Promoters: Necessary Evil or EVIL?
Last night I had the great pleasure of hosting a show with Skylight Heights, Too Hard To Breathe, Steal The Day, and Lies Behind Your Eyes. Skylight Heights and Too Hard To Breathe are on their ‘HowBoutDaht Tour’. After their set I had an awesome conversation with Skylight Height’s vocalist, Sammy Jo Justice. That conversation sparked this blog post – Promoters: Necessary Evil or Evil?
First, understand I am a promoter and therefore biased. Of course I think I am necessary to the industry. I like to think I offer fair deals too. Though, some band, somewhere, would disagree.
Sammy is in a band but also a promoter. This is somewhat common. It makes sense for band members to work in the music industry, and many do. But many also do not.
As discussed in an earlier blog post titled To Promote Or Not To Promote, a promoters job is to set up everything in regards to booking a concert. It is my job to book the venue, book the bands, set the times, make sure promotional material is available for bands to use to promote the show (graphics, Facebook event page, etc), promote the show, and more.
But is my job a necessary evil or just plain old evil?
Promoting shows is something that I 100% expect to make money from. Protage, Inc is my full time job. This is not a hobby for me. While I have other means to obtain income from, I do full on expect to one day be able to live off of my music career. Now, some think this is evil. Why? Because I am making money off of another persons art. True. Musicians and bands work endless hours to produce major results in regards to their music. And I make money off of this. Doesn’t seem fair, does it? People who think it is not fair would call promoters EVIL.
Looking at my work as objectively as possible, I think I am a NECESSARY EVIL. I have heard from a handful of bands that the industry should do away with promoters. That we are not needed and the bands should unite to book their own shows. Everything would be a door split, each band gets paid what they think is fair, everyone plays to new and old fans, everyone is happy, right?
Well, in the musician’s mind that feels this way, this would work. In reality, it rarely does.
Being a promoter means that you see who hustles the shows and who does not. “But Henry, hustling the shows is YOUR responsibility!” Yes, it is. But until I start booking bands that have reached a level of success that their name alone draws in people, bands are expected to promote their concerts. And when I say their name alone draws people, I mean 50+. Not 10.
So knowing how little some bands actually promote their shows, I can 100% guarantee you that if bands did book their shows within themselves (at the local level), no one new would come. The venue would be lucky if 30-50 people walked through the door. Even less would pay because some bands brothers, sisters, cousins, neighbors, best friends mom isn’t expected to pay to get in.
Bands, for the most part, DO NOT UNDERSTAND what goes into promoting a show. First, to put on a show can cost anywhere from (the least I have paid) $50 to (the most I have paid) $1,200. The majority of my shows cost me about $300 to book. That’s the venue rental cost, the tickets being printed costs, flyer costs, social media promotion costs, bands guarantee (if there is one), gas to get to the venue (which someone argued with me once isn’t an overhead in regards to the show – it is), water for the bands, and more. So with a $300 overhead, how much time do I actually spend doing promotional work for the show? I’d say anywhere from 5 hours to 15 hours. Doesn’t sound like much, does it?
Keep in mind while I am promote one show, I have MULTIPLE other shows to promote. For example, between now and November I have to book and promote 16 different shows. Each show needs the right amount of attention. Some are bigger than others, but each show does need some attention. Also keep in mind that the promotional work works itself. A Facebook and Instagram ad doesn’t need constant attention. You set it up. Check it daily. Let the algorithms do their thing.
None of this is including directing the show the day of the show. Making sure bands are loading in on time, making sure the venue is happy, a fight doesn’t break out, moshing/hardcore dancing is as safe as possible (i.e., no crowd killing), etc.
So am I an EVIL? Maybe. But at the end of the day, I am a NECESSARY EVIL. And one that the larger regional and national acts COULD NOT do without.
Check out Skylight Heights and Too Hard To Breathe live, coming to a city near you!