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  BOOKING AGENTS vs. PROMOTERS...
CHRIS DALE'S METAL MELTDOWN
5 August 2013


chris dale

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...and why your favourite band aren't playing in your home town this year.

We had a look before at what managers and producers did for bands. This month let's look at Booking Agents and Promoters. Who are they? What do they do? And most importantly who would win in a hypothetical fight between the two?

In short to answer the first two questions, these are the people who book the gigs that we all go to see.

Strangely a lot of people seem to think that bands pick their own touring schedules. Then they say, why aren't my favourite band coming to my home town?

Article continues below...

 
 


Then these people decide in their heads that the band must hate their town and by inference, the fan themselves.

Misunderstandings like this are one of the most common causes of Passive-Aggressive Fan Disorder (PAFD) whereby the fan develops an imagined personal love-hate relationship with his or her idols. This can in some cases be so intense and appear so real to the sufferer that they are mentally and in some cases physically incapacitated.

I'm mostly over that with Kiss now.

There are no known medical cures for PAFD. The only thing science can recommend is a course of cold showers and a sharp dose of reality.

Let's have a little dose of reality right now on the subject of how bands pick their touring schedules.

A PAFD sufferer will hypothesise about a scenario whereby the band pick their own touring schedule based on whims.

Maybe they have a band meeting and look at a big map of the World with the guitarist saying "I'd like to play Madison Square Garden in New York this time. And Wembley Arena, please".

The bass player would probably recommend Belgium, Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic purely because of their brewing traditions.

Bass players are after all, very sensible people.

Then I guess the imaginary scenario goes on with the singer wanting to go to half a dozen countries purely because he thinks the chicks are hot there, while at the same time refusing to play another half a dozen cities on the grounds that on previous occasions people had been rude to him there.

This is when the PAFD patient starts the belief that the singer personally hates him or her.

"Maybe it's because last time I hung around outside his hotel window smashing bottles and screaming "I Love You!" till the police arrived at 5am", they'll think to themselves. "I bet he hates me now and that's why they're not playing here".

Yep, it's all making perfect sense (in their minds).

Finally the drummer, who in this fantasy has been silent up until now points at Madagascar on the map and says he's always wanted to play in Japan because he likes pizza.

The manager probably takes notes in the fantasy meeting then rings up the chosen venues and the next day the tour is booked.

Surely that's what happens?

It's a lovely idea, very quaint and all, but this is of course not what happens except in the movies (and in fans' minds).

In real life, the band's manager contacts a person called a 'Booking Agent'. The manager tells the booking agent that his band has an album coming out and would like to do a tour to promote it.

The booking agent then looks at the different territories that the band might make money in.

Yes, sorry we've mentioned it already. It's not about who screams the loudest outside the hotel window. It's about money. That's why its called 'the music business', because its a business.

The booking agent is on a percentage of the band's gross financial take each night, usually about 15%. Fair enough, he's doing a job.

So the agent looks at the places this band might play profitable gigs. One part of his job is to think of a sensible route in which to do the tour. For this task he uses an atlas.

It is while browsing the picture pages that he notices that Ireland, Finland and Malta have bits of water in the way. He immediately crosses them off the list. It's not because the band hate you. It's because the gig might not be profitable after paying the extra travel costs. Sorry. Build a bridge!

While most of us would spend a lot of time looking at the pictures (what posh people call 'maps') at the front of an atlas to see which venues are near each other, booking agents often seem to look in the index at the back for that information.

I once enjoyed a tour that had Barcelona, Spain and Bratislava, Slovakia as consecutive dates. On the map pages of the atlas these cities and countries are not close to each other but alphabetically in the index they are within easy walking distance.

This of course makes no sense in the practical real world but agents do not usually leave the office and have little contact with the real world.

Once he's got an idea of a route, the booking agent calls some people called 'Promoters' that he knows in different countries. These promoters then decide if they want to book local shows in each territory gambling that the band can sell enough tickets to justify the gig and make a profit.

