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The Biz

Published: 2005/04/06
by Allen Ostroy

Behind The Scene: ‘Does Bobby McFerrin Provide Street Cred?’ and ‘A Promoter Primer’

I've realized that listening to music and helping people find greater depths in music occupies most of my time and I enjoy that time. I majored in finance at a top University because, it was a safe major that I thought would open multiple doors. Unfortunately, the only doors it opened was in some form of banking. I've tried multiple things to try to get into the industry, but it seems impossible. Basically, what I'm asking is what route can be used to get into the industry if I don't have a band that plays next door to me?

I would like to work in music where I have the ability to be part of a record label that is producing respected and forward moving music, such as Blue Note, Ropeadope and labels similar to that nature. I have tried the, ‘my family might know a person’ connection at Sony. Went to my college website and e-mailed alumni that work at a company I would like to join. I constantly check the Sirius Satellite Radio website to see if new jobs have opened up to apply to. I have applied to a lot. I realize my limited experience in the real world is in finance, so I have tried using that angle. Want to say I know when I hear a great band or musician, but I have no evidence to back that up so very hard angle to use, considering I don’t play an instrument and my degree is from a college not particularly known for their arts. Although, Bobby McFerrin (not sure how to spell his name, but it is the "Don’t Worry, Be Happy" guy) just became a professor at my University. That has got to get me some street cred?

Chase Cassidy
Just turned 24


The first thing I would say is, "don’t give up!" You’re on the right track. If its really a dream of yours then as clichnd cheesy as this sounds, follow your dream. There is story after story of people who could give up but don’t and finally "make it!" I wish there was some formula I could give you but there isn’t so all I can do is give you some suggestions to try out. I don’t know if having McFerrin as a professor at your school gives you any street cred. I wouldn’t think so. Everyone knows "everyone/someone" in The Biz and claims this and that so…

Where do you live? If you are in NYC (which is sounds like) then you can go into the label offices and apply for internships. Most labels have them and some actually have paid internships, although not many. The most important thing is getting your foot in the door and something on your resume so I wouldn’t restrict applying to only labels that have music that interests you. You’d be surprised how many labels are out there that you haven’t heard about. Having a college degree is definitely a plus but having knowledge about the industry will be impressive and separate you from the pack. An enormous source of information can be found through Pollstar and Billboard – Billboard will give you all the information you need about the recording industry side of things and Pollstar will give you all the info you need about the touring side of things. You probably already know Billboard Magazine (Billboard Music Awards). You can get a yearly membership to Pollstar for $300 (It might have gone up a few dollars but its right around there). Pollstar will send you directories for labels, talent buyers, concert support services, agencies, etc.and the department head names that you can use to get to the right people. Also each week you’ll get a magazine with the latest industry information, touring schedules, and band ticket sales. Anyone applying for an internship with me that subscribed to these two magazines would definitely get a second look even if they majored in advanced underwater basket weaving. In addition there are job listings from time to time.

Becoming an A&R rep for a label is extremely difficult and the job position is tough and often short-lived these days. If I were you I wouldn’t restrict myself to the recording industry side of things and keep my options open and also apply for internships/assistants/jobs in the live music side of things like management companies, booking agencies, and Clear Channel Entertainment. If you love music then you’ll probably be able to find some satisfaction in this area of the industry as well (its my favorite part).

Keep thinking outside the box and looking for opportunities. Thanks for the question and I hope this helped.


Hey Allen,

I’ve always thought about producing a show, but don’t know where to begin. I don’t own a venue, don’t own PA equipment, don’t know how to run sound boards, etc. Therefore, I know I need to rent a venue, rent PA equipment unless the venue has their own & rent personel. But when speaking to the venue about logistics what questions need to be asked besides how much will it cost to rent the space, when is the space available, does the rental of space include use of PA system & personel to run soundboards & security? When speaking to musicians’ booking represntative what questions need to be asked? Is there a need to purchase insurance and, if so, what type? Would I need to legally form a business enterprise? And, finally and most importantly, what amount of funds is needed, in general, to kick start a mission of this nature? $1000 to whatever depending on the musicians?

Apologies for the endless list of questions. Thank you for any and all information you can provide.



Thank you for the questions. So you want to be a promoter? Before I start answering your questions permit me to drop a couple pieces of advice. The first is start small and think big – meaning do your first couple of shows at a small venue but treat it like it’s an arena. This gives you a chance to get your legs and deal with the inevitable issues but on a smaller scale. 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 these reasons then people will want to work with you and your shows will be better.

When I first started I approached a local college sports bar and talked the owner into giving me a night for local music. I was given the slowest night (Wednesday) but he didn’t charge me rent because I brought in larger numbers than he would’ve if there was no music and he was able to sell more drinks. He provided the space, security, and hospitality for the band (gave me a $50 bar tab + food to give to the band and sometimes threw them a case of beer). I had to bring in sound and lights and then worked the door myself so my expenses were kept low. My deals with the bands were either 90% to the band and 10% to me after sound and lights (about $175) or if they had their own sound and lights we would do a 90/10 split from dollar one. I didn’t make any money but learned a lot and had fun and most importantly it gave me the experience to take it to the next level.

As you know, 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.

A lot of questions that need to be asked depend on the answers to previous questions. From what I can tell you already have a pretty good understanding of what is needed for a successful show. When speaking to the musician’s booking agent ask them for a rider so you can determine your expenses. The rider should have their hospitality, technical, billing, merchandising, security, etc…requirements. EVERYTHING IS NEGOTIABLE! For example, if they ask for 4 deli platters you can ask the agent if 1 is ok – or if they want 5 monitor mixes then 2 might be acceptable.

Is there a need to purchase insurance? My answer is this. Some venues require proof of it but not all. Some bands require proof of it but not all. But ask yourself, 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 liability insurance policies out there you can buy and these are expensive but can 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, speak to some insurance reps, and get a year policy set up.

What do you need from a legal perspective? I’m not a lawyer and states differ but you should be able to promote shows DBA or "Doing Business As" which means you can do it as "Brian Promotions" if you wanted. In general a business entity is set up for structure, liability and tax purposes. Great Bay Entertainment Group is an "S" Corp.

What amount of funds are needed to start out? "ONE MILLION DOLLARS!" Seriously though that question is tough to answer. I started with $50 for posters. You basically want to start with enough to cover your first show expenses in case you sell 0 tickets. Hopefully you will sell more than 0 tickets and can build a bank with whatever you make above 0.

I hope I answered your email and if not shoot me another and I’ll take another stab. When you discuss deals with the band there are a number of ways they can be structured and everything is negotiable. Think about what you like at shows you go to like ambiance and sound quality and meet your own expectations. I have included a list of expenses of shows I’ve done below. It may help you out.

Keep in touch and let me know how things go.


Show Expenses

Box Office
Clean Up
House Expenses
Medical Staff
Stage Hands
Stage Manager
Ticket Printing

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