How to Book a Show
April 12, 2011 by Steve
How many concerts have you been to? You’ve probably been to at least one, and aside from booking the band and getting the security, a lot of other work can go into it. Being the promoter and actually doing it is another thing, and I once got lucky and made a ton of money doing it.
Booking a show is most definitely a chore, and saying you’re going to do and actually doing it are two different things. Obviously, getting the right bands to fill the place is going to be one of your top priorities, but there are so many other things that without consideration won’t matter if you book The Rolling Stones; you’ll fail.
The first thing you’ve got to do is book a venue. Finding a venue can take time at first, but once you find one with a solid customer base, you can have shows there about once or twice a month. Getting a good venue depends on location, price, staff, and the layout of the venue. Some venues are small, but because they have such a good location/nostalgia/following, they’ll do well. Do your customers like to drink? Does the venue have a bar? Good specials? On the other hand, some places can hold 2,000+ plus people, but won’t do well because they don’t have any of the aforementioned attributes. When considering a venue, check to see if they have a sound system. Will it suit your needs? If not, how much will renting a PA cut into your profit margin?
The next, and MOST IMPORTANT thing you’re going to do is PROMOTE PROMOTE PROMOTE! Good promotion can either make or break a show, and there are a few variables that can affect good promotion. Make sure you book your show at least a month in advance, but two months is always better. This gives you ample time to solidify a lineup, design and print promotional material (whether it be print in newspapers and flyers on the street or online web design,) and prepare for your show. Not having enough time to let people know you’re having a show can really ruin your chances of a good night.
Getting a solid sound guy is really crucial for you, the bands, and the customers. People paying good money to come to a show do not want their ears to bleed nor do they want to hear just bass guitar and vocals all night. Getting a sound guy who knows how to create a good, equal mix is essential. Personally, I cannot stand bad sound guys as a listener and a guitarist. Playing on even the smallest stages in bars, it’s mostly impossible to hear my other guitar player due to the fact that we play closed-back cabinets, so all the sound is directed one way. Sure, I know my parts, but being able to hear my other guitar player just makes me feel better, and will even make me perform better. Keeping your band in a good mood by knowing that they can hear themselves, and so can their fans, will keep everyone (both your acts and customers) coming back for more.
Respect between you as a promoter and the bands you book is really imperative. Not only will it affect how they think of you and keep them playing your gigs, but word WILL get around about how you conduct business. All bands talk to other bands, and they will tell each other one of two things. They’ll say, “Hey, Rick is such a great promoter. Our mix is always solid, and even when we don’t make a ton of cash, our fans have a great time and so do we.” OR, they’ll say, “Oh yeah dude, don’t play a show for Rick. He’s going to promise you the world, and then good luck with deciphering the sound of your muffled guitar from the crickets in the audience.”
Remember when booking a show to do these things. Yes, you’ll need security, a guy to run the door, and maybe a light show, depending on the size of the venue. I’ve only just covered some of the major semantics that come with booking a successful show. Sometimes, even if you do everything right, you won’t always have the best turnout. When these things happen, it’s usually the location, or the entertainment. Change on of the two, and I’m sure things will start looking up. I’ve booked a few shows in my day, and aside from them being a lot of work, they can be the best time. If you decide to try it, remember, it’s a task. Good luck!