Photos from Tom’s 60th Birthday gig at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire by Roger Goodgroves
This is such a fundamentally f**king obvious part of an artist’s career that I am in complete incomprehension as to how or even why I hear so much grumbling from promoters about artists and vice versa. It is really simple, you put bums on seats, you get booked again. It is your duty as an artist to make every show as good as possible and do your damndest to fill it. If you’re playing every week to five people and you’re pissed off, get over it. Either your set is not good enough or you’re playing too often for the size of your fanbase.
I come at this from all sides. I have played everywhere in London, from every indie toilet to the Brit Awards. I have rigged, engineered and promoted gigs from 50 seaters to the likes of the Shepherd’s Bush Empire and the Albert Hall. One thing I know is the type of artist I want to work with. So singer songwriters out there who turn up all fluffy like, an hour late, having forgotten their guitar lead, with no fans to support them and expect the promoter to be grateful… go home. It’s not cute. Really it isn’t. And just to emphasise the point, the pictures above are from Tom’s 60th gig. We squeezed in 8 bands, numerous guests and stage re-rigs and came in 4 minutes early on curtain down with no gaps in the program. This was only possible because of the consumate professionalism of all the artists taking part, one very organised stage manager (Thanks Kirsty), some shit hot engineers and a lot of planning.
This part of the industry is like a whole ecosystem in itself. Promoters, agents, bands and their managers all vying for attention in a very crowded market. The theory however is simple: Band + Venue + Audience = Gig.
So rant over, how do you make some dosh?
I am a big fan of this method. You hire a venue, engineer, take care of ticketing and book other acts to play alongside you. I would urge every artist to try this at least once because at the very least it will help you empathise about being a promoter and how much work it is. Practically if you were to hire a 200 capacity indie venue in London it shouldn’t cost you more than £200 including engineer. So pull in 200 people at £5 a ticket and you’re running at £800 profit to distribute back to the artists including yourself. And if you don’t want to go it alone why not get together with a couple of other bands and share the risk. If you want to run a free event you might be able to do a deal with the venue owner on the bar takings. Really utilise the social networks of anybody who’s involved in the night. I use wegottickets.com to sell my tickets online. And try and sell it out in advance as that creates a real buzz and helps you not get stressed on the night itself!
Why would you want to work with a promoter especially if they’re going to take a majority of the door? For starters they take the risk. It’s on their reputation that they have the venue. They run the budget, pay for promotion, door staff and engineer. And because they’re doing it every week they can build a name for their night, which if it is a good one well help your band if you play it. Promoters have different ways of paying artists. It might be a straight fee regardless of audience, a share of ticket sales or for free if the night has enough kudos to help you other ways. Watch out for Pay-To-Play nights. That’s just not right. Be nice to promoters; try to see things from their point of view. Do your job and let them do theirs.
Agents put artists together with promoters and take a percentage (around 10%) of the artist’s cut.
Do you need an agent?
Agent’s can introduce you to new promoters and expand your reach. If you are a successful band you probably won’t have time to deal with booking gigs so an agent can do this for you.
How do I get an agent?
From what I can garner you can’t ‘get’ an agent, they come to you.
These dudes can make or break your show so be nice! They are often not paid enough, usually have to turn around a bazillion ungrateful bands in not enough time AND provide that idiot singer songwriter with a spare lead because they’re too inconsiderate to think about other people. Trust me, if you have ever tried engineering a gig it’s both stressful and difficult. And remember the sound out front isn’t the same as what it sounds like on stage so you’ll have to trust your engineer. Good ones are like gold dust so stay in touch if you can.
Engineer rules for artists
1. Turn up on time
2. Buy them a pint, a cup of tea, Jaeger bomb, whatever floats their boat
3. Provide them in advance AND again on the day with a tech rider and stage plan (see below)
4. Say thank you
5. When you sound check, do it quickly. This is not time for last minute rehearsal so pick two songs in advance that cover the whole range of your sound and every instrument and mic you’re going to use.
6. Say thank you again
7. When you have played get your shit off the stage as fast as possible. There is plenty of time to bask in your glorious set when you AND your gear are off the stage
8. Say thank you
An example of a stage plan…
Again there’s much more I could say but I guess my point is try and think about things from everybody else’s point of view. Share kit where you can to save money, say thank you and be nice. It’s a small world and dickheads don’t get very far in it. Follow these rules and if your music’s any good, you should start to get paid.
Next time: How To Get Paid Part 4 – Merch, Sync, karma and the rest.