live music promoter

The life of a live music promoter seems pretty easy – poncing about with laminated Access All Areas passes, hobnobbing with bands and making plenty of money into the bargain.

If only. Promoting gigs can be a logistical minefield and you’re going to have to be dedicated, hard-working and organized to pull it off without losing the shirt off your back.

Start small. Virtually everyone who works at a big promotion company started by putting on local bands in their hometown. For starters, figure out if there’s an audience for the kind of music you want to put on. This probably isn’t a moneymaking exercise (and if it is, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons), but it shouldn’t be a financial fiasco either.

Find one good venue and stick with it. It’ll help you and the venue establish a reputation for quality live music, which will be massively important in the long term. When can you get access to the venue? To begin with you’ll just have to take what you can get but try and angle for a night as close to the weekend as you can get.

Then there are the costs. Are you paying for door staff, bar staff, a sound engineer, a PA and lights? What about advertising? Posters and flyers all cost, and someone has to distribute them. Make sure you get into the gig listings of any local and national publications in plenty of time, and try to drup up some column inches for your gigs wherever you can.

Then there are the bands. The easiest way to start is putting on a strong bill of local talent. Make it clear from the outset what the terms of the deal is with your bands, whether there’s a contract or just a verbal agreement. Are you paying them a fixed fee, a share of any profits or a cut of ticket sales? You have to take a detached approach and work out what’s best for you and your reputation as a live music promoter. If you treat bands well, word will quickly get around and you’ll have bands knocking on your door to play.

The next step is booking well-known bands. Target smaller acts to start with, contracting them any way you can. More often than not you’ll find that they’re keen to play if you can guarantee a crowd – and they aren’t as expensive as you might think. Once you’ve been included on a few bands’ tours, booking agent will come looking for you and bigger promotion companies might start doing deals with you to take care of stuff for them. Again, word will spread if you do your job properly, treat bands right and put on cracking gigs. So get out there and get booking. Doug Johnstone

© NME July 26, 2003

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