What is the difference between a concert and a music festival?
A concert can be indoor or outdoor but is always a one-day or one-night event featuring one to five artists on the bill. Most concerts start at about 8pm and end at 11pm. Though a shed (amphitheater event) could start at noon and go to 11pm. In this case, the event could be called a festival or a concert depending on the number of bands and how it is promoted. A Saturday or Sunday kid’s concert can start at 10am, 1-2pm or 4-6pm and should not run longer than 90 minutes or you will be dealing with a building full of crying, upset midgets…. and their coping parents. ;O)
A festival is always an outdoor event unless it is a city wide event housed in many indoor venues (like a film festival, or like SXSW held in a bunch of clubs, restaurants, theaters and hotels ). A festival is longer in duration and is always an all-day event, or all night event or multi-day event of several day, nights or days and nights. These days, a festival is more than one stage. Typically a festival per stage requires 5-10 artists in a 12 hr. period. The opening artists perform for as little as 15 mins., but not more than 45 mins., and the later the show goes the bigger, more expensive artists performances are longer with the headliner performing from 75 mins. - 2 ½ hrs. The typical headliner plays for 90 mins. to 2 hrs.. The typical 12 noon to 11pm festival features about 8 bands per stage per day. Only an inexperienced promoter would call an indoor concert a festival. This cheapens the meaning and tries to make the concert more than what it is.
In the old days, bands like the Grateful Dead and Allman Bros. Band would play for up to 5 hrs. In 1999 Phish performed at their own New Year’s Eve Festival in Florida and which was the longest Phish concert ever, performing a seven-and-a-half hour second set from midnight on New Year's Eve to sunrise New Year's Day. Phish was the only band at the event, performing five sets of music (nearly sixteen hours) over two nights, placing a port-a-john on stage so they could continuously play without interruption.
What is the typical profit margin on a concert?
There isn’t any such thing. Every event has different financial equations. The number of tickets, ticket price, the two biggest variable costs rent and talent, all determine how much money can be left on the table. I higher breakeven point naturally means less profit. Even promoting a really big act may actually mean a smaller profit margin but offer a greater chance of selling out and seeing a profit at all. The idea of promoting cheaper acts giving you on paper a substantially larger profit margin looks great, but in reality, these acts sell less tickets so you may see a loss on the show.
This is why the cost and revenue sheet must be calculated accurately before bidding on and committing on an act and signing the venue. Major Tier 1 artists take 90% of the net, but this could be 10% of $2 million on one show. On smaller events, you may get 100% of net after paying an artist(s) flat fees but still lose money if the act can’t draw enough to break even.
What is the winning formula?
The right artist, in the right venue, in the right market, at the right time of the year or month or week, at the right ticket price. The winning event is fully financed and promoted by an experienced, honest, creative and intelligent promoter. The winning formula is the entire schtick.
How do you find out the attendance history of an artist?
By subscribing to pollstarpro.com or celebrityaccess.com. These are concert industry resources that are vital to being a professional promoter and making informed decisions, otherwise you are simply throwing darts.
When is the best time to promote concerts?
Friday or Saturday nights always do better.Only if the act is really hot should you attempt to promote them on another night. Many clubs run college nights on Tuesday or Thursdays, but never Mondays. As far as the time of the year, it depends on your market and the competition. Generally in the north, the winter provides a warm indoor source of entertainment.Festivals are almost always over the weekend so people can get pout of work to attend. Saturday only, Saturday - Sunday, or Friday - Saturday - Sunday.
What is the correct order of actions in promoting.The books go into great detail on the right sequence of events because some of them are done at the same time. In general, it’s concept and due diligence (market research), venue options, talent options, proposal or plan, cost and revenue sheet, holding venue dates, bidding on artist, contract artists, secure venue, marketing implementation, permit application, “advancing the show” contracting all of the components (from security to stage, sound and lights, staffing),
When should I have my insurance coverage.
Late.No further out than 2 weeks before the show, and it is not unusual to have the insurance certificate the week of the event prior to load-in. The venue contract usually states when the insurance coverage is needed.
How much time is needed to promote a concert or a festival?
For a small club concert as little as 3 weeks, for a concert with a national artist in a venue accommodating thousands of seats, the bands aren’t usually available later than 3 months before the shoe because the agents have to schedule routing which takes time to get back to the artist, and their management to confirm. It’s not unusual to book a concert 8 months ahead of time. The more time, the better things go, less stress. Typical lead time for a concert is 3-5 months, promoting at least 6-8 weeks out. A major stadium show can be booked as far a year in advance and start selling tickets 8 months out.
A festival is also started one year out and it is now not unusual for a festival to sell tickets one year away. A festival should have at least 8-9 months for planning and ticket should go on sale no later than 4 months before, but earlier is better. In general, when you sign the artists is when you start promoting by posting them to your website or Facebook page. Just try to have your ticket sales portal set up by the time you start advertising bands.