Unlike the booking agent who is on a set percentage of the band's gross fee, the promoter is on a cut of the net fee after costs.

Usually the band will make their money from a guaranteed fee from the venue often with an additional split of the ticket money on the show if it runs into profit. The booking agent takes his cut of this sum. Then from what's left the band have to pay for their touring costs such as their crew and transport.

The promoter is also on a variable split (with the band) of the ticket money but he must pay the venue costs before his profits roll in. A legally binding contract is then agreed and signed between the agent and the promoter.

This makes the promoter's outlook different from that of the booking agent. Both are on a percentage of profits but the promoter has to invest money in a show to make it happen.

He has to cover costs such as hiring a venue, PA system, lights and the local crew to run them. He also pays for the band's food and drink (which can be quite pricey if they are not teetotal) and sometimes he pays their flights and hotels.

If not enough fans buy tickets, the promoter has lost money. The agent has not actually lost cash though he and the band may not be in profit. He's just got to pay his phone bill and internet connection while arranging the tour.

Thus it is largely in the interest of promoters to get fans to the show. A good promoter runs an online marketing strategy, gets posters put up all over town and pays local radio stations and magazines to advertise the gig. In short he 'promotes' the show, hence his job title.

This all costs him more money but if he doesn't gamble it, he's got less chance of making a profit. The larger the show, the bigger the gamble and the more he must invest to promote it. Being a promoter is a gambler's game.

You'll have noticed that at no point in this arrangement has the band been consulted. They very rarely are. After all how can they guess their ticket selling potential in Barcelona or Bratislava, especially if they've never been there before?

So the next time you're blaming a band for not playing your home town or country, really you should be writing to your local venue or festival promoter to convince them that there's a profit to be made by booking the band.

It's not the band's fault or choice.

A good local promoter with his finger on the pulse will have noticed which up and coming bands are getting good press, which ones get requested at the local rock club and which band's T-shirts his club's audience tend to wear.

He has to be a bit clued up to pitch his gamble at the right level. The booking agent can afford to lose the game more often than the promoter.

Some promoters only deal in big bands where the profits are pretty much guaranteed though risked costs might be bigger. Other promoters will take a gamble on small unheard of bands at their local venues. This is sometimes for the very philanthropic reason of helping young musicians but on other occasions it is with the tried and tested theory that if you throw enough shit at a wall some of it will stick.

Now onto the more interesting question of who would win in a hypothetical fight between the two.

On this one anonymous example I'm going to tell you about a local UK promoter who booked an unheard of American band for a small fee - £300 with a split of profits between the band and promoter after that.

The agent had originally asked for £400 but the promoter talked him down by 25%.

Newly signed bands with no press presence are unlikely to turn a profit for anyone, especially if they have to fly in from the USA for their tour. The promoter was taking a gamble on an unheard of band with a funny sounding name.

The agent however was on £45 (15% of the £300) no matter what happened. That's not a lot but if he booked a 20 date UK tour for them it might be worth a couple of days work for him.

The promoter's gamble here relies on local radio or press picking up on this band in between the time the concert contracts are signed and the gig being played.

For the sake of the story let's call this promoter Glasgow's legendary Robert Fields.

In this particular case after the contract for the show was signed and sealed the formerly unknown band (for the sake of the story let's call them Pearl Jam) rocketed up the UK single charts singles charts with their debut release 'Alive'.

Ow! All of a sudden they were splashed all over major music press front covers, they were on TV and got constant radio airplay.

Our promoter had struck gold! He now had a completely sold out show for £300. The booking agent however still only stood to make £45 from the event, plus a smaller percentage of any further profits from the band.

This time the promoter's gamble paid off...

paerl jam contract

... because it's not every night of the week that you can book Pearl Jam for £300 cash!




MORE CHRIS DALE'S METAL MELTDOWN COLUMNS HERE...

