So I’m going to preface this by saying I’m extremely grateful to our booking agent, they have done wonders for us that we never could have pulled off on our own You’ve got to honor them and admire all that they have managed to put together in a very brief period of time. That being said – there is quite bit I wish I knew going into this, lessons that come from working with a booking agent are often learned the hard way, not because the agency is bad but rather you need to figure out what is going to work for your sanity. While you almost need a booking agent to get anywhere in this day and age, you still need to be aware that even as they push you, you should be willing to push back.
Remember that your booker is mostly trying to follow the money, and oftentimes they aren’t hard touring musicians themselves. They might not fully process what a ten hour drive can mean for the morale of your band. Especially on the tail end of an already brual tour. This is perhaps the most important aspect of working with your booker. You need to make it abundantly clear that you have limits as a human, and putting a ten hour drive on your second to last day of tour is probably going to kill you. I mean maybe it won’t, some of the more experienced touring bands can pull that kind of stuff off, or have drivers who are able to take care of them. But the odds are, if its just you and your band in a 15 passenger then you are going to want to reduce the amount of van time you’ve got to the bare minimum.
Another thing that you need to be really pressuring your booker for is hip venues. I mean obviously you can’t tell what the cool venues are in every town, and not every venue you want is going to be open on the night you want. However, you should, as much as you can, research the venues that you have holds on. Some places just aren’t cool. Others are in a weird part of town that is geographically isolated from hipper neighborhoods. If you have local friends be sure to get their opinions too. Not every night will be a home run, but twisting arms just a little bit should see you working your way into progressively cooler and more sympathetic venues, venues that know how to take care of bands and who maybe, just maybe have that legendary built in audience helping to boost your merch sales.
This is only scratching the surface though. Your band is well… yours and your problems will be your own, unique and brutal. That’s part of what makes the booking agents job so hard, there are no typical bands, most people have all manner of weird requests. While it might be helpful to be as flexible as possible you also need to remember that it’s your safety being called into question, not the booking agents. You need to periodically be willing to stand up, not for tiny anal things, but for things that matter and which could have a direct impact on the future of your band and how you find yourself progressing in the years to come. You should never find yourself risking life and limb just to play a crappy show in a C market town.
Of course addressing these things with your booker can be a slightly tricky process. Obviously they are already under a lot of stress and a fair amount of it probably stems from your band, even if you are doing your best to work with the booker. This is one of those times where not being anal most of the time will cut you some slack when you need to be anal for a few things. The booking agent should be aware of what you are willing and unwilling to do. This isn’t always going to be apparent, it’s the fine art of human negotiation that you will constantly be struggling with in this industry. When it does work out you find yourself enjoying decent guarantees and getting sent out with a smile on your face time an time again.
As in all things in music, this is a collaborative effort. You are dealing with some of the most powerful people in the industry, simply because they are so few and far between. However, the odds are you’re not going to be their most difficult client, especially if you try to be polite and respectful and show your eternal gratitude for the very special thing that they were able to put together for you. Balancing your needs is important, and I would emphasize prioritizing those that deal with safety. It’s easier to get people to work with you if you approach things from that perspective too. Ads things continue to get better you will find yourself ever deeper in the industry and more capable than ever of working with your agent to get something triumphant going.