Posted tagged ‘booking’

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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Do You Have Any Tips on Successfully Booking Shows?

August 23, 2010

Via Linota

THE ARTIST: Via Linota Lancaster, PA
THE QUESTION: My  CD release party is coming up and I’m going to need to start playing as many shows as possible to get the word out. I noticed you are booking a lot of stuff. Just thought I might write and ask if you had any suggestions for being successful on booking shows. If you have a minute to give me a few tips i would really appreciate it.

THE ANSWER: Congrats on the new CD! That question has so many answers.  I highly recommend checking out this former post: 5 Tips for a Booking a Successful Show. But here are some newer thoughts on that matter that are maybe a little easier to digest.

1. Get other artists opinions on a venue before booking to see if it will be a good fit for you.

2. Decide what type of environment your music best fits. Are you cool with being background music (i.e. a bar)? Or do you want to play for listening audiences (i.e. listening rooms)?  Or both? I’ve personally decided that I don’t want to do background music shows anymore. They’re a waste of my time and they don’t help me build my fanbase b/c no one is listening. Just a thought. However, background music-type shows often pay the bills…so i wouldn’t write them off.

3. Always have an email sign-up sheet at EVERY show. Pass it around and get new subscribers as often as possible. This will give you the opp to stay connected with the people who like your music. If you’ve missed the opportunity to connect with them, you’ve lost a potentially long-term fan. See Mailing Lists & Social Networking.

4. Read your local city paper and find out what events are taking place. See if they need local music. You’ll be surprised at what you find out by reading the local paper, visit other musicians websites, and subscribing to community calendars. See Stay Informed: Read, Watch, Listen, Go.

5. Play at local farmers market, gallery opening and anything that could benefit from music. Even if it’s not their original game plan to have music, ask them if they’d be open to the idea. Never underestimate the power of suggestion.

6. House shows are great…espec since Fall is around the corner. See House Shows – Small Crowd, Big Return.

This website also has tons of other posts on everything from booking tours to deciding what type of venues are best for you. Ch-ch-check it out 🙂

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An Interview with Amanda Duncan

July 14, 2010

Amanda Duncan

New Jersey artist, Amanda Duncan, is an artist who steals the show even before she gets on stage. She has a knack for grabbing the attention of music lovers because she really stands out!  She’s a a funny chick with a knack for transfering her comical personality into her online representation. Just like Allison Weiss, she’s got some wise words on social networking, online marketing, and image. Read and repeat.

1. What’s your story? How did you get into performing and touring? Are you doing this full time? Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be in the spotlight. I’ve always wanted to be an entertainer…I just didn’t know what form of entertainment. I kind of got into this whole singer/songwriter-ness by accident. For some reason when I was 17, I thought I was going to get a guitar from my aunt and uncle, but I was given a baseball signed by Wade Boggs. Haha! I was so excited to play guitar that I had to start learning so I borrowed a one and practiced every day so I could play and sing at the same time. Some horrible songs followed. Haha! But some years later I really started to hone my craft of songwriting. I’ve always felt comfortable in front of crowds. So, the performance aspect of my career has come naturally.

In all honesty, I haven’t been on too many tours. I’ve had a few stints here and there, but nothing to shake a stick at. That is all about to change with my upcoming college tour this fall. Once that happens I will be a full time musician. For years now, I have been juggling a web design business and my music career…and I’m sooooo excited that in a few months my job will solely be music!!!


2. You’ve do have quite a calendar with alot of college shows. Are you part of NACA? If so, what are you thoughts on becoming a member and going to regional showcases.  For those who aren’t part of NACA, what do you suggest is the best method for college booking & touring.
NACA (National Association of Campus Activities)! Yes, I am a part of it. Let me explain it to those who don’t know what it is. NACA is an organization that holds regional conferences for college student activity boards across the country. The conferences consist of showcases, exhibit halls and educational sessions. The showcases can be anything from singer/songwriters to magicians, bands, jugglers, comedians, etc. The exhibit hall (which is called the Market Place) is where everyone has booths and the students can walk around and get info from the various entertainers.  More on NACA.

