I’ve been “working” in the music scene since I was 13-years-old and one thing has always been consistent…local bands are going to have to sell tickets at some point in their career. It’s as simple as that. Part of me is very against this and then there is a large conflicting part of me that’s completely okay with it. This is a very multifaceted discussion and they [Substream, mainly Drew] only give me 800 words so I’ll try and make this clean and concise.
Being a promoter in a relatively weak scene can be fairly difficult at times. To stay afloat as a promoter you have many things to take into account. Such as paying rent for your venues, keeping booking agents and touring bands happy and getting people out to the shows you put on. Unfortunately, in many cases, this leads to the local bands in the area getting the brunt of most situations. We’ve all gone through it and some see it as a right of passage to be respected because then you “worked for it” like the rest of us. One of the hottest debated topics the local bands have to go through is the process of selling tickets in order to play a show. Now, I’ve promoted or helped promote my fair share of shows over the years. Mind you, I’m not a promoter by occupation nor have I ever been. But it can be fairly difficult to get people to consistently come out to shows. Especially if you live in a fairly weak music scene like the one I came up in. The hardest shows to have a profitable turn out for are the ones that are only local bands playing. Promoters book these shows based on past turn outs for the headlining bands but know that in a lot of cases it will not sell out. In order to at least break even, if not make a profit on top of it, bands selling tickets is one of the easiest and efficient ways to insure a monetarily successful show.
In this instance, I agree with this practice. Local shows are hard to make successful and as a promoter you are trying to run a business, I get that. However I don’t understand the promoters that do not give these bands a cut of ticket sales. After all, they are basically your sole promotion tactic. They’re out there working for you. I understand as a promoter you are busy promoting shows for your touring acts coming through. Which is another reason you are having kids hock their own tickets out in the wild. At least reward them for getting out there and making you money. It goes without saying that bands are going to promote their shows. I mean, if no one is going to say anything, how will anyone know? The biggest bands in the world release their touring schedule on their sites with direct links to buy tickets. I guess you never really stop having to selling tickets do you?
Where my real problem with this promotion method comes into place is when promoters use local bands as ticket sellers for touring acts coming through. I see this as an opportunity for a promoter to give back to these local bands on shows that should pull based on the acts coming through.
If you’re going to have bands selling tickets for their local shows so you can promote the “important” ones involving touring bands then your promotions for those shows should be working. Get yourself a street team and have them do some grassroots promotion. If you really have pull in your city most of these people will do this for free just to be a part of the scene. An even bolder thought is maybe not book shows that you are seriously questioning the legitimacy of the guarantees you are agreeing to. Overall, this will give bands another reason to want to work with you and thus prolong your occupation as local venue promoter.
All that said these are kids trying to live out their dreams of playing in bands and hopefully doing it for a living. The music industry is a heartless entity that will chew you up and spit you out if you let it (and many times even if you don’t). So, I plead to the promoters out there or to people thinking about promoting locally, give these bands a little bit of a break. They don’t need another speed bump and obstacle discouraging them. It’s difficult to decide to give your all to a band. This is their art and service and they should be paid for it not paying for it.
BY NICK REED