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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

#QandA - Booking Bands & Venues

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

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My love for Twitter is well documented. For the wit of many, interesting facts, first hand opinions on news items instead of the opinions of the newspapers who have vested interests, as well as communicating with people all over the world. In music terms, i've been using Twitter to connect with upcoming artists, those seeking to work in the Music Industry or those with a passion for music, be it live or listening. I recently opened up the Q and A hashtag (#QandA) for people to send any Music Industry questions they have to me to give my feedback based on my years of experience in a multitude of areas of the Industry.

The Idea
So here's the deal. You tweet me (@sunnynorwich) with any Music related questions you have and i'll post a reply on this blog (and eventually, i'll do a video response too).

Questions can be about playing live, promoting gigs, releasing music, social media, music video concepts, subcultural identities, gaining a fanbase, the importance of image, mailing lists, recording and working with producers, or whatever you like -  just fire it over. 

I'm fortunate to have a number of Industry contacts so if I can add some further experience to your answer, I certainly will. So here's #QandA number one:

Q. How do you book small / new bands to venues? Process there as well? Especially for foreign bands / long travel distance? (from @JosefineStubner)

First up, thanks for your question Josefine, and for being numero uno on #QandA!

I was a concert promoter for almost 10 years when I was based in Norwich, England. I started gaining a reputation for myself (as 'In An Emergency Dial') when I started bringing a number of upcoming UK bands to Norwich who would eventually go on to bigger and better things (Bombay Bicycle Club, Wild Beasts, etc.

The Venue

The venues I started at were generally free to hire, you just had to agree the date with venue management. I would generally book the venue first, normally 3 or 4 months in advance, and then see what bands i'd like to have play and whether it coincided with their touring schedule. 

These were typically 100-200 capacity venues. Most of the venues with higher capacities generally had hiring fees (which i'll come onto). Of course, this is only specific to how it was in Norwich; many other locations and venues will have hire charges even if they're small venues.

When it comes to choosing the venue that you want to hire, make sure you have a good long think about whether its suitable. Does it have a good reputation? Does it get good turnouts? Is it easily accessible by bus, train or car? Where can artists park to load in and can they keep their cars there for the evening?

Booking The Artist

When it comes to booking the artist, it's normally just a case of finding them online (facebook or artist website typically) to find their booking details. If they have a booking agent, you'll have to go through them (this can sometimes be tricky if you haven't had experience with the process), but sometimes they'll just have an email address for you to get in touch with.

You'll want to give them as much details as possible to make the process easy for everyone involved. Date and venue (obviously), whether you want them to headline, support or open the show, and how much you're willing to offer them. It's important to get this right. 

I must reiterate to everyone reading this, keen to book an artist - when you agree the details of the concert, its an agreement meaning you've got to stick to it. If you agree that the artist will get £50, give them £50 at the end of the night. If the night hasn't gone so well and you didn't make enough, ask if you could offer them another show and give them less, or give them the agreed amount (it'll just have to come out of your pocket). At the end of the day, it's the promoters responsibility, and the promoters risk!

If you're unsure of how it'll go, you can always offer a smaller amount but a percentage of the door takings (i.e. £30 and 10% of door takings after costs). Whatever is agreed: stick with it.

Booking Overseas Artists

The process will generally be similar only they're more likely to have a booking agent if they're playing shows Internationally. To coincide with an International tour, you'll want to get in touch with the booking agent, tell them that you're keen on booking the artist, where you're looking to put them on (city and venue), the date and ask whether it coincides with the tour route.

Bookings agents are a mixed bag. I've dealt with some of the nicest people ever when booking some bands, and have personal vendettas against other booking agents for how badly they treated me and how rude they were. The main thing is (if you're dealing with them), is to remember that it is their job; their income, so be direct and don't be too disheartened if the tour doesn't work with their routing. Sometimes it just wasn't meant to be.

They will draw up a contract between them the booking agent on behalf of their artist, and you the promoter. This can be a little daunting but as long as you supply the things you say you'll supply and nothing goes hideously wrong, you'll be fine!

For long distance artists, you just need to make sure that you allow for plenty of time for them to arrive. Ideally, you'll want them to arrive early (just in case there's traffic)

Promoting The Concert

I've said it many times before, but please please please promote the concert around the local area, put posters up (where authorised to do so) in shops, venues, in nearby towns, hand flyers out to potential attendees and put the effort in, in person. Please don't rely on social media because it doesn't work. Social media should be the LAST resort for promoting a show, not the FIRST or ONLY. People respond to things better if they have a direct interaction with someone. You're more likely to get more attendees by handing out flyers or putting up posters, than sending thousands of Facebook invites. Trust me.

Other things to consider

Who's bringing what equipment?
Are the supporting bands hoping to borrow equipment from the headliner?
Are the headliners okay with this?
Is the PA equipment good enough at the venue?
Is there a soundman? (a good soundman means the world to artists)
Are the artists expecting a rider*?
How long will it take for the travelling band to arrive?
Is there a curfew at the venue?
How long is each bands set?
Have you put all the necessary information on the flyers/posters?
Have you handed enough out?
Do you honestly think enough people will come to earn enough money to pay the band?


Hopefully that's given a very brief (at least I think it was brief) answer to your question and a little insight into the things that you need to consider when booking artists for concerts. Obviously, there's plenty of other things to consider as well (booking local bands as the opener and support acts to bring in more local attendees for one) but I hope this is a good foundation to getting involved with booking concerts.

It's always going to be a learning curve and no one booking experience will ever be the same. There will always be things that go for you and go against you. There'll be other concerts going on that may or may not affect the turnout of your show. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes your luck is out but it really is a fun experience, you meet dozens of new people every gig (in both the bands and people coming to the show) and my advice is to be friendly and talk to everyone you possibly can - it's how I met every single one of my closest friends!

If any one has any follow up questions - tweet me @sunnynorwich and it'll feature in a future #QandA

* A Rider is a set of requests made by the artists, generally involving food and drinks. This will generally be agreed on contracted shows via booking agents but some self-booking bands may ask for food and/or drink for all the band. In my opinion, it's always good to ask the band if they have any preferences on the food, any dietary requirements, etc (there's only so many meal deals or Burgers you can handle while on the road). And again, whatever you agree to - stick with it.
#QandA - Booking Bands & Venues - Sunny Stuart Winter


  1. Interesting blog! For all the articles I read today this is the most fruitful blog I read and I enjoyed the information given here. If I will have a few days vacation, I want to try the venue given here because it is looking interesting. I will also refer this to my friends and relatives, I'm sure they will love it too. Learn more about: venue finding service


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