The NACA world can be fickle. One can get easily discouraged by the push and shove of it all. It’s hard to get selected to showcase because there are hundreds of applicants. And it’s hard to get booked if you don’t showcase. Attending regional conferences without showcasing might score you a few gigs, but not enough for a full calendar year. You also have to have music that actually appeals to college students…that is probably the most important thing! Haha!

Booking your own college shows is definitely an option. You have to be super organized, motivated and have college fans. If you have college fans you are one step closer to the student activities board. I did this for a while with some success.

3. Your self promotion is spot-on! Do you have someone handling your marketing? Your songs are bitter-sweet, sentimental, yet playful all at the same time. And your marketing seems to reflects that. What are your thoughts on consistency and uniformity as an artists? I actually do all my marketing. I do my own graphic work and I come up with the ideas for my photo shoots. I have a real vision of how I want to come across to people. I want people to see me as a fun approachable artist. I think that comes through. I feel like we are all swimming in a sea full of musicians and I need to stick out at face value. People may chuckle when they see my photos and think I’m some sort of comedian/weirdo, but once they take a listen to my music they tend to get it. The marketing really comes together at my live shows when they get to see me play and listen to my ridiculous banter.

As far as consistency and uniformity goes, that is a great question. I think being consistently YOU as an artist is important, but I think being an ORIGINAL artist is what will put you above the rest. You can write songs that run the gamete as long as it’s “your sound”. Basically you have to see yourself as a brand. If I say “Pepsi” or “McDonalds” you picture their logo instantly. Obviously, those companies have spent billions of dollars on advertising…but you can do the same thing for yourself as an artist. I have a logo. It’s a lawn chair. And in the beginning, people were asking “Why the chair?” And my response would be “When people listen to my music I want them to think of summer time. And to me summer time reminds me of backyard barbeques with lawn chairs.” Now people just accept it and say “I love the chair!”

4. I see that you really make use of social networking and social networking widgets. Which network(s) do you think you’ve benefited from the most? I think it’s a combination of everything. At first I used MySpace (now apparently only dinosaurs use it). And that got me by for a long time. I use facebook to stay in touch with people and let people know what I’m up to. I am not gonna lie…I obsess over Twitter. Although, that seems to be dying out as well. As an artist, you have to keep up with the moving trends of social networking. If there is a new networking site that comes out…sign up for it right away so you can claim your artist name before anyone else of the same name gets it. If you use the account, cool…if you don’t…don’t worry about it. I keep a spreadsheet of all my accounts/usernames/passwords. There is so much to keep track of these days, but it’s all important!


5. This is a question Grassrootsy asks each of its Interviewees
: What do you think is the single most important thing an artist should do to promote themselves better? I know that there are a lot of artists who don’t want to spend time on the internet/computer. To me, this is a huge mistake. If you want to sustain a long career in music you need to spend at least 1 hour a day making sure you are keeping up with your social networking. My general rule is to respond as much as possible to the people who post stuff on my facebook wall or twitter. I think we all know what it’s like to respond to a tweet of someone we really look up to and yet they never respond to ours. I never want people to feel that way with me. And when you have interactions online make sure they are positive. No one wants to see cryptic emo messages from a musician they idolize. Post funny things, things about your music, things that will provoke people to comment.

“You have to remember music is a business! You can be a genius and write the world’s best songs, but if you make bad business decisions those songs won’t see the light of day.”

6. Any additional advice, lessons learned, or thoughts on independent musicatry (fake word), that you can pass on to readers? My biggest pet peeve is when a really talented artist doesn’t have their ducks in a row. I think the reason I’ve come as far as I have is because I am very business oriented when it comes to my career. I’m organized, not to mention I have a lot of techie skills to help me promote my music. As a musician, you need to know your strengths and your weaknesses. I’m not saying to have a complex about it. Haha! For instance…I am pretty confident in my songwriting skills, but I know I couldn’t produce my songs to their fullest potential. That is when I bring in a professional. I went through that whole phase of wanting to do EVERYTHING myself. It’s great to have that kind of motivation, but it can lead to some really bad career moves if you keep convincing yourself you are good at something you truly are not. If you aren’t organized…get management or someone to help you organize yourself. You have to remember music is a business! You can be a genius and write the world’s best songs, but if you make bad business decisions those songs won’t see the light of day. I have a whole binder separated by tabs (yes, I’m that dorky) to keep me organized. I won’t get into those crazy details, but if you want to know how I have it split up, feel free to email me.

