The following is a PSA from a brave anonymous source, “The Masked Promoter, from Parts Unknown.”
Not all promoters are thieving, lying, wastes of life whose sole purpose in life is to suck bands dry.
Whoa, slow down there musician-who-has-been-wronged-by-a-promoter, and let the Masked Promoter explain himself. I said not ALL are thieving, lying, wastes of life, just like not all bands are good guys who give their heart and soul to the scene and ask for nothing in return. Yes, I was once a promoter in my own city: Parts Unknown, I stuck mainly to what got me to the dance, metal and it’s various sub genres. After holding the “Worlds Greatest Underground Promoter” championship title for many years, I’m now a retired, grumpy old man who likes to talk about the “good old days in the scene. Today, I’d like to attempt to dispel the myth of concert promotion. So maybe you crazy but awesome musicians might understand what a typical show is like from a promoter’s point of view. I already know quite a few of you have already given up on this article but for those of you still with me…thank you…and now we may proceed.
Now shows down here in Parts Unknown are eerily similar to the Buffalo Metal Scene (i know, shocking!) . A typical crowd is between 10-50 people. using between 3-5 bands per show (local, touring and national bands included) sometimes 6-8 for younger kid bands/showcases/benefits etc… on a good night, if the stars line up maybe 75-100 paying customers come to a show. I assume most bands get emails on a consistent basis asking for them to play shows. I know I was constantly firing off emails and Facebook messages to locals trying to close up any given show.
Booking a show isn’t that simple. First, we get offered a date for __________’s tour with __________ and ________. Then we check with a venue to make sure said date is open. This sometimes takes DAYS. We get the word the date is free, so we negotiate with ___________ or their agent. Now, here’s where simple math comes into play, say a tour package of 3 bands cost $1000. We agree and sign a contract (usually, though most underground bands are fine with a verbal agreement) we are now indebted to said bands for $1000. But this isn’t all our expenses, no not by a long shot. Then we have to factor in room rental and sound engineer costs (not all venues have owners like that of Broadway Joe’s or Rockin’ Buffalo, guys who go above and beyond for the metal scene, some just want your money and the bar sales they expect you’ll bring them) a few years ago it would cost as high as $300 for sound/lights/room rentals So, now one must factor in $300 to our overall expenses bringing us to $1300, this does not include making a flier, or paying someone to make you a flier, along with the expenses of printing out thousands of them to hang everywhere and hand out at shows. Nor does it count the gas in your car, or the worst time away from loved ones. It’s hard to get an Accurate number for these, but suffice it to say, you’re probably spending $75 or more when it’s all said and done. So now your show costs you $1375 say you print up tickets, I had a place you could print up no less than 300 tickets for $30. Now your expenses are $1405.
Okay, it’s show day!! Time to party right? Nah, first you’re going to pull your hair out wondering how your gonna cover rent if the show doesn’t at least break even. Touring bands tend to get to the venue early, (some as early as morning if they have driven all night) So if your show opens at 7… load in will be at 5, and the touring bands will be the only ones there to load in. You’ll curse the locals for never being there when you ask them to, even though you emailed them an itinerary for the show days in advance. They’ll still show up (if your lucky) a half hour before doors or right at doors asking 500 questions you totally answered in the email they responded they got but really just glanced at. “Hey where can we put our stuff? Where should we park? Can I get my girlfriends cousin’s next door neighbor’s dog on the guest list? We also have 6 merch people, and 17 friends who help load in our gear. Can you give them a Band stamp so they can get discounted drinks from the bar? Why do we need ID? Who cares that it’s a bar? They don’t carry anything I drink anyway. I don’t sell tickets, the bass player handles that, and he left them at home but don’t worry we totally sold 3 tickets!
Sorry about that, sometimes I can go off on a tangent. Okay where were we? Okay doors are open and you got a decent crowd already, sweet. Decent being 60 people. It looks okay, the crowd is digging on the bands and they are drinking, and buying merch!!! You? Poor promoter, you’re at the door ‘re counting for the 100000th time the door money. Okay, if you pull every penny you have in the bank out, you’ll have enough to cover the touring acts, and maybe the venue owner will work with you on their end of expenses and give you a few days to cover that. Of course you can’t pay the locals and this pisses them off to no end as they’re already shitting on you on social media before they’re even loaded out. You’re not happy about it either, but you’re in the same boat as them only, they probably won’t be eating ramen noodles for the next 7 days like you.
You spend a lot of time as a promoter taking money you made at one show and spreading it out over the next 5. Feast or famine? Where the fuck is this feast?
This has all been situations I, the Masked Promoter has gone through. Now, I know musicians shouldn’t work for free, unless it’s for charity, I also know how expensive instruments and learning them is, but sometimes, I think if promoters and bands are a bit more free from dialogue with each other, we can all understand each other a little bit better.
Not everyone is an asshole, I suggest taking it on a case to case basis.
The words and phrases used in this incoherent diatribe are those of the Masked Promoter, and The Masked Promoter only, this is no way speaks for Vick, Mike or the dozens working at The Metal’s headquarters.