Book ‘em

I had some time this morning to add some comments to the definitions readers submitted. Mostly I’ve quibbled with them in one or another for the sake of discussion. But that shouldn’t overshadow my deep appreciation for their contributions. Since Gold City recently announced they were going to start booking all dates in house rather than through an agent, I’ve gotten several queries from people wondering what in the world is going on? Why would do that? What’s up? First, take a look at the sogo thread on this. It’s not exactly comprehensive, but it’s a good start. Meantime, here’s my take on it: If you’re getting enough in-calls (that’s unsolicited calls from people wanting to book you) to keep your schedule filled and you’re satisfied with the quality of dates that those unsolicited calls are generating (i.e. you don’t have to do cold calling), then it’s foolish to pay a booking agent 15-20 percent of your honorarium to book for you. Lookit. If you’re working, say, 200 dates a year at $3,000 a pop, that’s upwards of $120,000 you’re paying an agent. Why not hire some lady from your church to answer the phone, send out contracts and feed your schedule to your webmaster and the SN for $20,000 a year and pocket the rest?Now, if you’re group is not terribly established or popular and/or you still need assistance making cold calls or keeping up with existing contacts and getting on tours and that kinda thing, then it’s money well-spent to retain a booking agent. Most sg people do not get enough in-calls to be able to do it themselves and are not organized enough to do so even if they were getting enough in-calls to bring the booking operation in house. But one would have to assume that GC is in pretty high demand or they wouldn’t have moved absorbed scheduling. For those in-demand groups, the trouble isn’t so much rousting up dates but making sure there’s someone there to receive calls and return them. If you’ve got an existing office staff, as GC does, then the staff could very easily inform the caller of the honorarium, send out the contracts, and take care of the rest. But if you don’t have such a staff or your staff is limited, overworked, and not capable of taking on the significant work of booking, then you’ll probably stay with a booking agent. That’s why so many of even the biggest names still use booking agents and why GC’s decision seems newsworthy.

Often, though, people who take their bookings in-house have not really thought through the process nor do they realize the amount of work that most booking agents really do on their behalf: sending out press kits, wooing promoters, keeping in constant contact with larger churches, and so on. Plus there is the arrogance factor: just because you sang Easter Sunday at Second Baptist Church in Houston doesn’t mean you were the church’s first choice. Maybe SBC Houston wanted someone else who wasn’t available and your booking agent talked them into taking you instead with the promise that the group they really wanted would be booked for next year at this year’s price. Who knows. Point is, a booking agent who does her job and keeps you busy has a vested and natural interest in making you think you’re the best thing since cheez-whiz - an ego boost that is harmless enough by itself but something that can potentially give groups a false sense of their popularity and make them think there is a high enough demand for their time to take booking in house, when maybe the “buzz” was all coming from a charming booking agent.

It shouldn’t go without saying that there are benefits to someone else booking you. The biggest one is probably that a booking agent puts distance between the artist and the pastor in Nowheresville, TX, whose church runs 16 on Sunday morning and who wants you to come for a love offering. When you take booking in house, you’re taking on the not insubstantial job of dealing with the volume of calls from people who want you to do charity benefits, free concerts for Aunt Mabel’s hip replacement or a free concert because “God told me to call you” (and yes, even the stars get those calls). That doesn’t mean GC isn’t up to the challenge. From what I’ve heard, GC’s front office is one of the more responsive and with-it among top-tier groups. Either way, I wouldn’t read too much into all this. [hat tip, FK]

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