Amanda Duncan Online:
Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/amandaduncan
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amanda-Duncan/8542291310
Twitter: http://twitter.com/amandaduncan
YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/amandaduncan
Blog: http://amandaduncan.wordpress.com
iLike: http://www.ilike.com/artist/Amanda+Duncan
Reverb Nation: http://www.reverbnation.com/amandaduncan

The Process of Publicity

July 12, 2010

Given last week’s post on booking, publicity, and being managed, I thought I’d put down some additional thoughts on publicity…since i think it happens to be the biggest piece of the puzzle.  Like I’ve always said, you can be the best musician in the world, but if nobody knows, it won’t do you any good.

Local Publicity
Need a place to start? This is a good place. You can’t climb a mountain overnight. Many times newbie artist try to score huge opportunities (i.e. major record deals, large-scale interviews, and opening opportunities for big-name artists).  No shame in that; but remember, it really helps to build your resume. So go local. Play out as much as you can in local venues and coffee shops. Pitch yourself for write-ups in local papers whenever you have something notable on the horizon (i.e. CD Release or major event). Your local press will appreciate the fact that you’re not spamming them about “nothing”.  See How to Score Reviews of Your CD for tips on how to pitch yourself to media.

Online Presence
This is the most important part of your publicity!  Take care of it and do it well. Post videos, tweet, update your status, update your website, communicate with your “followers” and “fans”, be timely, don’t spam, don’t underestimate the power of suggestion. At the very least, 25% of the blogs on this site focus on social networking and online presence. I highly recommend reading “An Interview with Allison Weiss” for her  solid advice on shameless self-promotion via social media. It’s good readin’.

Tackling the Big Dogs
We’re not all Justin Bieber. Realistically, very few people will post a song on YouTube and get discovered, so this step will come much later in the process. Years later, actually.  Once you’ve built up a resume, been around the block a few times, gotten some substantial reviews, and traveled a bit, you might want to start reaching out to bigger networks, stations, and publications for coverage. At this point in the game, it might be worth investing in someone (a publicist) who already has established relationships with these folks. More on hiring help:
Who Do You Need the Most: Publicist, Booking Agent, Manager?

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What Are Your Thoughts on House Shows?

July 7, 2010


THE ARTIST:
Brooke Annibale. Pittsburgh, PA. 
THE QUESTION: I was wondering if you’ve done many house shows in the region and how your experiences have been. Ever get any strangers requesting house shows that seem shady? Or have most of them been with people you know? Or established “house show houses.” Just really looking for any advice in this area that you may be willing to offer. Maybe you’ve done a blog about it that i’ve missed you could just pass on.

THE ANSWER: Yea, check out this Grassrootsy blog specifically on house shows:House Shows – Small Crowd, Big Return“. It’s got alot of helpful information!

Personally speaking, I do alot of house shows. I do them especially during seasons when  i don’t have time to promote official shows. I actually havent done any shady house shows before. In fact, they’ve always been really profitable and little or no work at all to put together.  In general, most of my house shows come through people who have been to shows in the past or through friends of friends.

To get into the practice of doing house shows, heres’ what you can do:

1. Pitch the Idea to Your Fans. Tweet, post a status update or, put a little paragraph in your newsletter(s)telling your fans that you’re starting to take on more house shows. Since we’re in the heat of the summer, pitch it as the perfect idea for a weekend barbeque, a summer evening get-together for friends, a house party, or a potluck.

2. Consider Charging a Fee. When pitching yourself for house shows, negotiate your fee with the host. I think you should decide what you think is best. Maybe a fixed fee or a donation bucket for attendees to contribute to. Keep in mind that statistically, musicians make more $ at house shows than at gigs. It’s just a crazy fact that has alot to do with the intimacy and one-on-one interaction with guests. More on this here.

3. Draw Up a Contract. If you think that someone is questionable or that you’re about to dive into a shady house show experience, here are your options.

