One evening I received a frantic phone call from an agent I was doing a little side work for. He in desperate voice asked me if I could do a job for him.  It was supposed to have started minutes ago. He was booked to do the job but forgot about it.  I told him I had made plans I could not change at this late date and I was sorry I couldn't bail him out.  Weeks later I played for a number of people who had been at the affair.  They rushed up to me and with great concern asked if I was OK.  I happened to know and play for these folks for some time and their concern was...well, puzzling.  They explained that at the party mentioned before this agent came in and breathlessly announced that I had been in a serious auto accident and I could not play for them.  He told the Country Club members that I was booked to play the party and he was bailing ME out!  I knew then what had really happened.

People call agents because they feel that they are more careful of their reputation; that they as a company have greater resources and more to lose in a lawsuit over a failed obligation than an independent musician.  Some feel that agents are better able to cover situations where a musician/DJ does not or cannot show.   All of these assumptions are dead wrong.  I never wanted to do an agents job.   Not only because I couldn't pass the pathological liar requirement, but also because I cannot sell what I don't believe in or promise what I have no intention of honoring.  They do it routinely.

When agents are children they are "the dog ate my homework" kids.  They protect their reputation by lying and blaming others. When you call an agent he will sell you whatever act you request.  Even when the act has already been booked on the date in question.  On your date another act will appear with a sad tale of woe concerning the person you had carefully planned for.  Your entertainer has gone to the highest bidder.

Country Clubs and Condos with budgets and dates that reach far enough in advance to procure the best entertainers first fare no better.  In this case the agent sits on the dates and waits to see how the dates book and takes the best paying ones for himself (if he performs) or gives them to the acts in a descending order that almost never has anything to do with ability. It's about how important the players are to the agent.  One agent I know regularly gives work to an act that has NEVER gotten a positive response or callback (the acid test of any act).  The guy DOES answer the agents phone and makes business calls for him.  That makes him more likely to do your job than the really good new guy who's not sure he wants to book exclusively with that agent. 

Agents often play fast-and-loose with their contractual obligations.  As a company they enjoy protection in legal proceedings that independent entertainers do not.   The most valuable things owned by their company are the contact and client list and you can't sue for that. After that it's the old office furniture and maybe the completely out of date computer they occasionally use for word processing.  So what is the advantage of using an agent?  The only time I find them even somewhat useful is when I get a last minute call for a date I can't do.  If the date is for enough money (and I have some well-heeled clients) they will send the guy I ask for and dump the original client on the second or third string guy.  Isn't that nice?  Aren't you glad to know that the really good price you dickered for has likely made you eligible for that treatment?  In Agent Land, money doesn't talk, it shouts.

In truth there are no advantages to using an agent and a number of hidden disadvantages.  That is not to say all agents are without ethics. It's just that they're so flexible about ethical behavior.  All the ones I have ever known have confessed to violating them when there is enough money present. 

That's something to think about.