Should your band hire an agent? Are they worth the money? The answer is definitely maybe. The right agent can take a group to the top of the charts and the wrong one can tank your career before it gets off the ground.
Agents typically differ from managers in that agents focus on scheduling your band for appropriate venues. Playing for the wrong audience wears on you after time and bands will suffer for the lack of targeting the appropriate audience. See the Blues Brothers movie for a stellar example of booking gone wrong. Play enough at enough unsupportive roadhouses and your lead singer’s going to be singing for his day job.
Artists should never forget that agents need new talent. Artists are the stock and trade of agents. So, when negotiating with them, understand that they need you as much as you need them. Larger agencies typically represent a wide range of talent ranging different types of music to different fields of art. It’s common for large agencies to represent bands, athletes, and actors. Smaller agencies generally focus on a particular niche. Your band’s needs will dictate which model best suits you.
Agents need reliable, consistent talent. Always show up on time (or preferably early) for gigs, be respectful, and produce predictable content. Practice hard so that you don’t have an ‘off’ night. Remember, it’s likely that a substantial portion of the audience is seeing the band for the first time. Do not blow a great chance at a first impression. Moreover, agents want professionals who deliver quality results in any venue regardless of the challenges. It’s cold in there? Adjust the equipment. Technical difficulties? Adapt to your environment. Musicianship demands professionalism.
Some agents demand exclusive representation. Others affiliate with venues. Regardless, bands should negotiate for an initial agreement lasting for an limited period of time. Unfortunately, there is no replacement for direct experience and an agent’s talent is often difficult to ascertain until you retain him or her. As such, structure your initial agreement to last for several months with an option to extend at the band’s discretion.
If things go well with the agent, then the band and the agent should obviously work together. If things end poorly, end the relationship as harmoniously as possible. Just because a business deal doesn’t work right now doesn’t mean that one won’t work down the line.
If the agent does not demand exclusivity, do not use a competing agent as well. Use common sense and find another agent who operates in another musical field or geographic region.
Agents charge anywhere form 10% to 25% of gross funds directly or indirectly received by musicians in each engagement. Most common terms are for 20% of the gross for a single night or 15% of several nights consecutively.
Agents have rights. They have the right to represent competing bands. Get used to it. They represent you with regard to your gigs and booking. So stop booking your own gigs and refer the venue to the agent. Your agent will also likely put his or her logo and branding on promotional materials.