Musicians can only become so successful performing live in the same city, especially their own. They need to get out on the road and play in as many markets as they can to build their fan base and establish themselves. And in New Orleans, we haven’t been able to offer everything that musicians need. Compared to other music centers like Nashville, Los Angeles or New York., we lack essential music businesses for artists, such as music publishers and record labels.
Another gap is a national talent-booking agency, until now. All In Touring is New Orleans’s first.
Since launching in December of 2017, the agency has built a roster of 24 local artists and has “booked hundreds of shows from coast to coast,” says local entrepreneur Billy O’Connell.
“It’s my wish to bring artists in this city an avenue to the rest of the country. It’s not about booking them here. I want to give them a choice to get to other cities and bring what they do here to a mass number of people,” he says.
For years, artists were forced to look out-of-state for agencies to book their tours and live shows. Some artists have managed to self-book live gigs out of New Orleans. Many though, don’t have agents, don’t play in other markets, and struggle to be heard outside of home.
“It’s awfully easy to subsist here and earn just enough to be fine. There are so many opportunities to make several hundred bucks a few times a week and there’s a rhythm you can fall into,” says O’Connell.
There are also geographic limitations; New Orleans is far from big cities. It’s five hours from Houston, seven from Atlanta, and eight from Nashville. “The out-of-town gigs in Baton Rouge, Mobile, Lafayette, and Jackson are just not the kinds of routings that break you out of your normal patterns and routines as an artist,” says O’Connell.
“Costs of leaving [and going on the road] can be high…you make less money but it’s worth it if you can tap into other markets,” O’Connell explains. “But you need support, framework and guidance.”
Self-booking shows is time consuming and difficult. Venues, festivals, talent buyers, promoters, and artist managers are accustomed to working with agents, who already follow music business standards within the live booking field. They know how to pitch a performer for a specific location, on a given day and time. Negotiating deals, arranging the technical set up, securing hospitality, traveling and other logistics, and assisting with promotional efforts are all responsibilities normally handled by a booking agent.
They have access to a network of music industry professionals to accomplish their goals and close deals for artists on their roster. Agents build their reputations in the booking world over years — that’s something most musicians don’t have time for.
All In Touring is bringing musicians a service that is overdue in New Orleans.
The agency offers strategic planning. They assess where an artist is now, where they want to be in three to five years, and then use individualized tactics to close the gap in between the two points.
“My questions get to be, ‘how can we help serve your mission and complete your agenda?’ To me that’s the entire reason I’ve been in the business to begin with — to live in the service of art, develop artists, help them establish greater reach, get their music to more ears and hearts, and to change people’s lives with this amazing illogical thing that music is,” says O’Connell.
O’Connell is no stranger to the music industry.
After graduating with a B.F.A from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in 1985, O’Connell booked musical talent for rock clubs in Los Angeles and was Talent Coordinator for MTV’s alternative music series, The Cutting Edge. He was the label manager for Warner Brothers’ subsidiary Sire Records in New York City until he left the label in 1989 to be an artist manager for acts including Pixies, Throwing Muses, and D. Sardy’s Barkmarket, among others. O’Connell has also taught artist management, marketing, and entrepreneurship at Loyola University since moving to New Orleans in 2009.
Now, he is combining his expertise, his love of music, and his desire to spread the sounds of New Orleans together in order to bring more of New Orleans to the world.