Archive for the ‘Planning Ahead’ category

Should I Avoid Shows that Require me to sell Advance Tickets?

September 29, 2010

THE ARTIST: Ben Rothermel (Lancaster, PA)
THE QUESTION: I recently played a show where the booking agent asked me to sell X amount of tickets. The amount was high on my fan draw but doable if I got almost every single fan to buy a ticket. I had an entire month to plan and promote for the show and started heavily doing so 2+ weeks out. I hung up posters with my info attached, created a facebook event and shared it daily in my newsfeed, and talked to everyone I knew in a friendly attempt to sell tickets to them. In the end though, I was left walking into the club with barely 1/3 of my quota filled. It was very embarrassing to hand them over to the booking agent and I’m quite sure we won’t be doing business together for some time.

Now, I did everything that I’ve learned works and still came out losing in this game of selling tickets. Do you have any insight into my situation? Should I avoid shows that require me to sell a minimum amount of tickets so as to avoid possible letdown? What has your experience with ticketed shows taught you?

THE ANSWER: Hey Ben, I think many people reading this can identify with your scenario and have probably found themselves in the same situation (myself included).   I’ve had a number of experiences with this and they’ve all been negative.  Here are my thoughts.

1. Don’t do it!
Just an opinione but  it seems like venues use musicians to make money off ticket sales…and the musician leaves with nothing. In most cases the number of tickets you sell isn’t fair for the amount of stage time you’ll be given. Personally i have a really really hard time selling tickets and if a venue asks me to sell them, I pass on the show. It’s never worth my time and all the hustling. In most cases, if a venue asks you to sell tickets, you only get to keep a small percentage of the sale. So lets say tix are $10 and you get $2 from every sale. Even if you sell 20 (and that’s alot), you’ve only made $40. That’s SHADY!

2. But if you do…
Realize that its a twisted trade-off. Musicians need venues just as much as they need musicians. And venues need to make their money too. It’s a business. Just read An Interview with Joe Squared – Things Every Venue Wishes You Knew. If you want to play at a venue but need to sell tickets, make sure the show is something you would regret missing out on. In other words, if you’ll hate yourself for passing up on the show, then do what you need to do to make it happen. Maybe you have a chance to open for a nationally touring artist you’ve always admired. That’s an good example of a show worth hustling for.

3. Ask Yourself these questions… (because they will affect ticket sales)

  • How close is this venue to the majority of my fanbase?
  • What day of the week does this event fall on?
  • Is this the type of venue/event my fans would come to?
  • How long is my set? Am I asking people to spend $10 on a ticket if I’m only playing for 15 minutes?

4. Also remember…

  • Venues are sometimes hesitant to give new artists a chance. If they don’t know your draw potential and you promise them 20 people, selling advance tickets is the best way for them to hold you to your word. If you honestly can’t bring out 20 people or 10 or 5 (or whatever their standard is), then be honest with them and wait till you can.
  • Give yourself enough time to sell tickets and hype the show. Sometimes people need to let an idea sink in before they buy into it. Ben, it sounds like you did this.
  • Try not to do ticketed shows too regularly.  The constant promoting will wear you down…and everybody else for that matter. Space out major shows by a few months

I’m interested in knowing what other Grassrootsy readers have to say about this topic. Leave your comments below.

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First Impressions are Lasting Ones

February 22, 2010

Do you make a good first impression on the people you meet? On first time visitors to your website? Consider the following thoughts and determine whether you’re hitting the mark.

In a recent post I created for my friend, Ken Mueller’s, Inkling Media blog, I wrote:

“Social media is all about making information travel to a large number or people in a little amount of time. This  requires thinking ahead – being prepared. When you post information on your Facebook Page, what do you hope to accomplish? When you send people a link to your website, what will they find when they get there? Will the available information be what they’re looking for?  [read full article]

Tips for Creating a Good, Lasting, Fist Impression

  1. Content, Content, Content: Don’t invite people to join your Facebook Page unless there’s actually something on your page.
  2. Is your website really a website? Just because you have a domain name doesn’t mean you have a website. If the information hasn’t been updated, the site is useless.
  3. Be Patient: Wait till you’ve put up a handful of posts before you start spreading the word about your blog.
  4. Use Links: My biggest pet peeve is when an individual or a company sends me information about an event they’re having but doesn’t provide a link for more information.  If you have a link, people will click it.
  5. Remember: NO ONE wants to visit an empty website. That’s like going to the grocery store full of empty shelves.

More thoughts on making a good first impression

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Tips & Tricks for the Holiday and Any Day #2

November 30, 2009

This post is an extension of last year’s: Tips & Tricks for the Holiday and Any Day.  As mentioned in last week’s post, Creating a Black Friday Buzz, use the holidays to your advantage. I’ll likely be posting holiday-related marketing advice up until Christmas.

What are You Doing on Dec 26th?
Hurry…book a show in your hometown!  It might be too late for this, but who knows.  Not only is it the day after Christmas, but this year, it’s a Saturday! People will be clamoring for something to do and all your friends will be in town.  If you can still find a local venue that isn’t booked yet, snatch that date up and start planning! Here’s more on that.

