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Education Time. Show structures and expectations of promoters.

Ive booked hundreds of shows myself and worked on even more for others. I have seen contracts for venues, and contracts for bands and the variances of each unique deal. Handshake deals and email confirmations without signatures, verbal agreements left up to the integrity of the venue/promoter and bands. Each show is different and each band playing those shows bring something different, yet similar to the table. The expectations vary as well but a common theme will always be there in live music, you need to draw a crowd to succeed.

When a band is well known and touring, their guarantee is based on past turnout in the area, or amount of potential from promotional marketing and who’s backing them. If there is a touring package with several bands it again is based on total potential draw. There’s no mystery to them that if the show they do in a certain area doesn’t do well, it will be hard to get the same amount or play the same venue again. I will be the first to say that there are times a show fails due to lack of promotional and efforts from the venues and promoter. But when we and they do their job and it still doesn’t work, we have to look at what each band is doing individually to make that show successful. Often times we are monitoring the bands social media sites to ensure they are pushing their tour and music regularly and when we don’t see any love for the show we reach out to the agent or even band themselves (or whoever is running their pages) to do a dedicated post or email about the show to get a boost. Mainstream advertising for known acts is crucial. Radio or print ads, tv or internet, some kind of outreach needs to be done in the markets that the band potentially reaches. And that is based on the genre and the groundwork the band has done initially. If they are in rotation on the radio, its obvious they should be a partner with the show. If a local magazine has a writer that caters to that type of music or has reviewed their album, then again they should be reached out to. But catering a marketing plan to a concert is far off topic. We are here to remind about expectations and what exactly goes into the needs of all involved.

So we already established even the main act in a real concert needs to promote themselves, and the promoter needs to cater a plan specific to the genre and band, now its time to look upon the local acts that are allowed to open. Many of the known acts do not need the extra support from a local act, some request it, some ask after initial sales are low to boost awareness. Again, its all about the needs of the show. Lets say there is an act who can draw a few hundred people but cannot fill a 500 capacity room alone. The agent calls for 3 local support acts, and since its a 500 cap room, they will be asking 25-50 per local depending on promoter. This imaginary show needs 30 from each of the 3 locals. Ideally that’s 90 people separate from what the promoter, venue and headlining act can reach, the actual fans the local built up from hard work and good music. Remember this is a 500 capacity room and every agent, band and promoter aims for a sell out. The contract calls for a $2500 guarantee for the band, and a suggested advance price of $10 and day of show at $12. For the sake of easiness, there will be no back-end attached to the deal. At that rate, they are asking for an amount equivalent to 250 people at $10. So that leaves 250 unsold tickets, hence why the addition of local acts. Take that 90 from the 3 local bands and the 250, that’s almost 350 people expected to attend before doors are even open. That should take care of the bands, the venue, the advertising and some profit, if all do their portion of reaching their unique fan base. The promoter and venue are on the hook for the entire show, so if they only draw 150 or less but the locals to their part, obviously some of that flow will need to cover that guarantee. That is why there is usually a set rate for bands that usually falls in the $1-4 per ticket sold range to ensure if it fails, the contracts are covered. Realistically if you are selling tickets with a known band on there, you are bound to get a few of their fans getting tickets from you, making it easier to reach that meager 30. But more importantly, there will be people there that will not normally get to see your band play, right at your disposal, that you can court with cds and merch and for god-sakes a figgin clipboard to sign up email addresses.

I’m wondering, how, that expecting 30 people from a band, when the show needs a minimum of 250 people just to cover, is relying on the local bands to carry the show. That mentally shows that they are counting the entire 90 as their own united efforts and being the driving force for the show. That’s neat, but misguided. Sure there are and will be times there isn’t enough people from the national act and the locals will out draw the national. But that’s very rare based on all my dealings, and 30 people or less to see a band who’s been around longer than a year is pretty shitty anyways and you shouldn’t be proud or expectant after such. If a venue is using locals to sell more advance sales than the legal cap to a show with a national act who can bring that much themselves, those are places you shouldn’t play, no matter how enticing the act is.

