What came first, the chicken or the egg? Or rather, who is lazier, the promoter or the artist? As an artist and an entrepreneur, I’ve played both sides of this game. I’ve been the performing artist (well DJ for a performing artist) and I’ve put thousands of dollars of my own money up on shows. I’ve made money as an artist selling tickets and I’ve made money as a promoter throwing an event.
In all honesty, I think everybody sucks, everybody is lazy, and nobody puts in the right work. That’s obviously an over cynical assumption, but I truly believe both sides are responsible for the ticket sales at an event.
Who Should Sell Tickets For Local Shows?
The Promoter or The Artist?
I’ve been seeing this topic a lot on social media over the last six months (disclaimer this is not inspired by anyone promoter, show, or artist…it’s about all of them). It’s a topic I have a pretty solid personal opinion about as well. Let’s take a look at both sides of the issue.
The promoter has thee HARDEST job in this equation. They put in the most work for a single event. This person has to deal with venues (fun), the artists (more fun), all of the details, usually put up the money (or is at least responsible for it) AND has to make sure people make it to the event. You literally promise to pay an artist regardless how many tickets they sell, make sure they are paid first, and then potentially split the crumbs with your team after everyone else is paid.
How often do artists not promote? A lot of times artists end up booking two other shows within a week in the same city but how the hell are they selling tickets to three shows in one city? Most artists show up late and dealing with diva egos can be a full-time job in itself. These artists demand that you pay them for putting up the money for them to perform and hours into promoting that artist. If you reach their following then what did the artist do? Reaching an audience that’s never heard of said artist takes work. Serious work! As a promoter, you deal with a lot of shit. It sucks! But, you signed up for it.
On the flip side. Promoters usually don’t utilize contracts so details are typically talked about in text and conversations and concrete things aren’t agreed upon. Promoters these days usually don’t actually you know, hit the streets and promote! We’re watching most promoters put their boys on the bill instead of supporting artists from different cliques that can sell tickets to “new” audiences. Promoters act funny when the ticket sales don’t add up. Those “promised payments” turn into “the show didn’t turn out well…I got you next payday” aka…never! A lot of promoters also clip extra dollars where they can and sacrifice a good event for a few extra bucks.
So not all of you suck… but a lot of you suck!
Artists want to be paid. I get it, you’ve spent thousands of dollars on studio time/equipment and dedicated hours into this craft. You’ve built an artform and following from this art and a promoter is asking you to lend your audience asset to the success of their show. You’ve worked, clawed, and crawled your way to get to where you’re at and sacrificed so much along the way. You have sacrificed putting that effort into a job that can pay you more than music and give you more free time for your family. How many shows have you shown up to that were going to be “lit” and there are 12 people there and you brought eight of them with you?
How many shows have you shown up to that were going to be “lit” and there are 12 people there and you brought eight of them with you?
On the flip side, how many tickets did you sell for this event? How many people saw the flyer with your name on it and THAT’S why they came out? Did you hit the streets? Did you personally message your network? I would wager on any given show, that 95% of the lineup can’t truthfully answer yes to any of those questions without their nose growing.
How Do We Fix This?
Not all artists suck, and not all promoters suck. You need to have a contract in place to protect both sides! Expectations and recourse must be agreed upon in writing as this solves the “he didn’t sell any tickets” bullshit typically run into at the end of the night. With a contract the “you didn’t sell ten tickets, so you only get 50% of agreed-upon payment” makes things much more black and white. Whatever the issue may be, if everything that is expected from the artists and the promoter is agreed upon in advance, you should have a written document to refer to after the show to see who failed their end of the bargain.
Promoters! STOP booking shows without contracts. Make sure these artists aren’t performing the next week at the same venue. Stop booking your friends. Stop calling yourself a “promoter” if you are simply not willing to promote. Pay the artists what you told them you would REGARDLESS of the show turnout. Your show sucked? It was your show bro! And it sure sucks to suck. Are you tired of doing everything and taking all the blame? Don’t be a promoter!
Artists! STOP doing more than one show in your local market per month. I’d recommend only one show per quarter (every three months) but I know you can’t resist to rock mics. I’ve worked with a lot of you and you have great intentions. You want to hit any stage possible and convert new fans. But what do you bring to the table outside of a “lit performance”?
Everybody says their music is so dope or they are so good at performing. That is not bringing value to the table! Are you a good opener? Do you have a band? Do you have a following that buys tickets? Do you go hard on social media? What kind of value are you bringing to the show!
When you leave and the promoter thinks to themselves “damn that Rapper doesn’t bring a ton of people but I know every show he can bring 25 people.” The word about you being a guaranteed 25 tickets sold will spread amongst venues, promoters, and other artists and guess what? People will start to book you without you asking! The promoter sets the show up, sets up the marketing plan, empowers and provides the artists with tools to promote their music. The artist should have a fan base they are able to leverage to come see them perform. Until your in deman where your name/picture brings people to a venue you have to WORK!
Whether you’re the promoter or the artist, build your value. Having a hard time thinking about how you do that? Read my article on how to build a fanbase here.