Booking Shows 101

[Originally blogged 1/12/07]

Note: I wear a bunch of hats in “teh sceen”:  “Musician”, DJ, and promoter– someone on a forum asked about booking shows, so I came up with this.  It’s all just my opinion, so take it for what it’s worth, but I’ve been booking shows and a yearly fest for over 5 years so I have a pretty decent understanding of how this shit works.  So here goes…


1) The asking guarantee is the BEST case scenario.

That means if you know the show will bring a huge amount of people, you can cover the guarantee PLUS hospitality PLUS any additional tech requirements PLUS sound PLUS incidentals (and believe me, unexpected stuff can add up), THEN say “that’s great– here Caustic, have $100,000,000!”)

Otherwise, figure out what works for you as a promoter and for your scene size and make an offer.  Backend percentage deals are a beautiful thing and used frequently.  A backend percentage deal is simple– after you recoup ALL of your expenses the band gets a chunk of the door.  This generally keeps both the band and promoter happy, as if the band thinks they deserve more and you think it might but you don’t want to possibly lose your ass it allows the chance for a lot more money without as much investment on your part.  I’ve personally had a few shows where the band actually ended up making more than their asking price because of this, so win-win.

Guarantees are good also in that the band knows they’ll be coming out with a set amount and can figure it into their budget.  Again though, know what you can handle.  There’s NOTHING more unprofessional than promising something, signing a contract, and then screwing a band over because you thought it would do better.  Plus you could get sued.  You took the risk– know the consequences.  Most people do not make money on shows as a promoter in this or most other scenes.  It’s a fact.  Minimize loss by being smart, and if the band won’t accept your offer it may be for the best.  Don’t let your ego cost you money.

2) Figure in ALL costs.

I mentioned it in the first bit but it can’t be stressed enough.  Forgetting something that you either promised a band (contractually or not) or that is vital to pulling the show off (like, y’know, paying a sound person) can add a LOT to the costs in some cases, and nickel and dime shit like water for the bands or even photocopied fliers and tape can add up pretty quickly.  You want to do a good job.  You want everyone happy so you’ll look cool and have other bands think that East Fuck, Louisiana is a hotbed of industrial/goth/polka.  Make sure to figure in for this so you don’t end up losing money on a show:

a. Guarantees for the bands
b. Hotel/crashpad accomodations
c. Sound
d. Hospitality (food, beer, water, a macaroni portrait of The Hoff)
e. Fliers/advertising
f. DJ
e. Guestlist (this adds up really quickly)
g. Additional lighting/sound rental requirements
h. Possible venue rental/staff charges

Making an actual budget helps.  Seriously.  I’ve seen people nearly sell out shows and still lose money.  Be smart and honest with yourself on actual costs and you’ll be fine.

Also, be aware that you should probably have enough money before the doors even open to cover your butt in case something goes wrong or, worst worst case scenario, nobody shows at all.  You’re still responsible for the guarantee.

3) Communicate!

It should be obvious, but a lot of people don’t realize that communication, duh, makes things run smoothly.  Make sure as many details are covered with all parties involved in the show:  The bands (and ALL of them, meaning OPENING bands), the venue, the DJs, your street team, the hotel– whoever.  Obviously some people only need to know certain things, but it’s important that everyone be on the same page for the show to succeed, plus it keeps things calm.  It’s a little thing, but it means a lot to a band that they can get easily ahold of you and to confirm that everything’s cool.  It’s the little things, but when you’re on the road and heading to a place you’ve never been it’s good to know there’s a contact available to help with whatever.

4) Be professional

If a restaurant is slow you don’t want the owner to come whine to you about it when you’re eating, so use the same philosophy and always try and be upbeat regardless if a show is doing well or not.  Appreciate everyone and be a nice host.   That’s all.  Pretty simple.  Remember:  You’re the promoter, and if people chose not to show you didn’t do your job.  No blaming or making people who did pay feel guilty.  Not every show is a rousing success, but give love to the crowd as they’re the supporters of what you do and make or break a show.
So that’s it.  I’m sure there’s a few nuances I didn’t cover, but all in all follow those basic rules, have a good time and show everyone a good time and you’ll be on the right track.

(and per usual with this crap, x-post away if you’re so inclined– just give credit:))


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