ATTRACTING AN AGENT
Although most artists and managers would love to have an agent represent them, the paradox is that agents are only attracted to acts that are already generating tour income. Some, like Acidic, will initially retain an agent’s services until they’re making enough to warrant a commission. Others simply give up or do it themselves.
“Only the tough survive,” Overbey contends. “Artists usually have to work it on their own, and have some level of success before an agent is interested. But most of us also look for acts to develop. ” Blakely agrees. “I always keep my eyes open for up-and-coming acts, but I have to believe that they will be successful on the road. A track record helps a lot in that regard.”
Additionally, a manager or artist who can coordinate tour activity is important. “If you want to succeed as a touring act, you have to put it all together,” Blakely advises. “A marketing and promotions plan is crucial. You need to know ‘where’ you should focus your efforts. Press, radio, and a viral presence need to be implemented.” In fact, both of our agents prefer working with individuals who are team members rather than just clients. “We’re in it together and it takes everyone’s best effort to make it work,” Overbey concludes.
ARTIST DIY BOOKINGS
In many cases, bookings are left to the artist, especially early in a career. More than a few independent acts have put together tours---on their own. It’s not easy, but it is possible. Chris Clemmons of the RapScallions recently organized a 10-date college tour, stretching from San Diego to San Francisco. “I made a lot of calls,” he relates. His motivation stemmed from an event his band played for a production company that attracted thousands of people. “We wanted to have more shows like that,” he laughs.
Clemmons contacted every college and university he could––all within driving distance. “I broke it up so that we would only be on the road for two to three days at a time.” The result amazed him. “The money we can make on this tour makes me never want to play a club again.” Colleges generally provide accommodations and meals if you’re from out of town, and will pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $3,000 for a live performance. And that doesn’t include your merch sales. As a result, many acts find college tours to their liking.
Solo artist Marina V is another go-getter. She has had several managers and agents over the years. Her most successful tours, however, have come by way of her fans. “I did use agents to book festivals,” she recounts. “But my most popular tours are fan-based.”
When V wants to hit the road, she lets her fans know. They respond by setting up “house parties” and booking venues. One fan even financed a tour to Portugal. “The only thing I require,” Marina asserts, “is that out-of -town gigs must be for money. I don’t play for free.”
How does she get her fans to do that? Personal interaction. “I communicate with every fan who contacts me. And everytime someone new signs my mailing list, I send them a personal message.”
With that approach, Marina V has played over 600 shows. She averages between 100 and 200 shows a year, usually hitting the road for no more than two weeks at a stretch. In fact, she confides, “I’ve never had a day job. I’m making a living with my music.”
That last statement by Marina V is probably every artist’s dream. But you also have to be realistic. Manager Lyon reminds us, ”You can’t expect too much when you play a new venue. Your job is to impress the people there and hope they invite you back. You should never burn bridges, or beat yourself up if something doesn’t work. You have to be positive.”
Lyon’s appraisal is a fact of life on the road. Most acts don’t come home with much money the first few tours because they don’t attract much of a crowd. It takes time to build a circuit. The Dave Matthews Band played for years before they took off.
Most of all, it’s apparent that everyone has to work together––managers, artists, labels and agents. And although, in the beginning, it may be difficult because of the laws prohibiting unlicensed people (like managers) from booking gigs, there are also ways to work around it. Our sources are proof of that. If they can do it, so can you.
Smart artists know what it takes; desire, ambition, a never-say-die work ethic, and the ability to network effectively. That, and a good plan, could take you far. Or, at least, will get you on the road for a weekend or two.
CONTACTS FOR THIS ARTICLE:
Photo by Jody Domingue
Jared Levy: Mgmt, Keaton Simons
Mary Lyon: Mgmt, Acidic
Agency for the Performing Arts
The Overbey Agency, email@example.com
President, Wild Records
President, Seany Records
Attorney and Co-author, “But Where Do I Sign?”, firstname.lastname@example.org