Guitar Girl Magazine recently had the pleasure of chatting with EastCoast Entertainment Agent, Jenny Langer. Jenny shares some terrific insight into the business side of booking bands and how artists can better prepare themselves in approaching an agency to assist them with their bookings. Additionally, Jenny, a powerhouse vocalist and frontwoman, performs with Moonshine Society and The Ron Holloway Band.
Can you tell us a bit about your background? How you became an entertainment agent?
I attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA for Music Business from 2003-2006. After graduating, I worked for Sonicbids and Bandzoogle while independently booking a handful of New England bands for club work, including my own. Fast forward a few years, and I’d moved to Washington, DC. EastCoast Entertainment (ECE) was expanding full time into the District and looking for agents. I interviewed, loved their team, they loved me, and here we are.
You’re also a performer, correct?
Yes! Funny enough, I’ve been on stages since I was a child and never assumed I would do anything else. In addition to booking entertainment, I also perform just over 100 concerts a year. I lived in China for a band residency, performed for the troops in Guantanamo Bay, played New Orleans Jazz Fest 2017, and have toured coast to coast. The Ron Holloway Band and Moonshine Society are my main projects, but I also get calls for jazz groups and private events, as well.
That’s quite the balancing act. How long have you been doing both jobs?
I’ve been with ECE since 2012, and have been fortunate to steadily perform 100+ concerts a year since 2010. It’s a wild life.
You’re based in Washington, DC. Do you focus primarily on the DC surrounding area for booking entertainment, or do you travel and handle bookings throughout the US and overseas?
80% of the time my focus is on the greater Washington, DC region. However, I have clients who are national companies/planners and host entertainment throughout the US and abroad. ECE has offices in over 15 major US cities right now, so I can be a local resource for buyers, while having national reach. I also travel frequently and make it a point to reach out to clients when I think of them, just like I do my personal friends. It’s important to stay in touch, and the entertainment and music industries are heavily based on relationships and reputation.
What suggestions would you have for up and coming entertainers seeking a music agency to assist them in bookings? How should they prepare and how should they approach an agency for assistance?
1) Think about your goals as an entertainer. What industry are you pursuing? The entertainment industry and music industry are not the same thing, though, they do cross over.
Unless your music is recognized commercially, an agency that provides entertainment for corporate parties, galas, weddings, cruise ships, etc. will likely not have much work for original music. You should look for a music agency to represent you.
Flip side- if you’re a cover band, most music industry agencies aren’t going to work to book you festival spots, tours, or opening spots for headliners, unless you’re super unique and have a following. You should look for an entertainment agency to represent you.
2) Look at artists who are performing the types of gigs you’d like to be doing, within your scene. Who’s booking them? Where are they playing? That’s an easy list of folks to pursue, first.
3) Don’t approach an agency until you have professional promotional materials. You can be the world’s most amazing guitarist with a killer live band, but if you don’t have high-quality video, audio recordings, professional photos, and a well-written bio, I can’t sell you. A&R doesn’t really exist anymore. You have to invest the time and money to develop you before anyone else will.
4) Have some experience under your belt before looking for representation. I recommend an artist gig at least two years independently before looking for an agent. Develop your stage show, build a reputation, get some followers, have live footage online, etc.
5) Research an agency before reaching out to them. I get calls every day from artists wanting an agent, but they quickly reveal they have no idea what types of gigs I book, or the acts I work with. It’s like applying for a job at a company without knowing what they do. Be focused with your outreaches.
6) Look at an agency’s website and social media. They’ll usually tell you how they accept artist submissions.
What have been the biggest changes, good or bad, you’ve witnessed in the music business, as an agent and as an entertainer?
Buyers tend to purchase with their eyes first. I’m not saying you need to be a supermodel to get gigs, but people will assume a band with a better looking photo and video will give them a better show and turnout than a band with lower quality promo.
As an entertainer, we live in a society with a short attention span and immediate demands. Successful artists are putting out constant content, and unfortunately, have been met with the expectation to give away their art for free or do so super cheaply. How can you make a living like that? It’s just a totally different industry than it was decades ago. Artists have to not only be incredibly talented, but they need to be focused, creative business mavens. They need to be a developed brand- and it can be hard to think of yourself (a human) as a brand.
In your opinion, do you think it’s in an artist’s best interest to first, go to school and study music and the business of music, before embarking on a career in music performance?
Absolutely! You don’t need to have a degree in music to be a musician. However, 90% of the gigs you’ll receive in your lifetime will be from your peers. (Hear me now, believe me later.) Surrounding yourself with folks your own age who are just as serious about music as you are will build you a professional network that will last a lifetime. That alone is worth every penny you’ll invest in music school- assuming you pursue the industry professionally, after school.
Stepping outside of your busy schedule, what do you like to do in your down time?
Downtime? What’s that? I travel as much as possible. If I have a few days that are flexible, I’ll hop a flight to Mexico, or drive to the beach. I also like to see fellow artists and their concerts, visit whiskey distilleries and wineries (Virginia is amazing for this), visit high tech art museums, and collect vintage jazz and New Orleans funk records.
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