The following scenarios are not meant to encourage you to do them, they are only listed here to explain to you how the industry works.
Here are some ways that a Booking Agent will select YOUR act over someone else’s:
1) Have a unique act that is only available if the agent books your act! That is to say, your act is different and stands out from all the other acts. Remember that any 2 similar acts will pay the same commission. You want to have yours chosen over the others. You can do this by offering something that the others cannot, such as Mentalism, Hypnosis, Singing, Juggling, Ventriloquism, Escape Artist, etc.
2) You perform certain stunts that produce big publicly and thus increase revenues for the clients hiring your. Stunts such as predicting the newspaper headline, finding a persons lost article, Escapes, Grand Illusions, or predicting who will win a certain sports event. These stunts draw BIG PUBLICLY, especially when your client is a major corporation and has the dollars to invest in to a campaign to advertise themselves. You may also want to put these stunts as part of your booking contract, for example: "I will correctly predict tomorrows headline, or else donate $1,000 to a charity". This is certain to draw attention with the press.
3) Many booking agencies book performers on a minimum industry standard rate. This rate may be 10%, or 15% of the performance fee. There is, however, no maximum commission fee! You can offer the booking agent more commission, over and above the minimum commission. Offer him, say 5% to 10% more and he will choose your act over other acts. You will also get the better paying shows as the agents commission will be multiplied for those bigger shows. You will get priority over other acts.
4) Some clients that book you through an agent may not really care to much what type of act they get. They just want a variety show with several performers. They are on a set budget of say $1,000 and want to get the most entertainment for their event. In that case, the agent may just take the $1000 and book several small acts of $200 each, and pocket the rest.
In this case, they may not hire you, as you may be to expensive and take budget away from the other entertainers (and the agent). If you are in a slump and want to take on any type of work, let the booking agent know that you will from time to time offer a low budget show during your slow times. This will keep you working and you can add repertoire and experience to your act. Remember doing a small budget show during your slow times can cause quite a payoff if you get good press coverage or you are working out the details to a new stunt.
5) Some Booking Agents have virtually 100's of acts on their lists, and many times lose site over the years of what type of acts they are currently carrying. Many agents books acts they have never seen before and rely only on the recommendation of an other reputable agent or official. Get to know all the agents and celebrity figure heads and you may find that you can get bookings only on recommendations.
6) Offer a complete package of Magicians, Clowns, Singers and other acts that are incorporated into a single show. This is big bucks! Make the act unique and offer it exclusive to a busy agency. This prevents the agent from doing all the paperwork and arrangements himself. You can now request a hefty fee for the act that the agent can pass along to the client. You can split up the profits with the other performers, or just hire them per performance.
7) Many booking agents get a kick back for good performance. There is no reason why you cannot make an offer to an agent such as "If you get me 25 shows this month, I will give you a $300 cash Bonus". Another offer may be "For every show you book, over and above 10 shows per month, I will send you a $50 bonus per show". The agent may just take you up on the offer.
8) Offer the agent a free 10 minute 'after the show' session, to sign autographs, do free handwriting analysis, make balloon animals, or whatever! You may be in a slow time and have extra time on your hands anyway. The agent can then pitch this ‘extra’ to the client for a small additional charge, or even FREE. You will perform this casual ‘free reading’ or ‘learn a free magic trick after the show’ to potential clients. This technique alone will get you numerous bookings over other Magicians that do not offer it. Be Creative.
9) Cater your show to the buyers of big entertainment. Companies such as Coke-a-Cola, Pepsi, Nike, Sony, Beer Manufactures, and the like need specific acts. These organizations spend millions every year on entertainment. Find out what they are buying, and tailor your act to fit the needs. There is no point in putting together a show and then finding your market. Find the market first, then fill the position. Your closing rate will be 100%, when you are offering them exactly the act that they are looking for!
10) Join several large, specialized organizations. Organizations like the Lions Club, Rotary Club, Shriners Club, and fraternal associations, would much rather hire a fellow ‘insider’ than an outsider. Many of these organizations are HUGE and span the whole country. Get in ‘good’ with the group and you can work steady.
11) Booking yourself into a show! You can rent concession space at numerous Exhibitions and Fairs. Concession space will run you between $25 (for small local weekend events) to $950 (for large Multi week state fairs). You will see many pitches selling product there. Anything from slicers to choppers to the latest inventions.
12) Don’t bug the Booking Agent too much! The Agent gets 100’s of pieces of mail every week. They are busy!!! Follow up periodically by mail, phone, or fax. Don’t send ‘home made’ cheep promo stuff, as this goes straight into the garbage.