Booking agents represent artists that provide entertainment for a wide range of live events.
What is the job like?
Booking agents often work for agencies, which represent artists providing entertainment for a wide range of live events, including weddings, parties and corporate events.
The agency might specialise in a particular kind of music or cover anything from barn dance bands and bagpipes to string quartets and tribute bands, with everything in-between.
Some booking agents, who might simply be known as agents, secure work for well-known artists, and may also be involved in booking tours.
Booking agents perform two roles in any booking:
- The agent is acting in a customer service role for a potential client – offering advice to the client about choosing the right artist and the logistics of organising the booking.
- At the same time, the agent is acting for the artist to ensure their requirements are met, and that work is secured at the very best fee.
The work can vary, but will usually include:
- Establishing a working relationship with artists, either over the phone or in person to publicise their work
- Working on websites to update artist information and also providing digital downloads
- Marketing artists through multiple channels and developing them to ensure maximum commercial potential
- Using legal contracts to define the responsibilities of the agent and artists
- Working with other music industry professionals including promoters, managers and venue staff
- Providing a high level of customer service, and establishing relationships with customers over the phone and by email
- Finance and sales administration
- Listening to new talent.
How do I become a booking agent?
Booking agencies are often small companies with only two or three staff. There are only a few companies employing more people so there is lots of competition for potential jobs. An interest in music is an advantage.
The agent is acting for a potential client – at the same time, the agent is acting for the artist.
Good communication, organisation and customer service skills are essential for successful agents. You need to be able to communicate effectively with a wide range of people from different backgrounds.
An in-depth understanding and passion for sales is also important, as artists want agents who can secure the most work for the highest fees possible.
A part-time job in retail could help you develop your communication skills. At the same time you could offer to arrange bookings for friends’ bands or musical groups.
Work experience or an internship could provide an ideal way to help you break into this work. IT skills and experience in office work would also help, as booking agents spend much time on the phone and working with computers.
What training and qualifications do I need?
Booking agents don’t need strings of academic qualifications, but being prepared to study for college or university qualifications shows employers that you are determined, focussed and willing to work hard.
School subjects that are useful for booking agents are English, maths, IT and business studies.
Relevant college and university courses for this career could include:
- BTEC Level 2 Business Studies
Entry with 2 GCSE (A-D) passes
- BTEC Level 3 Business Studies
Entry with 4 GCSE (A-C) passes
- BTEC Level 3 optional unit
Marketing and Promotion in the Music Industry, can be taken as part of Music or Music Technology Level 3 courses
- HNC/D Music Business
Entry with a minimum of 1-2 A levels or equivalent
- Degree courses
Relevant courses could include business studies and music management. The entry requirements for a degree course are a minimum of 2 A levels (or equivalent), plus GCSE (A-C) passes to include English and often maths.
Practical IT qualifications including the ECDL (European Computer Driver’s Licence) are also an advantage. Your local college will have details of this and other relevant qualifications, which are normally taken on a part-time basis. You can also gain IT skills by studying online with various providers including Learndirect.
A creative apprenticeship could provide relevant experience before becoming a booking agent later on.
Academic entry qualifications for apprenticeships can vary, although most employers will look for a good standard of English and Maths at GCSE as a minimum.
What can I earn?
A typical starting weekly wage for an intermediate apprentice outside London could be £104 per week. This could increase to around £170 per week or more with experience during the apprenticeship.
Booking agents normally charge a percentage of the artists’ fee, which is often between 10 percent and 20 percent.
Junior administrative roles may be available, with a starting salary of around £12,000, which would usually be higher in London. Those with a background in sales and customer service could start on around £24,000, and salaries for more experienced agents could be between £35,000 and £55,000 if working for a very established and successful company.
Salaries are often performance-related. If you are working as the booking agent for famous artists then salaries may be much higher than this.
With lots of experience you might consider becoming self-employed and running your own agency – securing an income would then be up to you! But establishing the necessary credibility and reputation doesn’t happen overnight.