Tag Archives: Booking

Stepping Over the Process…. is it Realistic?


First let me just say this blog is in response to what keeps coming across my email or phone conversations. This isn’t an attempt to come down on artists but an attempt at maybe setting some realistic expectations. I have been receiving a lot of phone calls from artists either out of frustration with other band members or from artists that think they can just step over the process of touring and building/rebuilding a fan base. I guess anything is possible but it’s not likely to happen even if you have had success in the past. This is not the same industry many of us grew up with and we can’t keep assuming that because 20 years ago the artists had a hit or toured the world with so and so band that people have any interest in us or care about our music at all. Artists call with no budget, no new music, no website or one that has been “in development” for years expecting that they can just go on the road and make thousands per show because 20 or more years ago they had a minor hit or two. It’s not going to happen. Current artists with hits on the radio are making $2,000 guarantees a lot of times and yet artists that haven’t had a hit since 1992 that want $8,000 or more a show. You better be a legacy act with huge hits from the past that are still played on the radio to demand that kind of money or more. I know how expensive touring is, but the money isn’t there for touring with artists with no active history or fan base that will support the necessary tour numbers for there to actually be a profit. This is when a band or artist has to suck it up and either rebuild for little money, try something completely different or maybe decide this isn’t for them anymore and do something in music that doesn’t require touring for small dollars.

For example, the first thing I am asked by anyone in a position of helping is “What do they have going on?” Many times the answer is nothing (note that when artists come to us or anyone else for help they have this notion that 3 months is an expected amount of time to make things happen), they have no new music, no tour dates, outdated photos and websites. How do you expect anyone to help you if this is your state of business and you don’t take the time to get it right before approaching anyone? The second thing is “Do they have a budget?” The answer is almost always no and people understand if times have been rough on the career but it’s amazing how many artists are not willing to put money into their own career but expect others to. If the artist doesn’t  have a budget then almost no one is willing to help and people can’t giving away their services for free. Video EPK’s cost money, photography costs money, etc… but artists are always hoping people will help them for free and then expect that things happen in a short time period. For the person that is connected like Irving Azoff and has his resources this is possible, for the rest of the “real” music world it probably isn’t. Music is a very speculative business to begin with and no one is looking to lose money on an artist no matter how much success he or she may have had in the past. As much as people love some of these artists, he or she needs to get paid as well and they can’t work for free or spend time with unrealistic artists that can’t or won’t rebuild career realistically if there is no interest in them at all.

Just because an artist may have had success in the past doesn’t mean they get a free pass of touring the bar circuit again and starting over. Yes that means rebuilding your fan base and getting paid very little most of the time. If you can’t do that then maybe playing isn’t for you anymore. I know we all have bills to pay but money is in short supply and investors want a return on investment. They don’t want to support an artist that hasn’t been on tour in 10 or more years and won’t draw 150+ people to a show. You as an artist are in the position you are in because you let yourself get there. You chose to not tour, you chose to not listen to your team or possibly choosing the wrong team. It could be a lot of different reasons for your situation and many of those may not be your fault, but it’s still your job to be realistic and make things happen with today’s current landscape, not what was possible 20 years ago when people were throwing money around like it was water.

Don’t pigeonhole yourself with unrealistic expectations. For example, if you think a major label is going to sign you, fund your tour and you’re a prog rock band, think again. No label is going to fund that tour unless you already have a huge fan base and more than likely you will just get shelved as prog rock probably isn’t there thing at this label. Most prog rock bands aren’t huge and most likely never will be. If you get a label interested in your music, at least entertain the idea and not shoot it down because you think a major is going to offer you something when you won’t even play shows because you don’t make any money on them. Do you know why you don’t make any money? Because you have absolutely NO FAN BASE at all. Who is going to fund a tour for a band with no fan base these days? Please tell me so I can call them up.

There are no shortcuts normally in this business. Take Mike Portnoy for example. One of the most popular and talented drummers in the world, who has a large fan base from his history as a musician and still he and his current project “Adrenaline Mob” are playing clubs to a couple hundred people a show. He knows he has to build this band no matter who he is and he is willing to put his money and time into it. Even someone as relevant as Mike has to work it the hard way sometimes.

If you are a musician reading this, please consider where you are at in your career. If you are in a band but won’t tour because your “cover gig” is paying more money, than back out of the band and let the band find someone hungry enough to make it happen. If you are an artist with a past but currently not where you were a long time ago, then ask yourself “how bad do I want this?” If you won’t play for smaller guarantees then you need to book yourself and stop making people’s lives difficult who are trying to help your career because you can’t be bothered with playing for smaller amounts of money. You are only as big as your last gig or chart success in the current times, not 20 years ago.

There is a process almost everyone has to go through. You are more than likely going to have to go through it as well. If you can’t or won’t, get out of the way for those that will and let your band move on with people who want it bad enough to put up with the crap of the road and bar tours.

Good luck!

