This is a topic I have been holding off on. Not sure how to approach this beast, it is time for me to just jump right in.
I’ll start here… If you are in a local band, it is in YOUR best interest to sell pre sale tickets for EVERY hometown show you do UNTIL your band reaches a regional level.
Raise your hand if I just pissed you off?
Sorry. Someone has to say it.
If you’re in a band you might be thinking something along the lines of this – ‘Well, ya, OF COURSE the promoter is going to be for bands selling pre sale tickets. That’s less work for him!’
In a way, I don’t know if I would say you are necessarily wrong. I book shows across Florida, with the majority being in Orlando, Sanford, Tampa, Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale, and even a couple in Jacksonville. I am based in Tampa.
Let’s lay out a show in Sanford. Five bands on the show. Show is solidified (all details are finalized) six weeks in advance. Bands are the following – Band 1 is based in Orlando (15-30 miles away), Band 2 is based in Orlando (15-30 miles away), Band 3 is based in Sanford, Band 4 is based in Sanford, and Band 5 is based in Sanford. Band 1, Band 2, Band 4 all have shows coming up this weekend in Orlando. Band 1 has a show on Friday, Band 2 has a show on Saturday, and Band 4 has a show on Sunday, so no overlap. If they bands are not selling pre sale tickets, it would be in my best interest to go to each event and pitch pre sale tickets? Right? If these are the circumstances, of course it would.
But the issue here is now my overhead has just shot up. I now have to add an additional $60 for gas to get me to Orlando, each show, and back. I have to add an additional $30 to get in the concerts (say they are $10 admission each). I have to add two nights at a hotel, which is an easy $150. Total additional overhead is now $240. The bands didn’t have to sell tickets though, so they just show up, play, maybe sell merch, go home.
*If I do a show in Tampa, my hometown, I do sell tickets.
What bands often miss here is the opportunity that selling pre sale tickets can provide.
The people I sold pre sale tickets to interacted with ME. They talked with ME about the show. They now have a memory with ME.
But what if they interacted with YOU? Talked with YOU about the show? Have a new memory with YOU?
‘Ya but… you know, I got shit to do. You’re a promoter. Promote your own concert.’
I do. And while it does still sting a little when I hear someone claim I don’t, I don’t take it personally. If you want to read more about how I feel about being a promoter, check this blog post I wrote July 10th.
Selling pre sales should never just be selling pre sales. It should be an opportunity for you to meet and interact with your fans, new or old. Instead of just collecting money for the ticket, use this as an opportunity to sell them a ticket, give them a sticker, give them a free song download, give them a hug, ask them how their dog is, and so on. Typically we think of networking as business to business but in this circumstance, your fans are your clients. NETWORK WITH YOUR CLIENTS! Create a connection! I cannot think of a SINGLE successful local band that does not have EPIC people skills and an ability to connect with their fans. If you have trouble connecting with your fans, that tells me you don’t believe in the music you are making. THEY connect with your music, you MAKE your music, connection between you and them shouldn’t be a difficult task.
Now, 9 times out of 10 promoters give the bands an opportunity to make money off of the pre sale tickets they are given. This is how I almost always work my pre sale deals (for local shows) –
I give the band 30 pre sale tickets. Let’s say they cost $7 each (typical for my local shows).
The day of the show, the band MUST give me $100 (just under 50% ticket value).
They keep the rest.
So, if they sell 15 pre sale tickets, they broke even, meaning they DO NOT have to come out of pocket to play the show.
If they sell 30 pre sale tickets, they PROFIT $110. $110 isn’t bad pay for a local act.
‘YOU’RE A PAY TO PLAY PROMOTER! PAY TO PLAY! PAY TO RJWJFMSNR*&*3JM!’
Shut the fuck up.
If you cannot sell 15 tickets to your fans (which I take as getting 15 people to commit to showing up), I don’t want you on the bill. I can fill that slot with another band who will actually draw people and I couldn’t give a flying fuck less about your feelings over it. Don’t like the terms? Don’t agree to the show. Don’t like the logic? Find more fans. Can’t find more fans? Create better sounding music.
The reason I tell bands they HAVE to sell a minimum ticket amount is because when I didn’t, no one sold any tickets. Even if it meant that they made money off of the ticket sales, they still would not sell the tickets. BUT, if I tell them that they have to sell X amount and I will collect X amount the day of the show, or they wont play, guess what happens? They sell the tickets. There have been a couple times when bands didn’t sell the tickets, canceled before the show because they knew I wouldn’t let them play, and that was that. Which is fine, I suppose. I have a strong policy on show cancelations though – unless I consider it a valid reason, I will never book your band again. Maybe that doesn’t mean shit to you. Which is ok. But you just fucked over every band on that bill, myself, and the venue. Congratulations! You’re a douche.
Now, the same people who are so quick to bitch about pre sale tickets are the same people so quick to bitch about a lack of people caring about “the scene” (which I will cover in another post one day). Allow me to possibly change the way you are seeing your ticket sale minimum…
If there is five bands on a show, and each band has to sell 15 tickets, that means that a minimum of 75 tickets are sold. On a low end, of those 75 tickets sold, 50 people will come (that’s pretty low, 60 people of those 75 is more realistic from what I have seen). I say 50 people and not 75 because we can’t expect every person you sold a ticket to come out. Sometimes other plans just come up. So now you have (not including your own band’s ticket sales) 35 new people to play in front of. 35 new people to sell merchandise to. 35 new people to create a new connection with. And even if some of those 35 people are people who you already know and have as a fan, you get to renew your relationship with them at the place where it probably started (a concert). Make sense?
So let’s just be honest with each other… you’re lazy. It isn’t a matter of pay to play, it isn’t a lack of a “scene”, it is a matter of you being lazy and entitled. Truth is, you don’t want it bad enough. And deep down you know that.
Now, with the ticket offer I mentioned above the band has an opportunity to make actual money off of the ticket sales (they make more off of them than I do). If you are presented a pre sale show, but the terms put you in a place where you are NOT making any money from the pre sales, don’t do it. I have unfortunately heard of some promoters and talent buyers asking bands to sell a ridiculous amount of tickets and the way it is laid out, the band will not walk away with any money of their own. I personally think this is wrong and do not condone it at all.
I also am AGAINST pay to play shows. Unless you are paying a couple hundred to play in front of, at minimum, a thousand people, I do not think it is worth it. The only reason I say it might be worth it is because you can sell merchandise to those thousand(s) people and make your money back that way. Plus, you can obtain a thousand(s) of new fans.
Now, by NO MEANS am I saying that every band who ever turned down a show from me is lazy or entitled. That’s not what I am saying. Not at all. Sometimes the show just is not right for a particular band. And that’s totally ok. For whatever the reason is, maybe for this particular date, this show, it isn’t in their best interest to play. That’s fine. I get it and do not hold anything against them for denying a show offer I may present to them.
Before you shrill at the idea of tickets, think about the benefits you can gain vs. the disadvantages. I know it isn’t easy to sell tickets. Especially to new fans. I am not saying that this is an easy task. But I honestly see more benefits for the bands that do this vs. the bands that do not.
P.S. I know you may think that the money you give to promoters is their profit, but reality is that more often than not, they are just trying to cover their overhead. Shows are not cheap to put together.