Harder Beat Magazine Online
May 1997: Agents, publicists, attorneys, accountants and performance rights agencies (ASCAP, etc.)

Who are all these people and why are they important to a band? What exactly is their job? Do you really need them? How do you find them? What are they worth? How do you know if they're doing their job? This article deals with agents, publicists, attorneys, accountants and performance rights agencies.

Booking Agents get you jobs — that's all they do. They have the contacts to major clubs, concert halls, fairs and stadiums. Typically, they're paid about 10% of any job they find for you. If you have your act together, the first outside professional you should be looking for is a good booking agent or agency.

If you don't really have a great stage show put together, don't even bother calling a booking agent. Professional agents aren't interested in getting a band into a club that pays $50 to $100 a night — it's just not worth their time and energy, since they only get a percentage of what they book for your band. Most agents are on the lookout for show bands that are good enough to open for major acts, or headline smaller shows.

Publicists are less important than agents when you're first starting out but, as you get better known, their job becomes more and more important. What is their job? To make sure that people know about you. They get reviewers to review you, try to get your band favorable reviews, get your name known to the public and get people out to hear you.
Attorneys are the backbone of any group's organization. Like your manager, the attorney's job is to protect the band and work out the best deal for the group, whether it's concerning a record deal, or marketing T-shirts or going after money that's owed to the act. Most groups don't need an attorney until they reach a certain level of professionalism — usually it's when they are offered their first record company contract. There is a special class of lawyers that only deal with the music industry, and they specialize in record contracts and copyright problems.

Accountants are the final link in the band's behind-the-scenes support group. Accountants keep track of the money going in and out, suggest investments that have long-term investment potential and keep the group straight with the IRS. A bad accountant can cost you millions (Willie Nelson wound up owing about 8 million dollars), while a good accountant can help you put away money for the future.

Two other links are the publisher of the group's music and a performance rights agency. The publisher is responsible for making sure the record company is paying the correct amount of royalties, licensing the music for other artists to perform, publishing sheet music and song books and promoting the songs to other groups.

The performance rights agency makes sure that royalties are collected from radio, TV, clubs, and juke boxes, Internet Radio or even live bands, whenever one of your songs is played. Some of the most well known agencies are: BMI, ASCAP and SESAC.

Music veteran Harvey Gerst owns Indian Trail Recording Studios outside Denton. In the past, Harvey has been in a nation act (The Byrds), worked for major recording studios and designed amps for Jackson. Reach him at 940-482-3422 or

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