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What the Touring Landscape Looks like Post-Pandemic

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Ari's Take - New Music Business - What the Touring Landscape Looks like Post-Pandemic

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Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.
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What the Touring Landscape Looks like Post Pandemic

Listen on your favorite podcast platform: Spotify | Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Acast

This is a special replay of a webinar held earlier this month breaking down the current state of the touring landscape of both the micro and macro touring industry. If you want to attend our future webinars, make sure to sign up for our mailing list!

02:47 The top 100 tours of 2022
05:29 How are small to mid size venues doing?
18:38 Big takeaways on the live music industry
21:09 What are talent buyers / venue bookers looking for?
26:25 Current club deals for small to mid size venues
37:04 How to get opening slots for touring artists
41:22 The 7 steps to sell out your next show

Edited and mixed by Maxton Hunter
Music by Brassroots District
Produced by the team at Ari’s Take

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The Top 100 Tours of 2022

Ari: Let’s talk about the state of the 2022 music industry. Now, you may have seen these numbers. These are published by Pollstar. This was the, um, the top 100 tours. So, you know the arenas out there, uh, the, the giant theaters and arenas, uh, the tours that we’re talking about. Now, if you just look at those numbers, uh, look at this. We are, we have far surpassed the 2019 numbers. If you were to just look at the top 100 tours, you’d be like, Wow, we’re back, baby with a vengeance. And everyone is clamoring for the shows. And you can’t bust down the, the live music venue doors fast enough. Well, these numbers are a little misleading. Um, ticket prices have gone up at giant shows. Uh, these are not scalper prices, These are face value prices. Um, and the average gross of, uh, per concert. Has gone way up. Look at that. Almost $200,000, uh, more per show. These top 100 tours are making. All right, let’s keep this going here. So, uh, top 100 tours. Again, ticket, just ticket numbers have also increased, not just sales, not just gross revenue, actual number of tickets per show sold. Now as you see this, it’s average of 8,000 tickets. These are the kind of tours we’re talking about right now. I’m assuming the majority of the people here today are not playing 8,000 cap rooms. Don’t worry, we’re gonna get to the, to the small to mid-size clubs in a second. But this is the kind of stuff that the industry is talking about. And so, you know, another reason why I’m doing this webinar today is because I imagine that most people here don’t care about these. I don’t fucking care about these numbers. Why would any one of us care about how, how well Harry Styles is doing? He’s doing amazing. He sells out Madison Square Garden and every Sweet I, I love Harry Styles, don’t get me wrong, but like, that doesn’t help us . That doesn’t help the small to mid-size music venues. That doesn’t help the, the touring artist. That doesn’t help the indie artist who’s trying to get 300 people out to their show. But we’re all part of the music industry. We are collectively part of the music industry. So we need to understand top to bottom now, Polestar and Billboard and Rolling Stone and Pitchfork, and they all obsess over these big, big numbers and like, look at the industry numbers. It’s like, that’s cool. I look at these numbers too. Cool. So, uh, let’s just get caught up on these numbers and, uh, that’s, that’s, you know, helpful. Okay, so let’s keep this going. Let me pull up my second slide show here. All right, so.

How are Small to Mid Size Venues Doing?

Ari: How are small to mid-size venues doing? I think that’s what we all really care about. Um, okay. Oh, and Lauren, no, overall ticket sales, uh, are up. So if you missed that last slide, everything, uh, those numbers, Let me, let me actually go back to that, just to, let me just cover this button, this guy up, and then we will be finished here. Um, so let me just get back to that slide because I want to show you just so, and if you want, um, I’m gonna send everyone a replay of this. So if you missed this or you blink, or you had to take a bathroom break or something, don’t worry. Um, so, uh, yes. Sorry. Overall ticket, you’re right. Overall tickets sold are slightly down. Um, now the year’s not quite over yet, so I’m assuming by the end of the year that number will probably surpass 2019. Uh, the average tickets sold per show are up, so once the year finishes. Now mind you, this was published, um, I wanna say just a couple weeks ago. So, you know, uh, these numbers. By the end of the year, 2022, I’m assuming every number is going to be up, just like, because average tickets and, and there’s more shows happening now than ever. Okay, So let’s move on. All right.

So, um, I have interviewed a, uh, a bunch of people who work in the small to mid-size venue space from talent buyers, club owners, booking agents, promoters, um, I’m gonna share just a tiny sample of the responses that I got that kind of given overview of this. I know some talent buyers, uh, agents might be here today watching this. That’s awesome. Um, so here we go. Maybe you, you listen to my podcast episode with, um, Jordan Anderson, who is the talent buyer, the booker for the Troubador. Uh, she said, We’re still not back to being as busy as we were before The pandemic people aren’t drinking like they used to or staying out as late. And this is like me asking them, you know, where are we at right now? Where is everything? Kind of at the end of 2022? How are we post.

