Thursday, 26 September 2013

Its time to get a promoter

Over the last few weeks we have been looking at the relationship between a professional band and its consumers (the people who listen to your music), its customers (the people who pay you to play) and its suppliers (the people who supply you goods and services).
Last week week we looked at how the game changes when you start taking the door and how this subtle change in relationship has a big impact on how successful your gigs will be.

This week we take it up another notch and look what happens when you start dealing with a Promoter.

Promoters sometimes have a bad reputation, mainly due to some pretty dodgy things that have gone down in the past and occasionally continue to do so. That doesn't make them all bad, it just means you have to be weary and know how to get the most out of a promoter.

Lets say a promoter rings you up and wants you to play at a concert they are promoting in a few months, lets call it "La De Day Out".
What is the relationship between you, the Promoter, the Venue and the people that come?
Who is responsible for Marketing and Promotion?

Lets start with the Venue...
The Promoter is the Venues customer. The Promoter pays the Venue for using the Venue to hold their event.
The Promoter may get the Venue to run the bar and may or may not get a cut of the bar or sell the rights to run the bar depending on the terms of the deal. If the promoter gets a cut of the bar, then this still makes the Promoter a customer of the venue and this would generally only happen on very large events.

The Promoter sells tickets to the event, the people that buy tickets are the Promoters customers.

The Promoter hires bands for the show, the Promoter is the bands customer.
The band is not selling music, the band is renting the bands Brand to the promoter.
The Promoter uses this brand to make their event look attractive enough for people to pay money to buy tickets.
This is why some posters have bands highlighted in bigger letters than others. The more valuable your brand is at selling tickets, the bigger your name will be on the posters and this is a really good way of telling how good your Marketing is working. The most valuable brand is called "The Headline Act".

The Promoter pays you no matter how many people show up.
The Promoter sells tickets to the show for however much the Promoter likes because they are taking a BIG risk.
If nobody shows up, they still have to pay everyone. If its a full house, then the Promoter can make a truckload of money (note, this rarely happens).

The people that come to the event because you are playing are your consumers.
The people that come to the event because another band are playing and have never heard of you before are your potential consumers. The people coming to the event are also the Venues consumers.

The Promoter is 'renting' your brand for their event, that means its in your interest to Market this brand as hard as you can to make it as valuable to the Promoter as possible.

The Promoter is responsible for "Promoting" the event, all they are doing is advertising the Where, When and Who. They may also do some Marketing of you but this is squarely aimed at Promoting the event and is not entirely genuine (they aren't doing it out of the goodness of their heart and it may not have a long term impact, they are doing it to increase the value of your brand beyond what they are paying you). In other words, it is far better that you do the Marketing because Marketing that you do is worth something to you, Marketing that the Promoter does is worth more to the Promoter.

Where it gets confusing is that the Promoter may also do another type of Marketing as well. If they have a regular or annual event, they may Market this to make it more appealing.
For example, for "La de Day Out", they will run advertising, facebook messages to try to create the image that La De Day Out is the best annual festival in the country. This increases the value of the events brand which may result in people buying tickets no matter who is playing.

This is the holy grail for a Promoter because then bands will want to come and play at their event to increase the value of the bands Brand. ie "We played at La De Day Out last year".
This gives the Promoter leverage to decrease the costs of the bands because it is more valuable for a band to perform at the event than what it is to get paid cash.

The bands can then use the fact that they played at La De Day Out to increase the value of their brand and get paid more at all their other gigs. This is where I throw caution to the wind because Promoters are VERY good at talking up the value of their events. If a promoter opens a sentence with "It will be great exposure for you" then generally if someone needs to tell you it will be great exposure, it won't be great exposure.

If you are contracted by a Promoter, you generally don't do any promotion of the event without asking the Promoter first. You are free to Market yourself as much as you like (unless you are planning on doing a controversial publicity stunt that is), but you need to leave the event Promotion up to the Promoter unless they specifically ask you to do something. You might tack an "Appearing at La De Day Out on X Date" at the end of your Marketing initiatives which the Promoter will be very happy about or you might work on a joint press release with the Promoter that combines both Marketing of your band, Promotion of the event and Marketing of the event all in one release.

Working with Promoters represents the next step up on the scale towards "Making It". Next week we will take it one step further.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Call my Agent

Last week we talked about working with Promoters and how this changes the relationship between you, the venue, the consumers of your music and the people who come to the event.

This week, we go  the next step and bring in an Agent into the mix and see what happens.

Firstly, lets try and understand what an Agent does.

An Agent is primarily focused with Marketing and then Sales of your Brand (band).
A bad agent will spend all their time on Marketing and none on Sales or all their time on Sales and none on Marketing. Good agents spend an equal amount of time on both.
Agents usually work on commission but some may ask for a retainer (avoid these). A low quality agent may take as low as 10% of your earnings, a really good one may ask for 50% or more.
In general, you get what you pay for. Remember that a low agent fee out of a low income might be lower than a high agent fee out of a high income.

