The artist team

An artist will usually have a team of experts around him/her/them. A relatively well-established artist will most likely have three different entities working for it: a manager, a record label and a booking agent. Each of these are handling a separate aspect of the artist’s business.


Record labels

A record label signs artists to release their music and promote and distribute their records both physically and digitally. You often encounter two terms to distinguish record labels; major and indie/minor. A major label is the definition of a larger international company, usually that owns several smaller record labels, like Warner and Universal. An indie- or minor label is a smaller, independent business that often specialises in a specific music genre or niche. Norwegian examples of these would be Fysisk Format, Jansen Plateproduksjon, whereas their American counterparts are the likes of 4AD, Sub Pop and XL Recordings.


Booking agent

Booking agents are responsible for all things related to an artist’s touring, from single shows to long international tours, support acts etc. Agents work with their network of promoters and venues in order to secure the best live opportunities and terms for the artist. Agencies offer a full touring administration for the artist, and handle all details related to a live show on behalf of the artist such as touring calendars, logistics, contracts and invoices. An agent is an integral part of an established artist’s team.



A publicist is the artist’s PR and branding expert. It will have a keen knowledge of the media outlets and key personalities in its territory, and will help guide an artist to get the best and most suitable exposure possible. They pitch and negotiate TV-performances, does news send-outs about the artist to their mailing lists, handles interview requests and makes sure the artist is visible and present at important events where media is present. If a promoter wants to get a quote or a video shout out from the artist, this will often have to go through a publicist.



The management is the artists closes liaison. It works on behalf of the artist, and is responsible for negotiating the terms of all agreements with the rest of the team as well as the communication between all entities. The array of tasks a manager handles can vary a lot, but in general the management is responsible for the overall development of the artist’s career. It works closely with the record company with regards to the artists recorded music, with the agent for touring and publicist for promo.


The agent and the booker

Booker is the most sought after title of a festival or concert venue. You get a chance to show your insight to what the next big thing is, develop the venues profile and negotiate the best deals with agents. As well as being a craft, it also deals a lot with administrational systems and finances.

As a concert venue or promoter you are always depending on an agent or artist in order to develop your program and profile in the direction you want. In some cases, you can feel forced to agree with terms that you probably shouldn’t, with a deal you either can’t afford or that impedes you in other ways. In these cases, it is important to remember that a venue and an artist/agent is always mutually reliant upon each other. Without the venue there will be no show, and vice versa. Most artists are relying on income from touring, as record sales alone is not enough to sustain an artist’s career. Less established artists also rely on the exposure and experience they get from playing shows, both to build their fan base and potentially attract new entities to their team, as well as to develop themselves artistically.


An established artist will have a booking agent handling all enquiries about touring and live performances. The agent will be working closely with the management about every decision that is being made on behalf of the artist.


The management will have developed the overall strategy for the artist, and a playing live is often a big part of any artist’s business. A strategic timeline is often laid out well in advance, often several years, and it usually binds together the release of new music with live activity. A tour is often set to a specific period in order to maximise momentum for the artist, either in the spring or fall. Which festivals to play in the summer will also be part of the overall strategy. For these reasons, the artist may not be available to you in the time you as a booker would prefer.


These are important aspects to understand, so that you can plan ahead and get insight into the artist’s strategy and be prepared to find other alternatives if you have to.


The role of the booker

An agent will have a set of expectations to any booker, even if you are doing it unpaid and is new to the industry. The first one is trust. Most artist bookings are based on trust and the expectation that you are honest about what you are offering. After that comes communication, and the ability to stay in touch and give answers within an expected timeframe. If a booker spends too much time to respond, the agent’s trust can easily be lost. Decisions are often made quickly, so you have to be prepared to respond quickly. 


The booker needs to have a clear overview of all local conditions, and you should be able to create an accurate budget for the show. If you are talking to an agent, but are unsure of what you can deliver in terms of technical equipment or which costs to cover you should always ask to for extra time to clarify the details. You should expect the agent to understand and respect this. An agent will always prefer to have all details in order before confirming a show instead of agreeing with uncertain terms.


Reach out to other bookers you trust and use the internet for guidance. Certainly do not pretend to know about things you really don’t!