I also interviewed Paul Bocker on the new Music Business podcast. Uh, he, he told me, So, artists sales are down. The numbers are probably not where they used to be, pre pandemic. Still it’s hard to justify paying the same amount of money when, you know the show’s not gonna perform as well. And that’s from the buyer’s standpoint, the talent buyer. He’s not talking about the fan. So, um, you know, he books the Brooklyn Bowl, A 900 Capacity, both for Philly in New York. That was, uh, what he had to say about it.

Dana Frank. So Dana is the CEO of First Avenue Productions. It’s a promotions company outta the Twin Cities. They run a bunch of venues in the Twin Cities, uh, ranging in capacity from, uh, like two 50 to 2,500. But she’s also the president of National Independent Venue Association. Neva, uh, many of you might know about ne. They were, the organization that was started during the pandemic to help save our stages was their act. And they actually secured through Congress the Save Our Stages Act, which got, um, a lot of the music venues, helped them stay afloat and got them, um, uh, checks and essentially money to stay in business, make it through the pandemic, because obviously the live entertainment industry was hit the hardest of any industry, I would argue, uh, in the world. Uh, it’s a tough, pretty to come in because on one hand we’re all happy and celebrating and we’re excited, but on the other hand, there’s so much more to do and the pain is very real. It’s not recovered. We’re far from it.

Adam from the Poor House in Raleigh, North Carolina 289 capacity, he’s the talent buyer and the owner, he’s said a large majority of presales these days are coming in week of the day before and actually day of the show. Anyone who has any sort of stake in crowds showing up to a show knows how stressful that is. I do worry about the lack of other clubs dedicated to live music post Covid in Raleigh. We lost a good number of venues and are now lacking the necessary capacity to accommodate local and touring artists. My booking calendar is regularly getting seven to 10 plus holds deep, so at the end of the day, I’m having to turn away a lot of artists that are essentially waiting in line to get a date that’s not good for bands and it’s not good for the scene.

Stephen Shelton, he is also on the, uh, the Neva board. He’s a talent buyer and promoter. I’ve done a few shows with him actually in Phoenix. Walkup is all but gone on everything but local shows, no show rates. No show rates. That means like when people don’t show up are horrible. When the show has been postponed or moved a few times or announced crazy far in advance, but shows announced recently on a more normal timeline are having totally normal rates of no shows. I think there always was a reason why we didn’t announce club shows too far out and that is just reaffirmed since there are so many tours right on top of each other because of the pause and touring. Once these start to get spaced out a bit more, it will alleviate some of that pressure. I also think a huge problem for the club is how many a-list acts are on the road and they are all really pushing ticket prices. Like we saw in the, in the, in the macro graphs. If you are paying $500 a ticket to see Bad Bunny or Taylor Swift or Ghost, it is hard to see any club shows. I think people are watching what they’re spending. They want to go to the huge can’t miss shows. That just doesn’t ha leave a lot of room for other less expensive events for most fans. Things are starting to come into perspective and clarity here.

Uh, a Seattle area talent buyer who wanted to remain anonymous for this, uh, his venues are, I should say their venues range from 200 to six 50. Attendance rates have improved slightly since we reopened, but we’re still seeing no show percentages upwards of 30% on some shows. No shows are people that bought tickets but don’t actually show up now. Pause before I keep reading. Um, why do you, why do you care about NOS shows if they bought tickets? Well, the artist still makes that ticket price, and if you have a split with the, the venue or the promoter, sure you’re making the ticket price. But remember, venues make the vast majority of their money on the bar. So if you don’t have 30% of your audience that you’re expecting buying drinks, the venue is hurting. You need people to actually be in the room to buy drinks. The ticket price is mostly by and large going to the artist. That’s why the venue need people in the room to buy drinks. So that’s why they keep hitting the no-show rate and why that matters. I feel that the smaller venues are being hit harder by no shows because it’s a more casual experience to see a smaller artist than someone you’ve spent a ton of money to go see. Walkup day of sales are definitely slower. Than they were pre pandemic. I think folks are still not used to the night lifestyles they had back before. 2020 shows are starting ending earlier because everyone had a year plus where they weren’t staying out past midnight. It’s hard to expect folks to adopt late that late night schedule like they used to.

