Music agent Sophia Margerison shares some top tips..

Richer Unsigned talks to Sophia Margerison of The Agency Group

What does an agent do?
An agents’ job is to build and develop an artists’ live career. They take a brand new act and book them for events such a showcases (even if there is no money being made). Their job is to put the act in front of the right crowd and make the right decisions to successfully develop their live career. They have to be persistent in pushing the bands forward!

How did you start your career in music and how did you end up as an agent?
It was quite a lengthy process! I ended up as an agent through a series of random coincidences. I was looking for a job in the music industry and I stumbled upon a job as assistant to the vice president of William Morris. My family, who work in music said that the industry was suffering some hits so the safest place to stick would be the live arena. Then I went on to Coda agency where I was given more responsibility and learned about the booking world and became an agent. At that point I was given a job at The Agency Group in LA where I am now.

Which artists do you currently look after?
DJs Kaz James, Jacob Plant, Ill Blu, Manic Street Preachers, Natasha Kmeto, Benga, Foals (DJ sets) and lots more!

At what stage should an artist be looking for an agent?
I think agents jump in really early these days which is good, but at the same time you need to have your live show up to scratch, and need to have a level of rolling momentum. If you are getting traction from labels and lots of interest and people wanting to book you then that is a good indication. I think it is important in the first instance to get some experience of gigging without worrying about agents and industry and just enjoy playing live.

What are the main 3 things you look for in a band before you consider adding them to your roster?
1. If the songs are good! 2. What team they have around them – and most importantly if they have a good manager. If there’s no one around them then that’s fine but if their team are notoriously difficult to work with then it makes the prospect less attractive. 3. If there’s a plan.

How necessary is it for artists to tour extensively when they are in their early stages or is it more important to focus on the key cities?
In America it is more important to focus on the key cities, as it’s so huge. Even artists who sell millions of records struggle in some cities. Getting on support tours is a great way to break in to different markets (so long as it is cost effective), as it gives the artist exposure to the headline bands’ audience.

With the internet playing such as huge role in allowing music to spread around the world, if your track does get popular it is not necessarily so important to tour from a grass routes level. Take Lorde for example; someone who came to America and hadn’t done many small shows because she was already so popular.

Does an artist need a manager and/or label before they have an agent?
You don’t need a label. A manager is more important because it is someone who creates a plan for their career and manages their expectations. Everything works together – is music going to be released? If so, then we should book a tour around it.

How do artists go about getting support slots and is the only way to get them by having an agent?
If you have an agent then it is obviously easier as there is a network between agencies where one agent may email out asking for submissions for tours. There will be a lot of competition for these slots and the decisions then gets passed on to the management and the artist as well.

Agents will know when they are going out on tour early. There is of course no reason why bands can’t research and write to an agent and ask about support slots, and similarly by approaching an artists’ management.