Throughout gigging with my band I have met and spoken to quite a few promoters and bands. There are some topics that surprisingly come up often in conversations and one of them is about the relationship between artists and promoters. In my opinion too many bands/artists complain about promoters, and vice versa the reasons are mostly the same. I think that following some easy tips could greatly improve the artist/promoter relationship, and the gigging experience overall.
Promoters tend to ask “How many tickets can you sell”. A lot of artists get quite scared of the question and misjudging the situation say that they can easily sell X amount of tickets, to later on find out that the venue is too far away, and it’s a Wednesday and all their mates have work/school the next day resulting in 3 people showing up instead of 20. Do not be worried to say “We are based in London so we haven’t got an established fan-base in Manchester, but we would like to develop one.” Promoters want to develop the music scene as much as you, but then they know that they should put you supporting someone who can bring people instead of as a headliner.
E-mail your on stage requirements
An important thing you should do before the gig is to let the promoter know your set up on stage. If you need 4 microphones including one for the drummer, a second drum kit, a bass amp or backing tracks played etc. let the promoter know. You will save a lot of time if they know what you need and have set it up in advance, and they will appreciate that.
Show up on time
In most cases promoters make an effort to show up early, chat to the artists set everything up do a sound check for every artist on the line-up, if they can do it so can you. Showing up on time will demonstrate that you’re taking this seriously and you are dedicated and professional. If for some reason you cannot show up early give them an e-mail or a phone call saying so, I think I’m right in saying that you would prefer to know why someone you’re waiting for isn’t showing up instead of wondering or worrying about it.
Quick and tight sound check
If you are able to show up on time make sure you do a fast and tight sound check. I know it’s exciting to be on stage at the venue and you’re buzzing and want to play the whole night, but that’s what the set is for not the sound check. Doing silly things and wasting time instead of checking the sound levels will only frustrate the other artists and the sound technician, but also there won’t be enough time to sound check everyone and your levels may not come out as desired either.
Let’s suggest you have now done quite a few gigs and feel confident that you can request a bigger payment and/or rider, you should put yourself in the shoes of the promoter. You deserve to be paid for the entertainment you provide and the people you bring, but also you should think on how manageable it is and how suitable it is to your level of exposure. Simple math – if the ticket is £5 and the venue is 50 capacity the revenue will be £250 for the night on the door. Asking for £200-£300 for playing would firstly make it unlikely the promoter will book you and secondly if they do and not as many people show up they probably won’t book you again. The same thing goes about having a rider, you can ask for reasonable things – some water or a snack, but I have heard mentions of up and coming bands demanding bottles of spirit and 3 course meals off small local promoters, ending up in them not getting booked.
Stay and watch the other artists
A lot of artists finish their set, pack their things and leave, instead of staying through the other bands sets. At the least it shows respect towards your fellow musicians, and it could also mean that you could talk to them and get to know them, which could lead to further gigs together.
Pay to Play
This is something I do not understand about some local events, people expecting to make money from the audience and from the performers. It’s as if you opened a restaurant and expected the chefs to pay you because you expose their food to people... who pay for it too. Music is the reason people go to shows, and artists provide that reason so people come to your event. Even if the venue has a lot of regular clients and is a name on the live scene I still think it’s wrong to make artists pay to play there.
I have seen a lot of event organisers who don’t really advertise the event and expect the artists to bring the people with them. The responsibility for advertising the gig should be both the artists and the promoters. Both sides should do the best they can, making sure the target audience is aware of the gig, where and when it is, who will play and how much the tickets will be.
The same way I mentioned artists shouldn’t be unreasonable with their payment requirements, I also think that smaller artists should be offered a small sum that would cover if not all a part of their travel expenses. I am talking about reasonable amounts of course but a lot of artists feel embarrassed to ask for this and they shouldn’t.
My last point leads to the main thing I’m trying to say with this article – Communication is key to being able to establish a good working relationship. Be honest, professional and clear. Be reasonable but also don’t be ashamed to ask for what you need because if you don’t ask you don’t get.