Ryan from, uh, he’s the, uh, entertainment director for Slow Brew in St. Louis Abispo, California 500 capacity room. We are on the flip side. We are breaking ticket sales record highs heading into the fall. There is a revived energy that wasn’t there in 2019. Our walkups have suffered a bit and we are seen a decline in no-shows. We were averaging around 15 to 20% no show, and now we are down to 10%. That’s good. People are showing up. No show rate is down. I think one of the biggest and most powerful things that came out of Covid was the creation of Neva. That’s the, like I talked about, National Independent Venue Association, and I’m so grateful that we have that organization now. This is the advocacy organization advocating on behalf of independent music venues. I have some good friends working hard over there, and they’re doing amazing things in our industry. Thank you, Neva. All right.

This is from a Los Angeles Club owner, talent buyer. They also asked for remain anonymous. Flip side, attendance rates are much worse now. Tickets are not selling as far in advance. This is a common theme I’m seeing. Crowds don’t want to commit. It feels like attendance is still probably down 30 to 35% from pre covid levels, which is an improvement from earlier this year. It seems artists that are doing underplays are doing fairly well. That means artists that are playing rooms smaller than their typical draw. Uh, so maybe they normally could play a, a 2000 cap theater and they’re choosing to play a 500 cap venue. That’s called an underplay. But the developing newer artists in music discovery we have been known for is way down in attendance. Fans, bands, management, all feel like they’re committing less, many more cancellations than we have ever had. Some because of illness, but many for no reason given. Agents I’ve spoken to have said it’s industry wide in their perplex as to why. Artists are canceling last minute maybe cuz of light ticket sales and or tours canceling. Maybe because they test positive for Covid or have a family emergency. But there are definitely more, it feels like there has been a shift in what people want to do when they go out being locked up for two years with the covid Restrictions made people crave social contact. Most small concerts and listening room experiences are people watching and listening to the stage and not interacting with each other. Bars and clubs and other places where social interaction happens are doing quite well. Listening rooms and small venues, not so much. All right, so now some booking agents, what they have to say, they’re kind of looking, um, you know, they book a bunch of artists at a bunch of different clubs. So those are a smattering of clubs all over the us. Uh, small, small clubs. Um, alright.

This booking agent primarily books a hundred to a thousand cap rooms. They said a lot of the promotions companies have been sheltered from going outta business by becoming a subsidiary of a larger company like a EEG or Live Nation. For those times, I think that I’m dealing with my contact that I have known for years, but it is more like I’m dealing with a huge conglomerate making the rules of the road. One of the more worrisome new stipulations is the stop loss clause where your guarantee goes away if they do not sell enough tickets. When a band is covering all of the fees and their budget for crew and vehicle and gas and staff and promo and such is leading to a barely breaking even proposition. One show getting canceled can turn a workable tour into a money pit. I get it that without clubs there will be no place to play, but without gigs that the band can rely. Actually happening or getting paid for. There will also be no band as it is, not like they can go work for three weeks in order to lose money. I had not heard of this Stop lost clause before. This is a new thing and it sucks, and I think we should refuse it. Another booking agent that books, uh, a little bit bigger of a range from two 50 to 3000 cap rooms said overall vibe is bullish. That’s good. Bulls go up. Um, this fall has been lighter than historicals. I think this has to do with, with, um, oversaturate oversaturation of shows going on. This is a common theme that we’ve been seeing. Too many shows happening. Everybody’s hit the road. The indie promoters have really proven themselves during this time period. Nine times outta 10, the indie promoter will sell more tickets than a major promoter. The marketing departments with an in indie versus a major promoter seems to be night and day this year. Festivals have to make offers smarter than ever. A record amount of festivals lost their asses last year and this year. Stay tuned on how this affects the landscape in 2023. Promoters more than ever really need to be making the right bet on who they host at their festival. I feel like music fans are less into checking out the band. They haven’t heard of pre pandemic. I felt like the unknown band could book the the right room on the right day of the week and play in front of a hundred plus, but this isn’t the case anymore. Fans are less willing to go out. Rooms of all sizes are back. Folks are coming out to all genres. If an artist has fans, those fans are coming out.

