How does an up-and-coming artist get on a festival bill?
It’s super difficult. Every band in the world wants a festival slot and festivals book much earlier than you would think, sometimes almost a year out. The best way to get one is to have either a really, really good agent pushing for the act or a really strong buzz that has caught the attention of the promoter and made them a fan of the act.
What comes first: a record label or booking agent? Do booking agents work with artists who aren’t signed?
I’m not going to lie: getting signed with a booking agency can be one of the hardest things for a band to do. It’s also a chicken or the egg situation…sometimes an artist has a label or manager first, sometimes an agent comes first. Occasionally, artists don’t have managers or labels, even after they are successful. Every act is different. Agents work with unsigned bands all that time.
More and more, booking agents are playing the role of A&R and artist development for super new acts. There can be a hidden factor behind the signing, though, like a trusted manager, producer, publicist, or label rep really championing the band. Maybe there’s lots of blog love or a viral song that makes the band more appealing. It’s a leap of faith for an agent to be the first person on your team, so they have to be really passionate about who they sign or results will fall flat. Small bands can be a lot more work than huge acts because of all the hustling you have to do to get the rest of the industry excited. If a band starts out with an agent first, then the agent plays an essential role in filling in the missing links for an act, i.e. showcasing and pitching them to managers, labels, radio, PR, etc.
What are some things that catch your eye/ear when checking out a new artist?
Good music obviously stands out in an oversaturated market but that’s not always enough. Facebook is one big LinkedIn for the music industry. If I check out a band online, I can see who their “early adopters” are, like other agents, promoters or label folks who have “liked” the artist’s page already. Social numbers are important. If you have under 1,000 streams per song, very few Facebook fans and zero touring history, you probably aren’t ready for an agent yet.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve seen bands make with touring?
Wasting money. You don’t need a fancy van, multiple hotel rooms, sound engineer or a tour manager early on. Expect to be roughing it. Downsize the band and amount of equipment you need as much as possible. Sleep on couches and floors on the road. Bring merch. People actually buy CDs at shows and that will make a difference as to how you will pay for gas to the next city or not. Some bands don’t want to take a day off on the road or do too many dates overall and they will just run themselves ragged and get sick. Also, don’t be a pain in the ass or a diva, especially as a new band. Word spreads!
Missed part one? Check it out here .
Sharyn started at the Windish Agency in Chicago at the front desk. After a year, she became the president’s personal assistant then his booking assistant, eventually working her way up to a full-blown agent with her own roster. In her six years at the agency, she has worked on tours for dozens of artist including The xx, alt-J, Hot Chip, Gotye, The Knife, and M83. Prior to Windish, Sharyn worked as an assistant talent buyer for two small venues in Chicago and did PR for a few artists. She now works in artist development for ReverbNation Connect and manages artists.