It’s Business…

11 Mar

It’s not personal.

Anyone who has known me for very long at all knows that this is one of my mantras…

It’s business, baby, it ain’t personal!!

The following post started out as a comment response to a thread on facebook. Of course.

I know better than to get all up in the middle of all this, but I can’t resist. I know that you guys are probably making generalized statements in order to keep from calling anyone out, and my publicist is probably going to get onto me for this, but….

I have been on all sides of the local music scene, I managed a venue, I promote, I book, I am moving into band management, I live with a gigging musician, and I spend the vast majority of my waking hours listening to local music, talking about local music, booking local shows, reading about local shows, writing about local shows,  promoting local shows, and going to local shows. It’s pretty safe to say that my life revolves around the local scene.

First of all, the music industry is a business. Clubs and bars are businesses. Bands can fall into one of two categories, hobbies or businesses.

Let’s start with the clubs.

From the venue side, in order to host bands, there in an increase in operating cost. The company has to pay security, a door person, a sound engineer, and sometimes has to rent the PA. I’ve heard complaints in the past about how a band will bring in people who spend, say, $100 at the bar… Out of that $100, $14 will go to the TABC for taxes. Assuming that the bartenders are completely honest and that every drink is poured exactly as it should be, $25 of that $100 will go back to replace the alcohol, and this is assuming, also, that there are no drink specials. In that case, since there usually are, that can be $50 out of the $100 people spent at the bar, which leaves $36 out of that money. That 36% goes to pay rent, electric, water, toilet paper, bartenders (at a whole $2.13 an hour in some cases), cups, ice, straws, limes, lemons….. I could go on and on.

Because I know all of this, and because I know firsthand what it is like to be on the venue side, as a promoter, I have no issue whatsoever with room fees. It can cost a promoter anywhere from $200 to upwards of $500 to “rent” a smallish local club for one weekend night. Because I am not a graphic artist, if I want to promote the show I am booking, I have to pay someone to create the artwork for me, which can be up to $50. (Click here for info on having flyers done for $25 per show, and he does discounts on multiples!)  Even if the promoter IS a graphic artist and does his/her own artwork, that is something that people get paid to do. Then there is the cost of printing fliers, driving all over the metroplex to promote, etc. It adds up. I know that people tend to see things only from an outside view, but we are ALL investing money into making these shows happen, from the bands all the way out to their fans.

I will be the first one to tell you that I support the bands I like, the bands that are good business, the bands that draw, and those that don’t. I will also be the first to tell you that I have booked bands on shows who didn’t draw as well as they could have… And that I have had to pay money because the draw just wasn’t there for a certain show.

As small children, we all think on and dream about what we want to be when we “grow up.” I always wanted to be a famous piano player. Oh, yeah, I left that out above, I am ALSO a MUSICIAN. Once I got older, and after having been in a couple of bands, I happened into booking and promoting my first show, which also happened to be my birthday party, and I said to my best friend at the time… “I wish there was a way to make money at this…”

And there is.

It’s called a Promotions or Production Company.

Sawed-Off Productions  is absolutely set up as a small business. Do I think we are going to get rich? Absolutely not. I do, however, make it a point to partner up with people I think are capable of making good business decisions, so that our shows are beneficial to everyone.   I won’t pretend for one second that I am not trying to build a name, or actually a brand. Everyone in this “scene” is trying to do the exact same thing, whether they want to admit it or not. The past two years, and especially the last six months have been nothing if not a learning experience. I have learned from my peers and associates, and I am getting better every day. We are all working toward the same, if not similar goals, and attacking others for what it perceived to be selfish or business-like behavior is silly.

When it comes down to the bare bones, any show that any of us are involved or affiliated with becomes a give and take business transaction. I’ve taken on shows that I knew would not be profitable, just to have my name affiliated with it, or because I loved the band and their music that much. I know local bands who play shows with national acts because there is a bit of prestige that goes along with that. Several times a month, I will have a venue call me to ask if I have bands that can be added to a certain day, or I will have bands contact me to be added to a show. I do this for free. That is part of my little bit of giving back. I work with people who have a need for something I can provide and who can also provide something that would help me in my endeavors. We all do.

Bands want to play good shows. Promoters want to put together good shows. Venues want to make money so they can keep their doors open. Bands AND promoters want to put shows in good venues. In order to play good venues, bands have to be able to draw people and promoters have to be affiliated with good bands. Does anyone else see where this is going???

At the end of the day, we all have to make decisions that are best for us, be it as a band, a promotions company, a venue, or talent management. YOU as a band member or business person have to make the decision that is best for your situation.

It’s business, baby, it ain’t personal.

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2 Responses to “It’s Business…”

  1. Billy Felton Jr. May 10, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

    Although I agree completely, I think of it more like managing a sports team. You have to win to draw a crowd. Too many promoters focus on maximizing draw day one by blending bands with good draw vs thinking about the overall show. You end up with a southern pop band playing with a death metal band. Putting together a good lineup with a great sound man should always be the goal. Word will get around that one promoter is better than another and will begin to attract a crowd.
    If you end up with a consistent show, the draw of every band will stay for the bulk of the night vs the rotating crowd of 20 to 30 between each band. I am certain my band drove off as many as we had driven off by other bands. This formula is bad for the bands, venue and the sound man 🙂

    • katiethegreatie June 5, 2012 at 6:16 am #

      This is a VERY good point! To be fair, I almost always throw a twist in with my shows… And I know I have been very guilty of this in the past. Sometimes a show will fall apart and a promoter or venue has to do whatever it takes at the last minute to piece a show together… but yes, I concur… There is certainly a balance between worrying about draw, being concerned about bar sales, and putting together a good show. All those things will actually play off each other with a well-booked show by keeping all the crowds there longer!

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