Holiday Themed Show
Change things up a bit. Instead of doing a show with 1 or 2 other artists/bands on the bill, get 10 artists. Everyone does 1 or 2 songs.  Make stage time the least important thing.  Instead, focus on an entertaining evening of Christmas tunes where artists join each other on songs, do medleys, duos..etc. If each artists helps to get the word out, you’ve got yourself a pretty excellent night. Pittsburgh artist Jason Kendall is following a similar format for his Christmas CD Release. A few other holiday themed show ideas…

  • New Years Day: everyone has to sing a new song
  • Valentines Day: artists can online sing love songs
  • Earth Day: artists can only sing socially conscious, tree-hugger type songs
  • Thanksgiving: artist can only sing songs of gratitude

Food Drive & Cheap Tix.
And in going along with the show theme, why not make the gig a food drive? Do something worthwhile while doing something you love.  If tix are $7, tell people they can get in for $5 if they bring some non-perishable items. People will donate if it gets them a discount. And if you collaborate with a local charity, community organization,  or food bank they’ll most likely help  to promote the event. 

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Tips for Touring: Just Some Recent Observations

August 3, 2009


Findlay Market, Cincinnati, OH (oh...and that's me)

Findlay Market: Cincinnati, OH (oh...and that's me)

Coming out of a short Ohio tour, I thought I’d write this post based on a few things I experienced.  These  tips also apply to your local shows.  If you have additional reccomendations, please post them in the comments.

Grab a City Paper in Each City You Visit
There’s likely to be a major alternative paper in every city you visit. If it’s Cleveland, pick up The Cleve SceneIf  it’s Baltimore, pick up The City Paper. If it’s Columbus, pick up Columbus Alive.  City Papers are one of the best ways to find out what’s going on in a city and learn about the most popular venues.  Reading and keeping a copy of the paper (to take home) will help you next time you’re booking gigs in that city.

Ask the Locals
Asking locals is probably a more reliable source than the city paper.  Ask people what venues they visit the most. Ask them what the most talked about coffee shops, clubs, and lounges are in the area.  Locals will tell you things you might not find online…i.e. summer concert series, underground events, local radio stations, independent record shops…etc.  On this particular tour, we met a couple people first hand that were direct links to radios stations and/or publications. Locals also gave us information on upcoming festivals that we definitely might not have stumbled upon online. (p.s. always carry a notebook around)

Don’t Expect Much from the Venue
Never expect a venue to promote an event for you. Just don’t.  You do the legwork.  We ran into several issues where one venue didn’t hang the posters we sent, another venue put the wrong start time on their website (even after repeated attempts of  asking them to change it), and another venue wasn’t so friendly because we were females. “You just never know what you’re gonna get”…is what it comes down to.

Play in Unconventional Places
Check out avialable markets before you visit a town (ex: Reading Terminal Market in Philly).  I’ve mentioned this in a past blog so just refer to  Jumping the Gun – Booking for the Spring and Summer. Outdoor produce/artist markets are an excellent place to promote while on tour.  And if you contact them ahead of time, they will often save you a prime spot at their market to perform. You’ll often have to provide you own sound equipment, but its worth it.  People tip well b/c they’re already in shopping mode…and they dobuy music. Its similar to busking but a little more formal.  Also don’t forget to bring your own merch table.  It will increase sales. I promise.

p.s. Findlay Market in Cincinnati is a hot spot!

If you have any additional tips, please feel free to recommend them to Grassrootsy readers.

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Step to It! C’mon!

July 13, 2009


Dana Alexandra

Dana Alexandra

This is a simple post brought on by the lack of time to write something longer 🙂 and the same question that several people have been asking me lately…”Can you give me any tips for booking college venues.”

Ding Ding!
Well you’re smart if you’re thinking about booking college venues.  If you think about it, the semester starts in 6 weeks! This is prime time to start booking your college venues.  On a quick trip to Dana Alexandra’s calendar last weekend, I was blown away to see that her college tour is fully booked. through the end of the year!  Kind of makes you want to get your sh– together, huh?!

I dunno if Dana is booking her own gigs based off past contacts, or if she’s working through NACA, or working with a booking agent; but either way, she’s got it together…so let’s follow suit!

Read This!
Be sure to read these past Grassrootsy posts.  They’ll give you a wealth of information and point you in the right direction

Other Thoughts on College Booking
Consider getting a booking agent…just for colleges.  Look for someone who has experience in booking college gigs. You will most likely need to pay them a monthly fee or a percentage of what you make, but they’ll have the contacts you need and you’ll probably make more money than trying to do it on your own. 

Consider the fact that colleges venues are a unique market.  You have students from all different parts of the country in one room.  The college market is an excellent way to spread your name futher than the city your in. If they like you, students can/will spread your name to their friends on campus and back home.

Because colleges often pay pretty good money to have you play, consider giving your CD away or cutting the price down to encourage students to get a copy.  Because the average college student is broke!

That’s all for now. if you have any tips, post them below under comments.

