of representatives will be to help get you there.