That’s just one example of a national act based event at a 500 cap venue. Lets go down to a 250-300 cap bar venue with a show of nothing but local bands. There are many different bar venues and they operate differently in various ways. In Las Vegas, most local 21+ bar venues allowing original local music are door based deals, a split. The door usually has to cover the sound ‘guy’ and the door person, and most do not give a cut of the bar. Looking back at shows at various venues over 8 years from tally sheets and reports, local shows vary from 40-150 people at these bars. There are good shows and bad shows, but the costs and such remain. Lets say a show with 5 bands (normal Vegas show) with a typical $5 cover charge, gets 68 people paid at the door. Of course the girlfriends and wives and boyfriends and husbands are all comped or they ‘aint playin’ so there’s actually 80 people there but you know. 68x$5=$340. Sound guys usually cost $75-100 at these classy joints so its down to $240, door guy, down to $190. Now split that between 5 bands and yourself. There’s Las Vegas local music in a nutshell. I could promote a local band all day, but if they aren’t already reaching people and promoting themselves, it really does nothing. Like it or not, promoters do not establish bands, they capitalize on them. Venue managers can take those risks and give some slots on shows since they do 3-5 a week, but a promoter usually is doing 8-12 shows a month in their market so they are successful and not over-saturating and taking less risks on truly unknown locals.

I know it should be better from the bars and such, but I am not an owner, just a promoter. Lets look at the real hardships of dealing with a local show at concert hall of 1200 capacity. The world of the concert hall is far different. Gone are the sound ‘guys’ and the door person, here are sound engineers, lighting engineers, stage hands and stage managers. There’s production managers overseeing it all and bar manager to cover the booze and staff. There’s security and if its all ages, there’s off-duty police added, and insurance goes higher. Its called a full production kids, and Ill be damned if I let you simple minded arrogant turds get it confused with a dive bar. It takes more people just to open doors than most of the venues local bands play LEGALLY HOLD!! That’s the difference between a concert and a show. Production and amount of people attending is what dictates quality not your opinion of the bands playing. Once you show that you can out draw those playing those dive bars its time to fight at the bottom of the second level. Where expectations double and triple and having merch and recorded music could be the only payout of the night (much like a low drawing local show at a dive bar). The level where everything and everyone who matters is waiting for the next band to get through the bullshit to show they are worth more than a slot opening for someone actually known. So if you are already against local band expectations of draw, stay the fuck out of concert halls.

Expect a promoter to reach a national bands fans and do their part, definitely, its their actual money on the line, but to expect them to reach that unique fan and friend base that only an unestablished local band’s cell phones and emails and promotions can reach, that’s silly. A promoter complements the efforts of an unestablished local band, and pushes their network to the music and event before hand to help, but again, an unestablished local band needs to work hard to reach people every day. Why in the hell is selling a ticket to your friend directly to support your music on a good show such a problem? Don’t you like to meet up with your friends?

Unestablished local band. Struck a cord? Well if you are still playing small clubs and not filling them, and not pushing your music on a national level with all the tools now available to independent bands, you are still on that unestablished local level. Some hit the weekends regionally. Neat. Not many of those are working on getting a demand built before they go out there, they are looking to just capitalize on who’s there. Oh look at that, looking at capitalizing on just who’s there, sounds like most local bands expecting other people to bring the crowd. And if you are still opening for a touring act instead of headlining locally, you are still an unestablished local band. Established in the local scene is one thing, that still doesn’t mean I can go out about town and randomly find people that know you, but I can sure as shit find a few people that know a Taproot or Agent Orange.
Unestablished local promoter. That’s what I am. Sure, I am established in the local scene, but doesn’t mean you can go about town and randomly find people that know me. But you can sure as shit find people that know of a LiveNation or a AEG. I am sorry some of you think that I know it all, but fact is, that I just utilize my knowledge gained more, and learn from my failures. There’s far more of both to come, shouldn’t that be your mentality as well?

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