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The Biz

Published: 2005/05/07
by Allen Ostroy

Behind The Scene: Festival Help and Booking Queries


Last year group of my friend got together and produced our first music festival. We decided to go the benefit concert route because it helped off lay some of our costs, and made people much more interested in helping us out. We managed to get a pretty nice line-up together with local talents, friends and the Zen Tricksters. Although we managed to have a really great day with food vendors, a small carnival, and lots of music, nobody really showed up. I was wondering how I can get the word out for cheap?

Jordan Wellington


Thanks for the question. Recently there has been an enormous increase in these kind of events and the result has been that almost every festival is suffering except top tier festivals like Bonnaroo and 10,000 Lakes. Established festivals like the Gathering of the Vibes has seen a decrease in numbers and the Berkshire Mountain Music Festival no longer exists. There simply isn’t enough money to go around during the festival season to support every festival especially when a lot of the festivals have very similar, if not identical, line-ups with a few changes. This in addition to a slowed economy and higher ticket prices really hurts your type of event. There are a few ways to get the word out about your event but none are easy and cheap. The best way is to start early and pound the pavement yourself by flyering the shows of the bands you are going to have at your event. People are starting to think about, and plan for, their summer right now so if you want them to put aside for your event then they need to start hearing about it now. Flyers are relatively cheap and if you do it yourself with your friends then there are no labor costs.

You can also co-op your event. By this I mean giving everyone involved a piece of the ticket sales. For example you may charge venders $350 for their vending space but let them know that you’ll give $50 back for every 500 people that show up. Then provide them with advertising materials. This provides incentive for them to help you get the word out. Same with the bands at the event. If you pay a band $250 then give them another $50 for every 100 people providing them with incentive to help out. Doing your festival this way insures that you are only spending more money when you are making more money.

The short answer is that you can’t and that you have an enormous challenge ahead of you considering there are so many established festivals already. Thanks again for the question and keep in touch and let me know how it goes. Good luck!



Let me start by agreeing with all of the positive comments that have
been made about the new info you are providing through you new column
on jambands. And, like soooo many others, I too have some questions
for ya. So, here ya go…

1) Where do you teach…I would love to find out more about the
program(s) offered and where else in the states they may be available!

2) Booking a.) Do bands have a set rate that they usually charge or is
it dependent on the market (city)? b.) Is it easier to start the booking/talent buying by trying
to book openers for national acts? Or, better to rent a whole venue
for an evening? c.) What is the best way to use up-front cash?
I.E…cost/benefit for paying cash up front to either a band or
venue….Have you had experience with this? I know most who start do
so with no cash and take cuts of the door, etc…but what is the best
way to spend cash if you have it? I am sorry to be repetitive, but I
wantde to be as clear and specific as possible.

3) Tours a.) When dealing with a band from out of town, what is the
best way to go about promoting more than one show on a tour. Will a
band do this for a less expensive price than just one show at a time?
Is this standard practice in the industry?

b.) How much of the promotion is a band expected to do? Is this base on the flat fee/percentage of the door issue? Adivce on how to go about discussing this with band management?

I will leave you with these and once I have heard from you, I will be
sure to once again bombard you with questions about how to do
this…It's time for me to take the leap into the industry, and while
I am pursuing opportunities with large labels, local venues, etc….I
think doing it for myself is the way I am headed. Thanks, in advance
and I will look forward to hearing from you soon.




Thank you for the questions and kind words.

_1. Right now I teach a workshop I created called Music Biz 101 wherever and
whenever I am hired. Sometimes I set them up myself and do them on a
college campus but I don't have a permanent teaching job. I am working on
putting the workshop online though so people like yourself can download it.
Keep in touch and maybe I can use you as a beta test guinea pig if you're

_2. a) It depends on the market. For the most part bands are paid from
their ticket sales and have a "base range" that they use as a guarantee
because they may draw more in, lets say Boston, than they do in Cedar
Rapids, IA. For example if you ask an agent how much band x is they will
respond with $5000-$10,000 or something like that. They may also have a set
range for festivals and colleges which is usually higher than the guarantee
that they ask for._

_b) I'd say its easier to rent the whole venue and have
control over the entire show. Putting openers on nationals is not easy._

I still may not understand the question. The best way to use upfront cash
is to pay deposits for the things you need for the show to happen ie band,
venue, insurance, advertising. If you have cash to burn then I'll send you
my address….just kidding….but if you do then increase your
advertising…..but I'd suggest socking it in the bank for when you lose on
a couple of shows…which happens. If I didn't answer the question then try
asking in a different way._

_3. a) I don't think I understand the question. How can you buy multiple
shows? Will a band do multiple shows for you for less? If these are your
questions then I will answer with this – It depends and EVERYTHING IS
NEGOTIABLE. Until Clear Channel buying multiple shows in multiple markets
or an entire tour was VERY rare. Now, not so much._

_b) Kind of a loaded question. Management should provide you with all the
tools you need to succeed in promoting the show ie pictures, art, posters,
bios, music, maybe access to their mailing list in the area. But as a rule
of thumb as a promoter I expect the band to do everything but rely on them
to do nothing and as a rule of thumb as a band I expect the promoter to do
everything and rely on them to do nothing. What SHOULD happen is that you
both work together to get as many people out as possible. This is why I
like straight percentage deals – meaning I like everyone to have a financial
incentive to promote. Just talk to the management about what your
marketing/advertising plan is and ask if they will help out with what you
need…ie. if you need the band to do phone in interviews will the
management help set them up? Managers want promoters who are willing to
kill for their show and promoters want bands who are willing to go a little
out of their way to help them succeed in their promotion. For example the
band members might have to get up a little earlier in the morning to call
into a radio station for a phone interview and ticket giveaway. Lets face
it. As a promoter do you really want to work with a band who won't help you
out with the show promotion?_

_Please shoot me as many questions as you want and be as specific as
possible. I hope my answers thus far helped out some._

Keep in touch!


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