University staff and graduate student advisors, this one goes out to you.

A little about me:

 I got my Masters of Postsecondary Adult and Continuing Education (Student Affairs Focus) from Portland State University in 2014 and took my first job out of Graduate School at University of Wyoming as the Program Advisor for Campus Activities. In that role I advised several programming entities that booked concerts, comedy shows, speakers, operated the union’s art gallery, summer programming, in addition to writing and managing a grant for a culturally diverse programming series. A typical week for me included multiple events.

I didn’t work with a middle agent for a few reasons. 1) I wanted to cast a wide net in the industry knowing I wanted to shift into the private booking world. 2) I thought I would learn more in a “trial by fire” situation. 3) It “saved” us money. 4) I didn’t understand the value of industry knowledge.

Here are some reasons why I should have used a middle agent (and why I roll my eyes at my younger, more stubborn self):

    Hours Worked

    I think all the advisors out there know how much an event day eats into your “40 hour” work week. You also know that your event days, student advising, booking committee meetings, etc. are only the start of your busy schedule. Working with a middle agent would have saved so much time on my shows that it would have allowed me to take better care of myself and be a more focused advisor for my students. 

    Money Saved

    I used to ask myself “why would I spend the money on a middle agent?” Now I know that the true savings are gaining work-life balance, middle agent buying power that leads to discounts (which usually cover the cost of the middle agent fee), someone to step in and handle stressful conflict situations, and often an extra person on-site to make sure the show goes well. Plus, those “savings” were pushed onto me personally, because the more I worked the less I made on an hourly basis.

    Connections in the Industry

    Once I realized how much I enjoyed booking events, my main goal was to cast a wide net, get as much experience in the industry as possible, and leverage those connections into a move outside of higher education. It just so happens that the first person I met in the industry at a NACA conference was our fearless leader, Jolene. We kept in touch, talked about music occasionally in emails, and submitted a couple offers together but nothing stuck. I booked countless events on my own, reaching out for avails lists, trimming those down and assessing pricing, drafting offers, sourcing production quotes for show budgets, negotiating contracts, and advancing shows. This was all really great experience that set me up well to be a good middle agent later, but it came at a huge cost. 60-80 hour work weeks and absolutely grinding myself into oblivion – something I justified as a “personal development investment.”

    Here’s where I roll my eyes at my past self though – I know I would have gotten similar experience if I had done all of that working with a middle agent. I also know that having a couple strong advocates for you in the industry far outweighs the one-off working relationships you had with 20 different industry professionals that deal with hundreds of people in similar roles daily.

    Industry Knowledge

    I had a phenomenal supervisor in Wyoming who was a great resource on booking shows, but she had a similarly intense workload and was pulled in a lot of directions. The difficult conversations she coached me through when I was starting out, the terminology I didn’t understand, and the muddled contract jargon took a lot of time for both of us – time that a Middle Agent can dedicate to help you. Not only do they have hundreds of other examples with similar institutions to work from, over time they have experience built with your school and its unique processes.

    When I was prepping to leave Wyoming for another job in higher education, I reached out to Jolene to get a show booked – I wanted to have some consistency on the show just in case my employment ended before show day. That concert ended up being one of my last at Wyoming, but my first working with Jolene. We had a smooth show day, and later she reached out and said “you know, every time I mentioned we should do something for the show you already were doing it” – she later asked me if I was interested in covering some of the shows she couldn’t be at, talked to me about former students for potential employment, and eventually ended up offering me a job at How To Concerts. Your middle agent is intimately knowledgeable about your working style, your star students that want to get into the industry, and has the relationships on the other side of the aisle. 

    Clearly, I now have a vested interest in people working with middle agents, but I can confidently say that if I made the move back into higher education, I would book shows with a middle agent even though I have years of experience doing it myself. You’re all short staffed, and the overall cost savings, support, and knowledge they can bring to your events and students is worth every penny.

    I’d love to answer any questions you have about Middle Agents, so drop me a line! We’ll find out if How To Concerts can make your job easier. 

    Jake Ostrow

    Talent Buyer | How To Concerts

    Jake works as a middle buyer, helping organizations with their concerts, comedians, and speakers. Jake has worked for several colleges booking their entertainment. His knowledge of music is exceeded only by his love for music. He would love to talk with you about helping to book, plan, and prepare for your event.

    920.600.8100   |   [email protected]

    Jake Ostrow

    Talent Buyer | How To Concerts

    Jake works as a middle buyer, helping organizations with their concerts, comedians, and speakers. Jake has worked for several colleges booking their entertainment. His knowledge of music is exceeded only by his love for music. He would love to talk with you about helping to book, plan, and prepare for your event.

    920.600.8100   |   [email protected]