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Musicians Contact asks: Band or venue - who promotes the gig? The Source For Jobs Since 1969 Sterling Howard, Owner/Founder Musicians & industry personnel receiving this letter: 58,412


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In our last newsletter, I wrote a commentary on conflicts between club owners and bands, especially about who is supposed to be responsible for bringing the fans, and we got a LOT of feedback from you, (thanks!). If you didn't catch it, you can read it here:

Anyway, David Codr, who runs and has written articles for us before, sent me the following comments which you may find both interesting and helpful. Here's what David wrote:


As someone who has worked as a venue talent buyer AND band manager, I have sat on both sides of this debate. The reality is that most venues want and try to promote their shows, but many times artists make it difficult to do so. If an artist doesn't send the venue press photos, their logo, digital or physical promotional pieces like posters, handbills and banners, most venues are not going to wait or attempt to chase the artist down to request these items. They don't have the time.

Consider the person who books the shows at the venue where you want to play. Most of the booking agents on do so in addition to another job at the venue; manager, bartender, owner, sound man, etc. Booking 20-30 artists a month in itself is a part time job. Drafting ads, typing up, distributing and following up on press releases is another part time job. Don't forget the time it takes to listen to 50-100 new artists asking for a gig each month or managing social media, etc. That's a lot on the plate for someone who has limited hours a week.

When I ask club promoters why there isn't a photo of a band in their print ads or on their website & social media, by far the most common answer is, "the artist never sent us anything." That's why, for many venues, an artist's draw is more important than their music. If you don't understand why venues book less talented artists based on a good sized following, let me illustrate:

In most situations, the artists take 70-80% of the money that comes through the door. That leaves the venue with a small percentage to cover the show costs. Security and sound man alone run from $100-300 a show. Lets say that's $250 in show costs. At $5 a person, that's 50 people that need to come through the door before any bands get paid.

To pay the bands and break even, the venue might need the bands to bring in at least 200 people, otherwise the bar will lose money at the door. And if that few people come through the door, the venue won't have enough drink sales to bail it out of a losing night.

This causes venues to be more selective in deciding which shows they spend money to promote. Most venues will do some promotion for every show. But when they have higher expectations, because the show is judged to have more upside, the venue is more apt to take a risk and spend additional money to promote the show.

Your job as an artist is to convince them that risking money to promote your show is worth it. A great way to do this is to communicate to the venue that you understand how important promoting a show is. Thousands of venues are listed on, but there are probably only a few that have any scratch paper behind the bar. So if you ask the bartender for something to write on, a napkin or coaster is likely what you will get. Here is a promotional trick to get the bar staff to hand out flyers for you until your next show at that venue.

Design a simple quarter page (4.25 inches wide by 5.5 inches tall) black and white, single sided flyer for your next show. Make sure the show on the flyer is at least one month after your next show at that SAME venue. Do not list any shows at OTHER venues on the flyer.

Print up a page with the flyer ad displayed in quarters (4 times) as shown here: Send the page to Kinkos and ask them to print up 25-50 pages, then cut the flyers down into quarters. This will get you a couple hundred individual flyers.

Here's the twist. Have Kinko’s gum the flyers into a single tablet, but position the artwork facing down so the finished product looks like a stack of blank paper. But instead of being blank, its just blank on the front. The back side shows your flyer as shown here:

At your next gig at this venue, ask a bartender if they have some scratch paper after you load in. When offered a napkin, pull out your tablet and tell the bartender your made some scratch paper just for them. Explain the promotion to the bartender. If you work it right, you will have the bartenders handing out flyers for your next show for you over the next few months and letting the venue know that you understand the importance of promotion. Good luck.

by David Codr

If you have an industry related question for David, you can post it at their blog:

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