Big Takeaways on the Live Music Industry

Ari: Let’s take some big takeaways from all of this. Well number. Right now the market is oversaturated. Uh, the makeup shows are happening currently, but everything’s moving in a healthy direction. So once everyone kind of catches up and shows are spaced out a little bit more, it will give fans an opportunity to spend some more money on these smaller, uh, to mid-level club shows. Once the, the touring bands kind of get on their normal regimen, everyone is still rushing back. I don’t know about you, but I just saw a makeup show last month, believe it or not, from a show that was booked for 2020 and, uh, get this, which is perfect. I actually bought the tickets twice cause I didn’t remember. I had bought the tickets. It was to the Greek theater in la I forgot. I bought the tickets in 2020 and then I, I saw them, they were like, Oh, they’re playing, uh, the Greek theater. I’d love to see them. And I, I bought tickets again. And only when I was walking up and like opened my Ticketmaster kind, I’m like, Wait, why do I have two tickets to this show? that’s a, I forgot. Um, so, you know, these makeup shows are still happening, but we’re learning acts with Die Hard fans do sell tickets. Pop is selling pop music. So the big stars, uh, not just, if you play the genre of pop, we’re talking about if you are a pop act with fans in the pop realm, fans are buying much closer to the show. They’re still buying in advance. Walkup is down like we talked about. So at whereas, um, and I noticed this in la, but I know LA is like an island compared to everywhere else in the country. But pre pandemic, uh, what I’ve experienced is, uh, LA was vast majority walkup, meaning no one in LA really bought in advance a show that I just ran, um, a week ago. Actually, it was about 80%. Presale and only 20% walk up. And this is in la. Um, but we’re just seeing this across the board says, you know, the booking agents and these music venues from rest around the country, fan behavior has changed. They don’t stay out as late. We have to keep that in perspective. Whereas shows pre pandemic may have started at 10 or 11 or something like that, and that was totally acceptable. It’s not anymore. So if you have an option, I would recommend starting your shows a lot earlier. They want more social events, fewer chances, and people are taking fewer chances on unknown acts, more social events.

What are Talent Buyers / Venue Bookers Looking for?

Ari: What are talent buyers looking for? So if you’re gonna be pitching a talent buyer, these are also known as bookers. These are the people that actually book the music at a club. You have to remember and, and understand what they are looking for. Um, unfortunately, this is gonna be a hard pill for you to swallow, but this is the reality. And I’m gonna, I’m here to give you the hard truths. That is why have you’ve been following me for a while, you know that’s what I do. But I’m here giving you the hard truth. The hard truth is the vast majority of talent buyers don’t really care as much about what you sound like. They wanna know, Can you bring people out? Can you get drinkers to buy drinks at their bar? Can you do that? Because if not, it doesn’t matter how much they love your music. If they go out of business, it is a business. After all, they might maybe you pitch ’em and they’re like, You know what? You’re my favorite band I’ve ever heard in my entire life. I’m gonna listen to you a bunch and I can’t wait until you are ready to play my room. But if you can only sell three tickets, you’re not ready to play my room if my room is a 500 capacity room, because. What, like , uh, three people. I mean, go out of business that way. So just remember the most important thing that talent buyers care about is what is your ticket history? Can you sell tickets and not like, Oh yeah, yes I can. And you’re confident They want to see the history. That means like I sold 250 at the Echo. I sold 350 at the varsity. I sold 400 in in September at the poor house. I did three hun. Like that is ticket history. Very important.

They also wanna know, let’s say you’ve never toured, Okay, that’s fine. They are bands that are breaking out in the internet every single day that have no tour history, no ticket history, no problem. What’s your listenership on DSPs in their market? DSP stands for, uh, it’s the catch all for Spotify, Apple Music, them streaming services. What is your listenership on streaming services in their. If you can say, if you can go to a, a talent buyer in Denver, Colorado and say, Hey, I have 10,000 monthly listeners in Denver. Here’s my Spotify numbers, here’s my Apple music numbers, and guess what? I have 2000 email addresses in Denver. They’re gonna be like, Oh, I’ll absolutely book you in my 300 cap room. That sounds absolutely like, you can, you can sell out my room. All right.

Mailing list numbers again, like you can’t really let your fan, your listeners on Spotify know that you have a show in the market. Not yet. You cannot bands in town. If you’re not paying attention to bands in town, you really should be because you can pay everyone in every city in bands in town for free mind you letting them know that you have a, a sh a show in their market. Uh, so pay attention to bands in town. Um, but Spotify doesn’t let you do that. Apple Music doesn’t let you do. Uh, Band Camp does. If you’re selling music on Band Camp, hell yeah. You can let your fans know that you’re playing, you’re going on tour. Uh, Pandora does, I don’t know how many, uh, people are paying attention to Pandora, but you should be. You can let your fans know, uh, via a little audio, uh, message for free on Pandora that you’re playing their market. But Spotify and Apple Music, the two most dominant streaming services in the west, uh, do not let you contact your fans. So build your mailing list and sure, Instagram is like, you know, the way that everyone is kind of interacting with, uh, their fans and, and stuff these days. But like we all know that Instagram can squash your posts whenever they damn well, please. And they sometimes will be like, you know, shadow ban you, or you’ll post something and normally you get 500 likes and today you get 50 likes. Why? Who knows? Instagram’s having a bad day mailing list. Build that email list, build that text message list.

