Questions from a Reader … Dealing with a promoter…

Thanks to Bryant Mills for his comments and questions. They are the first the site has generated in its ten-day old life.  I urge everyone to send their questions and comments. If they fit some of the advice that I am looking to give I may merge them into the blog. Then this blog will start to become a more interactive and helpful experience for you, the reader, which is my intent. One of Bryant’s comments was a plug for a show.  In general I would like to keep blatant plugging of things like Viagra and Boy Bands to a minimum.  In short if I don’t like your plug I won’t approve it.  I will reward Bryant for being the first one of a few hundred daily visitors to raise his hand and ask a few questions. If you look at the bottom of lesson #7 Bryant’s gig is coming up. He needs 21 people to come to the gig in order to get his cut of the door. If you are in the general area of his gig go out and support him. Introduce yourself, make a friend that is a musician. Remember it’s who you know and someday Bryant may be the President of a huge media conglomerate. So that’s the end of Blog site Admin issues.                                      [Deep Purple “Highway Star”]

I have decided to convert two of Bryant Mills questions into today’s blog.

As usual songs I am listening to while writing will be listed on the right——-[David Bowie “Sons of the Silent Age”]


Q-So Brad, I’ve written half the songs my band are performing and the other half are collaborations I’ve done with a few producers who are not well known yet. Should I use the recorded tracks the producers produced to show promoters or should I redo them with the band? What do you suggest?

A-The fact that the producers are not well known makes no difference.  Always put your best foot forward.  I would give the promoter two discs, one with a few live tracks recorded raw in your rehearsal space and the other with a few studio tracks.  The promoter may listen to them. Don’t be stunned if he says he listened and then you figure out that he never did. That’s the way the music business works. Promoters (and everyone else in the biz) are deluged with recorded music. They listen to very little of it.  They may pop on the CD listen for 20 seconds, skip to the next track, listen for 20 seconds, then think about what they are going to order for lunch. When a promoter is trying to get a handle on a new unknown band he doesn’t spend much time with the music. He is more likely to hear your complete songs listening to the local college radio station. He will glance at your press pack, glance at your band photo, listen to enough of a track to decide “they sound like Foo Fighters”.  You can substitute any name for Foo Fighters in that sentence.  On the whole he doesn’t care. He only cares about the draw a band has. Yes, he wants a great show and he may think hard about what bands match up with what bands but the only bands on the list to be matched up are bands that draw paying clients. It is critical that your band draws…..Remember when you talk to the promoter talk about how popular you are. If you have some other unique draw then you can mention that. I once toured with a band that had a black midget in the band. He stood out. (Oh that’s right he was an African American Little Person. But when he punched the matronly 50 year old female bassist on stage a CBGB’s she still screamed “THat fucking black midget just punched me! Get him! That was the end of that particular band)

——————————————————————–                                 [Beatles “cry baby cry”]

Here’s another question from the ever inquisitive Bryant Mills…Let’s see let me find it.

Brad I sell herb via fedex… Oh wait that’s not him….Here it is:

Q–Brad, I have a lot of people who are coming to my first show at El Cid in Silverlake and cover is $10.00 and it’s on a Tuesday, a not so popular nite but they are coming because of me. My deal with the promoter was to get half the door if more than 20+1 people show up. Some of my friends said I should have asked for some of the bar money but it’s my first gig and I didn’t know what to ask for. I’m happy with what the promoter and I agreed to but would be great if I could take home more money. What do you say? Should I mention it or just go with what we agreed to already?

A—Bryant the basic answer to this one is easy. Go with the deal you agreed to. Once you agree to a deal with a promoter never attempt to renegotiate the deal. If you do you are committing suicide. When dealing with a promoter you can ask for the sun and the moon and he’ll just laugh. You can ask for anything up front or during the deal negotiation. You can even put insane things on your hospitality rider, in fact there is a tradition of rock stars doing that. But one of the rules of rock is never attempt to renegotiate a gig deal. It will piss him off. He will tell other promoters and they will blacklist you and that’s bad cause the blacklist isn’t a list of cool musicians that always wear black like Johnny Cash. I managed a musician for ten years that, despite repeated dire warnings, insisted on trying to pry more out promoters after our Big Booking Agent had negotiated a deal. Despite being one of the greatest writers and performers I have ever met he lives in obscurity. One of the key reasons is he developed a reputation of always wanting more. I once got a call from a very large promoter. He wanted to explain why he refused to book this band EVEN THOUGH THE BAND SOLD OUT HIS 1400 SEAT CLUB ON THE LAST TOUR. You get the message here?

Let me take this further because it covers lots of important questions. I notice that the promoter’s deal is based directly on you bringing in fans.  Of course it is. This is exactly how promoters think. One of my blogs will cover all of the many varieties of gig deals.