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From a Different Point of View


 By David Lowry

Many times when we read about money in the entertainment business, it’s from the perspective of what the artist makes. Most articles center on how artists are taken advantage of and that the “business” people are just greedy jack asses who do nothing for their money. Well for this blog we are flipping this point of view to that of the business that is putting everything on the line for the small artists that have no money, no fan base, have been gone so long that you have to basically start over or not enough tour dates to pay anyone for their time.

When an artist brings on a team member such as a manager, booking agent or PR consultant the artists considers it “hiring” this particular team member or members. Well if you aren’t paying the team member what his or her hourly fee or retainer is and your average show guarantee is say less that $2,500 per, then you haven’t “hired” anyone. What has happened, is the team member believes that artist is worth the extra work and lesser amount of pay at least for a short while unless the artist isn’t building up their business. If the artist isn’t building their business, then the team member will look elsewhere for it’s cash flow so it can stay in business. Making a small percentage of a tiny door deal where the artist can’t get 30 people into a room let alone sell it out is not enough money for anyone to survive on. Now most of the time, an artist like this doesn’t need any team members, but let’s say that an artist was lucky enough to find someone to help them in spite of the lack of fan base, gigs or cash flow behind them.

First off, if the artist is tiny and not established, then the artist needs to be realistic and know they are not going to get the bulk of the team member’s time. If the team member is working as hard as they can with what they have, then they expect the artist to do the same. That means everyone who gets on that stage and plays is responsible to work as hard as they can. Not just one of the band members. I know with my business, we make it abundantly clear before anything is signed, that if the artist doesn’t work as hard as we do then we will let them go. There are no guarantees in this business and we don’t want to waste time with artists that don’t work every inch of their career to the max.

What does this mean for the artist? It means that the artist needs to promote every show as much as possible in every form of media possible as much as they can. It means that they need to make sure that they sell as many tickets as possible so that everyone is making more money for the amount of work the artist isn’t already paying them. That means texting if no shows up, it means emailing last minute, it means having a superior social media campaign etc… this especially important for your booking agent to make money but also to be more effective in getting you better gigs. It means making sure you sell more merchandise at every show by being proactive and manning your merch booth, walking the venue with your product to sell. Engaging the crowd the whole time you are there. It means that understanding your job isn’t done until the bar is closing down. Once you get off the stage, you don’t head to the bar and drink. You work the crowd the whole night. These are your working hours. This is your opportunity to make the money you are complaining about that you don’t make. Your team can’t do this for you but it is why they work so hard to get you in this position. This is your time to shine.

This also means making sure your merch is in good shape. No crappy stickers, no broken plexi-glass holders, no pens that don’t work. Your merch area should be professional, clean and able to showcase your products and band to it’s utmost. It means always having a cash box with cash for your shows after we have told you a million times. It means having a checklist for your shows so you don’t forget anything after we have told you a million times. This is common sense stuff that for some reason has to be repeated over and over again. Eventually, we just quit telling those artists that just don’t care enough to make it happen.

I can’t tell you how many times an artist hasn’t paid our commission or fees to us but still expect us to work on their career. Has asked us to take less then our fee so they could make more. Has complained that because they knew someone at the venue they shouldn’t have to pay us what the contract states even though we booked the gig and the artist had nothing to do with it. Have made us push dates back time after time so we work three times as hard to just get paid way down the road. Has demanded we pay them the day of the gig but is always late paying us. If you aren’t paying us what the contract states, if you haven’t busted your ass for every second trying to get as many tickets sold or sell as much merch as you can, then you we don’t work for you. You haven’t hired us, you lied to us about how hard you were going to work and that you were going to do whatever it takes. Do you go to your day job and let them tell you they don’t want to pay you as much because they can’t afford it? Do you go to work everyday expecting to not receive a check?  Do you go to work every day to work for free? Don’t you go to work every day expecting the company that “hired” you to be able to grow their revenue to pay you your salary? Well guess what, we expect the same from you.

We aren’t going to babysit artists anymore that can’t get their business together. This isn’t the old days when contracts were huge and everyone had money to throw at an artist so the team actually made good money. It’s a new day, a new age in the music business and it’s harder than ever for your team members to make things happen for you. They aren’t going to do it for free, they aren’t going to “just believe in you,” especially since we see how most artists don’t have the work ethic needed to make this happen today we aren’t going to do it for a discount and we aren’t going to spend vast amounts of time on an artist that can’t sell 10 tickets on average per show.

You see, businesses like ours project how much income they see coming based on what the artists have coming in from bookings, deals, retainers and the like. If the artist arbitrarily decides it doesn’t want to pay, wants to pay less (which happens all the time) or constantly cancels dates or pushes them back, then it puts the team members in a very bad position and they aren’t going to work as hard on you and it makes you unprofessional. You are now an untrustworthy client on which you can’t be relied on and so your team members will find clients that can. You are messing with peoples livelihoods.

