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The Biz

Published: 2006/01/25
by Allen Ostroy

Booking Agents and Brazil

Happy New Year! I hope you had a great holiday season full of friends, family and music. Have you ever gone to church or temple and heard someone in the choir with an outstanding voice and thought to yourself, “This person’s better than everyone on American Idol and everyone I hear on the radio.” It happened to me a few years back and the girl was only fourteen! I inquired and her parents said that she was very interested in becoming a singer. I wonder what became of her.

Anyway during the workshop I presented at the Higher Ground I determined that there are many, many websites musicians can use to promote themselves and I’m sure I don’t know them all so I thought I’d ask you to send me the ones you know. Then I can compile a list and publish it here. What I’m looking for are websites like myspace.com. What others do you use or know about? Send them to me at allen@jambands.com.

Allen,

Great work on the column, it’s been really helpful to me as a musician attempting to manage and promote my own band, as it happens to a lot of us. However, in my case I play in a Jamband in Brazil, we’re called Super Simples, and we’re up on Archive.org, a plug never hurt anyone right? The story behind us is rather long, but I’ll keep it down to the fact that i have dual citizenship and love jam music. Anyways, the market for our kind of music is bare in Brazil, where the state of music is sadder than in the States. My question is this: How do I go about getting shows in the US coming from Brazil? Would my band members need work related visas? I assume we would need gigs before even getting to the US. My thoughts were that the best time to do this crossover, would be summer, using a lot of festivals in the east coast as a springboard. Does this sound like a pretty good idea? Or not? Thanks again for all the great columns, and keep up the good work. Thanks, Rafael Nunes

Rafael

_I can honestly say that you are the first Brazilian jamband I’ve ever heard
about which could work in your favor. I’d start by spending some time and
money creating a relationship with the American jamband community. Join the
Home Grown Music Network. Contact jambands.com and jambase.com and see about getting ads with links to your music on their sites – I know jambase.com has a jukebox on their site and maybe you can get on that. I have absolutely no
concept of the Brazilian scene but if there is even a small one I would contact a "like" sounding band and offer them a trade. Who wouldn’t want to do a few shows in Brazil? I know you said the market is bare but there has to be some jam music lovers. If that didn’t work then you still might get offered a support slot for a tour. Breaking a Brazilian jamband into the scene might is a pretty cool concept for a band._

_I have no idea if you would need work related visas for only a couple weeks
of touring in the states but I would assume you do. The state department and
labor departments can answer that better than me. Your thoughts of using
festivals as a springboard would work but it is tough to get festival slots
unless you have a following in the states already. There are ten or more
bands vying for each slot. It definitely wouldn’t hurt contacting those
promoters over the next year._

_Through Pollstar you can also get a list of booking agencies and what bands
they represent. Then you can contact the agencies that represent bands in
the jamband genre and see if someone would be interested in being you agent
in the states._

Thank you for your kind words and good luck! Please keep in touch!

Al

Hi,

I’m in a band called Raga from Charleston SC. We’ve been playing in this
area for around a year and want to be on the road by next summer.

Some questions:

1) What would your advice be as far as getting a booking agent to cover
the southeast?
2) How much do low-level booking agents usually cost, and where would I
even begin looking? <—- this is the important question
3) Do we have to get someone in Charleston, or would someone outside of
Charleston be fine?
4) Do the agents usually negotiate our payment with their own pay in
mind when talking to the venue? Or is the band usually expected to pay
up front?
5) If we’re playing places we’ve never played before, and cannot expect
to draw a crowd, will we get paid very little?

Our style could be lumped in the jamband category if this helps. I’m
getting tired of dealing with the venues myself, and it seems like
someone else could do it for a modest cost (it’s not THAT difficult to
book shows). If you any have any advice, please reply whenever you
can, thanks.

N.S.

Thank you for writing. I’ve done my best to answer your questions below.

Hi,

I’m in a band called Raga from Charleston SC. We’ve been playing in this
area for around a year and want to be on the road by next summer.
Some questions:

1) What would your advice be as far as getting a booking agent to cover
the southeast?

There are really two choices here. 1) Either contact established booking agencies and see if they would be willing to add Raga to their roster or 2) Get a friend who wants to help you to help you. Either way your agent is going to want exclusivity throughout the world or at least throughout the country. My advice is below.

2) How much do low-level booking agents usually cost, and where would I
even begin looking? <—- this is the important question

Industry standard is 10% of the gross net. Gross net is after sound, lights, and support if those figures are coming out of your bands pocket. For example if you are paid $500 for a gig your agent is paid $50. If you are paid $2000 but you brought in sound and lights for $1500 then your agent still gets $50.

Since agents are paid by how much you make and how much you make is determined by how much you draw, its hard to get an agent to book you until you are drawing some people. I’m a big supporter of "do-it-yourself" and that could mean having a friend do it as your exclusive agent.

3) Do we have to get someone in Charleston, or would someone outside of
Charleston be fine?

They definitely don’t need to be local.

4) Do the agents usually negotiate our payment with their own pay in
mind when talking to the venue? Or is the band usually expected to pay
up front?

The reason agents are paid on a percentage is to motivate them to cut the best deals for you that they can (people are motivated by money). The more you make the more they make. In the beginning an agent may ask for a retainer or a deal where they are guaranteed something like $1000/month vs 10% of the bands gross whichever is more. If you are a new band starting out you can expect to average about $200 – $250ish per gig. Even if you play 20 shows in a month the gross will be $5000 which is only $500 for the agent. Booking 20 gigs for a new band can take an agent a ton of time so the $500 could average to $2/hour. There aren’t many established agents who will work for $2/hour. Obviously someone who believes that will become $200/hour, and believes in your vision, is the guy who will be the exception to the rule.

5) If we’re playing places we’ve never played before, and cannot expect
to draw a crowd, will we get paid very little?

Absolutely. But you have to draw a crowd every show.

Our style could be lumped in the jamband category if this helps. I’m
getting tired of dealing with the venues myself, and it seems like
someone else could do it for a modest cost (it’s not THAT difficult to
book shows). If you any have any advice, please reply whenever you
can, thanks.

My advice to you and your band is to bring a friend into the "circle of trust." There has to be someone you know who loves your music and has some sense. As you pointed out, "it’s not THAT difficult to book shows." Turn one of your boys (or girls) who can’t play an instrument into an agent and you can all grow together.

I know I probably didn’t tell you what you wanted to hear but remember just about every single band was in your shoes at one point.

Keep in touch and good luck!

Al

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