Booking shows is a cornerstone to building your career as a musician. In other blog posts we discuss how you can book shows strategically & how often you should be playing shows. It’s important to understand the ecosystem of promoters out there before you begin making phone calls.
A promoter is someone that makes their living booking bands (buying talent) and promoting shows. Good promoters have excellent relationships with reputable agents, managers, record labels, and artists. Their role is pivotal to the success of music venues because they manage the calendar.
This is a quick snapshot of the different types of promoters you may encounter in your career:
- National Talent Buyers
These talent buyers are giants in the concert industry. Most of these folks work for Live Nation & AEG, but a few of them are running independent firms (that will probably end up being purchased by Live Nation or AEG). Think Danny Wimmer, Ashley Capps, and Brian O’Connell. These are the folks responsible for booking major music festivals and brokering national tours with artists like the Foo Fighters and Metallica. Typically, they all start out as local and regional talent buyers. The likelihood of you ever talking to them is slim, but it’s good to know who they are & what they do.
- Local and Regional Talent Buyers
Local and Regional Talent Buyers are the people most involved with the larger events in your local community. They book your larger venues, Arenas, and Amphitheaters. They facilitate the local logistics of the tours booked by the national talent buyers, but the majority of their work is negotiating offers with agents directly for the venues & events they represent. Many of them may work for Live Nation or AEG, but most of them likely work for the venues directly (ASM Global, Nederlander, OVG) or an independent firm (Production Simple, MEMI). Once your band is established & drawing 100 people to a ticketed event it’s a good idea to reach out to your local talent buyers about opening some of their shows.
- Independent Concert Promoters
Independent concert promoters are typically smaller operations that don’t have an affiliation with a larger parent company. Many of them may favor a particular venue, but they are typically renting the venue & producing the event themselves. The profit margin for these types of promoters is often very slim because they don’t receive ancillary revenue from the bar & have to produce their events solely on ticket revenue. These promoters are going to lean heavily on local artists that can sell 100+ tickets.
- In-House Talent Buyers at Bars & Clubs
Many venues have an exclusive in-house talent buyer. They are solely responsible for the calendar. They likely work with independent concert promoters to help fill up their calendar, but are mainly focused on booking shows themselves in their venue. These are the people you are going to come into contact with first in your career. At this stage there is a blend of promoters that are focused on ticket sales vs. promoters that are focused on bar sales. You should choose your shows wisely based on your overall strategy & know the difference between shows and gigs.
- Scam Artists
Beware, there are more scam artists out there than many of us would like to admit. Sleazy promoters see the opportunity, but never seem to figure out how to run shows properly. Don’t get caught in their web of dishonesty. These are the promoters that require you to sell pre-sale tickets, require you to pay them upfront in order to play for “more exposure” (pay-to-play), or load their national show up with 6 local bands (because they know they can cover their guarantee on the friends/family of local bands alone). Good agents don’t work with these promoters. Good venues won’t work with them either. Luckily, it’s easy to spot them. Some of them have Facebook Groups dedicated to exposing how horrible they are. If you are unsure, just ask a local talent buyer about them. The music industry is a small world, so you are bound to get an honest response.