April 2015: Undiscovered Kisstory: The Kiss Drummer Auditions Of 1980
March 2015: Matthew Trippe RIP - The strange case of the man who would be Nikki Sixx
November 2014: Kiss: 'Love Gun' Deluxe Edition
October 2014: Mr. Big – Live Review at Koko, London
September 2014: Mr. Big: 'The Stories We Could Tell' album review
September 2013: Intensive Bass Course with Billy Sheehan
August 2013: Booking Agents vs Promoters
July 2013: Rock and Metal Pub Quiz
June 2013: Communication Tips For European Festivals, Or How To Learn A Language In An Evening
May 2013: Storm Thorgerson (1944-2013) RIP
April 2013: Daily Mail Columnist Richard Littlejohn Sinks To New Low With Anti-Heavy Metal Article
April 2013: The Future Of Classic Bands
March 2013: Smashing Pumpkins Video Shoot
Febuary 2013: Ten Years On Total Rock
January 2013: Kiss Follow Up To Monster 2013
December 2012: Kiss Reformation Magick
November 2012: Exclusive Interview With Geoff Tate
November 2012: Morally Worrying Session
October 2012: Kiss 'Monster' Review
October 2012: The Best Invention Of All Time
September 2012: A Conversation With Rudy Sarzo
August 2012: Scream For Me Sarajevo Part 3
July 2012: Scream For Me Sarajevo Part 2
June 2012: Scream For Me Sarajevo Part 1
May 2012: Managers v Producers
April 2012: Kiss 'Monster' Album Preview
March 2012: London Venue's Nazi Past?
February 2012: How Not to Join the Ozzy Osbourne Band
January 2012: Metal Evilution
December 2011: Take Your Pick Competition
November 2011: The Pandora's Box Of Pop
October 2011: Tank Tour Diary 2011
September 2011: Festival Stage Collapses
August 2011: Bruce Air, The Early Days
July 2011: European Festival Round-Up
June 2011: Bernie Torme Proud To Be Part Of MT Ozzy Article
June 2011: Who's Your Favourite Ozzy Guitarist?
May 2011: Japanese Tsunami Disaster
April 2011: 10,000 Tank Albums!
March 2011: Death Metal Session!
6th February 2011: Gary Moore (4th April 1952 - 6th February 2011)
February 2011: Recording Bass at Steve Harris'
January 2011: A Column About Columns



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Tickets go on sale at 10.00am on 1st April from Live Nation UK with pre-sale and VIP ticketing information coming soon...

doro DORO CONFIRMED FOR ROCK IN RIO AND ANNOUNCES HUGE EUROPEAN TOUR
"This is amazing and a dream coming true. I think that we might also play my hymn 'All We Are'."...

wasp W.A.S.P. SIGN TO NAPALM RECORDS WITH NEW ALBUM SET FOR RELEASE THIS AUGUST
Almost six years have passed since the world saw a new studio album from Metal icons W.A.S.P...

evil scarecrow EVIL SCARECROW SET OFF FOR 'ROAD TO DOWNLOAD' TOUR
Grab the chance to catch the Nottingham maestros of Metal around the UK before their appearance at Download...

bruce dickinson IRON MAIDEN ISSUE BRUCE DICKINSON HEALTH UPDATE AS NEW PHOTOS OF BRUCE EMERGE
Things are looking very positive concerning the Bruce Dickinson cancer situation...

iron maiden IRON MAIDEN TO RECEIVE O2 SILVER CLEF AWARD
The iconic band have won the Outstanding Contribution To UK Music category...

the darkness THE DARKNESS REVEAL FIRST SINGLE 'OPEN FIRE'
The single and the forthcoming album 'Last Of Our Kind' promise an explosion of rock following the band's break ...

thunder THUNDER APPEAR ON WEEKEND WOGAN BBC RADIO SHOW
Thunder's new album 'Wonder Days' went straight into the Top Ten of the UK album charts and they have just completed a highly successful UK tour...

aj pero BANDMATES AND STARS PAY TRIBUTE TO TWISTED SISTER AND ADRENALINE MOB DRUMMER AJ PERO
Pero was on tour with Adrenaline Mob when members of that band were unable to rouse him on their bus on Friday morning...