Some Agents take a low commission and try and represent lots of bands (as in hundreds), they care less about you and are just trying to sell any band that is on their books. They are more focused on events and finding a band for someone else's event (think wedding bands). These are typically the websites you see that list bands for hire, you just sign up and you are listed straight away. These type of Agents want to list as many bands as possible to maximise the chances that someone will pick any one of their bands for their event.
You would be unwise to sign an exclusive agency deal with an individual Agent that had more than 5 or 10 bands on its books.
At the other end of the scale are the high commission Agents that only have a few bands on their books. These guys are working almost exclusively for you and put in long hard hours to get you as much work as possible. If they don't succeed they don't get paid so in general are worth every penny. These are the only agents that specifically want to find work for you (as opposed to anyone on their books).

In the middle we have what I call "The Sharks" and these are the Agents to watch out for. They usually have 10 to 20 bands on their books and they seem to charge a relatively low commission, however, what you don't know is that often they are double dipping.

A classic example of this is as follows:

An Shark goes to an event and offers their services as an "Entertainment Coordinator".
The Shark is contracted and paid by the event to find entertainment.
The Shark then offers up entertainment that just happens to be signed to the Shark for an agency agreement.
The Shark inflates the price of the entertainment by quite a bit.
The Shark then gets quotes for Sound, Lighting, Staging and other production services and slaps a nice big margin on top after screwing down the suppliers.
The event books it all through The Shark who then:
  • Is paid by the event a "Finders fee"
  • Charges the Event X for the bands and tells the bands that they are getting paid Y.
  • Takes a commission off Y as well
  • Makes a profit on the Sound, Lighting and other Production
This happens all the time and seems to be an increasingly common practice in NZ so watch out. It wouldn't be so bad if the Sharks were up front about it. If you are signed to an Agent who you suspect is a Shark, try getting a quote for your band by getting someone else to contact them, then make sure you are sitting down when you see the price.

Now lets take a look at the relationship between your band and an Agent..

Your band is a customer of the Agent.
Your Agents product is your Brand.
Your Agent is a Supplier to you (you are the customer and the customer is always right).
Your Agents consumers are Events and Promoters.
Your Agent Markets your brand in order to try and sell it to its Consumers.

An Agent never does any promotion, that is still up to either you or a Promoter.

Agents can save you a lot of time and a well connected agent can get you some great gigs and opportunities, but watch out. If after signing up with an agent you aren't significantly further ahead after 6 months, you may be signed to a shark.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Tickets available on the door.

Sometimes we forget that a band is a business.
To not treat it as such makes it a hobby.
Hobbies are fun and interesting and if you are happy with that, that's great, but if you want people to come to your gigs and if you want your band to be successful, you need to treat it like a business.

Any business needs to fully understand the market for its products and services and exactly who it's customers and consumers are.

If you don't like all that stuff then don't expect to succeed.
A new business that starts up and decides to make 'widgets' will go broke pretty quickly if it doesn't market those widgets to people who it thinks might buy them. If the widget maker just says "All I want to do is make widgets" and doesn't advertise, promote and market their widgets, then how successful do you think that widget business will be?
Most people in business don't want to do all this stuff, all they want to do is make their widgets, but unfortunately Marketing and Promotion is often more important than how good your widgets are.

Last week we determined that when you play in a bar with no door charge and are paid by the bar that the bar is your customer and the punters are your consumers.

Now lets see what happens when we put on a door charge...

If your band takes the door it is highly likely that the bar will not pay you a cent. There may in fact be a venue fee that you have to pay given there is no guarantee to the bar that it will be better than an ordinary Saturday night. If you put on a show and 5 people turn up, then its not just you who loses out, the bar loses out as well because it probably would have been a busier night to let people in for free and have no entertainment. The venue fee covers this risk and also ensures that only people who are serious run an event.

In this case the bar changes to become a supplier and you are their customer.
The punters continue to be both your and the bars consumers, however they also become your customer given that you are now trying to sell them something directly. Oh how this changes things.

This doubles the difficulty for you because now you are responsible for both Marketing and Promotion instead of just Marketing.

Not only do you need to Market your brand and tell people that your band is super awesome, you also need to Promote the gig and try and convince people who like your brand to come out and pay money to get in. This is why many bands fail when they step up to taking the door because they simply forget to Market their brand and focus solely on Promoting the gig. If all you do is promotion, then you do not create desire and as a result, activities that are more desirable win out over your event.

Often, when people only do promotion, 10 punters come and then the band blame it on the Rugby or the weather or the venue.
I'd be very rich if I got a dollar for every time I have heard bands blame a rugby game for the failure of their show.
Rugby does not stop people coming to gigs, lack of Marketing does. All that has happened is that the Rugby has done a better job of Marketing itself than you have. It is more desirable to watch the rugby.

