Clients frequently choose to scout for bands directly rather than consider contacting an agent and it isn’t always just because it works out slightly cheaper going direct. The problem with dealing directly with bands is that they’re often not the most organised or reliable people to deal with and as there’s rarely an official contract, the band could pull out at short notice and without any consequence (i.e. if they get offered a better paid gig or a tour comes up or thy get offered a block booking at a holiday park, for example).
The truth is, a good agent really can be an asset and totally worth a little extra expense. Just like a really good wedding planner or an event organiser, they provide added assurance that the entertainment you book is perfectly suited to your taste, that all the logistical issues have been considered and that the band can work seamlessly (behind the scenes) with your schedule to avoid any disruptions. A good agent will thoroughly vet all their bands and artists to ensure they meet all the professional criteria. They will consider the standard of musicianship, their experience and the level of professionalism and they will also check that the artists carry all the correct paperwork (up to date PAT documentation, the correct Public Liability Insurance and, where appropriate, the necessary risk assessment paperwork).
Additionally, you get a much better level of protection when dealing with an agent because artists are far less likely to cancel a booking where an agent is involved. They know that, unless it genuinely couldn’t be avoided, they would be risking damaging their relationship with the agent and potentially losing a lot of future work as a result.
The problem is, how do you pick the right agent? A nice looking website, or the sheer volume of acts they represent, is no indication of how large the agency is or how professional they might be or whether they follow sound ethical business practices. The truth is, we can expect an agent to have a good working knowledge of a few dozen or so acts but unless they have a detailed, criteria based, website search tool that functions effectively, then it’s just not possible for them to recall even a few basic details for the many thousands of artists that they have on their websites.
To limit competition, many agents now employ exclusivity agreements. An exclusivity agreement prevents a band or artist from working with other agents or taking direct bookings and, in return, the agent promises the band a full diary. The agent can then charge a premium fee for these acts. What’s worse is that when you ask these agents to recommend a band or artist, they will always recommend their exclusive artists first, even though there may be other, more suitable, non-exclusive artists.
Below is a list of hints and tips to help you navigate around some obvious pitfalls and also some pointers on what you should be looking out for when dealing with an agent….
You’ll be pleased to know, Act Sharp have now been trading for over 8 years and we’re extremely proud to say that we’ve never offered and nor would we ever offer exclusivity contracts to our artists. Maintaining client trust and being able to offer impartial advice on our artists is of paramount importance to us. We believe that exclusivity agreements are completely unethical and undermine that trust. We also understand the importance of giving clients the freedom of choice to pick the band or artist that best suits their needs and we believe that a fully functional advanced search tool can deliver this. A modified search tool, on the other hand, is completely ineffective at delivering a genuine, unbiased, list of choices. So choose choice folks! Choose to work with agents that can clearly demonstrate that they have ethical business practices and your best interests at heart.