I’ve read countless articles about band etiquette and how to be in as an artist. Most of which are done by bar owners, venues, promoters and some are even artists. I myself am a promoter and i’ll try to give my advice (although I”ll call it an opinion) on bands and how to properly go about getting a show and of course how to properly sell yourself at the show. This will be through a promoters eyes which will explain any difference in opinions that you could have, however this promoter has been in the game 10+ years so I’ve seen these things push bands to higher levels and I’ve seen the wrong thing to do crush bands. '
The first thing I need you to understand is the difference between being in a band as a hobby and actually trying to make it work, be a rock star or “make it”. Lets be clear to begin with, this is for Original bands. If you are in a tribute band or cover band your in a business model that i’m not familiar with as I’ve booked very few of them so I’m not speaking to that. I personally have no issues with Cover / Tribute bands however as Austin Powers would say “Its not my bag baby”. I’d imagine some of these pointers would relate to them however I’m not in what i’d call a position to give ideas there.
So lets get down to it here. When you form a band obviously you whether your doing it because you love it or your just trying to make money, either way your gonna want to play shows. Your gonna find right away that merchandise is gonna be how you make money when your starting out. If you’ve already been in an established band or in a very small % of situations you can come straight out of the gate looking for big gaurentee’s and playing rock star but for the other 95% of the time you probably want to get your feet wet and play out. I can’t speak to how often you need to practice nor can i speak to how long it’ll take you to be “show ready” but i’d say once you can rip through a 30 minute set in your garage (or wherever you practice) and feel comfortable with it I’d say your ready. Your singer needs to be comfortable speaking to the crowd though because there is not much worse then “dead space” in between songs. Engaging the crowd is super important. You want their eyes on you, not the TV’s, not the bar, not their drink and not even the girl (or guy) to their left or right. The worst is hearing a crowd members last night story while your on stage and your guitar player is tuning or changing guitars.
01. TAKING THE GIG.
Now you got a set and your singer is ready to engage the 1 or 1,000 people who attend. By the way that is extremely important. Play at 100% no matter if your playing for 1,000 people or the door guy and bartender. Trust me on this, you’ll get a great reputation that way. Your ready to play out. There is many many ways this can go. Here’s the first tip and its an important one. If your offered a show that requires ticket sales (and not all do) and you don’t like the deal then simply don’t take it. I’ve heard horror stories of venues having bands sell tickets for $10 and giving the band $1 or $2 per ticket then making them pay the difference. I don’t care who the show is with, never take that deal. There is a difference between pay to play and ticket sales. Lets examine that. Pay to play are shows in which You Pay to perform and have no chance of making money on the show, in fact you lose money on that end. You could pay $100 to play and make $200 on merchandise which will have you make money but your not making any on the show. Ticket sales (when done right) are when your band is asked to sell tickets and you earn a % of what you sell. Selling 50 tickets and getting $1 a ticket is not right. Your talking giving a band $50 and the venue or promoter nets $450. In my opinion you are taking advantage of the bands in that scenario. In that case it is still considered tickets and not pay to play because nothing is coming out of your pockets. I am against pay to play personally. I can honestly say in my 10+ years and over 100 shows I’ve promoted I have done pay to play on one show and I hated it and hate that I did it. Basically it protects the promoter and venue from losing money on the show when they are dishing out a huge amount on a national band. I can understand it and if your band is that interested in playing w/ a national I’m not saying your wrong in doing it but I personally don’t like it. It can be good exposure. I like the idea of having you sell tickets so you have the opportunity to make money. Now, here’s the flip side. I’ve personally begun 20 ticket minimum for you to earn money on the show. If you are offered a show and the promoter gives you a minimum tickets to sell there are bands who can do it and bands who can’t. If you are not at least 80% confident you can move 20 or whatever the promoter / venue is asking simply don’t take the show. I can tell you from experience there is nothing worse than that meeting between promoter and band when the band sold 5 tickets or 3 tickets or no tickets. Its uncomfortable for everyone. It makes people not want to book you again. It sounds shitty but its the truth. Its just a bad representation of your band. In my personal case you can make up for it by kicking ass on stage because I’ll always give a good band more chances but i can also say not many are like me in that sense. You can show up w/ 3 tickets sold and put on the best performance that venue has ever seen and there is venues and promoters that’ll never book you again. Here’s another tidbit, if you do find yourself in that situation don’t use excuses, just thank them for the opportunity and tell them you promise to do better. Never ever say “well, it was tough but we have lots of people coming” because no you don’t. I’ve never heard that line and seen an abundance of people coming through the door. Its a cop out and looks poor on you. Myself as a promoter if i don’t do my job for a venue i apologize and promise better things. I don’t know how many promoters work but I sell tickets myself and i do a lot of promotion for all bands so me personally I’m not asking you to do anything I’m not doing. Now that your confused lets go over a few do’s and don’t’s from this Section:
DON’TS: 01. If you cannot move 20 tickets you might need some more time. If you have 5 people in your band that is a mere 4 tickets a member. 02. Don’t tell the venue and promoter you “Have people coming” because you probably don’t. 03. Don’t take shows if you don’t like the ticket deal, they aren’t all great. 04. Don’t do pay to play. (this is subjective but I’m putting it under don’ts)