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Stand-out Artists and What We Can Learn from Them #3

July 6, 2009
Ari Hest

Ari Hest

To read the first two posts in this series, visit
Stand-out Artists and What We Can Learn from Them #1
Stand-out Artists and What We Can Learn from Them #2

Artist #1: Ari Hest
Brooklyn, New York’s Ari Hest stands out for several reasons.  Aside from his excellent vocals and simple tunes, Ari has found a way to engage his fans by making them a part of the music-making process. In 2008, he made it his goal to write, record, and release one song per week for all 52 weeks.

According to Ari, the concept was a huge success. He gained over 1000 subscribers who willingly paid for each weekly download, but also had people pay for songs individually if they only liked certain ones.  Read all about it here.  Even though the 2008 project is over, fans can and still do buy specific mp3s or all 52 songs in the collection.

And now…for the kicker: Ari’s latest CD, appropriately titled Twelve Mondays, which was released in March ’09, is a compilation of 12 of the 52 songs – handpicked by his fans. 

If you think about it, the whole year of 2008 was one huge publicity campaign in preparation of his 2009 release.  As Ari continually provided fresh material for his fans on a weekly basis (which kept them coming back), word spread and he was able to maintain the attention of his audience. What a genius idea!

The most important thing about this project was that Ari did not release “crap” on a weekly basis.  Even though his time was limited, he produced excellent music which ultimately proves that people will support you if you’re good and hard working. Visit his myspace.

Amy Kuney

Amy Kuney

  Artist #2: Amy Kuney
Los Angeles artists Amy Kuney, has found a niche market that the average artist would never think to pursue – middle school and highschool students.  Check out this letter she’s posted on her website:

Attn. All STUDENTS – Fall High/Middle School Tour:

So I’ve been touring middle and high schools and I’m loving it so much that I’m going to do it again in the fall. If you are a student and would like for me to play at your school, please email: Audrey Marshall at

Include the following information:
1. Your Name
2. Your School’s Name
3. Where Your School Is Located
4. Your Principal’s full name and email address

I’ll do my best to make it happen!

While it’s often hard to be completely innovative and think outside the box, aim to be original in your  musical pursuits. That might not necessarily involve singing to 6th graders, but there’s always a way to be different.


Thanks for reading, please continue to pass this on to your fellow music-makers.
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Creating a Killer Marketing Plan for Your Music

April 27, 2009


While visiting Artist House Music  (and incredible music business site) today, I came across a really rock-solid marketing plan by Boston-based Band Convey.  It prompted me to put up this post.  Make sure to check out Convey’s Marketing Plan when you have a chance.

The key to having a killer marketing plan is being practical.  Yea…you’re supposed to have goals…and they can even be hard to reach goals. But make sure that you intend to put in enough work…so that even if they are hard to reach, they’ll still be attainable.

Have a Budget
As it’s been said many times in this blog, money issues are the hardest part of pursuing music.  Having a budget doesn’t necessarily make things easier but it will help you to keep a clear cut account of what your funds are going into. How much are you willing to spend on PR material (i.e. press kits, posters, cds, display…etc)? When you have a defined limit, you’ll be able to make careful decision on what expennses are absolutely essential.  Budgets will especially benefit bands.  Its good for a band to corporately decide when/how/what they will spend their money on.

Plan Ahead (ya, there’s so much about this concept on Grassrootsy)
There’s plenty to read on this.  Check out the Planning Ahead – The Key to a Successful Show post or Planning a Tour: Making it Worth The Trip.  There’s no greater way to make a show or CD Release a success than planning ahead.  Convey plans to have their CD at their doorstep a full 4 weeks before the release date!  Their giving themselves a month to submit their songs to iTunes thru Tunecore.  That’s impressive for an indie artists.

Doing things with a Bang
Do what needs to be done to show people you are serious about a project or an event.  During that 4 weeks of promotional time, Convey is redesigning their website, their myspace, setting up a paypal account, iTunes purchasing…etc.  Like it says in the Looking Professional Even When You’re Not (or are you? i just can’t tell!) post, when you show people you are serious, they will take you serious.  Doing things with a bang doesnt mean you need to spend ridiculous amounts of money. But it does mean you need to spend ridiculous amounts of time.   There is no way you can do the job well if you don’t spend time maintaining your websites, recording and posting those videos on itunes, corresponding with your audience, and hyping up shows via social networking sites.

Market around specific events
It’s nearly next to impossible to build hype if there’s nothing to build hype around. Marketing thrives off of the facts: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. If you don’t have a specific event, tour, or significant peice of news, then you simply become like the other millions of bands on myspace who have their music posted.  And anyone can have music online.

Its worth it to set tangeable goals for your music, then create a marketing plan for any large event(s) you have.  If you’re marketing is successful, then you next step will simply be to keep the momentum going by regular communication (w/ fans and pr contacts), website maintenance, quality performances…etc

Be sure to check out Convey’s Marketing Plan.  See what they’ve mapped out for themselves.  Mimick it and alter it to fit your band’s goals.   Here are some other Grassrootsy posts that are related and relevant:


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