Music Agents and Scouts
Exploring this Job
Learn as much as you can about the music industry. Read publications agents read, such as Billboard (https://www.billboard.com) and Variety (https://variety.com). Listen to current musical acts to get a sense of the established and up-and-coming talents in the music industry.
If you live in Los Angeles, New York, or Nashville, you may be able to volunteer or intern at an agency to find out more about the career. If you live outside these cities, search the Web or check the Yellow Pages for listings of local agencies. Most major cities have agents who represent local musicians. If you contact them, they may be willing to offer you some insight into the nature of talent management in general.
Music agents act as representatives for all types of musicians. They look for clients who have potential for success and then work aggressively to promote their clients to owners of concert halls, clubs, theaters, musical festivals, and other venues where musicians perform. Agents work closely with clients to find assignments that will best achieve their clients' career goals. Some music agents specialize in one musical genre such as rap, classical, or rock.
Music agents find clients in several ways. Those employed by an agency might be assigned a client by the agency, based on experience or a compatible personality. Some agents also work as talent scouts and actively search for new clients, whom they then bring to an agency. Or the clients themselves might approach agents who have good reputations and request their representation. Music agents listen to recordings of the band or singer's music, visit clubs and other music venues to observe talent firsthand, attend musical showcases, and conduct live auditions to determine what musical acts they would like to represent. They also use social media platforms, such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, among others, to search for and watch musicians' performances. All agents consider a client's potential for a long career—it is important to find performers who will grow, develop their skills, and eventually create a continuing demand for their talents.
When an agent agrees to represent a client, they both sign a contract that specifies the extent of representation, the time period, payment, and other legal considerations.
When agents look for jobs for their clients, they do not necessarily try to find as many assignments as possible. Agents try to carefully choose assignments that will further their clients' careers. For example, an agent might represent a musician who wants to graduate from smaller musical clubs to large outdoor venues such as stadiums. The agent looks for opportunities to place their artists in these settings, perhaps by having them perform as an opening act for a stadium tour for a major headliner such as Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, or The Rolling Stones. If their artists are positively received by the audience and concert promoter, they may be asked to headline a stadium tour at a later date.
Agents also work closely with the potential employers of their clients. They keep in touch with music venue owners, recording industry executives, and other industry professionals to see if any of their clients can meet their needs.
When agents see a possible match between employer and client, they speak to both and quickly organize meetings, interviews, or auditions so that employers can meet potential hires and evaluate their musical ability. Agents must be persistent and aggressive on behalf of their clients. They spend time on the phone with employers, convincing them of their clients' talents and persuading them to hire clients. There may be one or several interviews, and the agent may coach clients through this process to make sure clients understand what the employer is looking for and adapt their performances accordingly. When a client achieves success and is in great demand, the agent receives calls and other types of work requests and passes along only those that are appropriate to the interests and goals of his or her client.
When an employer agrees to hire a client, the agent helps negotiate a contract that outlines salary, benefits, promotional appearances, and other fees, rights, and obligations. Agents have to look out for the best interests of their clients and at the same time satisfy employers in order to establish continuing, long-lasting relationships.
Agents often develop lifelong working relationships with their clients. They act as business associates, advisers, advocates, mentors, teachers, guardians, and confidantes. Because of the complicated nature of these relationships, they can be volatile at times, so a successful relationship requires trust and respect on both sides, which can only be earned through experience and time. Agents who represent high-profile talent comprise only a small percentage of agency work. Most agents represent lesser-known or locally known talent.