  • Run! Don’t do the show if you don’t feel comfortable about it.
  • Give it a try; see what happens. The great thing about house shows is that you’re not really losing all that much…except some time.
  • Draw up a simple contract and have them sign and give it to you when you arrive at their place. Tell them not to stress over the contract but that its something you have to do since its not an official venue. More on creating contracts/invoices here.

Good luck!

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Making the Most of Your Coffeeshop Gig

June 23, 2010

Chloe's Coffee in Gaithersburg, MD

Here’s a follow-up to last week’s post: Making the Most of Your Club Gig.
So, coffeeshops are great, but you probably won’t make a whole lotta mula.  Well, it all really depends. Even if you don’t, playing coffeeshops has huge perks that you won’t get from a club.  Here are some thoughts on the matter.

Learn the Community.
Coffeeshops are known for their presence in the community. Take advantage of this. Make the most of the location by reaching out to be people who live around the corner instead of your whole fanbase. It’s a little less work and you’ll probably get more of a response from the locals. And hopefully the coffeeshop will buy into your approach since they exists for their locals.

Have Fun!
Community is almost synonymous with coffeeeshops these days.  The great things about these types of shows is that pressure is usually low. People are there to spend time with each other and exist in a place when others are…even if they’re not talking to anyone. All this to say, don’t take yourself too seriously. Talk with your audience and have fun. Keep it laid back. If you can, make it feel like your living room.

The More the Merrier
Considering that most coffeehouse gigs don’t pay, go ahead and put more people on the bill. Invite 7 songwriters out and do an in-the-round event. You’ll get a great turnout if everyone tells a few people and you don’t have the stress of splitting $10 between 7 people. hehe.

Don’t forget to have a Tip Jar
Be nice and remind people that you are a working artist and that you would appreciate their support. You can pass the hat as well. You’d be surprised at how some people make a decent killing off tips (sometimes that depends on the neighborhood).

Just Because You’re A Band…
Doesn’t mean you can’t play in coffeeshops. Some of them are fine with full bands.  You can do an unplugged set, a setup with 1/2 of your band, or just tone things down a bit.

The Ugly Side of Coffeeshops
A few things that make coffeeshops hard…

  • That grinder. There’s nothing worse than trying to compete with that blendy thing. Make sure the stage you’re playing on in’t right beside the front counter. I just had this experience and it was miserable.
  • All ages venues can sometimes mean young kids with nothing better to do and nowhere else to be. Ask them questions to make them part of your show. This will keep them engaged.
  • Everyone isn’t there for music. Some people are there to study…so don’t always expect everyone to close the laptop or stop your conversations and give you their full attention. Its the nature of the beast.

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Making the Most of Your Club Gig

June 10, 2010

On Monday’s post, we talked about the pros/cons of booking nightclubs: Coffeeshop or Club? Pros and Cons of “Nightlife” Booking. Here are a few tips on how to make the most of your show.


Who’s on the Bill?
Don’t just play with any artist, play with artists who will willingly help you promote the gig. You can get a big name to headline your event, but if they don’t tell their fans, it wont get the turnout you’re shooting for. We talked about this extensively in a post a few months back in a post worth reading: “So What Did I Do Wrong?”

Also, make sure you’re billing with bands that are communicative.  Don’t book bands that don’t respond to your emails or any of your communication. How can you expect them to be on the same page with you when you’re not corresponding.

Also check out this post: Be The Artist You’d Want to Play With


Space Your Shows
Since your draw is such an important factor, don’t try to book another big show in the same time frame. This might be a no-brainer But maybe consider doing 1 big show a month. Doing shows close together is possible (especially if you plan to target very different audiences) but in most cases, both shows will detract from each other.
Also make sure that the other band(s) you’re playing with don’t have any competing shows.
Incentives
Since it sometimes feels harder to draw people out, give people a reason to come. Consider talking with the venue and ask if they can have a drink special or a discounted menu for patrons.

Plan
You can’t set up a show today for next week. You need to set aside a solid 1-2 months to do it right. You probably won’t have a successful show if you don’t give yourself time to promote. Read
Planning Ahead – The Key to a Successful Show for a 4-week plan to a successful show.

Also check out 5 Tips for a Booking a Successful Show for more useful details.

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