One of the main reasons rock stars are so short on gratitude is their failure to understand what their agents have to do to book them. If you have the latest hit on the radio or a million dollar ad campaign year not gonna be too hard to book. But most of us are just short of a couple a side jobs to pay the rent. Inflating your monetary value over the phone is always harder to do than inflating your ego. The job description for a booking agent probably starts with “must have the capacity to thrive on rejection”.
I took a ‘telemarketer” job once in college making cold calls to sell liner’s for trash cans. It was a thankless job on both sides of the receiver. Fortunately I had a sense of humor. It eventually got me fired. I took to calling rude people back and adding some “throw this in for free” commentary. But I obviously forgot the experience once I was singing on a regular basis.
I had this booking agent. He was a soft spoken man and faithful to his work. But behind my back he would refer to me as “T-Rex”! I would hold him personally responsible for every delayed flight and irritation at the airport and mishap at the gig. I was known for throwing “the incredible hulk” tirades at him over the phone. As a lead singer I truly had the ability to “project”…and with a “heavy metal” vocal tone. It might be one of the most embarrassing segments of my life to date. But even in my early 30’s I just didn’t get the process.
I think every artist should spend a month or two doing all the jobs that people do for them. I’m getting that opportunity now after thirty years.
Promoting; marketing; accounting; negotiating; those are all just the tip of the ice berg. Where the rubber really meets the road is booking! Convincing a bystander that your 12 song set list is gonna change the world or make ‘em a rich man. Songwriting is NOT the most creative aspect of the music business! Listen to a booking agent convince a promoter that you are worth months of non stop advertising and planning for a one night stand, especially when they’re not that familiar with your “life changing” music or your thirty thousand website hits, which we all know is the same 14 lonely people who don’t have jobs.
You might have thought evangelists cornered the market on miraculous overstatement of the facts. Like those healing services where fifty people are healed of having one leg shorter than the other by an inch. Praise God! And now we’re gonna take up the offering.
You want to be a big help to your booking agent? Define things to them that are only obvious to you! Why did you write that song? Why do you want to share this story with others? What will they get out of hearing it? What do you like about people generally that isn’t just about them liken you? What is your passion about? I hired a consultant recently who noted that I spent most of my time defining myself by ‘What I was not”! “you need to make a list of resonators” he said flatly. Who in the world makes you sit up and say “I like what they’re saying” or “I love their work” or even “I respect who this person is”! Not only is it good for your poor attitude about life but it gives the right kind of ammunition to your front line for the trench warfare that is every booking agent’s daily job.
If music really changes the world it starts before a note is played. Booking the presentation is where the real dots are connected. I don’t care how cool you look or how great year project art is. Somebody has to believe that you have something to contribute to an effort they are already involved in! Now I know its hard to take. Realizing that the world is not gonna swoon simply because you had a moment with year guitar. Maybe you could write a song of appreciation for the lonely guy sitting at his (or her) desk calling out on you're behalf. Now while every head is bowed and every eye is closed how many of you would signify by the uplifted hand that … YES, my booking agent has died for me several times this week and I have been ungrateful. Thank you, I see that hand… hands all over the room. Let us now ask the booking agent for forgiveness. If the calls aren’t coming in, maybe you haven’t defined yourself enough!
About the Author
Bryan Duncan is a Grammy and Dove Award-winning Contemporary Christian artist. He is best known for his role in the Sweet Comfort Band and subsequent solo career that, combined, spanned more than twenty-five years. He is currently involved with the Nehosoul Band and "Radio Rehab" podcast. http://www.radiorehab.com
Foreword by: Ricky B. Rogers - NehoSoul Band/Fused Management