Today’s sources of income in the music industry have changed a lot from what they were in the 90s. Once musicians were able to rely on song sales and it was understood that the bands who are signed to a label were the most successful. However, today’s industry has changed due in part to our Digital Age. Many bands now rely on the payout from their live shows, which might include a percentage of bar sales, a low guarantee, or a percentage of the door. What can artists or production teams do to help earn more artist payout at local gigs? Let’s explore a few options.
Foremost, you want a good marketing system to get people in the door. Individual invitations work great, though tedious, and so does including an added activity available during the concert. The promotional materials should include a description of the activity making it seem unique, and with a chance to win something special. Announce the prizes in social media posts which include pictures of them, and the best items can be announced on the show flyer, as seen on the above festival poster for Soul Rockin’ Blues Fest
If band payout depends on bar sales, try requesting a drink minimum at the entrance, and have the bar offer drink specials. If payout depends on door and pre-show ticket sales, offer a perk along with paid entry such, as free pizza bought by a sponsor, or shave several dollars off a ticket holder’s first drink, hosted by the bar. Make the entry fee affordable above all.
The proceeds of additional events held during shows can either add to musician payout or benefit a charity. There are a lot of options which have garnered some success. For instance, the raffle held during the Gruve Nation Halloween Party raised more payout than the door and more than doubled overall band payout. Suggestions and tips for raffles and musical contests are included in this article, but there are so many other creative ideas which have worked as well. Make participation in the added activities cheap and intuitive.
It makes sense to first obtain the prizes for your events and contests so they can be included in your marketing campaign. Building ongoing relationships with local businesses through collaboration and cross promotion is one way to encourage item donations for your contest of raffle. Designate band members or production team personnel to visit local music stores and pawn shops with letters and band merchandise to initiate the relationships. Many artists already have certain relationships with the community, so utilize any connections you may already have among the artists included in your show.
What kind of prizes should you be looking for? Obviously, don’t turn anything down, but think of your target audience. If they are likely to be made up of fellow musicians, then music gear is a good way to go. Also, if there is a musician in your community who has a knack for gear repair, see if any musicians in your show can donate any broken gear to be refurbished. In return, you can offer a donated item of interest to the repair person. You can also have the musicians in your show donate music lessons for prizes. Give donors a public shout-out to increase their brand visibility. Stimulating the local social economy helps everyone win. “A rising tide lifts all boats,” so to say. Finally, you can offer donors the positions of contest judges, as appropriate.
During the set changes of the 11-band Soul Rockin’ Blues Fest, items were raffled and a guitar shred-off contest was held. It was a format which worked well. Raffle off the items at your event between sets and offer the grand prize following your headliner to keep people there. Requiring winners to be present to claim prizes is another way to get them to stay for the duration. Selling custom raffle tickets several days before the show is a good way to maximize sales beyond the day of show sales.
BATTLE OF THE BANDS OR GUITAR SHRED-OFF CONTEST
Be prepared with written rules and sign up sheets as well as judging sheets and disclaimers. Points to include are:
- Time and location for the event
- Age restrictions
- Genre restrictions
- How to register
- Fee information
- Time slots
- Set lengths
- Judgment criteria
- Run of show
Don’t forget to include a list of contacts of the host, organizer, venue staff, sound, and promoter, and try to obtain prizes early on. As for judging, try to recruit neutral professionals from shops you have collaborated with, prize donors, and/or local celebrities. The criteria for judging can be based upon audience applause, or have the judges critique such things as stage presence, musical ability, and originality using a 1-10 scale for each and adding it all up for each artist’s final score. Make the entry fee affordable, at an average of no more than $40 per band/entry.
I believe artists should fully share their gifts, and receive fair payout/compensation for their work, which begins well before actual production. Because for myself and many others, music is the medicine of the world, a cure to numerous ills. Many are personally invested with their love for music, and for what it has meant in their lives. Together, musicians, venues, and production teams should not let quality live music go by the wayside, and as a team, members of the music industry can continue to build artist audiences and learn from each other. With music as a universal language, it truly commands the largest network in the world, a network those (of us) in the music industry are all very much a part of.