Talent buyer’s also looking for complete bills, meaning. If you are pitching a 300 cap room and you can sell a hundred tickets, go to them with two other bands that can also sell a hundred tickets. Meaning they have, they have ticket history. And if you go to them and say, Hey, here’s a three band bill. We each have sold a hundred tickets within the last four months, I bet they will book you. And if you can then tell ’em how you’re gonna promote the show and all the promo strategies that you’re gonna do for it, they’re gonna be like, Wow, that’s awesome. Thank you. Okay. Hell yeah. And this is probably the most important, uh, you’re spacing out your performances. If you play every Wednesday, uh, at a hundred at at a bar, why would a venue book you for a Friday? And if you play every Wednesday for free at a bar, and then you wanna play a 300 cap club for $10 tickets on a Friday? They’re not gonna wanna book you because your fans will be like, ah, just catch ’em on Wednesday for free. Why would I go to the big show space out your shows? That’s really important. If you, if you are having a big show coming up, don’t play that city for at least six weeks before that big show. Okay? Six minimum two months is better. Three months is even better. I understand like you need to be playing and everything, but like, if you oversaturate your city, fans are just not gonna come out. And then your ticket history is gonna be shit.

Current Club Deals for Small to Mid Size Venues

Ari: Let’s talk to current club deals for small to mid-size venues. All right, The best deal out there is still the guarantee versus, or plus actually a percentage of sales. What does this. This means the deal could be like, All right, we’re gonna guarantee we’re gonna give you a guarantee of $2,000 versus 80% of the door of ticket sales. So if the show makes, um, if the show makes $4,000, well you’re gonna get that percentage that, that verses, because 80% of $4,000 is higher than $2,000. Uh, who’s good at math and wants to do, crunch those numbers for me. But I know that 80% of $4,000 is higher than just a $2,000 guarantee. That’s what it means. Some actually do it on top. Some will say like a guarantee plus 30% of ticket sales or something like that. So the, these are great deals for artists because you know you’re gonna get the guarantee no matter what, whether two people show up or 200 people show up, you’re still gonna get that g. Unless there’s that stop-loss clause in there, which I’d never seen before. So, uh, you have to look out for that, that clause as well in the agreements. Uh, but for the most part, most promoters and clubs are honoring the guarantee or the percentage.

A great deal is, um, door split from dollar one. So no guarantee, but you both are in it together, so you and the club are in it together. Um, so let’s say it’s $10 tickets, and you’re gonna say, All right, the artist gets 70%, the venue gets 30%. So if, uh, a hundred people come, $10 tickets, thousand dollars made on the show, you get 700. The venue gets 300. The. Great. That’s a great deal. That’s super fair. That’s awesome. Uh, you’re both in it together. You get to keep your merch sales, then you get to keep their bar sales Win-Win works just great. Hopefully you get to keep your merch sales. Some venues are taking a percentage of merch, which I fucking don’t like. I don’t care for that. I will argue to the death I called out the Brooklyn Bowl and the troubador when they were like, Yeah, you know, we do. It was like they felt bad because they’re like, Oh, we, we don’t want to. But it’s kind of the club dictating this to us. A lot of big, big rooms take a percentage of merch sales. It sucks. It’s stupid because the band’s not getting a percentage of the bar. Why you taking percentage of their mech? Come on. It’s absurd. All right.