The booker has a central, but complex role in a concert organisation. It needs to work closely with the person in charge in of finances, the technical staff and marketing team. Everyone needs to communicate with each other to make the organisation run smoothly. For promoters that base a lot of their staff on volunteers, the lack of staff continuity for the booker may be challenging for both the venue and agent. In these cases, you should make sure that volunteers overlap each other and receive good training.

A tip if you are a new booker at a venue. Set up meeting with all the agencies you will be working with and tell them about your plans. This will help them understand your ambition and put a face to your name.


The booking process

The process of booking an artist has multiple phases, and while the agent will expect rapid decisions, if can be wise to find your balance and take the time needed to make sure everything is in order. Know the finances of your venue, and which economic factors will contribute to your budget. Keep your budget close and updated.


Get in touch with agents about artists you are interested as early as you can. However, some artists will not be able to give you a clear answer too far ahead, but 3-4 months in advance of the proposed date.


The process can look something like this:



This is the creative process of booking your line up. You should be thinking about your line up’s profile, using music outlets and networks available to get ideas. Listen to demos, read blogs, YouTube, monitor streaming numbers, read printed magazines and start to evaluate what would be realistic in your market and towards the audience’s expectations.


Incoming pitches

If you already have a network of agents you have worked with or know your venue, they will most likely send you offers for their artists. These will often be based on what the market has been paying for the artist so far. If you are an active part of your local music community, you will also constantly be receiving offers from local bands and musicians.



Trust your own evaluation, but make sure to get a second opinion from trusted contacts about your plans. Seek to find specialists on the genre at hand and use data from record labels actively. How were sales the last time the band played, how long ago was it, how are the streaming numbers, will they be releasing new music, has the band been in the media lately or maybe won an award etc.


Risk analysis / budgeting

Go through all the factors of the show. At what time in the year are you planning a show, what ticket price is reasonable, is the age limit right in terms of the artist’s fans, are you competing with other shows nearby, are there any other partners it would make sense to share the risk with? Get an overview of all details and put together an accurate budget. When you are negotiating, make sure to update your budget with the artist’s rider and negotiate its terms (hospitality and technical) and not just the fee of the show.



When you have decided to enter into negotiations about an artist, there are different ways of approaching fees. Remember that the price for a band is twofold, the fee and the variable local costs you cover in addition. Here are examples of different types of deals. They differ from each other by the amount of risk taken by the promoter. Depending on how certain you are of the outcome, you should consider every model before making a final offer.


Flat fee

The promoter and agent agrees on a flat fee and an approved rider for the show. This way you will know exactly what your expenses will be, but not your income. The risk is taken 100% by the promoter, and with good ticket sales the potential profit will be good, but so are the potential losses. It is important that you approve the applicable riders before signing the contracts and make sure these are an integral part of the agreement. This will help you avoid unpleasant surprise expenses for extra backline rental or supplying hotels for a bigger travel party than estimated. These kinds of deals are not very common except at festivals.


Split-deal with guarantee

These deals will offer the artist a fee plus a percentage of ticket sales after breakeven, which the financial point where the promoter has recouped all of his expenses (including the artist fee). This guarantees the artist a minimum fee, but the risk is now split between the promoter and artist. This is a common model for clubs and smaller venues. The more establish the artist is, the bigger the guaranteed fee. The split is commonly 70% or higher in favour of the artist. You negotiate the balance between fee and percentage.


Split only

These deals put most of the risk on the artist, that will rely on ticket sales to make money. If you do not offer a guarantee, the agent will ask for a relatively high percentage of sales. Remember however that you have to be able to cover your costs. Therefore, it is important to clarify if the artist’s percentage is of the net (after breakeven) or gross (all sold tickets) ticket sale.


Festival fees

Fixed fees are the most common types of deals for festivals, as splitting income and expenses of an entire festival between promoter would be very hard to do. Pricing a festival spot for an artist will also differ from a standard headline show. If there are many festivals in a particular area, deals will often have exclusivity clauses, hindering an artist of playing all the festivals that compete in the same market. This means that the artist will be playing less shows, and the price of the single show will go up. The artists travel costs to get to the area will now only go towards playing the one show. These factors contribute to the asking price from agents for a festival being higher than a club show. On the other hand, some festivals pride themselves with media and industry attention, which can make bands and artists want to play there and would allow the booker to negotiate more favourable deals.