red dragon cartel RED DRAGON CARTEL NAME MICHAEL THOMAS BECK IN LEAD VOCALIST CHANGE UP
Darren James Smith is out, and a new era begins. The saga continues...

walls of jericho WALLS OF JERICHO ARE ENTERING THE STUDIO
The band will start work shortly on their first full length album since 2008...

beyond forgotton shores DORMANT INFERNO & DIONYSUS ANNOUNCE SPLIT RELEASE 'BEYOND FORGOTTEN SHORES'
India's Transcending Obscurity label produces a Doom Metal double...

icon I.C.O.N SIGN TO METALBOX RECORDINGS
With a follow up album to 'New Born Lie' on the way and an extensive touring schedule, 2015 sees I.C.O.N in full flow...

soldierfield SOLDIERFIELD RELEASE OFFICIAL VIDEO FOR 'THE ONLY WAR'
The video is from the latest acclaimed release 'Catharsis'...

serpentine SERPENTINE ANNOUNCE THE RELEASE OF THEIR ALBUM 'CIRCLE OF KNIVES'
The new studio album contains ten brand new songs from the melodic rock quintet...

rival sons RIVAL SONS HAVE RECORDED EXCLUSIVE RECORD STORE DAY TRACKS
The limited edition 7" contains two previously unreleased songs...

styx STYX RELEASE 'LIVE AT THE ORLEANS ARENA LAS VEGAS'
The definitive live show is available on DVD, CD, Blu-ray and digital formats...

electric wizard ELECTRIC WIZARD CONFIRM FULL SUPPORTING CAST FOR HEADLINE SHOW AT THE ROUNDHOUSE IN LONDON
The Cosmic Dead, Purson and Moss are added to the May 15th bill...

mike porcaro MIKE PORCARO OF TOTO DEAD AT 59
The rock world was shook again on Sunday morning, March 15th 2015...

sick of it all SICK OF IT ALL LAUNCH NEW VIDEO FOR 'GET BRONX'
"This video serves to show people across the world that as gritty and unpretentious as hardcore music is, it still translates to the big stage and doesn't need a tiny, intimate atmosphere to work..."

steve hackett STEVE HACKETT LAUNCHES 'THE WHEEL'S TURNING' LYRIC VIDEO
"In contrast to the primal and gothic nature of much of the album, 'The Wheel's Turning' has a fun and nostalgic vibe..."

corbitt WARBEAST'S BRUCE CORBITT ISSUES UPDATE FOLLOWING HIS HEART SCARE
Bruce has been undergoing tests and has an important message to share...

enter shikari ENTER SHIKARI ANNOUNCE INTIMATE DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL WARM-UP SHOW
Catch the band at Bristol in June before their slot headlining Download's second stage...

tony iommi TONY IOMMI, NAPALM DEATH AND LAMB OF GOD APPEAL TO INDONESIAN PRESIDENT FOR BALI NINE DUO CLEMENCY
All artists are hopeful that their words will be persuasive and encourage President Widodo to grant clemency...

serpentyne MEDIEVAL FOLK ROCKERS SERPENTYNE UNLEASH NEW VIDEO FOR 'VALKYRIES'
Over the last few years their live show has become quite the spectacle...

tank TANK REVEAL ALBUM ARTWORK FOR 'VALLEY OF TEARS'
"He's injected so much new energy and inspiration into the band since joining us in 2013..."

mike portnoy MIKE PORTNOY IN MEGA "DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM" MOMENT AFTER HAVING TO WAIT AT HOSPITAL
However well intended, the post comes across as though he is expecting to jump the queue due to his "status"...

armored saint ARMORED SAINT TO RELEASE NEW ALBUM THIS SUMMER
"There's everything from classic Armored Saint rocker songs to epic songs and we all dug deep deliver something special..."

david gilmour DAVID GILMOUR ANNOUNCES 2015 SHOWS
The dates will coincide with the release of his as yet untitled fourth solo studio album...


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