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This is the first in a series of articles on working with show bookers & agents for entertainers.
As an entertainer, show bookers and agents will likely make up a significant percentage of your bookings.Agents are essential in helping you secure bookings that will typically be beyond your reach.
For entertainers, the term “agent” is used to refer to a broker or “middle man” between a client and the entertainer. An agent or show booker can be an entertainment agent, show producer or event organizer.
An entertainer can have multiple agents that include you as part of their talent roster. Unless the agent is a highly reputable one with a strong presence in your market segment, I would advise against working exclusively with one agent. However, this depends on the practices in your respective city/ country.
In addition, in highly specialized markets, it is common to have an exclusive agent to promote and handle your bookings. For example, I work with dozens, if not hundreds, of entertainment agents and event producers in the world for one-off events as well as for short-run shows. However, I only work with one agent for headliner cruise work.
Note: There is a difference between a personal manager/ business manager and a show booker/ agent. A manager is much more involved in the career of the entertainer and may oversee multiple aspects of the entertainer’s professional and personal life. A show booker/ agent focuses on booking the shows only.
Types of Agents
An entertainment agent typically has a roster of different entertainers & talents whom they represent. They propose and recommend entertainers based on a client’s needs. Some entertainment agencies specialize in specific markets such as corporate & business events, hotels & resorts, weddings or cruise market. An entertainment agent either marks up a profit from the fee that you charge him/ her or the agent takes a commission, typically between 10% – 20%. The arrangement varies from agent to agent.
A show producer produces a show for special events, entertainment venues and production shows. His/ her job is to choose the show team (inclusive of artistes, stage managers, production crew and backstage crew) and put together a show. More often than not a show producer works for an organization or venue and typically does not take a commission or mark up from your fee. In most cases, they are in control of the entire show’s budget and will allocate an amount for your show fee. However, it is still possible that a markup is made on your fee when the costs and budget are presented to the organization or venue.
Event Producer/ Organizer
An event producer is like a show producer except that he/ she manages all aspects of running an event. Entertainment may be only one aspect of an event. For large events, it is very possible that an event producer contacts an entertainment agent to hire the entertainers. In this case, you will just quote and charge your fee to the entertainment agent. If the event producer engages you directly, they will also work on a commission or mark-up basis.
Image Credit: Entertainment Ideas
What Show Bookers & Agents Look for in Entertainers
Working with agents is slightly different from working with direct clients such as a corporate organization who books your show directly for a special event. In a previous article, I explored what clients look for in a headline entertainer for a corporate event. Here, I discuss that show bookers & agents look for in entertainers.
Agents depend on good entertainers to provide a great product to their clients. Their reputation depends on the entertainers delivering a good show and being professional. If you can provide a high quality show at a price that they can sell you at, they will want you.
This does not mean you have to offer an attractive price. But, you must have the quality show and promotional material that reflects your value in order for them to sell your show to their clients.
You should also package your act appropriately and make sure it fits the requirements of the market that an agent might be serving. Here is a quote from the guidelines for entertainers of Bransom Entertainment, a show booker for cruise entertainment.
“If everyone who wanted to work in the cruise industry could get a booking, we would be very happy. Unfortunately, that is not the reality of this business.
Many artists who have achieved incredible success in various venues on land simply do not translate well to the confines and constraints in working on a ship. Not every act is going to fit into the entertainment program of every cruise line.”
The above guideline can be said about almost every specialized market with specific needs.
Be sure that you can serve the needs of the market that an agent caters to. Since agents are your third party marketing tool, you need to help them out as much as possible. This is to ensure that they represent you accurately and as effectively as possible. They will also recognize your professionalism and appreciate your efforts to make their jobs easier.
Here are some tips when working with agents:
- Be professional and helpful. Different agents have different working styles and arrangements. So, be patient when working with new agents and try to be as flexible as possible. Remember, both parties are working together to provide a good product to the end client. You are on the same team.
- Constant and regular updates are important to keep the agents’ information on you current. Updates can be the form of a newsletter, e-mails, updating of your website, phone calls and mailers.
- Keep agents informed of your new shows, successful projects and upcoming ventures. They will appreciate the frequent flow of info and it shows that you are a busy working professional.
- Make your promotional material is as comprehensive and clear as possible to ensure the agent does not misrepresent your show.
- I’m sure that there is no need to mention this, but you should never bypass an agent to a direct client if you know an agent is servicing that particular client. This is basic professional etiquette and is an expected practice in business.