Empty venues and empty pockets, the epidemic that repeatedly haunts bands and promoters alike. Blame it on the economy. Blame it on Obama. Hell, even blame it on the alignment of the stars! It really comes down to one of two things. Either your band blows and no one wants to see you, or the show wasn’t promoted. Since just about anything passes for music these days, let’s trek forward under the assumption that promotion is to blame.
As a Promoter and Booking Agent in Los Angeles, I get to work a lot with touring and local bands. It has given me the opportunity to hear different sides to these stories. Being in a touring band has given me the opportunity to live those stories, and what I noticed was hilariously heartbreaking. Almost 100% of the time, bands don’t promote their own shows. “That’s the Promoter’s job!” has left more than one empty mouth and it leaves me shaking my head. Promotion is EVERYONE’S job! Yes, the Promoter has that job as well, but they do not exist so bands can kick back and watch their money grow. Both entities speak to different crowds. Generally, the promoter can speak to the town, and bands can speak directly to their fans. Even on a local level, bands have become hopelessly lazy about promoting their own shows. I find myself passing out flyers and promoting online more than the bands I’m paying to perform. When was the last time you left a concert and were handed a bands demo? It’s become a rare encounter in Los Angeles and I hardly see it elsewhere while I’m on the road. If no one even knows your band exists, why would they pay to see your show?
Promoters definitely share the blame in this decline as well. I did say it’s everyone’s job to promote, and I meant it! Dear Mr. and/or Ms. Promoter, We confirmed this show three weeks ago, why has it not been listed on the venue’s website? The tour was announced two days ago, but the link to buy presale tickets has not been set up. It’s four days before our show and it looks like you still haven’t booked any local support. What gives?! It’s just as likely that a promoter stands to lose money as they got high and forgot about your show. The ones that stand to lose money will be busting their ass to get people into the club. The others….well you should probably stay on top of them and then think twice before working with them again. Don’t wait till half way through your tour to figure out your shows will probably be canceled and you need to pack up and go home. If you are doing your part, you will be able to gauge how well or poor each show will do before you hit the road.
So, what happens if everyone promotes? Everyone holds each other accountable! If you are a promoter and you notice the bands you hired falling asleep on the job, find a stick and start poking them! Send them flyers to hand out or post online! If you’re a band hitting the physical and virtual streets and realize the promoter may have been lured away from their responsibilities by a devious bong or coke beast, flood them with reminders! This is all about forming relationships. You will figure out who you want to continue to work with. In the end, if no one knows about your show, the empty pockets and venues will still be there…laughing…always laughing….