Tips On Being Your Own Concert Promoter

© 2015 Nancy Moran and Vinny Ribas

Some artists work tirelessly to book themselves in all kinds of venues. Others have developed enough of a following that they are now in demand and the venues come knocking on their door. There is a 3rd kind of artist who knows that they have a good enough act to sell out shows and have a marketing plan in place to do so. These artists become their own concert promoters, which means that they pay for the venue, market the show themselves, and subsequently take all of the risk and keep all of the profits. This is known as ‘four-walling’ a show.

For some popular acts, this is a very viable and very lucrative opportunity. But if you do it wrong or haphazardly, you could lose your shirt! Here are some of the most important things that you need to consider and put in place in order to be successful at this kind of risky booking:

  • Reality Check – Are you honestly popular enough and have enough concert-going fans in the area to justify taking this kind of risk? Don’t fool yourself into thinking you are more popular than you really are! Do a lot of research first, and pre-sell tickets. Be sure you can cancel without too much penalty if you don’t sell as many tickets as you thought you would.
  • Financial – First, know how much money you have and are willing to risk (and possibly lose). It’s important to list all of your sources of income as well as every one of your expenses, so you know how many tickets you need to sell to break even, and how much you can possibly make when it is all said and done. It’s also important to know which expenses need to paid for before the event and which can wait until you’ve collected all of the money and sold all of your music and merchandise.
  • Date and Time – Be sure that there are no conflicts with other major competing activities at the same time in the area, such as concerts, sporting events, fairs or festivals etc. Even check planned road construction so people can get to you easily.
  •  Location – Be sure you don’t choose a place that is too big or too expensive. Know ahead of time how many tickets you will be able to sell. Also insure that the price of the venue is reasonable. You might look for a venue that will be free in exchange for them keeping the money from food and/or beverage sales.
  • Weather – To the best of your ability, plan around the increased chance of bad weather. In other words, don’t plan a Saturday afternoon outdoor concert in July in a geographical area in which chances are it will be well over 90% humid outside.
  • Set up, sound check and rehearsal – Be sure to budget in time to get all necessary equipment set up, get a sound check and even run through your show. This is especially important in a venue that you are not familiar with.
  • Printing – Be sure you have budgeted enough for tickets, posters, marketing pieces, signage and any other printed materials you might need. Be sure you have these printed in plenty of time to correct any errors. Leave enough time to do a thorough and effective job on the marketing.
  • Tickets – If you’re selling tickets, be sure you get them printed in plenty of time for the event. Also have a plan in place for who is going to sell them (include purchasing online), what the price is (or if you’ll offer multiple price points), a seating chart if you are going to have assigned seating, what the wholesale price is for resellers, how many tickets you need to sell to break even, radio giveaways etc. Will you be offering any complimentary tickets (e.g. contest winners, booking agents, record label executives etc)?
  • Marketing – Be sure to have a viable and effective marketing plan, and that you have the budget and team to implement it. Will you organize a street team, and if so, what will their roles be? Will you need a separate website for the event? Be sure the event is on all of of the major and local social networks, on your online calendars, registered with online concert listings, publicized in your local newspapers, talked about by local bloggers etc. Will you need to buy radio spots or magazine ads?  Also, will the venue do any marketing for you? Will you be plastering the local area with posters? Can you make it a fundraiser for a nonprofit organization so they sell tickets for you?
  • Publicity – Put a strong PR campaign together to insure that you get press coverage in every medium possible. Will you do pre-show radio, TV or magazine interviews? Will you hire a publicist to write, submit and follow up on press releases or do them yourself? Are you listed in all of the local events calendars?
  • Personnel – What personnel will you need to hire? Will you hire backup musicians, one or more sound tech or lighting techs, someone to man the door, security, police, a publicist, a marketing company, ushers, stage set-up crew, refreshment servers and/or a clean-up crew? Will you use volunteers? If so, where will you get them and who will coordinate them? Be sure to line up your staff in plenty of time and allow for last minute cancellations.
  • Legal – Will you need any special licenses, such as a business license, sales tax license, liquor license etc? Are there any contracts or agreements your attorney should review, approve, modify or draw up?
  • Insurance – Will you need liability insurance for the event? If someone falls and gets hurt, you may be responsible!
  • Equipment – What equipment will you need to bring, rent or buy? This includes sound and lighting, chairs, tables, props, stage sets, extension cords, microphones, instruments etc. Make a detailed list and run it by others to make sure you don’t forget something important.
  • Travel – Will you need to make travel arrangements? Will you block out some nearby hotel rooms for out-of-town fans or family?
  • CDs, DVDs, download cards and merchandise – Be sure that you have adequate supplies of all of these so you can maximize your return. Do you need to hire someone to work the table?
  • Pre and Post Show – Will you have a press conference or other event before or after the show? Will there be a separate meet and greet for your fans or for radio contest winners? Who will plan these, send the invitations, coordinate the catering and take care of any other necessities?
  • Contingencies – Be sure you have budgeted enough for unexpected expenses.
  • Charity: Is the event a benefit for a charity, in whole or in part? Be sure you have permission from the organization. Also ensure that you have immacualte financial records so there is not possibility of being accused of cheating or misrepresentation.