Music agents work with artists to schedule concerts, tours, and in-person appearances, and to negotiate fees and contracts for those bookings. For up-and-coming clients, this may mean working the phones to book a string of club dates or secure an opening slot with a more established act. For bigger artists, it could mean planning national or world tours, scheduling radio and television appearances, and securing advertising deals or sponsorships. Whatever the case, developing relationships with talent buyers, promoters, festival organizers, and venue managers is a vital part of any agent’s job, as is becoming intimately familiar with the musical style, clientele, ownership, and support services of music venues across the nation.
In this relationship-driven field, communication skills are a must, along with the confidence and assertiveness to be a sharp negotiator on behalf of one's client.
Working as an agent is a bit like piecing together a puzzle: coordinating nights, towns, and venues while competing for bookings against all the other acts on the road at the same time, and being careful to create a manageable itinerary. In addition to scheduling, agents spend a large amount of time cutting deals for their clients, which means a large chunk of the workday is spent talking on the phone, emailing, and taking meetings. Agents may also oversee travel logistics and hospitality (hotels and meals) for artists who are on the road.
At a Glance
This is often described as a "mail room career," meaning that agents might start in low-level positions (the proverbial mail room) and work their way up by demonstrating talent and hard work. Whether or not this is the path for everyone, it's certainly true that getting one's foot in the door—as an intern or assistant in the agency—is perhaps the most important part of becoming a music agent. Some large agencies also have in-house agent training programs. Experienced music agents often go on to start their own booking agencies, where they serve a number of high-profile clients.
Breaking into this career is not easy. Usually, it requires getting a lower-level position at an agency—such as an internship or assistantship—and learning on the job while waiting for the big break: the opportunity to manage one's own client.
The big players in this field are agencies like United Talent Agency, Paradigm Talent Agency, International Creative Management, William Morris Endeavor, and Creative Artists Agency. However, there are many smaller regional agencies in the Boston area, including Concerted Efforts, the Kurland Agency, and Illegally Blind.
- Knowledge of music venues
- Marketing and promotion
- Contracts and negotiation
- Making and maintaining professional connections
- Written and verbal communication
In this relationship-driven field, communication skills are a must, along with the confidence and assertiveness to be a sharp negotiator on behalf of one's client. Working in an exceptionally fast-paced environment, the most successful agents are skilled multitaskers who remain cool under pressure.
Agents work around the clock, often spending daylight hours behind a desk alternately fielding and pitching offers, and nights and weekends networking and attending shows with current and prospective clients. It's a demanding field that rewards those who can stay active and engaged while switching between different goals and modes. For agents with high-profile clients, travel may be a major part of the job.