ARTIST RESOURCES: Booking A Gig

So you’ve got your band agreement signed and are looking to play some shows. Here are a few things you need to know:

 

Forget Cold Calling
Calling venues to ask for show dates out of the blue isn’t ideal if you’re a local resident. Instead, visit the space a couple times to get a feel for the room and meet the owner/manager/booker/promoter face-to-face before picking up the phone. If you are unsure of whether the person you wish to meet will be there, send them a brief email with your intentions in advance.

Arranging Payment
There are various types of “deals” that pop up during negotiation. Some are good for the promoter, some are good for the artist. Here is a list of a few deals I have come across:

Guarantee:

- Beneficial for the band/artist

- A flat fee for the band which is negotiated in advance

-In this deal, the promoter takes a risk

- This deal is suited for well-established acts who have a large draw

80/20 Split:

- Beneficial for both parties

- Of net revenue, the band gets 80% and the promoter gets 20%

- Ensure the promoter costs and fees are in a written agreement

Door Deal:

- Beneficial for both parties

- Similar to 80/20 but the percentages may differ

- Ensure the promoter costs and fees are in a written agreement

Hybrid Deal:

- Beneficial for the artist

- A mix of both a guarantee and a Door Deal

Overages:

- After the guarantees have been paid, the promoter receives their percentage, and the costs have been covered, there may be a surplus of money

- Overages are split between the promoter and headlining band

- Similar to a door deal in which there is a percentage going to the promoter and the band

Gentleman’s Deal:

- No one really benefits

- Band receives minimum compensation if the night is bad

- Band receives more money if the night goes well

- Difficult to gauge what a “bad night” is

Pay-to-Play:

- HUGE risk to the band/artist

- Should be reserved only for festivals and large scale tour buy-ins

- Beware of scam promotion companies

Calculating Cost
There are many costs involved on both sides during the planning and execution of a show.

Costs of the Artist

The following are costs that are NOT covered by a promoter. These are covered by the band/artist unless otherwise stated in a written agreement.

- Gas

- Lodging

- Food/Drink (I will get to hospitality shortly)

- Roadies

- Vehicle Rentals

- Merchandise Hall Fee (larger venues require 15-25% of merch revenue)

Costs of the Promoter

- Poster design & printing

- Ticket design & printing

-Rider fulfillment

- Venue rental fee (This should never include paying the sound technician, bar staff, or security)

- Administrative tasks

EDIT: I have been informed by the lovely Danielle Tompkins that some venues request that promoters pay the sound technician if they do not reach a sales quota.

Hospitality and Riders

A Rider refers to the extras a band receives from a promoter at a show, usually in the band room/dressing room. Riders are usually requested by touring, mid-size to large-scale acts, and can be as specific or as vague as the band wishes. Typical riders include things like towels, food and beverages, or a pre-arranged amount of money that the promoter will provide to a band to buy themselves a meal and some drinks, known as a “meal buyout”.

Drink tickets are a form of rider and therefore should not be expected, but requested.

Risky Business: Paying to Play a Show

I have seen this with local bands time and time again: the promoter hands the band 50 tickets and the more they sell, the better time slot they get. There is no percentage in such a deal, no ticket sale splitting; and if there is, it’s more like 10/90 to the promoter. Let’s break this down:

 

If a ticket is $10, and the band sells 50 tickets, that’s $500. YAY YOU WIN THE ULTIMATE TIME SLOT!!! But here’s the catch: the promoter says you get 10% of each ticket sold (a WHOPPING $1 per ticket). Which means that out of $500, you only get $50. That sucks.

 

Another slimy pay-to-play show I’ve seen kicking around is Battle of the Bands. Emails and posters read:

"A&R reps will be scouting for YOU!" or "Win studio time with so-and-so!"

But in reality, those A&R reps are either being paid more to be there than you are, or don’t even exist. The recording time is either really poor quality, or you only win 1-5 hours of studio time and have to pay for additional time, mastering, and the producer.

Backline

- Another word for gear or equipment

- It is a good idea to liaise with the promoter or venue to make sure they have amps, mics, cables, etc…

- Inform the promoter of what instruments you will be bringing, and how many mics you will need days or weeks before the show

- Some promoters ask a band to provide drums and guitar amps for the other bands playing after them to streamline set-up & tear down between sets

Taxes and other fun legal stuff

- You are being contracted to work on a specific day, and it counts as employment

- You can deduct the cost of your instruments in your income tax

- GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING!!!! Print out emails, screenshot text messages, bring a notepad to a face-to-face meeting and have the promoter initial your notes, and construct a written formal agreement if there isn’t one already.