Behind The Scene: ‘Beyond Volunteering’ and ‘What Is A Talent Buyer’
Thank you for your questions. It's great to hear so many people interested in how the industry works and how to get involved. Hopefully someone will send me a question that arises from reading this Q&A and then this column will really be working like it's supposed to. The vision for this section is "Dear Abby" meets "Playboy Advisor." I answer all emails sent to me although you'll only see a portion of those here. Thanks again to jambands.com for providing a forum to do this.
Keep em coming!
I was very excited to read the intro to your new column. That is the most excited I've gotten about an article title on Jambands in a while, extremely appropriate for me.
After years of touring and volunteering for bands, I finally received my degree in geology, and got a "real" job as an environmental scientist. But my passion has always been the music industry (not performing, although I do mess around a little), but I never had the confidence to take the plunge into the music industry professionally. Now that I have a 9-5, I spend 40 hours a week in the office and probably 50 hours a week locally promoting shows. So I volunteer a lot. I'm on just about everyone I can think of's street team, I'm always guest listed for shows, I'm a Homegrown Music rep, and you ALWAYS see me with a stack of somebody's flyers in my car for when I get a chance to hang one. And I enjoy it! I just love to see a successful music scene.
But I don't know how to take the next step from volunteering all of my time. At what point do I get a cut? A lot of it is initiative, I know. (I recently hooked up a small band from Chicago with a local DJ for an in-studio interview because it was just an idea I had.)
I will be reading your column religiously, and will write with more specific questions as they come. Thanks so much!
Stevens Point, WI
_Thank you for the kind welcome words and thank you for all your hard work. I know from experience that a good street team member is extremely hard to find and an enormous asset to the band's team. There is no right or wrong answer to your question or formula – its case by case. I am assuming you are asking at what point you get a cut of the show you are flyering for. First, you have to understand that if you are on the guest list then you are getting a cut…granted small but it is a little piece. Guest list spots are precious and since bands are paid from a percentage of the ticket sales then you are getting a little piece of that just by not paying the cover. If you want a bigger cut then that would depend on how much you want to do for the show. If you can be more specific then so can I, but from what I gather I think your best bet is to go to the promoters in the area who are getting paid for the shows you are flyering and I would approach them and
tell them what you can do for them. Although some bands can afford to pay street team members most don't and even fewer can and have to rely on the promoter to promote the show locally. Not a lot of promoters like to pound the streets and hand out flyers but would love to see that happen so I think you'll be able to get business. It wouldn't be unreasonable to pay you $50 (or more) to flyer five shows with 500 flyers per show for a promoter looking to promote his show (he will build this cost into his show expenses anyway). If you are going to these five shows anyway and doing it for bands anyway why not make $50. Its a place to start! You can build off that by providing a poster route and charge another $50 or $100 or so to hit that route up (more to hit up the route multiple times). For the service you are talking about I think a lot of promoters would pay for that so they could focus on main stream press and radio. Plus you're getting a cut of the show but not digging into the band's shallow pockets. Of course you could also pitch the bands that are coming through with your street team marketing plan and work directly for them. Depending on the show I would definitely consider it as a manager and have paid for the service in the past._
Hi. Could you explain the concept and some advice about talent buying? Wondering how it works and what is the best way to get started?
Thanks and best,
Thanks for the question. Talent buying usually applies to the person at a venue who books the schedule of bands to play. Talent buyer and promoter are usually the same person and mean the same thing although there are some talent buyers who don’t promote (actually there are some promoters who don’t promote but that’s another topic). I would think of it this way. A talent buyer works for the venue and a promoter usually works for themselves or a company like Clear Channel that rents out a venue and promotes a show. But there are also plenty of in-house promoters. When I teach my workshop I have a section called promoter/Talent Buyer because its pretty much the same thing. My first piece of advice is to start out small. Don’t try and do too much until you get your legs and know what to expect. The bigger the show the more there are issues. What I did when I started was talked to the owner of a local bar about giving me a night (which was a Wednesday and the hardest night of the week). So, to get started you need to find a venue that will allow you to put on a show. Hopefully they won’t charge you rent and will give you a slow night where you can bring in people for drinks.
Then find a local band and "buy" a show from them. Talent buyers are paid either by the venue (per show, salary, a percentage, or some combination) or they get a percentage of the ticket sales either with a "promoter profit" or straight percentage. It depends on the deal you have worked out. "Promoter profit" is the industry standard and is 15% of expenses (is this starting to sound like Chinese?). Here is how a deal with promoter profit might look:
200 people come to the show and paid $5 to get in = $1000
Costs of the show:
Band = $100 guaranteed
Sound = $100
Advertising = $100
Promoter Profit (15% of expenses or $300 in this example) = $45
Split point (total of all) = $345
Amount to split ( total income $1000 – total expenses $345) = $655
Band gets 80% after split = $524
Promoter gets 20% after split – $131
Band total ($100 guarantee + 80% after split) = $624
Promoter total ( promoter profit + 20% after split) = $176
But at first you can go straight percentage after expenses. So lets say the venue charges you $100 for rent and you spend $100 on flyers and posters for the show. You can split the money that comes in any way you want after the $200 in expenses. Using the above example of 200 people paying $5 to get in then it could look something like this:
$1000 – $200 in expenses = $800
Band gets 70% = $560
Promoter/Talent Buyer gets 30% = $240
You can split it anyway you can negotiate. But if you want to work with the bands again then be fair. You can also just pay the band a flat fee and you take the rest but then the band has nothing to gain or lose and its always nice having them work to get as many people through the door as possible and rewarded for this work. My second piece of advice is don’t become a talent buyer/promoter to make money, do it because you love music and can’t see yourself doing anything but this. If you do it for those reasons then people will want to work with you and your shows will be better. Think about what you like at shows like ambiance and sound quality.
You are going to need someone in charge of advertising, production, hospitality, security, and box office. The venue will provide some of this stuff, the band may provide some of this (like sound and lights) and the rest you’ll either have to do yourself or hire someone you trust to help you.
My last piece of advice is that you need to consider what happens if someone gets hurt at your show? This is an unfortunate topic but necessary to consider and you need to be protected. There are insurance policies out there you can buy but these are expensive and have to be considered into a show expense. As with all insurance you hope you never have to cash it in and if you choose to put on shows without it then know that you’re at risk. The venue where you do your first show might have entertainment insurance and you can ask them to have you named on it for the show. It’ll cost a little but its a good way when you start out. If this is something you see yourself doing a lot of then you should contact some insurance companies and get a year policy set up.
I could teach an entire semester on talent buying and promoting there is so much that goes into every show. As you grow you will learn about increased expenses like insurance, security, box office, production, ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, police, fire, etc. Thanks again for your question and let me know how it goes!