A lot of great things can come from booking your shows through promoters in your area. You might bring in a different audience on top of your usual crowd. All the organising and admin is done by someone else, leaving you to focus on the performance itself. They should have much more experience dealing with the technical side of live sound and will almost certainly have a specialist sound engineer to balance your sound.
They might also have links with local or national festivals, or other big industry players – impressing a good local promoter can open other doors in your career.
When I moved to London to explore the live scene with my band – first with open mics, then with full shows – I quickly worked out who the good promoters were, the ones who would provide an audience and good quality sound. It was (and should be) always a relationship of mutual effort – they had a great regular crowd who knew the acts they booked would be great; we brought our own audience so that both us and the promoter had a shared increase in exposure.
However, after two or three years playing dozens of other people’s shows and growing our fanbase with their audience of music lovers, we changed our strategy.
We started booking our own shows – negotiating a deal with a venue, sorting out the ticketing ourselves [more on that here] and bringing our own crowd – and saw a step change in our musical success, both live and online.
I want to talk through 4 reasons I think you should consider doing the same!
Reason #1 – you make more money
The main reason we started promoting our own shows (apart from being advised to do so by a guy we really trusted in the industry) was that we didn’t feel we were getting fairly paid for the successful gigs we were doing with other promoters.
It’s completely fair that a promoter needs to make money off their shows and for some artists early on in their career, a deal like “you keep 70% of the tickets after the first ten people” is absolutely fine.
But if you’re the people putting all the work into promoting the show to bring the lion’s share of the audience, you should be getting a much bigger cut of the ticket sales.
The really good promoters – the ones we would regularly go back to – had a great audience, but usually low ticket prices, so our intention with those shows was never to make money. Take SOFAR Sounds as an example; a free-entry show isn’t going to pay the bills, but a room packed with a completely new crowd of avid listeners is going to grow your profile, especially if you get a professionally shot live video thrown into the bargain.
However, when we put on a big show and wanted to bring over a hundred people, we didn’t think half of our ticket sales should go to a promoter just for doing some of the organising, work we were happy to do ourselves.
Reason #2 – you have more control over your production
If you haven’t already read our article about interesting ways to create a cool live experience, you should check it out.
If you promote the show yourself, you also get creative control over all aspects of it – what time you go on, who your support acts are, how long you play for, etc.
To have a much firmer control over your “brand” as an emerging artist, your live show needs to run the way you want it. Do not underestimate the power of a well crafted live experience to bring in new audience.
For example, by choosing your own support act you can not only choose someone whose music (or other art form – we’ve had spoken word artists as support before too!) really leads well into yours, but also you can pick someone who will bring their own audience and increase your fanbase. (Just remember to pay THEM properly too…).
Reason #3 – you will bring more people to your show
When we started putting on our own concerts, we noticed a BIG step up in the number of people coming to them. There’s something more special for your fans about a gig you’ve organised yourself.
When you’re still early on in your career, a lot of your friends, fans, whatever you call them, will be keen to show their ‘support’ for what you’re doing. Not only does this mean sharing your music online and coming to your gig, it also means bringing their friends so you get new audience.
They are more likely to show you off and ‘support’ you if the money they’re paying for tickets isn’t going into a promoter’s pocket and is instead going straight to the band, to invest in more recordings or a tour etc.
Reason #4 – you can set the ticket price yourself
Promoters will usually be quite picky about their ticket price, perhaps not wanting to confuse their audience with inconsistent prices for similar nights.
But if you want to make meaningful income from your live shows (and if you’re regularly able to bring 100+ people to a gig then you should be!), you need to start charging more for tickets.
You don’t want to over charge and risk putting off potential audience members from coming to a gig – here’s our article on how to set the right ticket price – BUT, a higher ticket price can be good for two reasons:
- Firstly, obviously you make more money on each ticket
- Secondly, you are giving the impression that your career is developing as an artist. Bigger artists charge more for their shows – that’s a known fact. Sometimes a higher ticket price can create extra buzz around your shows, with people thinking that you’re going to bigger and better places. Pricing is largely just psychology remember…
This is not all to say that promoters are a waste of time and money – often those shows can be the stepping stones to success, providing that big break or pathway into the music business.
But you should be thinking entrepreneurially about how to monetise your shows and make them as special as possible – they are your first contact for many new potential fans, the friends your fans bring along to your shows. Especially if you’re successfully promoting your concerts at the moment and bringing dozens or even hundreds of people to your gigs, self-promotion is the way forwards!
Thanks for reading and please leave a comment if you have opinions about the topic!