Now this is a hot topic, and I have some useful perspective in my experience with agents which includes sometimes being totally annoyed with them as an organizer, and hiring one to represent me as a DJ. So that does seem a bit ironic.
What can be annoying about agents is that, working on a percentage, they are necessarily motivated mostly by getting the highest fee for their artist, and thus the greatest fee for themselves. How good the gig is, whether it’s for a good cause, etc is never quite as important for the agent as it is for the artist, as the artist is the one there at the gig. So as an organizer of small, meaningful events that have donated $30k to charity, dealing with agents has often been frustrating.
So why on earth did I decide to be represented by one?
Well on the other side, a lot of promoters try to lowball the crap out of you if you don’t approach them with an agent.
Now when I say lowball I don’t mean a small party promoter in a small city being honest about what they can afford. I’m ok with that. I mean when they have a regular night, bring in big name talent but still offer you peanuts
I’m actually a really good booking agent – for myself – so I was very reluctant to hire someone to help. I’m pretty proud of my ability to go after what I want, approach with tact, and stay in communication about gigs.
But here’s the thing. Not always, but a solid amount of the time, when I approach a promoter myself about playing for them I feel like I’m in a weak position. They act like since Im asking them to hire me that I don’t deserve to be paid decent. Or worse, they suggest a gig swap. I’ll handle that in another MDJM but I’ve started to just be Straight up and say that I only do gig trades with people with a similar following and then give them evidence. Sometimes this earns some respect but it doesn’t usually lead to a gig.
By contrast, it’s the agents job to approach promoters so that is perceived completely differently. The gigs i get through my agency are nearly always better-paid than those i get on my own. I generally get treated better (though not always), and i get more exposure and play some venues it would be hard to reach on my own.
Another thing that is really hard is transitioning from doing your own gigs with promoters to handing it off to your agent. Some promoters I’ve worked with now for a decade or 2 – how are they going to like being passed off?
I signed with listed bookings 17 years into my dj career in December 2013, a few months before my daughter was born.. I was able to use the facts of my rising dj career, and need to attend to my new life as a father, to make some of these transitions softer.
But I also chose Listed because they are very flexible, easygoing, and promoter-sensitive. They understand the dynamics of long-term relationships and never pressure me to hand over contacts. I still try to with new promoters, and whenever I can, because I feel it benefits me and because I totally stand by the roster I am on. But I am trusted to make my own decisions on this and never have to lose a gig I want to take because it’s not enough money, that decision is still mine.
Another reason I’m happy with Listed is they also organize parties – really good ones too – which is how they truly understand promoter perspective, again something lost on many agents
A third reason is their roster is very high quality and not all over the place genre-wise, and they aren’t constantly adding new artists which devalues individual attention.
Sounds great, right? To be fair, I still put in a lot of work building relationships and pursuing gigs. Honestly, it takes a really long time to even be considered by an agent because they can’t stay in business unless you are commanding a certain amount of money.
So if you are fortunate enough to sign on with a good one, you are likely starting at the low end of the totem pole, and you still have to work for your gigs. To get to the level where all I have to focus on is music, blogging, creating content is still a dream, but every step is progress towards that dream, and I am certainly not afraid to put in the work.
I would love to hear your perspective as always, please comment your thoughts and experiences with agents 🙂
Also please note MDJM Video blog has launched on my YouTube Channel, and new entries appear there every Tuesday at 2:22pm : https://tinyurl.com/MDJMvideo