I get booked both directly by my clients and through agencies. I enjoy both very much and appreciate the work agencies do for us artists. My advice for clients is based on years of performing and I hope this post helps you make an informed decision.
Do you know what you want?
If you’re not sure what you’d like to book for your event, browsing an agency site can be useful. Some agencies also offer personalised advice on what will be best for you. You can look at and compare several acts in one place and even request quotes from several artists in one go.
If you know what you want, e.g. a Flamenco dancer for a party 😉, you can skip this step and search and contact your local acts directly.
What about a replacement guarantee?
Many agencies offer a guarantee to organise another artist for your event should your preferred act have to cancel for whatever reason, except force majeure. This sounds like a very important point and it is.
However, consider the following three points too: 1. Would you be happy for your preferred choice to be replaced by any of the artists on the agency’s books? 2. Many artists, while not being able to guarantee a substitute legally, have a network of fellow performers who they may be able to draw upon should they have to cancel. 3. Last but not least, I have never had to cancel a performance and none of my performer colleagues have ever had to either. Freelance artists seem to be a robust bunch.
Do you have time to search beyond page 1 on Google?
Agency acts are easy to find through Google. Since agencies are large enterprises with big websites and a budget for search engine optimisation, agency websites often dominate search results. If you’re in a rush, you may not have time to try out different search terms or to explore the bottom of page 1 and even page 2 and 3 where artists’ own websites will show.
How much can you afford to pay?
The price you pay will most likely be lower when booking directly with an artist. This is because you’re only paying one artist or act who is usually a self-employed sole trader without any overheads, not a large company with several departments and many employees.
Is it safe?
Agencies are usually registered companies with a high volume of reviews, so you can feel safe in their hands when it comes to payment and insurance.
When booking directly with an artist, I suggest you check their online reviews, book Equity (the performers’ union) members who have public liability insurance, and get on the phone to them to get an impression of their professionalism. Professional artists will also provide you with a contract and T&Cs for their services.