In this scenario the venue has zero responsibility to promote your gig, its totally up to you (a good venue will certainly help out).

The venue is focused on Marketing itself to bands who it wants to come and hire its venue and bring punters through the door for it to sell drinks. It wants the best bands it can get (and by best we mean bands that have done the most Marketing).

In this model your band only gets paid if people turn up, however your opportunity to make a lot of money is much greater. You are assuming all the risk so you will also make all the profit if you do a good job.

If your door charge is $10 and 10 people turn up then you make $100 and go home depressed. However if 200 people turn up then you make $2000 and are doing much better than the average plumber.

Here are a couple of examples of Marketing and Promotional messages you would use in this scenario:

Marketing: "Band X is a high energy entertainment experience that always gets everyone up on the dance floor, if you come to one of our shows you are guaranteed to have the best night ever"

Promotion: "Band X is playing at Venue Y on the 5th of November"

A good Venue will do everything it can to help with promotion but lets be clear that in this scenario, its up to you to drive the Promotion and the Marketing. If you don't do both equally well your event will be fail miserably.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Marketing vs Promotion

Two weeks ago I posted an article comparing Musicians to Plumbers in skill level and highlighting the pay disparity between the two professions. Then last week I dropped a bombshell describing why it was that Musicians often never get paid what their skill level suggests they should be worth.

Several people wrote me emails about that and linked to articles questioning why musicians should be responsible for promoting gigs, bringing punters to venues and generating revenue for bars. Musicians should "only have to focus on music", was the general tone of the emails and promoting a gig should be up to the bar.

This week, I want to explore that more and highlight why that thinking is so very wrong. I'm going to start with the scenario where a venue hires you to come and play in their venue and there is no cover charge on the door. The venue is making money solely from their bar takings and you are paid no matter what.

There are two distinct concepts that often get blurred into one and that is the source of the problem. Marketing and Promotion. Many people call activities Promotion when it is actually Marketing and many people call Marketing, Promotion. They are different, very very different.

Lets look at a real world example dear to my own personal taste buds.
Coca-Cola has a product, it sells Coke and lots of it, but in general it doesn't sell it directly to me and you. You can't walk up to Cokes office and buy an ice cold Coke. It sells to dairies and supermarkets etc who then sell it to me and you. Coke doesn't do very much "Promotion".
Whoooa, you may say, Coke has one of the biggest advertising budgets in the world.
You see their "Adverts" everywhere.

Coke does "Marketing". You will rarely ever see a Coke ad on TV that says "Buy Two Cokes and get another one free", that's because that kind of message is "Promotion".

Coke has one goal and that is to make you feel that Coke is the best product and that you should buy it from anywhere you can get it.

If you see a petrol station banner that is encouraging you to buy two Cokes for $4, then that is Promotion. It is not saying that Coke is the best product, its simply trying to get people to buy more Coke from that particular petrol station as opposed to anywhere else.

Bands and Venues have this exact same relationship.

Your band is a brand just like Coke and it is your job as the owner of that brand to Market the brand.
Music is your "Product" that you are selling to your Consumers (the people that listen and that come to venues).
BUT your Customers are the Venues and they aren't buying your music, they are buying your "Brand".

Note that subtle difference there... you have Consumers of your Music and Customers of your Brand.
The people dancing on the dance-floor are Consumers and the Manager of the Bar is your Customer.

On the night of the event, your Consumers are also the same as the Venue's Consumers.
The Venue is holding an event and it is therefore the job of the Venue to Promote the event just like a petrol station advertises its "buy two" deals but all they are doing is announcing when you are playing at the venue, its up to you to Market the brand which is what actually gets people to come.

Your Marketing activity is aimed at raising the profile of your brand, discovering the niche audience that your brand appeals to, targeting it and accumulating as much of a market for that brand as you possibly can. This includes web pages, facebook, twitter and even music sales. The more marketing activity you do, the more valuable your brand will be to the venue and the more you will get paid.

When a Venue hires you, they are 'borrowing' that brand for the night. They should run advertisements, put up posters and billboards that says that your brand is coming to their venue on date X. The music itself is 100% totally irrelevant to the venue.

The ultimate insult to a band (and a sure fire sign you have a weak brand) is if the venue simply advertises "Live Music Tonight". That means your brand isn't even worth mentioning in their promotions. It is the same as a petrol station peeling the labels of Coke bottles and selling them as "cold drinks that might taste good".

Your message to your consumers should be.. "If you come to our gigs you will have a great time".
The Venues message is "Come to my venue on this date to see this band (brand)".

If you have a strong brand, then lots of people will come and your brand will be valuable to the venue.
If you have a weak brand, then not many people will come and your band will not be valuable to the venue.

Generally, people that complain about not being paid enough as a musician, have weak brands and have not invested the time to market and build up the value of their brand.

Next week we take it a step further by looking at how these same relationships subtly change when we introduce things such as door charges, tickets and or promoters.