A Glossary of Live Performance and Booking Terms


Each industry has its own jargon. Those in the know are able to move about more comfortably. I thought I would lay the foundation and provide you with a glossary of basic terms. As you continue in the business, feel free to email me with questions regarding new terminology that continues to stump you. From time to time, I’ll add to the glossary since there are sure to be many more than these. I will group terms according to categories rather than an alphabetical listing so that you can get a clear sense of their relationship. I’ll start with two basic terms whose roles are so often confused and misunderstood, agent and manager.

The Artist’s Team:

Agent: Representative for the artist who makes the artist available for performance dates. The agent negotiates the fees, contracts the dates and coordinates tours. In many states, an agent must be licensed to book talent. NY, FL, and CA have particularly strict regulations for licensing talent agencies. You could check with the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts organization in your state for more information. Start your search with the New York branch.

Personal Manager: Provides an artist with overall career direction and guidance. They will coordinate all the team members who play a role in the artist’s development. They will negotiate record deals, publishing deals, find an appropriate agent, publicist, business manager and other team members. In most cases, a personal manager does not book performance dates and in certain states, it is illegal for them to do so.

Business Manager: Manages the artist’s finances. This team member is usually added once the artists are making a substantial income requiring a full-time person to handle finances at gigs, artist investments and general financial advice.

Road Manager: Takes care of all the details prior to and during the tour. They advance each tour date, make sure the artist arrives at each date in optimum condition to fulfill their contracted duties. If a band can’t afford a road manager, a member of the band may serve in that capacity.

Publicist: Coordinates artist’s publicity and marketing campaigns. Provides public notice to the media to create an awareness of the artist.

Radio Promotion Company: Coordinates the radio portion of the marketing campaign when the artist releases a new recording. They can be hired by the record label if there is no in-house radio promotion department or hired by the manager or artist. Radio promotion campaigns generally last for 12 weeks. Their goal is to help the recording gain enough airplay to register on the various radio charts that track new recordings.

Booking Terms:

Hold: Placing a hold on a date reserved that date for the artist in question until a final decision by the booker or artist is made to offer or accept the date.

Booker, Purchaser: The person at the club or venue who books the talent.

Promoter: A promoter may book talent into multiple venues paying rent at each. Promoters may also restrict their booking to one specific venue whether or not they own the venue.

Venue: Any place where a performance may be taking place.

Deposit: A portion of the guaranteed fee. Deposits are generally returned with a signed contract. Any percentage of the guarantee may be a suitable deposit though 50% of the guarantee is the norm. Deposits are legally supposed to be held in an escrow account until the date is played. Should anything happen to cause the date not to be played, the deposit may have to be returned depending on the contract agreement. You should think about asking for deposits once you start getting guarantees in excess of $500.

Guarantee: The fee agreed upon that the artist is to be paid.

Gross: The total income from ticket sales before any expense is deducted.

Net: The total income after all the expenses are deducted including any artist guarantee.

Straight Percentage: An agreed upon portion of 100% of income from ticket sales. The larger portion of the percentage generally goes to the artist. 65% is a reasonable artist percentage. The negotiation points in a percentage deal are the actual percentage and to know whether it is a percentage of the gross or the net.

Guarantee Plus a Percentage: Artist gets a base guarantee plus some percentage. Most often these deals are based on a percentage of the net but it depends on the deal. You certainly can try to get a percentage of the gross.

Guarantee versus and Percentage: Artist gets a base guarantee or an agreed upon percentage of the income, whichever is greater.

Load-in: The time agreed to that the venue will be available for the artist to load in their gear and set up for sound check.

Advance the Date: A series of timely calls to check with the venue that everything is ready for the artist’s performance. Check with each venue contact regarding production, hospitality, and housing and coordinates all necessary travel. Advancing each date will keep you informed of each date’s promotion and ticket sales and will help avoid problems before they happen. It is a good habit to begin advancing each date.

In my article, “The Right Documents for Booking Gigs,” I’ll familiarize you with some contract terms and types of contract that you might want to incorporate into your business systems. Meanwhile, if you run across any new terms you would like to have discussed, send them on.

And, I invite you to learn more about this and other topics important to your career development and to sign up for free weekly audio Biz Booster Hot Tip! Every Monday you’ll get another valuable strategy and technique that you can put to use immediately. You’ll find helpful books, career development seminars, Booking & Touring Success Strategies & Secrets online course and information on booking tours, the music business and performing arts. It’s all waiting for you at https://www.performingbiz.com. Jeri Goldstein is the author of, How To Be Your Own Booking Agent The Musician’s & Performing Artist’s Guide To Successful Touring, 3rd Edition.

* If you would like to reprint any of these articles, please contact Jeri Goldstein for permission.

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