Night after night I hear bands ask “What’s up with the guest list?”. I know they only want to see how many guests they are allowed, but it also occurred to me that this question alluded to a greater misunderstanding. Hopefully this article will help clarify a few things, so you don’t find yourself asking “What’s up with the guest list?”.
What is a guest list?
The first and most obvious place to start. A guest list is a list reserved for guests who get to attend your concert for free. Spots on this list are usually reserved for members of the media, record labels, agents, etc. If you don’t have these types coming to see you, the spots will usually be used for friends, family, or someone doing your merch.
How many guests are you allowed?
This varies depending on the buyer/promoter for your show. A typical allotment for guests is one per band member. Sometimes it’s two guests, sometimes it’s none. If you are a higher profile band who has the attention of the press, (why are you even reading this?!) your agent will probably have pre-negotiated 10+ in a contract. Whatever the case may be, ask in advance! Don’t show up to your show not knowing the details!
Who should you put on your guest list?
The golden rule here is, DON’T TAKE ADVANTAGE! If you are a smaller band, think about what your draw is. If only 10 people are showing up to see you, and six of them are on your guest list, this will reflect poorly on you. If you have a door deal worked out, remember that your guest list will count against your draw and effect what you get paid. In the situation above, a draw of 10 people with six people on your list is only four people paying to see you. Be honest, and don’t try to get all of your friends in for free as your roadies or managers. You are perfectly capable of carrying and setting up your own gear until you start selling out clubs on your own. Don’t be above paying for your guests too. If you use up all of your spots, but your parents are in town and want to see you play, pay for them! It’s the least you could do after eating all of their food for 18 years!
If you are a larger touring band, just be smart about who you put on your list. A photographer, a few industry heads, and the guy that is letting your band crash on his floor are cool. Half of your record label is not cool. At the end of the night, the money that pays your guarantee is generated from the people that pay to see your show. If you throw 30 people on your guest list at a 200 capacity venue, that raises the chance of the show losing money. You were booked in a venue of appropriate size, so do you really need 30 guests?
Now you know what’s up with the guest list, and won’t ever have to ask again! I can’t say this enough, but we are all in this together. Don’t take advantage, just be honest. The money a show makes all comes from the same place and a little understanding goes a long way!