After spending yesterday locked in a comment debate over on On The Record, I decided it might be time to go into some detail on the business of booking and promoting your own shows. While the debate yesterday focused on the need for new, independent venues that have new promoters and small acts in mind, it is still possible to do this kind of thing on a small(ish) budget if you know what you’re doing and who to talk to.
The first thing you’re going to need is the band or performer you want to book. If you’re doing this for the first time, it would be wise not to get ahead of oneself. Think compact. Be smart about whether people would go see them, what night it might be on, where it might be on and what support you could get. Have they played here before? If so, how recently? How many people went to that show? Talk to whoever put on their last show, see what they have to say about the experience. Ask how much they cost. Were they decent people to work with? Have they been getting much attention in the press? How did their last record do? Have they got a new record to promote? This is, simply, the most important decision you’ll make in the whole process so you might as well get it right. Booking the right act at the right time is half the battle at least. Ask every question you can think of, because once you say yes, it’s probably going to be too late to change your mind.
If you’ve asked every question you can think of, the next person you’re probably going to have to talk to is the agent. It is the booking agent’s job to get as much money for their artist as possible (and for themselves too). If they reply to you – which they might not because you’re not an established promoter – then hopefully they will do so with a price. You are obviously free to negotiate on this price but don’t be stupid about it. Negotiating is rarely easy but remember that if they are talking to you, there’s a good chance there’s no one else interested so it’ll be this show or nothing. Don’t lowball but don’t get ripped off either. Stack it against the numbers you’d expect to come (then subtract at least 25%) and the price you’d have to charge to make your money back. If this looks like the ticket price is going to be over €50, then it’s kind of unlikely the gig is going to work. You’re putting a lot of money at risk so you need to be sure of yourself. Think at least 12 weeks ahead.
There are obviously a lot of bands who don’t have booking agents. The same process applies generally, though negotiating tends to be more difficult because they aren’t likely to charge as much. So it’s likely to be a straight yes or no based on what you can afford and what they can afford. Dealing with bands direct is great though, usually.