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Working with Music Agents

In the music industry, an agent is generally someone who secures live work for musicians. There is no longer any requirement for agents to be licensed so anyone can set themselves up as an agent.

Last updated: 03 October 2023

Different types of music agent

Although agencies are commonly referred to as agents, they may operate in one of two ways: as an employment agency or as an employment business. If you’re interested in booking an agent in the music industry, we’re here to help you explore the differences between the two.

Employment agency

In an agency, the music agent arranges the gig contract directly between the hirer and the musicians. The music agent charges a commission on the gig fee under a separate agency contract with the musician or the hirer. The agent cannot be an agent for both the musician and the hirer and should make it clear to you who he/she is the agent for.

If acting as an employment agent, the agent’s terms must include:

  • Details of the services to be provided.
  • Whether the agent is entitled to sign contracts on your behalf.
  • Whether the agent is entitled to receive money on your behalf.
  • Details of the fee payable and how it is calculated.
  • Whether refunds are payable and, if so, how and when this would take place.
  • Whether the fee is to be deducted from earnings and, if so, how and when.
  • Whether you are required to give or entitled to receive notice to terminate and, if so, how much.

Employment business

If you’re looking to get a music agent in an employment business, the agent will ‘buy’ the musicians for a fee under one contract, and then ‘sell’ them on to a hirer for a higher fee under another separate contract. The difference between the buying and selling price will be the agent’s profit. The following may help to explain the differences between the two ways in engagements for musicians.

If acting as an employment business, the agent’s terms must include:

  • Whether you will be employed or self-employed and the terms and conditions that will apply.
  • An undertaking to pay you, whether or not the hirer pays them.
  • The length of notice of termination you must give and are entitled to receive.
  • The rate (or minimum rate) of remuneration.
  • When remuneration will be paid.
  • Any entitlement to holidays or holiday pay.

How to find a music agent

The best way to get a music agent is by improving as an artist and growing your fan base, so your agent finds you.

Ideally, you want a music agent who is passionate about your work and is trying to convince you to work with them, rather than the other way around. As booking agents tend to work on a commission basis, you’ll need to be bringing in enough money from your ticket sales to make it worthwhile for them.

However, if you want to look for your own music agent, try searching online and sending emails to booking agents with samples of your music and invites to your shows. This will prove how much you’d like to work with them.

It’s also important to build networks within the music industry, as most agents find new clients through trusted colleagues. If you’re consistently playing shows, you may even be scouted by one – so excel in every show!

Things to consider

Regardless of which type of agent in music you are dealing with, it’s worth considering the following:

  • Is your agency contract exclusive? It is quite common to have more than one agent. However, some agents will demand to be your sole representative for live work, at home and abroad.
  • Does your contract require you to pay Agency Commission for repeat/follow up bookings? It is worth checking the small print of a contract to see whether the agent will demand commission on your future gigs at the same venue, even if these are arranged directly between you and the hirer or by some other agent.

Should you have any queries about your dealings with an agent, please contact your Regional Organiser.