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The Biz

Published: 2006/11/29
by Allen Ostroy

Booking Agents, Press Kits and A Workshop Update

You may or may not know that this Q&A on the music business is based on a workshop I teach from time to time called Music Biz 101. The next one will be at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, NH on December 4th at 7:00pm. Details are below and if you have any interest in the biz then I highly suggest trying to make this one. It’s all encompassing and in the two to three hour session you’ll get crammed with knowledge, advice, and strategies that will help you take the next step in the music industry. You’ll come away from the workshop with some real world knowledge ready to succeed as a musician, agent, talent buyer, or manager. Read what my contact at Skidmore had to say.

Allen’s workshop was a HUGE success at Skidmore! He spoke and responded to questions from a diverse audience, packed with everyone from student musicians and business majors, to local promoters and young entrepreneurs looking to forge their own paths in the music industry. His presentation was well organized and delivered. What I especially liked about MusicBiz101 is that it catered to all realms of interest and levels of experience. It’s not very often that a presenter enters a room and immediately tailors their workshop the audience’s interest. Within minutes of the workshop beginning, I think everyone in the room knew we were talking with someone who has experienced and learned all aspects of the music business, inside and out. Allen was genuine in answering questions thoughtfully and clearly. This is an invaluable, interactive and enjoyable workshop, and I have no doubt that my experience or that of my peers at Skidmore, was unique. I fully expect MusicBiz101 to become an annual event at our college.

Matt Currie Chair of the Skidmore College Student Entertainment Company 2004 2006.

I want to take this opportunity, in the spirit of the season, and thank Dean, Relix, and for allowing me this space on their site to answer your questions. I especially want to thank those who participate in this forum and send me their questions about the music industry. Please keep them coming to me at and if you can make the workshop I hope to see you on the 4th.

Location & Registration Info

Date – Monday, December 4th
Room – UNHMUB Theater One
Time – 7:00pm-10:00pm
Info – or 603.659-0611
Advance Registration at the UNH MUB Ticket Office – 603.862-2290
Only $50 or $30 w/UNH I.D.

How To Get A Booking Agent’s Attention

Hey Allen,

I was searching through to see if anyone posted info for
booking agents that are jam friendly and came across some advice you
had. I would really appreciate it if you could maybe give me a few
suggestions in finding a proper booking agent for my group.

I am in a successful Philadelphia based band called MJ PROJECT (check
out for sound clips and
and have been gigging with this group for many years and we are in need
of a booking agent who can take us to the next level and book larger
tours. I have been booking all of our shows and have been doing a
pretty good job by setting up shows in VT, OH, NY, NJ, RI and all
across PA and have had a good deal of success with most of these
locations but it’s HARD WORK! I have developed a lot of skills along
the way but I don’t have enough time or personal connections to do it
all myself and MJ is ready for a booking agent who can deliver more.

Many of my friends’ bands were or still are under Madison House
(Lotus, Brakes, Pnuma Trio) who seemed to be doing a really good job
for them. We are doing our best to get Madison House’s attention but
could you refer me to any other booking agencies that are a little
smaller and have a similar reputation?

What is the best way to get their attention?

Thanks a lot and I appreciate any info you can offer.

Ian McGuire


_You’re probably not going to like my advice. My first question to you is,
why do you feel the need to book larger tours? It sounds like you have
worked so that you can put together some nice regional runs. How are your
numbers in these markets? How many more markets do you want to add right
now and why? Is an agent really the answer to your needs right now? I’m
not saying its not I’m just asking._

_If you think an agent is the answer right now then I’ll say this. There are
many agencies out there looking for bands who already have a fan base. But
there are many more developing bands looking for agents. Agents are limited
by how many bands they can develop at one time. You already know that its
hard work breaking bands into new markets for little immediate financial
reward. As you know a band breaking into a new market can’t expect much
more than a $200 guarantee on average. At 10% or 15% commission that’s not a
lot especially for more established agencies. Have you spoke to your
friends in Lotus, Brakes, and Pnuma Trio about how they got the attention of
an agent? Will they give you a recommendation? Do you have management that can help?_

_There are agencies like Madison House, Crescendo Artists, Degy Booking, and
Skyline who have nice rosters and great reputations but a lot, if not most,
of the artists on their rosters had agents before them. Even if you get
added to one of these rosters you could be low man on the totem pole and not
get the attention you want or need. So, if you’re sick of doing it yourself
my advice would be to start much much smaller. There are some one man shows
out there looking to get into the business as an agent and right now just
trying to build their own rosters and resumes. If you can build your
resumes together maybe you both can get picked up by a bigger more
established agency. My advice to find them is to talk to venue owners and
other bands to get some names. They can recommend someone better than me.
There may even be a venue talent buyer who you trust and like that is
willing to step up and help out. They might not have a ton of other
contacts at first but they know how it works and talent buyers respect the
word of other talent buyers. The first agent I ever worked with was a guy
who worked for a company who’s focus was middling college dates. They had a
very small roster, maybe three or four bands, and did a great job for me.
But I didn’t hire an agent until I was doing 400-600 people in multiple
markets and by then it was much easier to get noticed._

_My point is that if you want immediate help then I would try getting the
help of someone in your immediate network. I would also ask all the talent
buyers you know who they would recommend. But your best bet is to continue
to do it yourself until an agent comes to you. Finding the right agent takes
some time and doesn’t happen overnight so even if I could recommend some
specific agents you’re still going to be doing it yourself for awhile. The
best way to get noticed is to be noticeable by doing numbers in multiple
markets and building your fan base. Make sure your business plan includes a
focus on that and not just filling the calendar. Keep doing what you’re
doing and networking and it will happen for you naturally._

_Thank you very much for the question and I hope I didn’t discourage too
much. Good luck and keep in touch!_


Press Kit Feedback

Allen, I was just reading your column and was saddened to learn that
basically, nothing much has changed since I left the David Nelson Band
back in 1999. I spent five years mailing out press kits, promotion
items, etc., with very little result. Of course, in the beginning, David
was loathe to use the Jerry Garcia/Grateful Dead connection and that was
a big mistake. We lost a lot of ground that we were never able to
recoup. One thing that did help us was spending a few dollars to have
die-cut stickers printed. The stickers said "Look inside for the latest
from one of Jerry Garcia’s long-time musical partners" and they were
psychedelic, bright colors. Cheesy, yes, but at least people actually
opened the package.

The band was disheartened for so long because of a lack of response, and
I personally called every person to whom I sent a package to follow up.
Sometimes, once they heard who was in the band, the agents denied ever
getting the package and asked for a re-send (which I always did). That
in itself told me that a great deal of our effort went straight into the
circular file without ever being opened. I suggest to all young bands
sending our promo kits to put something attention getting on the
outside. You may have a great product but if you cannot get people to
listen, what good is it? Never assume that the recipient knows what is

Anyway, that is all I wanted to say right now. Continued success on your
website. I love that the New Riders are pulling ahead of Little Feat in
the polls!

All the best,

Michelle McFee

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