Supporting the Music Business Industry – For Artists & Agents!
Part way through my career as a semi-professional vocalist, when I was young, naive and when I let myself be exploited, I had enough of turning up to venues that were shut down, boarded up, rough as houses! I had enough of performing in clubs where bingo was the feature of the night, singing tunes that I didn’t really like, that were repeated on a weekly basis.
Not getting paid to what I thought acceptable terms were (ie 7 days to 30 days were acceptable – 6+ weeks was not). Turning up to gigs where I was being paid £500 commissionable, (no pick up) to find out that the venue was actually paying £1000 to another agent, through another agent, to me!
After 5 years I stopped all agent gigs! I HATED AGENTS! I felt completely and utterly let down by the industry. There was no support, no guidance and I felt like a number.
I moved abroad, performed 6 nights a week and removed myself from reality of all agent gigs and possibly the world as I knew it! It was great – for a while. I missed my family, my home, and following on from my families’ footsteps, I knew I was destined to have my own business (businesses)!
I decided to start my own Entertainment Agency, thinking it was an easy job, mobile phone, laptop, template contracts and away I go! I said, “I WONT be working with any other agencies in the country” HOW VERY WRONG I WAS!
At first when I became an agent, I was afraid to tell people that I was and still “sometimes” am a professional artist, I thought it would hinder the minds of people booking entertainment from the agency. I thought artists would think that I take all the gigs that come in, that they would think that I promote myself through my agency, which I don’t, as I have a manager myself now! I have heard people mention other agents who are in fact also artists and say not so great things. But that wasn’t me, and at the end of the day, people are always entitled to their opinions, they don’t have to agree with mine!
Anyway, to further surprise me It didn’t hinder the business at all! It showed customers, artists and agents that I am experienced from both sides of the industry, it showed that I understood what it takes to be an artist, to be an agent, to work with venues at hundreds of events from the Social Clubs at the beginning, to the roughest, boarded up pubs in the back end of nowhere, to the best and most prestigious venues and events that I could have only dreamt of performing at.
I met some of my heroes like AP McCoy, I made some of my closest friends all over the world, all from being a performer. I am proud to say I was a full time professional artist and I am also now proud to say I own an Entertainment Agency.
HERES THE KICKER:
Every business industry has its gripes, let downs, struggles, I can’t comment on them, I can’t comment on the gripes of a plumbers job, electricians, make-up artist, surgeon (as I have spoken about before) but I want to merely admit how wrong I was to believe that becoming and being an entertainment agent and supporting or changing the mind-set of this industry was an easy job!
Agents have to be diplomatic, they need knowledge, they need to be able to support both sides. We often do a lot of work, in fact most of our work without ever getting paid first. Much of what we do is based on trust, knowledge and experience.
For people who know me, they will understand how difficult it is for me to say “I was wrong!”
I started my company Franklin James Entertainments to of course make money, but with a dedication to also changing parts of the industry. So, I set out on my journey. In the starting months, a few agents called me and said “how dare you start an agency without informing me/us first! You cant just do that!” ……. I built the site myself, auditioned, contacted, relentlessly called, worked 23 hours a day until the flow was going and growing! My website got hacked and deleted 3 months later, I think I know who did it! I sulked for day, started again, eventually got the site to the first pages of google for certain key words and carried on! Relentless, calling, emailing, building rapports with everyone but agents!
Acts as I did, hated agents, (which now included me), agents hated agents, some venues hated agents! It seemed like a world of barriers and a hateful ratrace!
The same gripes I was coming up against as an act, I hear now as an agent on a daily basis:
Act / Agent: “ive not been paid”
Act / Agent: “ive waited 8 weeks for my money from a gig”
Agent: “the act hasn’t paid their commission”
Venue / Act: “we’ve double booked”
Act: “I got cancelled on the day”
Act: “the dog ate my wires so I cant do the gig”
Act: “I got drunk and didn’t make it to the gig”
Act: “my car broke down”
Act / Venue: “oh I didn’t get a contract, we have booked in something else now!”
