This article was also featured on Music Think Thank.
Every hometown has them – the notoriously “tough” promoter. Once you can connect with them, find your way into their good books, and show your value - they can become a useful ally as you build your budding career.
But, if you don’t and find yourself on their black list, you might as well consider yourself done in that market. Here are some quick ways to work with promoters who’ve seen it all and tips to ensure mutually beneficial relationships for years to come.
1. Be Realistic and Factual
If you are pitching your band for a show - be very realistic about your draw and pull in the market. Knowing your value is hard because it’s constantly changing. A good way to figure this out is to think of your last 3 shows in that market and do an average of your ticket sales. If it was a festival or support gig, be realistic about how many people you think were in the audience to see you. Be straight up with the promoter and include the marketing efforts you’ll be initiating to help build on this number. Too often bands say whatever they need to in order to land a show. This is the easiest way to piss off a promoter. It may sound good on paper, but once you are in the room for a show you can’t fake it. Promoters have way too much experience with this, so you likely won’t get another chance to impress them again.
2. Don’t Overplay the Market
This will allow you to maximize your draw for the promoter and get bodies in the room. It also will ensure your band’s brand has value and is continually growing. Saying no to shows often can build your value much more quickly than saying yes to everything. Your strategic decision-making around your career will impress promoters, and they will know they can rely on you for important dates.
3. Don’t Create Extra Work for Them
Be on time and don’t forget your keyboard when you’re loading out. Promoters are busy and don’t have time for you to create more work for them. Being easy to work with and efficient will speak volumes and get you called back again.
4. Understand and Work with Their Stresses
Usually their frustration has to do with something that happened recently. Did a band just cancel a show last minute? Is their daughter home sick from school? Is there a pipe leaking in the bathroom and they have to cancel a gig? Did the contractor rip them off? Are they last in their hockey pool? If you can truly connect and understand the larger stresses that affect their day and show sympathy and support, you will have a much better chance of working fluidly with the promoter. You have to give some love to get some in return. Understand that you are a small priority in the larger scheme of things, so if you can understand their bigger stresses and connect in a genuine way, you will have a much higher chance of succeeding.
5. Don’t Overstep Your Bounds
Be considerate of the promoter’s business model and understand that they need to make money off ticket and bar sales to succeed. Forcing last minute guest list add-ons when the tickets are not selling well or asking for extra drink tickets comes across as inconsiderate. If the overhead is not recouped then this money is coming out of the promoter’s pocket. Be very comfortable reading a settlement sheet and collaborating with the promoter rather than creating additional line items.
6. Be Reliable and Track Your Communications
If you expect the promoter to be quick with replies, you need to do so as well. Be reachable on phone and email and quick to respond to their questions or queries. Also keep track of your communication so if something is committed to you can reference back to it should confusion arise. If you have a talent agent, having a formal contract is great. In more of an independent booking scenario you may not want to deal with a contract but make sure the needs for the night are in writing so that all the commitments and details of the show for every party is clear. This will save you stress on-site and show the promoter you are a professional.
7. Blow Their Mind
At the heart of it, promoters got into this business because they love music! Do a phenomenal job on stage and you will win them over. Be well rehearsed and put on an unforgettable show!
8. Respect Their Experience
Include them in the process of planning your show and promoting it and have them weigh in. Ask them for feedback on your event poster and marketing partners. They have a wealth of experience that can be tapped into and if they are more ingrained in the planning stages, hopefully they will be more committed to the shows success.
9. Pound the Pavement
Truly market your show and don’t let up until the tickets are sold out or the show is packed! Promoters need to see you really grinding to fill the room. This can include postering, social media advertising, advertising in the local weekly/daily, creating promotional videos, going out to shows where like-minded fans can be found and flyering, and more! There is an endless wealth of options to promote your shows to new potential fans. Be sure to really exhaust these options. Go out of your way to bring people out for your shows. This is the easiest way to make nice with a tough promoter. Personally message all your friends and fans. Get bodies in the room and surprise promoters with your great draw!
10. Be Thankful
Notice the small details that go in to making a show a happen and be sure to say thank you to the promoter. Did they set up a table in the backroom with beer for you? Did they include you in their weekly ad buy? Did they put your name up on the marquee? These things may be small, but they don’t have to do them. When they do, say thank you and make sure they know that you noticed.
So there you go! Always remember promoters talk to other promoters. It’s a small network out there and knowing how to crack these tough cookies will help you build long and growing careers of years to come.