Now I will address your friends comments about money from the bar. Tell them to shut the fuck up and be careful about listening to them in the future. You have the gig, they don’t. They are jealous so they come up with a way to say ‘You’re getting’ screwed man’. (Do they currently have a gig booked in that club?)   [War “Peace Sign”]

 The main point is YOU HAVE THE GIG. That is the most important thing when you are just starting out. When I managed a band that was just starting and had nowhere to go but up. The rule went like this. NO FREE GIGS WE ALWAYS PLAY FOR MONEY. YES WE WILL PLAY CHEAP. I have booked a band for ten bucks. But at least they got some gas money and the key to start to train the people in the business into seeing the band as a pro band that always gets paid. There are tons of we only play benefits to Save The Capybara kinda bands make sure you set yourself apart from these people.  If you want to be a Pro Musician then be a Pro. Professional Musicians get paid. Often the pay is lousy but they get paid.  Now if you had the buzz on your side and you could sell out his club then the conversation would be different.  Peter Grant, Led Zeppelin’s manager was famous for demanding and getting 90% of the gate for the band. The thing to focus on here is that they were Led Zeppelin and he recognized how important that was and acted accordingly. How much you are paid is directly related to how popular, influential, famous, talented etc.  The hard part is  knowing what this value should be.  Look around at the bands that are at your level and have talent. Do they draw? Do they have records out and up on Itunes? Are the local press writing about them? How much do they get paid? Now ask these same questions about yourself.

Your short term goal should be to find a way to pack the local clubs.

Yet another comment that springs to mind. Always trade money for position on the bill. “Hey, it’s great you offered us $100 to play first and we can do that but a better idea might be to give us $50 and we’ll play second. That way some of our crowd will stick around for the Headliner. We’re gonna plug this show heavily and there’s a rumor going around that our drummer is dating Drew Barrymore so that’ll definitely pack a few more in….” Always try to trade up to the right show. By right show I mean the one that suits your band best. You should be looking to open for bands that add prestige or might share a fan base with the kids that like your music. If you could say that you were the last person to open for Elvis that would definitely add prestige.

                                                                                                                                                                        [Temptations -‘Ballof Confusion’]

Here’s a little Rock Anecdote to illustrate ONE correct gigging strategy. In the early seventies a band started gigging in San Francisco. Their name was The Tubes. They got themselves booked first on a three band bill at a decent sized venue in the Castro, which was becoming the heart of Gay San Francisco. So the night of the show the band shows up with 8 players, four go go dancers and three TV’s with video equipment and lights.

                                                                                                                                                               [Isley Brothers “It’s your thing”]

They then proceed to put on the functional equivalent of Ringling Brothers circus being assaulted by an army of orcs. (I’m not sure what that means but it sounds good) Lights, gogo dancers, tv’s playing films about world Armageddon, and at the front Fee Waybill the frontman directing it all. (later in his career he decided to change his name to Quay Lewd and would come out on stage in 20 inch high silver spangled stacks and fall all over as if he was too stoned to play)                                                                                                                        [The kinks ‘Brainwashed”] Check out their particular brand of madness.

After you watch this video ask yourself -would I like to go onstage AFTER this band? Of course not. You’d have to be mad to follow The Tubes. They would play their set and basically destroy the venue as well as the audience’s will to go on. I know this because I saw them five times.

Well after their first Frisco gig the word went around fast. Don’t try to follow The Tubes. Overnight they became a headliner.  This same forumla has been used many times. There was a nutcase called GG Allin. He would eat his own shit on stage.  Not my idea of a good show but he always sold out. You can always find 500 idiots with ten dollars in their pockets.                                                                                                                                        [The Clash “London Calling”]

Now I am not suggesting that anyone reading this blog should follow in the footsteps of GG Allin or The Tubes.  I am suggesting that you should try to put on a show that is tough to follow. If you play a set that rips the roof off the club to a half full room of your fans who immediately leave after your show I guarantee you’ll move up from first slot to second and be offered better shows.                                                                                                     [War “Cisco Kid”]

Remember you are putting on a show………………………

copyright Brad Morrison/Billiken Media 2010


One thought on “Questions from a Reader … Dealing with a promoter…

  1. hey so it seems you arent getting as many questions as you want. well thats just silly not to ask you questions since you are offering expert answers. so the band im in now has been around solidly for about 6 months we have had many shows around our state and are about to step it up to the next level. this is where my question comes in. we paid $550 to a dude that books tours for a living and promises garrantees from the venues. I have heard nothing but good news about his work. we will be traveling from Washington all the way over to michigan, then south and back around through california to our home town in 31 days no gaps. We are just not sure if this is a good way of getting tours done and im asking for advice on touring (i know you havent come close to discussing yet) but thank you for your time.

    Eric Gardner of Chasing Aurora

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