Standard deal expenses off the top. Then the door split. This is standard. I see this. Um, that means, okay, our expenses are $500, meaning, you know, we are gonna have to hire a door person to take the tickets. We wouldn’t normally do that if you weren’t playing here tonight. We’re gonna have to hire a sound engineer to run the set for the night, and that’s, you know, 200 bucks and the door person a hundred bucks. And then, you know, um, staff and all that stuff. So let’s say it’s like a $500 expenses off the top and then the split. So it’s like, all right, still doing a 70 30 split. $10 tickets. Sell a hundred tickets, thousand dollars comes in, they take off 500 and then they split 9 50, 70 30 with you after that standard deal. See that a bunch? Totally fair. A sneaky deal. Now I only really see this in LA and New York, um, and it’s starting to kind of maybe happen in Nashville and maybe some other places don’t love it. Um, Artists get paid only after a set number of people paid to see you. Not the band after you, not the band before you. Only you. Now, I don’t like this deal. Uh, a lot of venues in LA do this. Venues do. I love, uh, you know, but this is, and they can do this because LA has an oversaturation of artists and, um, you know, people have this mentality in LA have hit it and quit it. So it’s like, I’m gonna come for the band I’m here to see and then I’m gonna leave. Now, it doesn’t encourage artists to play shows together. It doesn’t encourage to create a complete bill together. It doesn’t encourage fans to come at the beginning, state of the end. It’s, um, you know, venues that do this, they are kind of clamoring and, and just be like, Oh, well it only, you know, uh, they, they have to only. Focus on each individual act and not looking at it at full night as a whole, which I feel like if you focus on the full night as a whole, you would just be more successful all around. Uh, everyone’s in it together. Now what this actually means is usually there’s someone with a tally sheet at the door. You walk up, they’re like, It’s $10. And then they ask you, who are you here to see? Or if you’re selling tickets in advance, sometimes I’ve seen a little check mark, Who are you here to see? Which sucks. Cuz like sometimes I go up to show and be like, Uh, I’m here for three of the bands that are playing tonight. And they’re like, Well, you have to pick one. And that’s who’s getting paid, which is like, not cool. Like Adam was like, Well, what the hell? Like, I guess, or the option is, is like, well, I guess what I have to pay, like I have to pay like $20. Uh, for, and then both artists get paid, which is also kind of nuts cuz I can stay the whole night. So I don’t really love this deal, but unfortunately a lot of clubs in LA and and New York are do this. but if you really crunch numbers and think about it, it’s like the venues may argue it’s like, well if, if, you know, um, oh, and here’s what it means. Only after set number of people. So they usually say it’s like, all right, it’s, you get paid $0. If 24 people come to see you, but you get 65% of the door, if 25 people come and see you. There’s like this, this benchmark, there’s this like baseline there, which is also kinda shitty because it’s like 24 people came to see me, they paid $10, The club now makes $240, 24 drinkers are in your bar. And I make $0 on the night. Like, come on. That is frustrating and kind of infuriating to be honest. Um, and, but if 25 people come, Oh wow, cool. Now I, now I get, make 65% of the door and they’ll be like, Oh, well we need to cover our expenses. It’s like, yeah, but if you have five bands on that night and they all bring 24 people, you just made over a thousand dollars, uh, from ticket sales and you’ve ma you have 200 drinkers in your bar buying the bar, buying drinks, and every band just made $0. Is that ethical? Do you think that’s ethical? Well, it’s just kind of how it is, which is kind of annoying.

So, uh, I would, I would really argue that, you know, um, I would, I would encourage these talent buyers, uh, to rethink these kind of deals and how they work because, you know, it’s tough. It’s really tough for artists. I’ve been on the losing end of this deal a few times, and it like really hurts. It’s like the pit in the stomach and, uh, you know, The door guy who pays me at the end of the night will come up to me like, Sorry, you only had 24. Sometimes that threshold’s like 35 or 50. I’m like, Sorry, you only had 47 people here. I’m just like, Wait, that’s 47. They’re like, Yeah, but you need 50. Wait, so I’m getting $0 tonight? Yeah. Wait, so you get $470 and all the drink sales, Sorry. All right. Bad deal. Not love with it, uh, is the rental fee. Um, this is, uh, you know, the club might say, Yeah, you can rent us out for $2,000. And you get to then, you know, charge, you know, run your own tickets, do whatever you want. It, it essentially says to you, uh, it essentially says there’s no, um, we have no faith in your show. We don’t believe in you. We don’t think that you’re gonna bring anyone. Uh, we have no faith. , but if you wanna pay us $2,000, you can rent the room out. You can charge whatever you want for tickets. Now, you may actually make a lot of money. If you promote the shit outta your show and it goes really well, then you actually might, you know, make more money this way. It, it actually could benefit you. And I know I’ve done this, um, it, and, and it can work. So you have to crunch numbers. But now you put your promoter’s hat on, it’s like, how much do you wanna be a promoter? You know? Um, this is what promoters do. They rent out the room, they play the fat fee, um, you know, pay the flat fee and they rent the room out. All right?

