How to be a music promoter
Are you keen to know how to be a music promoter but don’t know how to go about it? Fear not, this article should point you in the right direction.
Maybe you are sick of getting paid peanuts for playing shows with your band and realise that this is the best way to get paid?
Well fear not, here at This Sound we have had many years experience of putting on live shows, both locally and around the UK.
We have put on shows in some of the best venues, with the best sounding PA’s that were available to us. And yes, we have also put on shows that were lucky to have 3 old men and a dog turn up, so we know all about the pitfalls, but more importantly how to avoid them!
We will concentrate this article on putting on live shows locally, as this is predominantly what you will be doing. Although it is possible to promote shows out of town, it is very difficult without local knowledge of bands and venues.
Let’s assume that you are looking to put on a regular night, build popularity and a following for the night. We will stick to this for now, and look at individual, one off shows later.
How to get started promoting music
The most important thing you need is the enthusiasm for live music, period. Without the drive to promote tirelessly and the love for the music that you want to put on then you won’t last this game out. It is essential that you have a vision for the kind of nights that you want to promote, and that means knowing the kind of music that you want to put on, and more importantly, you must have a vision for the style and sound of a night.
So with that in mind….
Choose a name for your night
It’s not essential to get this perfect, I have been to some great nights that have a terrible name, but on the whole, getting a good catchy name is a great starting place for your venture. Always think of it in business terms, the name is your brand, create a strong brand and people will keep this in their heads. Good examples of this are dance nights, names like Cream and Helter Skelter and great examples of strong branded names that people remember.
Choose a venue
I would say this is the most important aspect of putting on a regular live show and will certainly be the main focus if you want to know how to be a music promoter. It’s important that the venue has done nights similar to yours in the past and are well equipped for it. There is no point hiring the local church hall if they have no sound system or no bar. Get talking to the venue owners and see if they are open to your idea. You don’t have to get a concrete deal in place in the first venue you go to, this is the time to gather information. Things such as:
- Price to hire the venue
- Does this include door men/staff costs
- Do they have an adequate sound system and stage area?
- How do they work payment? (More on this later)
- Do you need your own cashier?
- What time do they open/close?
- How long will you have the venue for?
- How often can you put on the event? Weekly/Bi Monthly/Monthly etc
- Do they have a sound engineer? If not, what equipment would you need?
These aren’t the only questions, just some bullet points to give you an idea. Hopefully by the end of this article you will have gathered enough information to add some more to that list.
So, now you have your name, and have found an awesome venue that has done similar nights to yours, what next?
Well, it’s important to realise how you will make money from a live music event. Barring the very rare time a venue will offer to pay a set fee, or a take of the bar, the main way you will get paid is by selling tickets to your event.
How much do you charge for a live music event?
This can differ depending on the calibre of band/artist that you put on, but let’s concentrate on local gigs with local bands. The general rule of thumb is not to charge too much that it turns people away, but not too little that you can’t make money to pay the bands and yourself!
This would mean in general, charging between £3 – £5 for a ticket to your night initially.
I say initially, because the more you promote your night and the more popular it gets, the more you can put on bigger bands and of course charge a higher entry fee. You don’t want to scare people off when you are starting out, so keeping the entry fee down will ensure good crowds which in turn will build your night meaning more popularity and eventually more profit for you.
How to find bands/acts for your night?
The majority of this will come down to your local knowledge of acts in your town/city. When I used to promote I pretty much knew most of the bands that I put on from being in the local scene. However, there are methods to find bands/acts that you may not know about, these include, but are not limited to:
The most obvious way to find local bands/acts is to research them online. Most bands/acts will have an online presence, be it on Facebook, Soundcloud or Bandcamp etc. Try searching on Google for ‘indie band Canterbury’ for example, this should pull up a load of pages for bands that you can check out. Once you find a band/act that suits your night simply send them an email explaining all about what you are doing and let them know the fee you will pay, and see if they are interested in doing a set.
