A FEW OBSERVATIONS ON HOW TO RUN A SUCCESSFUL ROCK VENUE/PROMOTION COMPANY
In a little deviation from the normal run of posting Grifter news I thought I’d share some small observations on how bands/promoters/venues may actually start to run successful gigs.
In nearly 20 years of playing in bands and having played a literally hundreds of venues a few things have struck me over the years as to what makes the difference between a good promoter/venue and a bad one. This isn’t necessarily aimed at the bands who put on local shows but the venues and promoters who view the process as more of a long term commitment.
First a note about venues. Venues and stages come in all shapes and sizes…some big, some small, some awkward some comfortable but there are some basics all venues who want to be taken seriously have to have. First and foremost you need a decent PA and sound engineer. It doesn’t have to be huge, just appropriate for the size of the venue and capable of reproducing the band’s sound clearly and effectively. The sound engineer should work with the band and communicate with them…he should know the rig and the venue and what works for that yet the band know their sound and what work for them. Work together and be prepared to compromise.
Another thing to pay close attention to is the layout of the venue. One thing that has become abundantly clear is that having the bar in one room and the band in another does not work. People want to drink and the band wants an audience. Making people leave the room to buy beer pisses both the band off and the people who have paid to see a band and not miss half the set queuing for a drink. Put a bar in the room with the band playing…simple.
Venue owners/promoters should treat bands with respect. In theory these people are there to bring people into your event who will spend money on the entrance fee and spend money over the bar. Bands work very hard, particularly when on tour. It doesn’t hurt to give them a couple of beers each and a sandwich or something does it? Also try and give them something towards petrol. Never guarantee more than you can afford but be aware that the band who has travelled300 milesto play your venue to 30 people may this time next year be packing venues to 300 people…and you may want them to play your place again.
Keep the venue clean…no-one, not even die hard metallers like a shithole with rancid toilets!!!
Bands…be professional. If you’ve been asked to arrive at a certain time then make every effort to be there at that time. If you are running late then make sure you have the contact details of someone involved in the organisation of the event to keep them fully up to date. Bands and promoters should be in touch ahead of the gig to ensure everyone knows what gear is being used. If a band turns up with no amps, drums…etc and expects to be able to use someone else’s stuff without checking first, then they should expect a wasted journey and to be told to turn round and go home. No-one is obliged to lend gear. Make sure you can get your gear to the venue, if you can’t don’t agree to do the gig!!! Also, don’t take the piss. No matter how successful you are you still need the venue to be able to play in…respect the property, respect the staff and respect the management/promoters…you may want a return booking!!!
Now, on to the promotion the gigs themselves…and this is where a lot of promoters/venues really fall down. Note…FACEBOOK IS NOT THE ONLY WAY TO PROMOTE A GIG!!! Admittedly it is good but it is also limited. Use it for sure but here are a few tips towards a more successful gig/venue.
Use other social media…Myspace, Reverbnation, Tumblr, Twitter, Last FM….etc . Get yourself a page on each and keep it updated. Put tracks by the bands playing on there so people can actually hear who’s coming up.
Likewise use message boards, chat rooms and forums…hit everywhere, promote everything!!!
Get a website…make sure it’s attractive and easy to navigate. Make sure it is regularly updated…and out of date website is a pointless website. Make sure it has technical info for the bands, directions, prices, times…etc. Include a music player to promote upcoming events, invite reviews and photos of past events…etc If possible get your own forum to promote gigs and chat about the venue, music, past gigs, bands people want to see…etc. Communicate with your clientele. Maybe even start a monthly podcast!!!
Poster and flyer. I know this is the digital age but people do still leave their houses…they have to to come to the gigs!!! Put posters for upcoming shows all round the club…it doesn’t matter if you cover the décor…the décor means nothing if no-one is in the club!!! It is still also possible to find shops, cafés…etc around most places that will let you put up posters. The most likely places will be record shops, music shops, clothes shops, recording studios, rehearsal rooms…etc but go in and talk to people, do some research and pull together a database of who will accept posters/flyers and hit them all on a weekly basis. Yes it does take time but it does pay off. Above all make sure it’s legal!!!
