Every artists’ career is made or broke by marketing and infrastructure. Marketing is your advertising and is the engine that drives the car in the race. The best marketing strategies are pretty simple and easy to execute. All have general tasks across the board, but vary on specific terms and tactics which are based on the artist and the demographic that is being targeted. I am currently working on a series of articles that deal with marketing to the “underground hip hop” (I hate that phrase) and college demographics. This will take a few months to complete, so by process of elimination, my next three articles are about infrastructure.
Your infrastructure is all about who’s handling your marketing and revenue streams; in other words, the pit crew that makes that engine run. The most important components of this is management, publicity, and booking. They determine how you’re going to get out there, who’s getting your music, where your music should be pushed, and when is the best time to put your music out there. For many independent hip hop artists all these questions are dealt with and answered by one person…you. This in itself is a pretty huge task, especially when adding the time and concentration it takes to write songs. Overwhelmed by these tasks, most artists, including myself, have shopped the market for help to alleviate some of the pressures of the “Do It Yourself” lifestyle; however, in the process of looking for a manager, booking agent, and/or publicist I can probably guarantee that most run across one of these people:
This perfect storm of give and take makes it nearly impossible to know who’s legit. I felt like I was making nothing more than a guess, and I wasn’t; however, I wanted that guess to be an educated one so I hit the books at my favorite “free read” spot, Border’s. The following articles are some of the things that I’ve learned about each.
Part 1 of 3
Booking a tour is very meticulous. First, you have to figure out where you want to go, then you have to contact all of the promoters and clubs in each area. Compensation has to be negotiated, contracts sent and received, and, in most cases, deposits made. Booking agents take this stressful task out of the hands of the artist. Good booking agents are aggressive, and fight hard to get their clients the money they deserve. They DO NOT increase your money. If you average $500/show before you have an agent, you’ll probably get the same with the agent minus their fee.
Here are some things that you should know before looking to to hire one though. First, a booking agent’s standard fee is about 10%-15%. If an agent asks you for a flat fee, like some might, they are probably not very legit. Why would you want to even do it anyway? If you have someone working strictly of a percentage of what you make, then it is only obvious that they would bust their ass to get you your dough because they get paid only from you getting paid. So be prepared to give that agent $50-$75 per show for that $500 that you’re making. It’s worth it.
Please note, though, that just because you’re looking for a good booking agent doesn’t mean that they are looking for you. For one, unless you’re signed to a major labor or a touring heavy hitter none of the bigger firms will fuck with you (though there may be a few exceptions); the smaller agencies typically always have a full roster because if they don’t they probably won’t eat.
The next thing, which is always hardest for entertainers to grasp, is that you may not be worth their time. Booking agents, as stated before, are compensated through a percentage of what you make. You being paid $300/show may not be worth their time, because that means that they would only get $30/show. For example, $300/show at 100 shows/year is $30,000. The booking agent would get $3000 of that. This is small beans in eyes of the booking machine; however, there are instances where agents may take you on as a client because of your upside. Who knows?
Also, another reason why a booking agent may not be interested in picking you up is because hip hop is a specialized art form that deals with specific crowds. Meaning that, unless you are an established artist, there may not be 100 shows/year worth any real money available to you.
Despite all of that, if you want a booking agent you should look into getting one; however, make sure your ducks are lined up because first impressions are everything in this business. Here are some quick points:
Quanstar is an American underground hip hop artist, indie filmmaker, comic creator, and self published author from Atlanta.