Agent: “the act didn’t answer their phone, we missed out on the enquiry”
Venue: “The act didn’t deliver what you said they would”
Venue: “The act didn’t turn up on time”
Venue: “No one bought tickets – we want to cancel without paying”
Venue: “upon booking – can we cancel two days before and not pay the act (if you don’t allow that then we will go to someone who does)”
And so on….
Im not for one second stating that the above applies to all of the industry, of course im not! However, many of the above are very real and are things that all the industry have experienced.
I needed help! I needed advice! I needed industry support! I needed someone to trust and rely on with industry knowledge! I phoned Anne Barret at MBM, I would not only consider Anne a Mentor and someone who knows the industry inside out, but a close friend now. We talked, I listened and Anne helped me and still does. Anne gave me the boost and motivation to make everything professional, to stick with the industry and my vision.
I opened my mind and began working with selected professional agents, agents who were ethical, agents who followed a code of conduct, agents who were members of the Entertainment Agents Association! I removed 20% of the venues that I was providing entertainment for who I believed were not paying enough for fantastic artists, money those artists deserved. I removed 20% of artists who constantly cancelled last minute, who were constantly late, who constantly couldn’t find the post code and texted me at 7:30pm on a Saturday night for it, (when they should have been at their gig). I removed the clients and artists who didn’t pay on time…
My business improved
My quality of life improved
I fell in love with the industry again
I bought official contracts, The Star Turn Database, rebranded my company to suit the markets that we provide entertainment to and began slowly networking and building relationships with other like-minded agents; Agents that I have come to aspire to be like in this industry that we love and cant leave!
Supporting the Industry – Giving Back
To fulfil part of my vision and to give something back to the industry I was elected to become councillor in the Entertainment Agents Association and now Honorary Treasurer. I believe in what it does, the traditions it holds, the support it gives to Entertainment Agents and affiliate members and with its new, brilliant recently elected president, Neil Tomlinson, along with the other positive and well experienced Councillors, I feel it will develop, support and improve the industry further.
Now for the main part of our vision:
To Improve, Develop and Support Artists, Agents, Venues and others in the Show Business Industry, solving all of the gripes and problems listed earlier….. a Large task!
However, in addition to Franklin James Entertainments Ltd, my Mother, Sharon Stevens and I have set out to use her experience in Business, Finance, Debt, Accountancy and all things related (something we artists can sometimes find laborious) and to use my experience within the Show Business industry to create a company – Franklin James Showbiz, of which the goals and core values are to help music and show business professionals, whether they are a solo performer, a duo or group, a manager, an Entertainment Agency or venue.
We advise and help when there is a tricky situation or an area where expertise are needed for new artists starting out, ie registering as self-employed, invoice templates etc. We assist agents or artists who need a debt collecting, venues who need book-keeping and more.
Heres the Best Part:
– Due to our industry knowledge, we are not just “any” debt collection agency, or just “any” old book-keepers, we are passionate about the Music Business Industry, knowledgeable and have exceptional understanding of what is required in our unique and fantastic line of work, so our services are dedicated and tailored to suit our industry.
To conclude, there are good and bad in every industry, I have met my fair share of both. I don’t believe there is going to be a solution to prevent every issue that arises within our industry, there are only experiences that we can learn from and use to not do something again, processes that we can implement to reduce the problems that occur and solutions that we can have in place when these problems do arise.
It would be a pleasurable thought to wish that we could improve the overall hatred against the name “entertainment agent,” but I think that can only occur from each agency, artist, client and venue to want to do the right moral thing! “Trust is Earned and Not Given.”
Thank you x
Written by: Paula Bolton
Director – Franklin James Entertainment Ltd
Direct – Franklin James Credit Management Ltd
Treasurer – The Entertainment Agents Association
& Thrill Seeker