The fourth and concluding part of our blog of untangling the music industry carries on with the role of the agent and the reimbursement he can expect. In the earlier part of the blog, we looked at the importance of an artist building a framework of professionals behind him. And the key players being a manager, agent, and publisher, we have looked at their separate roles and how they work on the artist’s behalf. In this blog we look at the ways an agent may get paid by the artists and see the benefits of different methods both to the artist and the agent.

The Agent Deal

Agents are different to artist’s management as they are rarely salaried, and it is common to work for a good deal of artists on a percentage of gross earnings. The big agencies will demand legal contracts concerning reimbursement, and they will offer standard terms unless the artist is a mega star or similar. The deal between a head agent and an ordinary one might not be as watertight and may rely purely on a handshake. It is these sorts of deals that can end in all sorts of problems and the artist being left high and dry with no backing.


Agents generally work on a commission: if they do not produce the goods, they do not get paid. On the flip side, they are not really pressured to promote an unknown band. The standard percentage is ten percent of the artist’s fee, although this can vary depending on the artist. This standard commission comes with limitations, the agent is in no obligation to advance the show or arrange any logistics or hospitality. To advance the show means hassling a promoter about how he will market the gig, what the pricing format is, logistics of presenting the show, coordinating light and sound, finding backing bands etc. If an agent takes on the advancing, generally the fee will be higher, around fifteen percent. These kind of agent agreements normally last for two or three years.

Selecting an Agent

As a rule of thumb, do not consider an agent that is not interested in you as an artist; only engage with the ones who want to act on your behalf out of their own accord. You should never have to sell yourself to an agent: if you do, they either have too many acts or do not like what you are bringing to the table.

Also, once you have engaged an agent, do not skimp on the five percent in exchange for advancing the show. It can be a real headache handling and promoting all the logistics that goes with a tour. Especially if it means going out of the country, then you will need sub-agents to deal with legal issues, such as work permits etc.

If you are considering a career in music, it does not always have to be as an artist. We have outlined in our blog the many team members that are needed to make an artist successful. Perhaps a career in management or as an agent may suit you better, you never know what lies ahead.