If you’ve heard musicians talking about work they’ve got from a music agent, you may be wondering what it is these people do and how you go about getting one for yourself.
There are many roles in music management, booking, promotion and publicity. What you need to advance your career and help you succeed will depend on a number of factors. So what are music agents and what’s the difference between a music agency and management?
Here we unpack the various job titles, along with tips and advice to help you make contact with music agents, music promotors and industry professionals.
Talent agents UK | What are music agents?
Music agents and managers are a big deal in the UK and can make or break an artist’s career. So let’s delve deeper into what exactly it is they do, how they do it and where you can find one.
What music agents do and what they can do for you?
Music agents are responsible for representing a singer. Their job essentially is to make sure a singer has opportunities to perform live.
Music agents tend to go hand in hand with management. Music agents usually only really come into play when you’ve reached a level that is beyond your management being able to organise a tour schedule as well as all their other duties.
The right agency will be well connected with festivals, promoters and be perfect for getting support gigs for established artists.
Do I need a music agent or a talent agent?
Ideally, yes you should have one once you are at a level. They will help you find work, advise you and use their contacts to further your career. This save you time, enabling you to concentrate on your music, and it also helps you climb the music industry ladder faster.
Whether you need one though, is debatable and depends on where your career is at and what the agent is offering.
If an agent is wanting to charge very high rates of commission, or asking for money upfront, you should question whether they are legitimate. Find out who else they represent, and if you can, have a chat with one of their clients too.
Talent agency or musician agency
Talent agencies and music agencies are essentially the same things. Some agents may call themselves music agents rather than talent agents if they represent artists who aren’t singers (such as rappers) as well as groups, bands and instrumentalists. Others specialise in vocalists and only take singers onto their books.
Your skillset should match up to the person who is representing you, so do your homework before approaching one. Time is money to these people, so if you waste theirs they won’t be happy. Make sure you are concise, clear and accurate in your dealings with them.
Famous music agents UK
Some agents have so many celebrity acts on their books, they become famous in their own right. Talent agent Jonathan Shalit has represented well-known names including Mylene Class, Charlotte Church and Mel B to name but a few. And he has become a big name himself in the process.
These kinds of agents will not only book in music work but TV appearances, commercials, modelling shoots and more. It’s useful to have a celebrity agent when you’re famous as it means they’ll get you more jobs that diversify from your main skill.
Other famous music managers and agents have included Brian Epstein (The Beatles and Cilla Black), Colonel Tom Parker (Elvis Presley), Simon Fuller (The Spice Girls) and Sharon Osborne (Black Sabbath).
What does an agents do?
Like artist management, signing to a music agency is a two–way process, you may want to work with them but they might not necessarily want to work with you unless you are at the right stage of your music career.
For music agents to want to work with you they are most likely going to want to see income streams already coming in or a strong indication that they are likely to, which in this case is very much people paying to come and see you at gigs.
Therefore it’s vital to have a strong, loyal fan base already built up.
Music agents and building contacts
A music agent’s main role is to book shows; therefore it’s important that they build contacts within the music industry.
Networking is a vital part of becoming successful in the industry; music agents can use this skill to their advantage. Building relationships between the music agency, the venue and its promoters improves the chances of you, as a singer, to perform at a show at a particular venue or tour.
Music agents and negotiating event contracts
The music agent’s role is to also make sure that every aspect of a contract that is offered to you is suitable for your act. In most cases, it will be their agency contract that the promoter will have to sign.
This contract is where they can ensure everything you want and need for the show is catered for and any equipment required is available to you. Music agents will need to know all this information before negotiating the contract so they know what to ensure is on the contract whenever you play a show.
Music agents, TV and radio appearances
As well as booking shows, they may also have the job along with the management of getting you other media opportunities to promote the events or tour.
Becoming known in the media isn’t always the easiest task; music agents will have the responsibility of trying to get the act radio and TV appearances.
As radio and TV are open to more people than might be on view at a show, these opportunities are priceless. Being heard by a wider audience who could potentially be new fans is invaluable as a singer.
How can I get a music agent?
Music agents looking for talent
This can be a little bit like the chicken and the egg – which comes first?! It can be tricky to get an agent unless you have some decent exposure. Yet it’s difficult to get that exposure without an agent helping you.
Music agents want to find up and coming talent for their books – they depend on them for income. So it’s a case of making sure you’re in a position to be seen and heard by the right people.
How to get an agent for your talent
Be prepared to put in some work into getting an agent. You may be lucky and get picked up without any effort at an event. But more often than not you have to knock on a lot of doors first. Here are the best ways to nab yourself an agent.
- Enter contents and competitions. These are great places to be spotted. Agents and managers will frequently attend these to hunt for new talent.
- Set up a YouTube channel and social media accounts to showcase your work. Contact agents directly with links to these.
- Arrange plenty of live gigs and invite agents to these. Find out where the agent is based and invite them to one that’s nearby. Many will be in London, so it’s vital to perform there.