For all types of deals where you calculate a breakeven point and split the overage with the artist, then the artist will in turn always be paying for the costs of their own requirements and riders. This should motivate an agent to keep rider costs down.



An artist’s “rider” is a list of requirements and will contain details about what is needed both on and off the stage for the artist to perform the show. There are countless stories about outrageous riders, about artists requesting helicopters, only the yellow M&Ms backstage, wardrobes of a certain size to be able to fit their soul into it etc. However, a rider is a document describing everything worth knowing about the artist and the production.


There two types of riders, technical and hospitality. A technical rider is often put together by an engineer or the production manager for the tour. It will detail all technical requirements about the PA, lights, stage, backline etc. A hospitality rider contains all non-technical requirements such as catering, accommodation, travels, guest lists etc. You will often find that a rider is excessive and overly specific, but remember that the content of the rider is also negotiable. Riders will often give you an idea of what the artist prefers, however, with good communication you will almost always be able to find reasonable alternatives to everyone will be happy with.


Riders are an integral part of the agreement for the show, and if you have signed it without being able to deliver everything in it, the artist may have the grounds to cancel the entire performance without further explanation.



The artist will always need a wardrobe to change, keep their personal belongings and relax both before and after the show. Wardrobes should have locks, and the audience should not have access to the area. The artist should not have to walk through the audience areas in order to get to the stage. Think about how you furnish the wardrobes. Common requirements are a large mirror, enough seating for the artist and its entire crew as well as a private bathroom and shower. Make sure these are cleaned before the artist arrives.


The show budget

A show budget should only contain expenses directly related to the specific show at hand, and no operational costs. The budget will generally be made up of two types of costs, the fixed local costs such as venue rental, PA; lights and electricity, security, marketing etc., and the costs of the artist such as fees, travel costs, hotels, catering, backline rental, ground transport etc. Operational costs are usually financed through external income sources not related to the concert program, such as member’s fees, public grants or food and beverage sales. Operational costs can be office rental, electricity, cleaning and staff.

Once you have added all expenses to your budget, you will know how much income you need in order to break even. The breakeven point will also be where a percentage split with the artist will kick in. If you are worried you budget is not realistic, try using budgets from other similar shows as a starting point.



If you are putting in an offer for an artist, make sure to always include the budget and to do it in writing per email. Be open and honest about your considerations related to the offer you are making. Make sure the offer clearly states who is covering what costs. Add a deadline for when the offer expires. Also check with the agent if the artist has confirmed other shows in your area, as this could affect your ticket sales. If not, you can ask you an exclusivity in your city or county for a given period of time.

Content of an offer


What should an offer contain?

We can divide an offer into three sections: 

  • An offered fee attached with a budget
  • An overview of the technical facilities
  • A list of standard terms related to the venue or festival


You should prepare templates that will cover all details.


Standard terms

The standard terms of an offer are rooted in the local conditions and can include whatever details a promoter would want to add. There are so many irregularities in this industry that you can make any of deal you want.

A good foundation to build your offer from is to establish how long it will be valid for, and what dates you have available for the artist. The amount of time you will allow until the offer expires will depend on how much time you can allow yourself to wait. A deadline any shorter than a week is very uncommon. If you are sending offers to international acts, make sure to include details about taxes and fees that would apply for them in your country, and that it is the agent’s responsibility to handle these. The same goes for the agent’s fee.


If there are any specific to when an artist has to sound check or any sort of limitations that will affect the artist on the day of the show, include these in the offer or as soon as you can. Local transport is often covered by a promoter, but make sure to detail what is included to avoid expensive taxi bills afterwards. If you have a range of ticket prices, or want to put on a local support band, this should all be included in the offer.


Final agreement

After having discussed the terms back and forth with the agent you will hopefully end up with an agreement that have to make sure you can deliver.


No matter how big or small the artist, always make sure to have a written agreement with the agent. As with an offer, the agreement will also consist of three main documents:

  • The contract document with details about the date, fee, venue, slot time, information about other artists, promo, marketing and general terms from both the artist and promoter.
  • Hospitality rider, with all practical details about the artist such as travel party, hotel preferences, catering and diet information, transport details, wardrobe requirements etc.
  • Technical rider, containing all technical specifications about the show such as PA, lights, stage size, electricity etc. What equipment are they bringing and what will they need to have delivered locally, as well as contact details to the artist’s technical staff.