Now the worst deal out there is the pay to play deal. Don’t ever do this. Everybody listening. If there’s one thing that you take away from this is never paid to play. Okay? What does this mean? It’s not just so I’ve seen different variations of pay to play. Uh, the absolute worst is somebody hit you up and be like, Oh, you wanna play the club? All right, Pay me 500 bucks and, uh, then I’m gonna give you 50 tickets to sell at. $15. And so you can keep whatever’s left over of that. Uh, that’s super shitty. If you crunch those numbers, it’s like you, you have like the potential to make like maybe 20% of what you sell, but if you don’t sell all 50, then you make like you’re losing a lot of money. Uh, I’ve also seen, uh, scammers out there, there’s also a you never wanna pay to play where they’re like, Oh, you wanna open for this huge artist at this big club? Venmo me a thousand bucks. And you can be the opener. Never ever do that because then the artist shows up at the club and guess. If they’re not on the bill, they got scammed. Don’t ever do this. Festivals. I’ve seen festivals do this. You gotta sell tickets and then you’re gonna get near the headliner. No, don’t ever do that. Those festivals are shit shows. I’ve written about this a bunch over the years. Uh, never pay to play, never buy tickets from somebody. If a promoter comes to you, a promoter comes to you and you like, Oh, you wanna play the viper room, you wanna play the whiskey or whatever. Cuz if they’re notorious, these, these rooms for pay to play, they’re like, All right, here’s how it works. Uh, we’re gonna set up an event bright, and, uh, you gotta sell tickets to your set and, uh, you know, you gotta pay us actually 500 bucks. But then, you know, you can make whatever you sell and your tickets. Oh, and if you don’t sell enough tickets, uh, you’re gonna have to pay us more before we allow you to get on stage. Don’t ever pay to play.

How to Get Opening Slots for Touring Artists

Ari: How to get opening slots for touring artists. So let me, let me go through this with you. I’m gonna actually share my screen um, well, I don’t need to share my screen for this one. Um, so if you, you can go to any, any venue’s website and look at their calendar and you can see, all right, which of the shows that they have coming up are not sold out now, which also don’t have openers. And so as you can kind of see here can you see this? Yeah. All right. So like, you know, you go down the calendar and like, all right, let’s just see, let’s see about this show, this melt show on November. All right. Uh, doesn’t look like there’s an opener. Okay, so, um, now what do you do? Well, you can actually just contact, um, let me show you. I actually wrote a little sample email here. So you email the, uh, talent buyer of that club and something simple like this. Hey, Jordan, do you need support for melt November 11? So, look it, this is the subject line melt November 11th opener to the point you need support from Mel. November 11th, I managed pink shoes and I think this would be a great fit. We recently did remember ticket history two 15 at the Echo. 1 75 at the Hotel Cafe, one 50 at Gold Link. Here’s two live videos right there. Give some accolades. What’s kind of buzzy in the industry? Whatever you wanna put here, here’s a link to some more stuff. Your, your press kit, your epk, whatever you kind of, your one sheet here. We’ll say, we’ll make sure to go out all out with promo. Make sure our crowd gets out for this. That’s great. The talent buyer can take this and be like, Wow, okay. They’re good for like, almost 200 tickets. Uh, if the show isn’t selling well, if it’s like a 500 cap venue and they’ve only sold 200 tickets, hell yeah. They need, uh, a buffer to put 200 more on there. So they’ll probably do it for you.

Now, how do you get opening slots for touring bands? That’s how to get it at, uh, one, one single show on one single club night, which I would encourage everybody to do. All right. How to get opening slots for touring bands? Well, uh, email the. Uh, the band directly. You can find their contact information typically on their website or their booking agent. You can just Google it. You can find, it’s super easy to find contact information to bands or their manager, someone you say, Hey Tony, we’re big fans of Mel. Caught them last time. They came through Minneapolis at the Varsity theater. Do you need support for this tour? We have some good numbers in the markets you’re visiting and would love to join them for this run and make sure it’s a huge success. Here’s our ticket history. So you show what you can sell in the markets that they’re visiting. Again, if they only have 50, a hundred, 200 tickets sold in Denver, they’re like, Wow, we could actually really use an additional 50. That would be really helpful. You link your, your videos, um, and you do some accolade. Same kind of thing. Let me know and then follow up.

Don’t forget to follow up. That’s super, super, super important. Uh, just because they didn’t get back to you, they might be super busy or they might have the flu or whatever follow up. I would, I would encourage you to follow up every week. All right. How do you get a booking agent when you’re ready? Well, number one, it’s only when you’re ready because what do booking agents care about? They’re running a business. Will you make them money this year? If you are not good for any tickets, it’s gonna be really, really hard to convince a booking agent to work with you unless they really, really, really, really, really believe in you and are making so much money from their other artists that they have so much money to spare that they now can actually devote the time to kind of work with a baby band, which is a hard sell. So if you have that ticket history, they’re like, Oh, I can grow with this. So when are you ready? Well, ticket history, I would say, here’s a benchmark. Now, this can vary, but I would say you can draw 400 people locally, 108 plus markets. If you can do that, you can pretty much email any booking agent in the country. Let ’em know this, and they will take you seriously. If you can’t do this, well keep pushing on your own until you can.

