There’s no “one-size-fits-all” method on how to approach an artist or their manager. But this post tries to provide a framework for agents to follow. What follows is probably more pertinent for emerging talent or artists who are early in their careers. For more established names the process may be different but will end up at the same place!
There’s a whole bunch of research to do before approaching new talent – so be sure to check out the previous post, Taking on New Talent, Part 1. before you open the conversation.
Start the conversation
When you have identified an artist you think would be a good fit to work with, it’s time to start the conversation. Before you do, it’s worth remembering that an artist will only have one agent, whereas an agent will represent quite a few artists, so it follows that the decision to work together will be a bigger commitment for the artist than the agent. If the relationship doesn’t result in suitable bookings – then that stalls all of their bookings and their income from live work.
However, it’s also true that if the agent starts to work with an artist who is difficult to book, it can be a stressful and thankless task. It would have been better to have not started to work together in the first place. The agent needs to be pretty sure that they have the skills, the network, and the support they need to deliver.
All artists that become successful, will have dedicated many hours working on their song-writing, their instrument, and their performance. This is why it is a privilege to represent good musicians and a very real responsibility for their agent.
Don’t be a magpie!
It’s not good form as an agent, to just collect artists to your roster and wait until they become successful by dint of their recorded careers. In fact, it’s lazy and doesn’t do anyone any favours. As an agent gets better at their job they will get better at working with multiple acts. Here at Midnight Mango, we think it’s much more important to do a good job with fewer artists than having do a half-arsed job with many.
If you hear back from the artist that they are interested, organise an initial meeting. If the artist hasn’t had an agent before, send them some information about the services you offer. This will give you something to discuss in the meeting.
During the meeting spend time asking what the artist has done and what they plan to do – take time to listen and make notes.
Also, tell them about your career and how you can help with their bookings. There are two key things that an agent does:
- The paperwork
- Sourcing live opportunities,
Both are valuable and something that all artists need to get to grips with. Usually by getting an agent.
The paperwork side of things is about taking the weight off. Artists and managers are perfectly skilled enough to deal with this – but it’s time-consuming and easy to make mistakes. Most come to consider it burdensome and they are happy to pay someone else to do it.
Of course, sourcing live opportunities is the key one. It may seem obvious, but this is where the conscientious artist/manager will want to scrutinize your abilities as an agent. Split your response into Festivals and Tours and discuss each separately. They will also want to know about how you can facilitate opportunities to play abroad.
It’s very likely questions of territory, exclusivity and commission rate will come up. You’ll need to justify your position on each of these. If you are unsure why your agency expects what it expects, then discuss them with your line manager beforehand…
Be sure YOU can answer the following questions
- Why are you proposing this territory?
- Why is exclusivity important for both you and the artist?
- Why is the commission rate set at X%?
From the agent’s side, request past history of
- ticket sales
This could have a profound bearing on if you start to work with the act. You will want this info before you make a decision. To some extent, you will have some of this info from your researches already. However, you might have missed that sell-out tour in Germany, which could make the proposition more attractive. Or they may have done hardly any shows for ten years, which might make you think they don’t have the drive needed for success.
Don’t be gushing, this is a business. You want to make money from the artist by helping develop their live career. The manager and the artist will understand this. They will be much more interested in how you can help, rather than how much of a mega-fan you are.
Don’t jump the gun!
Don’t decide in this meeting that you will represent them. Even if they ask you to. It’s an onerous decision for both parties, so finish the meeting and suggest you both take some time to consider respective positions. Assuming you are feeling confident, agree to send over your agency’s “heads of agreement” of their standard contract / Terms of Business.
After the meeting write to the artist and arrange another meeting to discuss your agency’s contract…
The second meeting is about the detail of the agency contract (we call this our Terms of Business). There will be parts that may need explaining face to face and it may be necessary to make minor adjustments to address specific circumstances. We’re happy to discuss all points and produce a document that is bespoke for that artist. There may be some negotiation and there will also be some red-lines your agency will not cross. Be aware of them before the start, but don’t be afraid to say you’ll have to come back to the artist if you don’t know the answer. Then you can check in with your line manager back at the agency.
Hopefully, by the end of Meeting 2, you will be in a position to issue Terms of Business for the agency and the artist to sign.
Once signed, it’s time to get the artist on the agency’s website and time for the agent to get to work!