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Agent • Booking Agent • International Agent


The agent routes tours, and negotiates fees and contractual obligations for musical artists’ live performances.


“You've got to have a very strong work ethic,” says Buck Williams. “This is not a 9 to 5 job. You've got to be willing to work seven days a week. Whatever hours it takes to get the job done. You have many shows to attend and there is a lot of travel. You have to have good phone skills; be able to talk with people. You have to be a good people person in order to not only sign talent and get people to believe in you, but also to get along with the people you're selling to. You have to be able to negotiate, not just demand, but negotiate.”


Williams begins his day by organizing his phone list and resolving leftover tasks from the previous day. Then he works from the East Coast to the West Coast, because of the time differences. Throughout the afternoon he may route a tour, negotiate fees and other contractual obligations, or get confirmations for dates. Every Tuesday Williams has a strategy meeting with his entire staff to plan tours and go over routing. “When we route a tour we find out what traffic and competition is in the market and even though we're set and ready to go, we may turn around and reroute the tour to avoid traffic. The bigger the artist, the more you have to do that. We make sure the ticket prices are right, that there is a specific marketing plan for the market. I make sure all my people do those things every time on every level, clubs and all. The most important thing is to do sell-out business.”


“The older I get, the more I realize success is about how you get along with people. People have got to trust and like you—there is a great comfort factor in that for managers. If you like someone, you're going to work with him more than if you don't like somebody.”—CD

“You've got to be able to listen and hear other people's side of the story. You may not ultimately agree with them, but you've got to be able to listen and see what they have to say.”—CD

“It's not easy being an agent. If you're not serious about doing it, don't get into it.”—CD

“A lot of agents look at success by how much money they make for their artists. They don't care about the other side [the promoter]. You want to get the best deal for your artists, but not one that runs the person you're selling to out of business.”—BW

“The odds are against you no matter what you want to do, but the job is going to be done by someone and that someone can be you, if you have the dream, the perseverance, and the wherewithal to get it done”—BW

“Learn everything you can about what is current today and a little bit of history of the music business. Know about the genre of music you want to be involved in. If you're going to be in pop music, know a lot about pop music; know what is happening in England and in Australia; know what is up and coming. Try to learn what the third track on the last record of an artist is.”—BW

Due to the fact that Chris Dalston is focused on international touring, he begins his day early, arriving at the office by 7:30 a.m. “I try to get calls to Europe out of the way in the first three to four hours. Then I start responding to my faxes and e-mail. By mid-afternoon, when Australia and Japan open up, I'm focused there. I try to go home by 7:30 p.m. I then will either go to a show or my day continues at night, at home, because in Japan and Australia it is the middle of their day. My job actually starts Sunday afternoon because that's Monday morning in Asia. My home phone is available at all times.”


The mail room or an internship is one way to get in the door at an agency. “We have a very good system at CAA,” says Dalston, “where we reward people that work internally. There have been three assistants that have been made agents in the last year. My assistant is now being put in the position of trainee and the next step up for him is agent. When you work in a team environment, you learn how the team operates. It's a continuation of passing the torch so that the team stays in place, as opposed to hiring somebody to bring in a big act to make a bit of money, which could ruin the chemistry of the whole department.”

Sharpen your clerical, organizational, and phone skills and apply to be an assistant or an intern. At larger agencies, the mail room or temporary work are other ways to get into the company. Once inside, after you've completed your assigned work, offer to help agents or their assistants getting building avails or performing other tasks. “I find some of the best people come off the concert committees from schools,” says Williams. “Those kids know a lot about music. They have studied it; they love it.”


“Basically, the agent is always wrong. It doesn't matter what happens, some way, somehow, people figure out a way to blame the agent.”—CD

“It's not fun when an artist or manager makes you do something that you know is wrong [for their career], but you have to do it anyway.”—BW


“I love the people. I love the clients. I love the way we're treated here [at CAA].”—CD

“What I really like is being able to take something and see success come of it; to take a small act and build it to a big act. That's incredibly rewarding, not only to see the success that the individuals in the band have, but the promoters and everybody making money. One of the most exciting things is being able to take a band like R.E.M. and go from a club to a stadium.”—BW


Christopher Dalston was a photographer on the European golf circuit, working for a small photography company in Leeds, England when he decided that he needed a change. “I'd been to America and I really liked it,” he recalls. He moved to Miami, Florida and signed on as ship's photographer aboard the SS Norway for three years. During that time, he became friendly with Phyllis Diller's road manager, and the comedienne offered to help him find a job if he was interested in getting into the entertainment industry. “I was pretty naive. One day, I just gave her a call and she ended up getting me a job working for The Amazing Kreskin.” Dalston relocated to New Jersey and for the next two years he saw every corner of the United States, serving as road manager for the mentalist. At a show in Los Angeles, Dalston met three agents from the newly formed Triad Artists Agency. “They said, ‘If you ever want to get off the road and get a proper job, give us a call.’” Dalston made the call.

“I started answering the phone, ‘Good morning, Triad Artists,’ and I was promoted to receptionist, to floater, and to assistant. Then, they made me a club agent.” When his boss walked out to take a job at rival William Morris Agency, Dalston inherited his workload, in true trial-by-fire style and organized international tours for George Michael and Whitney Houston. Later, when William Morris bought Triad Artists, Dalston finished out the remaining two years of his contract, then moved to Creative Artists Agency (CAA) in 1995. www.caa.com


Music was a driving force in Buck Williams’ life from a young age. He grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and became part of a band in high school. “Eventually, it had James Taylor in it and his older brother, Alex Taylor, was the lead singer.” Following graduation, Williams served a stint in the army. When he returned to North Carolina, he discovered a band and decided to call James Taylor, now a major star, for advice on how to proceed working with the group. Taylor suggested a New York contact, and thus began William's learning curve, talking to people already in the business. He got a job with an independent booking agency in North Carolina, selling talent to colleges and clubs, as well as managing and road managing small acts signed to the agency. “Then I went on the road with Alex Taylor and toured with him as a roadie, gopher, harmonica player, and sidekick. I later ended up managing Alex and I booked all of his dates. From managing Alex, I learned a lot about promoting shows. I learned about negotiating and I learned about riders.”

The skills he gained working with Taylor were an asset when Williams moved to Washington D.C. and began promoting concerts. “Mostly I promoted jazz concerts at Kennedy Center,” and later worked into the Raleigh, North Carolina area with acts like Chick Corea, Little Feat, Weather Report, and Bonnie Raitt. In 1975, he moved to Macon, Georgia to work as an agent at Paragon, representing artists like the Allman Brothers, Charlie Daniels, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Ian Copeland joined the agency during that time, bringing in the Police and Squeeze.

When Paragon folded in 1980, Copeland went to New York and, with John Huey, formed Frontier Booking International (FBI). A year later Williams joined the agency and became a partner. “I worked there until we merged with Intertalent,” a Los Angeles film talent agency. Not wanting to move to the West Coast, Williams instead joined Monterey Artists, but differing business philosophies soon prompted him to open his own agency. In 1994, he formed Progressive Global Agency, representing acts such as R.E.M. and Widespread Panic. Two years later Williams became co-manager of Widespread Panic. www.pgamusic.com/agency

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCareers in the Music BusinessAGENT - Agent • Booking Agent • International Agent, Agent Trainee • Assistant • Executive Assistant