Placing an ad..
Get down your local rehearsal room, most of which will have a notice board in the reception. Leave an A5 sized ad there explaining what you are doing and the kind of acts you are looking for. Most people will do the old – put your number length-ways on the bottom of the sheet and make a small cut so they can tear off you details – thing. It’s a classic. There are other places these can go, like in trendy shops in your town centre, especially music shops.
Ask for referrals..
If you are not totally down with the local scene then it may be an idea asking someone who is. Ask the venue where you will be staging your shows, or again, go in the local music shops and ask about. Musicians are usually helpful people and will know a lot of local acts that will fit your event.
So now you have some acts in place, what next?
You’ve got your venue, the time and date, you’ve worked out the payment scheme with the owner, you have some acts you want to put on, it’s time to….
Promote the hell out of it!
This is the hard part, getting people to come to the shows. In my past experience it is always best to ensure you have strong local bands that you know are going to bring a good following. This will not only ensure that tickets get sold but also that the venue looks busy, which in turn gives a positive image to both the owner of the venue and to punters meaning return visitors to your next shows.
Utilise facebook to post an event and get it shared. Social media is the best place to promote any show and also the cheapest. Also post the event in Twitter and any other social media platforms that you use.
Make flyers and hand them out to shops, rehearsal rooms, basically anywhere that your potential audience will be. I have spent hours handing flyers out in person in student areas before. Think outside of the box.
Design a poster and distribute
An essential part of promoting a live show is to create a poster for your event. If you are not design savvy then find a friend that is, or use sites such as Fiverr to find people who will design it for you. Fiverr is especially good as it is low cost and with so many people vying for the work, the price is low.
Make sure the venue has a few copies of the poster so they can promote it in house to potential customers.
Also, distribute these around shops/student halls and again, anywhere that will take them. This can be time consuming, and it is negligible how successful it will prove to be so you may decide to spend more time on social media. However, it is a great way to get your brand out there, and I would suggest, at least early on, ensuring that you get some posters out and about locally.
The big night has arrived, what next?
Allow the sound man to do his job, make sure the acts all know what time soundcheck is and let them get on with it.
Always put the band with the biggest following on last!!
You don’t want all the fans to turn up for the first band and then disappear straight after. Always ensure the most popular band is the headliner, meaning a steady stream of people through the night, peaking for the last two hours. It’s ok to be quiet early on, but you want it busy at the end. Lasting impressions count.
Just before opening
Most venues will provide a door person, someone that takes the money from the customers coming in. If this is not provided then get someone you know to do it, at least early on. If the night proves successful, then by all means hire someone at a later stage. This is all about cutting costs until you know it can be a success.
If you wanted to dress the venue in any way make sure this is done, the sound man has sound checked all the acts, the door person is on the door waiting to take the money…now just fling open those doors and cross your fingers.
Paying the acts
Hopefully this has been worked out and arranged prior to the evening with your acts. Most promoters will work out a payment with their acts which equates to the number of fans they bring. Give your acts flyers with their band/act name on, they give them to their fans who will then hand them in at the door. Count them up at the end of the night and pay the band accordingly.
Alternatively work out a set fee for each band/act. This can be dangerous if nobody turns up.
Or the best method is to arrange a percentage of the overall takings, minus your costs. Make sure they are happy with this before they show up to avoid any arguments if at the end of the evening, there hasn’t been a great turn out.
It’s always going to be hard work, especially if this is the first time you have done anything like this. The most important thing is getting an identity for your event, a strong brand and great acts. The rest will fall into place.
Do not get disheartened with poor attendances. This can happen to the best of them for any number of reasons, do not let it put you off. As long as you are covering your costs for the night, or even making a small loss, chalk it down and move on to the next one. There is no better feeling than seeing a night that you have promoted, packed to the rafters, people drinking merrily and having a great night, all because of you.
Be positive and learn from any mistakes.