The lights dim and the crowd screams. Suddenly, the wave of people behind you crashes in, pushing you forward toward the stage. Then, the music of your favorite band blasts through the speakers.
But while you were anxiously waiting for the artist to announce this show, they probably booked it six months in advance.
In the weeks leading up to the show, the artist and a booking agent exchanged countless emails, threw around dates and made negotiations. As a booking agent, this is business as usual.
“It feels like I have three feet,” said Emmy Carter, the booking director at the Cedar Cultural Center. “One of my feet is in planning like six months down the road, one of my feet is in what's coming up next week and one of my feet is in what’s happening tonight.”
The Minneapolis music scene is bright and exciting, with live shows at every venue almost every night of the week. It falls on the booking agents to keep it this way.
“Earlier in the summer we had sold out Tame Impala at Surly, Tenacious D at the Palace Theatre and shows at [our other venues],” said James Taylor, a booking agent at First Avenue. “That’s almost 10,000 people in the city on a Tuesday night that decided to spend their money to see live music. That’s really special.”
Twin Cities booking agents come from various backgrounds in the music industry — some were musicians, some worked for non-profits and others just really loved going to concerts.
“I’m naturally drawn toward going out and seeing shows and feeling invested in the community of music,” said Icehouse’s booking agent, Diane Miller. “You definitely have to be a music fan and enjoy the live music experience.”
The live music experience could mean luxe after-parties, but a booking agent’s day is a sweet mixture of administrative work and enjoying the fruits of their labor: the concert.
At last year’s Global Roots Festival hosted by the Cedar, Carter remembers feeling nervous that no one would show or the acts wouldn’t be what the festival-goers wanted.
“By the third day, that fear started to kind of melt away,” Carter said. “You’re just looking into the eyes of the artist, and you’re sharing this experience. I was so relieved.”
Knowing how to create a great live music experience involves developing relationships with local acts, too.
“If you released a new song, email me and say, ‘Hey dude, just wanted you to know we just put out this new record,’” Taylor said.
There is no shortage of local acts in the Twin Cities, and a national act might need local support, says Taylor. Keeping agents in the loop makes it easier to be considered for a spot.
“Everybody wants to see something that's good and exciting,” Miller said. “If you can prove that you're capable of doing that, you're going to start getting flooded with requests to play more shows.”
At the end of the night, booking agents want to help keep live, local music a special part of the Twin Cities.
“Just trying to consistently give audiences and artists an experience that feels really special and really authentic and really human,” Carter said. “It's part of what enables us to keep those relationships strong and to continue to grow.”