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Joined: Nov 2006
Posts: 456
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I'm getting bugged finding more and more restaurants are just turning their music over to a local agency, and booking the artists from their roster. If I inquire about sending in a demo, participating in an open mic, etc. I'm told, no, you have to be with Agency X or you can't get a booking at that place. Of course, I pitch the agency and am told, "Sorry, we have all the artists we can use, thanks."

Is this a thing now? Agencies have always been part of the game, but I thought they competed along with bands and artists pitching themselves. Restaurants with live music are declining anyway, so I wonder if the net effect is for one agency to essentially lock up an entire market!

Is anybody tracking this as a trend across regions or the nation? I feel like I need an education on this, how about you?

Joined: Apr 2001
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Joined: Apr 2001
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It's been a problem for a while. Live Nation put a stranglehold on venue performance slots/opps for quite some time because they controlled the only established music clubs in town. Sadly the area of town where all the best clubs were down several blocks all together got turned into DJ/Playlist only dance clubs. 4 clubs in a row that used to feature Country, Urban, Folk/Singer Songwriters and Rock Bands all because discos. This was in the 2000-20005 time frame. It killed people's urge to see live music and those clubs mostly all failed and as the neighborhood completely gentrified, all the artists moved to affordable places and the entire scene just disappeared.

What you are describing sounds like a smart entrepreneur decided to band a collection of artists together and represent them and he has cornered the market. What you need is a competitor. It would require getting some bankable artists (people who can fill venues) who only work for your agency and then go and compete. Find out what they are offering. My guess is he has vetted high quality artists and come up with standardized fees etc. so it makes it super easy for the venue to book an artist who will please their crowds and often will boost their door traffic. Those are things artists have to be doing to compete these days and frankly always should have been doing.

I think you can beat em, but you have to go to battle with a winning hand.


Brian Austin Whitney
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Joined: Jan 2001
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It’s happening in the Lehigh Valley. Between agents locking up venues and the group of area musicians not wanting to let outsiders like myself (a home owner in the area for 17 years now) in to their scene. A few of them have been helping me and in a few cases some special area music scene heavy hitters have been helping me now and then.

Visit http://www.frankporteracoustic.com for updated CD, gig and other music related information.
Joined: Jan 2009
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This is something that is not new. Pretty much every area in music has always had agents that controlled their territory It's sort of why there are agents to begin with. You can go back to the 40's, 50's, 60's etc. and find that there were always companies like the WILLIAM MORRIS AGENCY that territorially controlled everything. For a venue owner, it makes sense as they have a lot of things going on ,so having an agency that weeds out people makes sense.

The problem you are really having is the amount of artists that are trying to do this now. Before the Internet, there was usually a pecking order and ways to work yourself up, before you could get an agent, and some form of abilty was needed. Now it is an "EVERYBODY CAN DO IT" world. Millions of people have been put into the pipeline, so there is an enormous logjam.

But you really need to know what is nessasary now. A FOLLOWING. If you can demonstrate you can put people into seats, eat, drink, populate the venue you will get some attention. Probably the agency will want to book you. But till you can do that, even the best agency is going to be hard pressed to include you and the venues will probably not put you in anyway.

There are a lot of problems now. Covid is the obvious one. More and more venues have completely closed or have no abilty to have customers in the first place. Many will never re-open. People are also less inclined to even go out right now, or even can in many areas. Then, the increased competition, less incentive to pay for anything, the advent of open mic, karaoke nights where amatuers or the audience have taken over as the entertainment. Not to mention increased costs of operating a place to begin with are really taking their toll on live music in general.

What you might look at is trying to find the places that are doing live music, and see if you can sit in. There is nothing like a live audition and actually meeting and interacting with the owner or manager. It is sort of like worming your way in and not easy to do, but it does happen. Sometimes venues might allow someone toward the end of the night to get up, do a song or songs, during a break or with the permission of the act sometimes they might suggest they come in early. Sometimes not, sometimes they do. Just have to take a chance.

But basically you really have to understand that all the landscape of music has changed forever. That is why reality television shows, contests, etc. have come into being. It's mostly a younger person's game.

You need to make sure you do your own "off the field" work. Make sure you have a good following of friends, family, people that will show up to support you so that you can tell the venues you are going to help their bottom line. That is really what they are in business for. Show them you can do that and you'll get some bookings.


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