Is there a big band coming through town at a bigger venue? Stand outside and hand out flyers…most may end up in the bin but out of a couple of thousand people you may get another 40-50 who will show up at your gig!!!
ThePhoenixinPlymouthused to produce a photocopied fanzine each month with gig listings, interviews with bands coming up and bands that have played, reviews of gigs/albums…etc. It took a little time and not much money but was very popular. Worth thinking about.
Use the major press. Kerrang, Metal Hammer, Classic Rock, Terrorizer and most newspapers have a what’s on section that is free to use. Be organised and use them. Likewise use local press and radio…and national radio if there is an opportunity.
Play tracks by the bands you have coming up at other gigs, club nights…etc. there is always music between bands…use it wisely and make sure you let the people in there know who they’re hearing and when they’re playing.
CD giveaways. Get CDs from bands you have coming up and run giveaways. Most bands would happily sacrifice a few CDs to have a full crowd and the potential to sell even more!!! Also look into a monthly CD-R giveaway compilation. A quick search has shown me that 100 screen printed CD-Rs on a spindle costs £80 to produce…some plastic wallets and a photocopied cover showing the band name, song title and date they play and voila…hand them out to people at shows. Say you have 10 gigs a month at your venue and it costs £100 to produce the CD that’s £10 a gig…the price oif maybe 3 drinks!!! If it helps get people through the doors can’t be bad can it?
Do your research. Is there anything else on that night that may conflict with your gig. Are you booking a death metal band for their first show when Cannibal Corpse are playing the same night up the road? Are you getting a band to do a400 mileround trip to play when you have a major 3 day rock festival going on30 milesup the road that has soaked up all the local rock fans into its midst?
Always have a local band on the line-up if you are able. If a band is travelling from out of town to play, the reason they do this is to gradually build up a fan base. Coming to play to another band’s home crowd is one way of doing this. The out of town band may not bring anyone in this time but next time…who knows!!! Similarly if you have a venue with a well known, established band coming in push to get a local band on…this is also how they build a crowd. Next time you give them their own show they may pull a decent crowd themselves, and it won’t cost you a fortune.
NEVER expect a band to pay to play or any other devious, offensive little initiative like making them sell a certain number of tickets…etc. If a band is coming from out of town they’re clearly trying to build a following…they probably don’t know anyone in your town but the local bands do. Listen to them, if they’re good give them a shot at playing with a local band who will pull a crowd. That band may well be able to come back and fill places themselves in the next couple of years but if you’ve dicked them they won’t choose your venue to fill, that’s for damn sure. On the flipside of this, bands…ALWAYS refuse to pay to play or sell tickets…etc. Venues need bands, if no-one wants to play a venue because of their sneaky little stunts they will be forced to change their policies to allow bands to play. Bands should always give themselves some sense of self worth and realise their potential value…you’re not just a commodity, you’re an asset!!!
On the nights you don’t have bands on make the place attractive for people to still come along…quiz nights, themed nights, fancy dress nights, open mic night, acoustic nights…anything that will make your venue a little hub and hive of activity…and use those nights to promote other shows.
Remember, a band’s first show may only pull a dozen people in…their 10th or 20th show may pull 150!!! Bands need time to build a crowd and if they’re good they will. On the other hand don’t put them on every single week, leave some breathing space so people can build the anticipation again. Similarly if a band usually bring a crowd but attendance is down for a show don’t write them off as there may be other factors…other bands in town, a big match on TV, students away…etc. Similarly if a band pulls 200 people one night they may not the next time. If they don’t, again don’t write them off, they did it once, they may well do again.
This isn’t exhaustive or exclusive by any means and certainly isn’t a bible…merely a few observations to make shows potentially more successful.