Many bands get frustrated with promoters and many promoters get frustrated with bands these days. I’m not really talking about the high-level stuff here, I’m talking about the shows that are put together by people like you and me…not some hugely staffed promotion company that books arena shows. With that said, I’ve noticed a huge problem in the promotion industry over the years.
Before I get into that, first a little about me just so you know my background. I was the vocalist for an award winning Metal band (Best Metal Band of 2006), I worked for a well known promoter in the Hollywood, California area for a number of years, and have a Certificate in Music Business (with a 4.0 GPA). So as you can see I’m not just some fanboy behind a computer. I’m not some promotion guru by any means, but I have promoted my fair share of successful events.
Now, on to my gripe with this so-called “promotion” industry and why many who call themselves promoters are merely just glorified event organizers. To be a promoter, one has to actually promote their events. I’m not talking about posting a flyer on a Facebook page and inviting friends to a Facebook event. While it’s a great start, it definitely shouldn’t stop there. Yet, sadly, so many times it does. However, one of the most common threads I’ve noticed is that a lot of “promoters” heavily rely on the bands that they book when it comes to creating awareness of the show and getting people in the door. This is a major problem. While the bands do have a responsibility to create awareness of the show within their own circles and online properties, the promoters have just as much of a responsibility to promote the event as well.
Here are a few things that classifies an “event organizer”
1. Making bands sell a specific amount of tickets without committing to spend a specific amount of money promoting the event. This sadly happens way too much. Someone makes a bunch of bands sell tickets (and sometimes even cover the difference if they don’t hit a certain threshold – aka pay-to-play) and then the organizer just collects the cash without even caring about how each band performed live. The presale money is supposed to help cover costs while ensuring that people will attend the event, but if there is no money being spent on advertising and there is no major headliner requiring a guarantee, then what “expenses” are there besides maybe paying for sound, security, and maybe a door person and/or production manager? Sure, maybe there is rent or a bar guarantee to cover….but the bands aren’t responsible for the organizer’s business decisions and shouldn’t be forced to cover their asses. The risk should be on the “promoter” and not the bands.
2. Expecting bands to promote their asses off and blaming them when there is a bad turnout. Similar to the point made above, in many instances bands are relied upon heavily to pack the house. Many times bands have to make their own flyers and promotional materials instead having them provided by the “promoter”. To me, this is just unacceptable. As with any business, you need start up capitol. Anyone who thinks they can run a successful business without having and/or spending money to allow the company to grow probably won’t last too long in the industry. If there is a bad turnout, the “promoter” is just as responsible as the bands they booked.
3. Booking bands for the sake of booking bands, without any regard for the ‘musical integrity’ of the event. This is the difference between a great show and a complete disaster. If someone is booking/promoting an event, it better have bands that are symbiotic to each other. Back in my band days, we actually played with a Reggae act….and we were Metal. It was our first show and silly me placed too much faith in the promoter and assumed all the bands that night would be Metal or at least somewhat heavy. It was the worst experience ever. I felt embarrassed and pissed off at the same time.
Now here are some things that a promoter should be doing:
1. Contacting local press (both online and offline publications) in effort to get the event added to their calendar. If the show has a well known headliner, the band/show could possibly get a write up in the entertainment section as well. Never expect the bands to reach out to press on their own. Even if they do, that’s just more people contacting press about the same event…which can increase the chances that they pay attention.
2. Soliciting sponsorship from local businesses and/or websites. This is one of the most over-looked strategies, yet is so much easier than people think. I’m not talking about Coca-Cola and Budweiser here, I’m talking about independently owned businesses. Businesses are always looking for new ways to advertise. Assuming one has a track record of putting together successful events, many businesses would be happy to give up some cash to be able to hang their banner or have some form of presence at the event and on promotional materials. Even if there is no money to give, there is always the appealing aspects of cross-promotion. You promote their business and they promote the show, either by hanging a poster in their store (if applicable) or by promoting the event online through their website(s).
3. Pay for advertising both online and offline. You know the old saying, ‘you gotta spend money to make money.’ Granted, not every operation has an advertising budget to work with, especially during their infancy. We all know you can’t get blood out of a rock. However, if the money is there then use it….wisely. Plus, if one can attain a paid sponsorship that money can be used for advertising. Determine the target audience and geographically target your ad campaigns. It’s not that expensive to advertise on Google, YouTube, and Facebook. Also, one might be surprised at how cheap local advertising can be on cable TV networks, especially since the target audience for Metal is awake during off-peak hours. If one is tech savvy and can get a video promoting their events made with little to no budget, that is definitely a plus as well.
4. Contact local radio stations and offer up tickets for them to give away. Granted, this may not be much of a possibility for Metal bands, depending on the area one lives in. However, if there is a college radio program that plays Metal that works too. This would all be dependent on the nature of the event one is promoting, but it’s basically free advertising with every giveaway.
5. Submit the event to websites and publications dedicated to informing their readers of upcoming shows. One would have to do their own research on this, but those types of publications always need content. So rarely would it cost money to have an event listed.
6. Ask local businesses to hang a poster and/or have flyers for the event in their establishment. That one pretty much speaks for itself and needs no further elaboration.
Congratulations, you read the whole thing. You deserve a cookie, I know I’m having one!
-Max ‘ManJewky’ Wallis
KM co-founder and blog editor