Remember that everything is negotiable.


Rider negotiations

Riders are negotiated at the same time as fees, as riders can entail large additional expenditures. Examine all costs related to riders, and negotiate what you cannot deliver or find unreasonable. Negotiable points that can save you a lot of expenses:

  • Does the travel part need to have single hotel rooms?
  • Can they arrange private accommodation?
  • Can they eat home cooked meals?
  • Are they travelling with the cheapest alternative?
  • Is there a genuine need for extra equipment rental?
  • What can the artist bring of their own backline?


Rider demands such as cigarettes or lottery tickets is regarded as private matters and should not be a promoter cost. Excessive amounts of alcohol can also be viewed as unreasonable as the artist is also there to work.


If an artist is paying for parts of its own rider that would otherwise be offered by the promoter, such a sleeping in the tour bus instead of the offered hotel, you can discuss if they should get the price of the hotel as a buy-out to cover these costs.


Make sure that both parties agree on the amendments made to a rider. However, a promoter should not pride itself by how much of the rider he/she manage to cut. The concert is still to be held under decent conditions.



It is normal to pay an international act 50% of the agreed fee in advance and the balance after the show. Especially if you are working with an agent for the first time, paying the full fee in advance can be risky. Make sure to cover yourself in case the artist cancels the show.


Most agents will invoice you the fee, and you should be wary of paying artists in cash.


Check list for bookers
  • Be honest! Always consider what you can afford to offer and do not agree to unreasonable demands.
  • Do a detailed risk analysis of your market, the artist’s audience, genre, new releases and possible media attention in your territory.
  • Produce an offer detailing all general and specific terms to do with your particular venue and the artist at hand.
  • Submit a detailed budget!
  • Every part of an offer can be re-negotiated and is not final until both parties have agreed.
  • Write a contract and make sure to read the small print of an agent’s standard terms.
  • If you are talking on the phone, make sure to follow up in writing via email to summarise what you have agreed upon.
  • Do not pretend to know something you do not. If you are stuck and need to check something, be honest and ask for time to clarify the details on your end.
  • Keep your promises!
  • Remember that your expenses go beyond just the artist’s fee. Maintain communications with you marketing, technical and finance staff in order to see the full picture - and everyone will be happy with you!
International artists and agents

Some local agents will tell you that you should not be taking directly to international agents. Sometimes it does not make sense either, if the agent has a partner in your country. In those cases, the local agent will be your contact point anyways. I may be that the fees increase somewhat due to the fee charged by the local agent, but dealing an agent that understands where you sit in your market will certainly give you an added sense of security. Within genres where local agents have less network you will be forced to contact the international agent directly, without it being frowned upon locally. Start with smaller acts while you get to know the agent, and build their trust in you over time.

Collaborative booking

Collaborating with other promoters and venues to offer packages to get discount on a larger series of shows is common, but demand great organisational skills. Smaller, regional collaborative networks will be the easiest ones to manage and make sure it is worthwhile. By offering a string of shows to an agent, the artist will be saving on travel costs and you will make the agent happy that you have routed the tour for him/her.

Even you are not submitting offers together with others, it is important to keep in touch, to share experiences and make sure that you are not outbidding each other in your region. Planning line-ups together to fulfil each other will give the best results for both artists and fans.


Collaborative booking between venues or festivals that are far from each other both geographically and in scale, will probably demand more work than gain. Some will also be wary of vouching for promoters they don’t know too well, which in turn can weaken their trust with the agent.


Merchandise is a good source of income for both artists and promoters. It is also a good marketing tool. There are numerous producers of various merchandise, everything from t-shirts to bags and posters. Consider your options and how you want your brand to stand out before deciding what merchandise to produce and who to get it from. Not all producers pride themselves with great quality.


Artist merchandise sales

Many promoters offer to sell artist’s merch against a cut of the total sales. You should agree on a percentage as part of the contract for the show.

Make sure to know exactly what you are stocking of the artist’s merch, and count your inventory together with a representative for the artist before you start selling and after.