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Booking Agency Blunder
March 25, 2017

From my experience, just about every bandleader seems to have their own view of talent/booking agencies. In my personal opinion, I think they provide a beneficial service. I've never felt them to be a necessity to me personally, because I book 95% of my band's jobs myself, but I feel the extra 5% is a win-win proposition for everyone — my band gets a few extra gigs that I may not have had otherwise, and the booking agency gets a well deserved commission.

Booking agencies typically have a clause in their contract that states, in one way or another, that if a venue for which they booked you decides to hire you at a later date without going through the booking agency, you will still owe the agency a commission. Not everyone likes this clause, but it makes sense to me that if an agency is responsible for introducing your band to a new venue, it would be unethical for the band to bypass the agency by booking future jobs directly. For several consecutive years, my band was hired through a booking agency to perform at a local Lions Club festival. One year the festival, apparently trying to save money, contacted me and asked how much it would cost to hire my band directly. I explained that I was contractually obligated to pay the booking agency the same 20% commission as in previous years, which meant I would not be able to lower my price. We were passed over that year, and haven't been hired for that festival since.

Although it was a shame to lose the festival, I lost it playing by the rules, so I have no regrets. Since the booking agency got me into that festival in the first place, I think it's fair they be compensated with a commission for making that business connection.

There are three booking agencies that I've been doing business with for the past several years, and I haven't run into a single hitch working with any of them... up until now.

When I first started playing at one particular venue several years ago, the venue hired me directly. A year or so later, the venue hired me through a booking agency. I don't know why they did that, because it meant they'd have to pay out 20% more for the same band, but ultimately their reasons were not my concern. This year, the venue decided to go back to hiring me directly. When the booking agency found out about this, they claimed that I should pay them a 20% commission.

I explained to the booking agency that although I am grateful for the jobs for which they hired me at that venue, they are not responsible for bringing me in there. I had already established a direct business relationship with that venue before the booking agency ever became involved, therefore, no commission was owed.

An employee of the agency made some rather accusatory statements which I did not appreciate. I supplied him with specific dates showing how my business relationship with the venue superseded their claim to a commission. I was also willing to chalk the entire matter up to a misunderstanding and continue working with the agency, but they apparently became bitter over the matter and have nothing more to say to me.

Since this section of my website is a blog and does not provide a means for others to post rebuttals, I don't think it would be ethical of me to state the name of the above booking agency. I will say that it was not Talent Associates nor ACA Entertainment, both of whom I've been pleased to work with over the years. If you're interested in learning the name of the booking agency that gave me problems, please email me.

My point for writing this article is to remind all of my fellow bandleaders out there to be wary of the contracts you sign. Understanding when you owe a commission is just as important as understanding when you don't.

Phasing Out Compact Discs
March 12, 2017

If you go to my music page, you'll notice that all of my music is offered via download, and my latest album is available on all of the major music subscription services. In 2016, music streaming services finally surpassed CDs to become the most popular way in which people buy music, but CD sales have been declining dramatically since the early 2000's.

The main reason for the decline, as it pertains to polka music sales, is an aging target market. Whereas polka music fans used to buy CDs to listen to at home and while traveling in the car, many of them have now moved into senior residences and no longer travel. They're not going out and following bands like they used to, and therefore no longer buying recorded music.

Cookie-cutter, beer-drinking polka CDs still sell to the general public at Oktoberfests, but the discerning polka music market that once thrived has dwindled to the point where it's no longer economically viable for most local polka bands to manufacture CDs.
Polka music distribution has always lagged behind the rest of the music industry by about fifteen years, so compact discs will reign unchallenged in the polka market for a number of years yet. But the bands that will be making most of the CD sales are the traveling bands who can spread their points of sale out across multiple festivals around the country. Local bands, who once relied on a thriving local fan base, are now facing up to a 75% reduction in compact disc sales compared to just fifteen years ago.

My next recording, which I estimate will be released around the beginning of June, will likely be my last compact disc release. From then on, my music will be released via digital distribution only, which means it will be available through online music streaming services and nowhere else. There's always a possibility of an unknown factor causing enough of a local sales bump to have me rethink my position on manufacturing CDs, but I'm not counting on it. My latest album is being enjoyed by music service subscribers all over the world, and that suits me just fine.

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