7 Steps to Sell Out Your Next Show

Ari: Seven steps to sell out your next show. Number one, spread out your shows. We already talked about this. If you play every day, every week, no one’s gonna come. Number two, create a show poster. This makes it legit. This makes it like it’s an event. Actually get something designed that you can post, create show videos for all platforms. So whether you’re doing TikTok or Instagram, um, YouTube, all of this make show videos that you can post, you know, bunch of stories like all the bands that are playing, like make it really exciting. It shows that this is an event that people wanna get out to. It’s not just like a Tuesday night, you know, five band bill that are like, Oh, whatever. I’ll just get the next one.

Make this a legitimate show. Guess what? We are in an internet era, street teams, all that. More important, uh, there are still physical posters. I stand by these put around town in highly populated area of people who will go to see live music. Get those posters up, put a QR code on ’em. Include other buzzing bands. We’ve already gone over this with ticket history. If you can sell a hundred, but the other band can sell a hundred, the other band can sell a hundred. Guess what? You’re good for. 300 tickets. Now all the fans are coming out for this big show. So instead of playing a hundred people, you’re not playing a 300 people. Number six, contact local media. Get a sponsor. Uh, this is a great way to partner up. I like calling them partners. Uh, you know, whether you have like a locals show, a local radio show, they wanna partner up, give away some tickets, something like that.

And number seven, just like we talked about, make it an event. An actual event. So, um, what does this mean? It’s not just a show. Now I’ll can show you kind of like what I’ve done with an event and I’ll talk a little bit about, uh, grassroots district, my project and, and kind of the events that we run. Uh, these are true events. So, um, here I’m gonna pull up a little, uh, Thing here. And what is, what is grassroots district and kind of how have we done this? This is a, we run an immersive concert, theatrical fungal experience. So that’s a lot of words. everybody dresses up. It’s 1973. Uh, we have a script, we have a storyline. It’s all original music. I wrote the music. Uh, we did, we put this up for the first time last summer. It was outside because it was still Covid era. It was in a parking lot. We did 16 shows. I’m like, Oh wait, Ari, you just said spread out your shows. Yes. But this was like a run and this, and we, we capped capacities to make sure that we had sell it out. Uh, we capped it at a hundred tickets, a show, and there was waiting list. And people were like, Oh my gosh, I need to get this. And it just kind of spread. It’s almost like a residency. If you make it an event. Everybody came dressed up. We had like storyline, we had dancers, uh, or we taught dancers. These are not dancers. These are the attendees that learned the dance to one of our songs. People would dress up, they loved to take photos with all of the stuff that we had. Um, so it was a really fun experience and, uh, if you can turn your stuff into an event, that would be awesome. All right.

Another one I wanna talk about . Is, uh, the. Gala here. And, um, this is by the artist, um, Annabel. I’ll just tell you about it. Uh, here we go. so it was a red carpet event. It was in a club. Um, and you know, as you can see, uh, there’s, uh, people dressed up. This is formal. They, they call it a, I should call it a grunge prom. There was a tattoo artist. There was a portrait station where people would make portraits of each other and then hang ’em up here. there was a self-help time machine where people could kind of go in and write letters to their future selves, and then she would mail them the letter. She’s gonna mail them the letters in a year, which is kind of badass. Uh, there was a, a blank canvas and then people could just kind of co contribute to the painting. That night there was an art auction. She’s also an artist. There’s an art auction here. Uh, it was also a music video premiere. So like, come up with an event. Like what is the event? This is, uh, as you presented some awards to the, the director. So like, how are you gonna make, Oh, and by the way, it was a rock show, , and, you know, Pull performed a full, a full concert. So like, how are you going to make your show and event? And that’s what you need to think about. Down to the set list that she called the sweat list. Remember this called The Sweat Gala and that was the, on the far right you can see what the final painting looked like that everybody made that night. It’s pretty fucking cool. Oh yeah. And the bar made the most bar sales they’d ever made that night. Uh, the club, they actually printed out the receipt and was like, uh, this is the best night we’ve ever had. And, uh, we’ve made more money on this than ever.

About The Author

Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.

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