A band’s perspective of the relationship between a promoter and a performer.
Today’s music scene is equal parts majesty and self-destruction. Who will bring the end? The promoter who tantalizes unwitting, youthful bands with promises of glorious side-stage performances, forever dooming young musicians to empty their pockets and take up the lives of traveling ticket salesmen for the slightest chance of success? Or will it be the ever-mighty artist, too dignified to take promotion into their own hands, forever wallowing in the vast void between the microphone and the few spectators at the back of the room?
So a show sucks. For whatever reason, not many people came. Naturally, that pisses you off. Whether you’re a promoter or a musician, you understand the feeling of disappointment after a show has utterly flopped. Too often our negative feelings get the best of us, and we wonder where to place the blame. What a fucking waste of time.
The most beneficial relationship between promoter and performer is a positive, co-productive, and co-organized one. It is imperative that promoters and performers work together to build hype for an upcoming show, but only if both parties contribute equally. When one fails, so does the other. Naturally, it is in everyone’s best interest to be liable for some degree of promotion. There are some promoters who overstep any assumption of a band’s willingness to help promote, and lay the responsibilities of ticket sales entirely on the local support. There are two scenarios of poor promotion that come to mind.
The Local Talent Cash Pool:
Promoter X throws together a lineup of reliable local acts, but fails to advertise to a wider market. Promotion is left to the bands, who are selected for their consistent draw. Without a promoter’s efforts to attract new ears to a show, locals end up playing to the same people show after show, and are forced to watch their crowds decay into memories of the old days. Less interest, less fun, we all die a little inside.
The Parasitic Promoter:
Promoter Y books an expensive tour package and turns to local support to cover the funds. “You want to play with (insert dream band here)? All you have to do is sell 100 tickets for $15 a piece.” Hot damn, the day has come! Finally, a chance to open for (insert dream band here), and who knows who will be listening?! With that many thousands of Facebook likes, there’s bound to be thousands of people in attendance, surely this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. All we have to do is sell how many tickets? Oh shit. For how much money? Ok, so all we have to do is collect $1,500 for the almighty Promoter Y and we’re set! But ticket sales are a lot of work, I expect we should be compensated? No? Well what if we fail to sell all 100 tickets? We.. pay you? This better be worth it..
It is not, and will never be, worth it. Believe it or not, being lumped in with ten other local bands turned ticket salesmen on the side stage isn’t a great opportunity. Not for the bands at least. It only feeds the unethical beast.
A wise man recently reminded me that not only do bands have the power to stop these shady tactics, we have the only power. Only when bands refuse to take part in pay-to-play shows will they cease to exist.
Unfortunately, in this refusal is where many bands falter. They excuse themselves of promotional responsibilities, assuming that their band’s name on a glittery poster in every deep, dark crevice of humanity will surely be enough to gather a crowd. A promoter can advertise, post flyers, dish out handbills, and spread the word for weeks, but none of it will mean a thing if a band drops the ball and forgets to do their part. Successful promoters advertise to a wide market, much more varied than a band’s fanbase. When bands fail to help promote, the crowd is robbed of the band’s core support, and the show depends entirely on the wide market appeal. What was once an opportunity to dazzle newcomers while friends and fans sing along, is now an overbearingly intimate performance with total strangers. Less money, less fun, nobody wins.
Musicians need to take it upon themselves to follow through on their share of promotion. Flyers, word-of-mouth, social media posts, hell, even a handwritten cardboard sign draws attention. The bottom line is: every person that is familiar with your band needs to be aware of your upcoming shows. That type of awareness can only be fulfilled through a band’s efforts to connect with their friends and fans.
When promoters and bands collaborate to pull off a successful show, they do so by working closely together. The benefits of a well promoted show affect everyone involved. When bands spread the word and build hype for their shows, they create a loyal nucleus within the crowd, and confirm to the promoter that they are reliable, hardworking musicians. With proper advertising throughout a wide market, promoters draw new people, potential fans, to join the already guaranteed crowd. Everyone gathers with the hopes of a memorable musical experience, and all that’s left is for the bands and promoters to deliver. The beauty in this type of teamwork is that each individual show’s success contributes to the scene’s strength, which can lead to frequent successful shows, and greater successes to come.