If the artist can’t commit to bring the absolute best work ethic, product and show to the table to make sure they are making as much money for their team as possible, they should never expect it from the team that is getting paid nothing to almost nothing. If you don’t want it bad enough to work your ass off, pay the people you “hire” and make sure you have a fighting chance at making this career, then don’t ever “hire” a team member. You can’t afford it and you shouldn’t ever treat your team like that. They are expecting you to bring it every show so they can make as much money as possible just like you are trying to do for your career. Remember, this is a team. A team works together to make it happen, not just the team members making the artist more money. If you want your team to make you as much money as possible, you should be doing the same for them as well especially in your beginning stages.

I hope this helps you see it from our perspective a bit. It’s not meant to be an harsh blog, it’s meant to point out that this is a business and we all have bills to pay and we can’t work with people who won’t do everything possible to make the team they “hired” as much money as possible to survive just like they expect the team to do for them.

Best of luck!


Booking….. How to make sure you don’t get the gig


By David Lowry

One of the major issues that we deal with booking whether it be as a talent buyer, booking agent or manager is a band that just doesn’t get it. As a band you have to understand your worth (not what you think you are worth, but actual worth) or whether or not you are relative to the area based on where you are playing. So many bands think they are worth more than they really are which can make it much harder for them to book themselves. This can be a big problem with an act that has success in the past, but hasn’t done much in the last 10 – 20 years. In a perfect world, we would all get paid to play but this isn’t a perfect world and everyone in this business is only as good as the last show or deal. If you aren’t producing the kind of numbers that determine what you think you should be getting paid you won’t. Never out price yourself because you make money in certain markets. What you make at a rally or festival is not what you are going to make at a club.

I think most of us have seen the picture of world-class violin virtuoso Joshua Bell playing at a subway for hours and only making $40. As sad as that is, that was his worth to the people walking by in that area. Why, because people don’t know who he is, they don’t understand his level of talent and he wasn’t entertaining as a spectacle. Was he brilliant in his performance of the music? Absolutely. Did the public care? Absolutely no, they did not. I have told this to many of my bands or friends in bands. Go stand on the street corner and perform to the best of your ability and what you walk away with is what you are worth. Because that is the level of value you brought to the public. If you did great, captured and audience that really stayed and watched you performing and threw money your way then you are on to something. If you only made $40 bucks after hours of street performing well then guess what, you haven’t found the formula that draws people in to actually pay you money because they loved your music and they were entertained. If can’t capture the crowd on your own merits without all the lights, venue and hoopla then the venue is right to not really pay you. All that stuff is just there to enhance your performance. There is no truer test than being without all the lights, speakers and comfort zone standing in front of a crowd and seeing the response to your music.

Please understand this is rarely if ever about how good a musician you are. It’s about how well you perform, entertain, write music, promote and how smart and shrewd a businessperson you are. If it was about talent almost all of would never make a dime compared to the classical, jazz and opera singers out there. They are the most brilliant musicians in reality. The rest of us are just well, musicians.

This is what venues are looking for. They are looking for you to entertain the public and crowd you bring in. This is really effective with a frontman or woman that really knows how to work the crowd. When you do, people have a great time, spend more money and talk about what an awesome time they had listening to your band at that particular venue. That means the venue can now expect this to happen more often and then the price they pay you will go up.  It looks good for you, the venue and the crowd now have another place to hang out and spend their money for entertainment. If you don’t wow the crowd that reflects on you, the venue and the public is left wanting more. This would preclude the venue to not book you again or if they do, not pay you well or at all until you can bring what they are looking for.

When it comes to booking yourself, make sure you can do the above better than anyone else. When you start talking to new markets about your band, don’t assume because you get $1,500 in one market, you will in another. Some venues will pay this, most won’t because they don’t know you, they don’t have any experience with you and if you have never played in the area before, well then you won’t be bringing a crowd either so why should they pay you what you make elsewhere where the opposite is true.

Most often when breaking into a new market you have to take your lumps and work up to your normal fee for performance. You might get your rate, or a bit below or maybe just a door deal because the venue doesn’t want to take a chance on you. This may not be fair to you but it is to them. Please leave all the venue is ripping me off talk out of the equation. All you can worry about is what you can do, bring to the table and make sure you promote very, very well. Don’t assume the venue or promoter will. You worry about you. When you are big enough, in your contracts you can put promotion guidelines other then that, the venue is paying for advertising in their local rags across the country. Most bands don’t pay to promote at all, so don’t say they aren’t promoting. Could it be done better? Yes, but usually by everyone involved not just the venue.

Out pricing yourself because you think you are worth more then you are is the quickest way to lose the gig. This is also very hard on whoever might be booking you and eventually they will just let you go if you don’t get it as it reflects on them and they are putting in so much work to help build you a business just to constantly here you say no. You have to warm up a new market like everyone else when you don’t have radio play or some other major thing happening in your career on a national level to draw attention to you. Learn to be flexible with your pricing and prove to the owner/talent buyer your worth and you will get paid as soon as you knock it out of the park.

Sidenote: If a couple people tell you how great you are, that isn’t enough. Sales must be up, attendance must grow and everyone must be all over you. Don’t let the hype of a couple fans let you think you are doing better than you are or make bad decisions. Be honest with your performance that night and do you best to track your market by getting the numbers on the night if the venue will give you the information.

Good Luck!