- Search for agents who specialise in your genre of music and target them with a letter and email. The PMA supplies a full list of reputable agencies. Make a start by working your way through this. Most will have their books full, so you may have to contact a lot of them.
- Ask around. Perhaps you’ve worked with someone who could provide you with a personal recommendation or introduction to a good singing agency.
If an agent is interested in you, they may well want to meet you for an interview, as well as seeing you perform live or hearing a demo. Make sure you are on time (arrive a little early), well-prepared and dressed in a way that matches your vibe as a musician.
Hollywood agents and managers
If you really hit the big time, you’ll come into contact with the Hollywood agents and managers. Los Angeles is a central hub for music and movies. It’s here that some of the world’s top agents and managers operate and make their millions. But they also have a reputation for being tough and even shark-like in their approach.
If you’ve seen the recent movie Yesterday, you’ll know that the character who’s Ed Sheeran’s manager isn’t painted in the best light. The film has much to say about the cutthroat nature of music management and the industry over the pond. We’re pretty sure Ed’d real-life manager is much more genuine than this lady though! The main character in Yesterday has a friend who acts as his manager until he makes it big. She even manages to get him a festival booking.
Booking agents for singers: getting a music festival booking manager
Some events – especially music festivals – hire their own booking managers or agents. This is not the same as an artist manager or artist agent. While they are involved in the artists overall career, the booking agent is responsible for the event. Once the event is over, they have no role in booking you in for more work – unless they happen to have another event for which you are suitable.
What do music booking agents do?
Music booking agents arrange the acts for the event or festival. To do so, they may liaise with an artist or band’s management or agent. Or in the case of the unrepresented artist, they may go direct. Their responsibilities start and end with that event and include negotiating fees and anyother arrangements required.
Managers in the music industry
Managers are often big movers and shakers in the music industry and have a lot of power. This is why it’s important to check any contracts thoroughly before signing them. Once you are committed to a contract it can be very hard to get out of the agreement. This is why there are media lawyers dedicated purely to working in the music industry.
Managers will often be sourced, recommended by, or connected to your record label or recording studio. As an unsigned artist, you can still hire yourself a manager yourself. Or you could get a friend or family member to do it for you.
What does a music manager do?
A manager takes charge of everything relating to the artist or band branding – it’s a wider category of the role and may also encompass agent duties, such as negotiating gigs and dealing with finances. Bigger artists need management when their careers become more involved. A manager will also hire publicists, promoters and arrange tours. They may tell you to change your hairstyle, re-brand your wardrobe, or take your music in a new direction.
Music agent vs manager vs publicist
There are many crossover roles in the music industry, hence the confusion between all these job titles. When you’re starting out, you’ll perform all of them yourself, or have one person to do it. As you get more successful, there’s more to do, so the roles are broken down and individual specialists or companies are hired to take care of each function.
What is the difference between a music agent and a music manager?
An agent finds work for a client and arranges performances. They may give some advice, but generally, they simply get the singer or musician gigs. The agent will rarely arrange anything to do with your music such things as producers or surrounding releasing material, promotions or PR, the manager does.
A manager would organise the practical details of your career on a day to day basis depending to the Management agreement.
A publicist is interested in getting publicity for their client. This doesn’t mean booking them work directly or looking after them. Rather the role involves getting the brand ‘out there’. The publicist may never even meet the act they’re working with.
Publicist vs promoter
Some publicists do promotion and vice versa. But the two jobs are actually separately defined. A music promoter may perform the same role as a booking agent, for a specific festival or event. But they will then also be responsible for promoting that event too.
What does it mean to be a publicist?
Publicists are about endorsement and persuasion rather than marketing. While it’s very useful to have a music manager or music agent, it is certainly not the be-all and end-all. There are even some advantages to representing yourself – namely that you have complete control over the direction of your career, and you don’t have to pay anyone commission. If you’re a musician with regular gigs and aren’t fussed about taking things further, you don’t need one.
For those needing extra help and for artists wanting to hit the big time, it’s well worth following our guide to getting yourself an agent. Now you know what music agents are and how it all works, you can get out there and find one who’ll be best for you.
How much does a music agent make?
The salary and earnings of music agents are as variable as those of artists. It depends on how hard they work, who their clients are and how long they’ve been doing it. They make money by taking a percentage of their client’s earning – usually 10-25%.
What are the responsibilities of a music manager?
The music manager’s responsibilities include booking venues, negotiating contracts and fees, settling legal disputes, public relations, arranging tours, strategising, graphic design planning, branding and advising (or even controlling) the artist’s image.
How do talent managers get paid?
All of the artists’ payments go through the talent manager, who is responsible for any invoicing and chasing of payments. They then deduct their fee, before transferring the client’s remaining amount across to them. Payments may be made via BACS, cheque, or even cash.
What’s been your experience with music agents and managers? Do you have a singing agent or do you feel like you need one? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.