Nick Tann tests the waters of grassroots promoting and returns with some interesting conclusions. Find and follow his work at –nicktann.co.uk and @nick_tann on twitter.
In May 2012 I played a gig at The Railway. I was supporting an artist and was expected to not only bring an audience but to sell and collect money from advanced tickets. For some artists this is the norm but for me with a very small “audience” it was pretty discouraging. I can’t remember how many or IF I sold any tickets. I do remember thinking that must be a better way to promote live music.
A few weeks later I came up with a plan: create a special night, hire a venue, get great artists to play (including me!) sell tickets and put on a great show. Simple eh? The idea was to create a regular show – a brand if you like – that people would buy into, that way they would come and see it again and again without needing to know who was playing. They would attend because they knew that it would be a great night.
So I set about finding artists that I thought people would like and planning how the show would work. I wanted the show to be properly compered and took on that role myself. I wanted the artists to play 2 short sets as opposed to just one each as experience had shown me that sometimes an audience can leave after their particular artists has performed. There would need to be an interval, there has to be a raffle, artists would get paid (a share of the profits) AND the most important part ARTISTS WOULD NOT SELL TICKETS. That for me was the most important element and was vital to my business plan.
I wanted to make sure that the audience bought their tickets from me, that way I could take their email addresses and let them know when the next show was and that way SELL THE BRAND.
I would like to say at this point that I AM NOT A PROMOTER, I am a full time musician.
After deciding to hire The Attic at The Railway and securing the artists for the first show, I printed small posters and put them up all over the place, contacted the local paper and found a few “What’s On” type websites to advertise on. I carried these little posters everywhere with me and gave them to everybody I met.
I sold advance tickets that I hand delivered personally. On the night I gathered email addresses of those who wanted to know about subsequent shows and the raffle was a great success.
People love a raffle and it’s a great way of making a bit more money (keeping me and the artists happy) as well as ensuring that folk stay until the close (keeping the bar and venue happy).
It was a bit stressful as I had to put up £120 of my own money to pay for the hire of the venue BUT I made a small profit and had a ball.
Apart from a few short breaks over the summer and a couple when I couldn’t book the venue, I was putting on shows each month right up to April last year.
- We had some great shows and the audiences were the best.
- I got to meet some great artists.
- I was able to put on acts from out of town. Dirty Proper came from Texas!
- I NEVER MADE A LOSS. Although I got very close, one month I made £5 profit!
- I was able to pay the artists MOST of the time. See above plus some nights weren’t that busy and sometimes the artists didn’t want the £2.50
What I did I did out of desperation and the belief that if THE PROMOTER actually promotes the BRAND and not the BAND people WILL COME. Yes I didn’t make a load of money but then I am not NOT a promoter.
I know there are loads of great promoters out there but I think that they need to stop looking for artists to sell tickets, generally they (artists) are rubbish at it. We have to sort out songs and equipment and travel and parking and merch and a myriad of other things AND actually perform.
Plus, if you continually use that tired old model of bands selling tickets, you are starting fresh every time you put on a night, it’s crazy. When you book acts GET THE AUDIENCE TO SIGN UP TO YOUR MAILING LIST and YOUR TWITTER FEED. That’s what the bands are doing and they are taking their audience, the one they played to at your venue, with them.
And before you poo poo the raffle, that raffle often made the difference between loss and profit. The prizes were generally naff and donated by the artists and once included a bag of bagels…with one missing….from Grant Sharkey!
You might be thinking that I just got lucky and that the time was right, I got the right venue/area/artists.
A year later I did the same thing with the old magistrates court in Eastleigh and used the same methods to put on four very successful shows. One show in particular I managed to pay the artists over £60 each and they all sold cds!
My advice to any promoter is PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE give this a try. Asking artists to provide an audience every time is a bad business model and does nothing for your continuing business. You are simply asking amateurs to provide you with an audience. You take control, you get the audience for your own venue. That way you can put on who you like, it doesn’t have to be a big pull act (you know I’m talking about tribute bands) but someone to make your venue look cool. Make your venue the place people want to go to on spec because “they always have cool people on” also that way you can properly promote local talent, not just the ones with lots of mates….And if you are an up and coming promoter, just think what your employability is like with a reputation for having a mailing list of people that go and watch live music….
I have now decided to use what I have learned to plug my own solo shows as …. I’m not a promoter!!