Concert Promotion For Knuckleheads
I’m going to simplify this the best I can trying to only stress the parts that affect you, so pardon me if I miss something. Band bookings can go down many ways, but this is an approximation of how it usually happens.
A talent or booking agent is made aware by band management that the band is ready to hit the road. The agents are always in touch with local promoters who look at available routing, what markets the band is hot in, airplay and such. This is usually the point in which radio stations are contacted and asked their opinions on the shows, how the band is performing on air and whether the radio station would support the show (“Supporting the show” means will they give the promoter a lot of free promotion?). The bands themselves even offer feedback from time to time. They want to play where their songs are being played because that means bigger crowds to sell tickets, t-shirts and c.d.s to (and generally make them feel like rock stars). So the promoter sends in a deposit and YOUR town now has a show.
Now this is where things can get janky. The promoter usually buys a tour package that is listed as Headliner plus support (I’m going to use some examples here). So let’s say they book Led Zeppelin plus support. That means the only thing the talent buyer is guarantying is that Led Zeppelin will be there and that they will bring their own opening band. Now, let’s say, that they talked The Who into opening. This is a good deal for everybody because the strong opener means bigger sales for everybody. Radio station spots and promos would be cut, flyers would be put up and people would go wild. Now when you buy your ticket, all it says is “Led Zeppelin” plus special guest. You and I know that guest is supposed to be “The Who” but now there is an “out” in case The Who can’t make it. The Who want to make it, they know fans are excited and they know that means more money from sales for them and they don’t wan’t to disappoint. The problem is, anytime you’re dealing with a band , you’re dealing with that band, the crew, the management, their families and so on. So, all it takes to RUIN you’re big night is somebody thought to be essential to the band playing getting sick, having a death in a family, being the victim of a broken tour bus or something else, so really only the headliner is guaranteed. Now in some cases on a package tour, one or two bands will be spelled out in the contract then “plus support” (you’ll know who the biggies are by the name that is on your ticket). This gives you added protection for your favorite band to show up. With package tours the problem is that with more people you have the potential for more problems.
Okay, this is really a simplified version of the process, but there are still something’s that need to be pointed out.
*Radio stations do not “control” the bands, but without their support most shows do not happen
*The bands booked, headliner or not, want to play your town, but just like you, sometimes they have to take a sick day.
*Promoters can’t “force” a “support” band to play, they are only guaranteed comparable support.
*Until the deposit is received by the talent agent, there is no show. It doesn't matter what you read on the internet.
*Except on very, very rare occasion radio stations do not get a commission on a show. We generally get a small advertising buy and free tickets to give away (the promoters won’t think the ad buy is “small” but compared to other businesses it is). For the most part we host the shows to get “cool points” from you so that you’ll hopefully support our radio station and advertisers.
Now I’ve skipped over venues, beer vendors, merch agreements and a million other things. The most important thing for you to realize is that when a band that is a smaller part of a bigger package doesn’t show, it is almost always a decision on that bands part (sometimes a booking agent will pull them out for bigger and better things, but that’s rare). I guess it’s easier to hate us or the promoter when that happens, but sorry, all the radio station did is tell you they planned on being here.
I’d love to answer any questions you may have,