Do I need a web site?
Even if it is a one page site, yes, besides a Facebook page, you need a web site with email and ticket buying links. Don’t confuse your company site with your event site, The event site should have a domain name that possesses the keywords of what you promote instead of the name of your company. ie. kcconcerts.com for your event site and KansasCityProductions.com for your company web site.
How important is social networks and online marketing versus conventional marketing?
It’s all important now. Only where you are promoting clicky club concerts to a very young crowd should you rely on social networks or online marketing only. The older the target audience, the more conventional marketing you need. This is an entire field of study and takes an experienced promoter to research, cultivate, develop and calculate a carefully thought our marketing plan and budget. Budget determines the extent of your market. Usually marketing should be 10%-20% of your entire budget. Radio still rules but in some markets its affordable to do cable TV. If you choose to, you need to use a frequency method, meaning lots of spots on at least five cable networks. Every concert or festival should use Facebook, Twitter, You tube, email blasts, e-releases and a web site minimally. Mobile platforms are coming on fast and are especially important to the under 30 audience. The various marketing opportunities are listed in the book. Main stream concerts should always have an ad in the weekend section of the major newspaper, but this is just one of many, many components of a serious, professional marketing plan. I am a marketing specialist if you have a budget for a cheap consultant.
What is marketing?
The marketing triangle is advertising, promotions and public relations. When all three are done right, you get magic and consistent ticket sales. Do not under budget. Never stop promoting. Learn to PUSH!
How do I know the bands will show up?
They will. This is not 1967 when Sly and the family Stone wouldn’t show up on a regular basis. The bands want to play and the agents won’t represent them if they don’t. The problems are from the venues. Watch for changing terms after signing the rental contract, problem General Managers (GM), finding out things about the venue late, causing additional costs and problems. The various contractors are rarely trouble, but you need to also be omniscient of your staff and their behavior, especially partners who tend to change their behavior especially when big money starts to emerge. Partnerships are sinking ships. Make sure only one person is clearly in charge, that’s YOU!
I read the bands should not be paid a deposit in advance, is this true?
Ridiculous. How do you expect to get major acts without paying their 50% deposit. These days you not only need to pay a half deposit down, but expect to be asked if you have the other half in escrow. On national artists you used to be able to pay the balance of 50% in cash or bank check the day of the show before the band steps on stage. Now, if you are a new promoter, you need to pay the balance before the artist hits town, usually the week before or they won’t come to town. Have 100% of the artist’s money when you start or do not do the show.
Are some states better than others to promote music festivals?
Yes, hostile states are West Virginia, Tennessee, Oregon and parts of Florida like nasty Volusia County and Duval County (Daytona and Jax).where ever you are interested in promoting, spend some time there first, talk to the city clerk, look over the ordinances and requirements for permits before taking the plunge. Places are not necessarily what they seem one you get to know the area.
Can I fund a concert or festival with ticket sales or sponsors?
Only if you are a fraud. Don’t even try it. Sponsors will not pay enough to a new promoter to make it worth it and if they do, you won’t see the money until your event is way down the road. The first thing a sponsor will ask is, who is playing? Telling them who you plan to book isn’t good enough. Using ticket monies is not possible unless you are using PayPal for a payment gateway and are mailing out the tickets yourself. The book talks extensively about ticketing methods.
Can I use the TicketMaster or other ticket agency money to fund my event?
No. No ticket agency will front you ticket funds in advance because they don’t want to get burned if the show doesn’t happen. You get paid between 1 day and 10 days after the event. Some popular agencies are Protix, Front Gate Ticket, Paper Bag Tickets and Ticketfly which happens to be very mobile oriented and offers additional marketing streams.
How much of the entire show cost do I need to start?
All of it. Because you can’t touch ticket money during the advance of the show, you need all of the funds for the entire event. Even in the case of a festival where you have access to vendor fees, advance merchandise sales or other advance funding streams, there is a big difference between being fully financed and having the convenience and confidence that condition provides, than worrying about how you are going to pay bills, putting things off, not sleeping. This leads to suicidal tendencies and is ill advised. You need full funding in advance.
I don’t like to write plans and am bad with numbers. Then you can’t be a promoter. An event producer has to be an incredible person with an extensive skill set. Attempting something over your head is a brutal education you don’t want. If you don’t know how or can’t formulate words in writing, speech or in understanding how to calculate costs and revenues, then think about entering into another segment of the industry. Just be aware that no matter what you try, it is very, very difficult to make a career in this industry. Getting the work is tough enough, but dealing with a relentless onslaught of unethical operators, incompetence and acute stupidity out there, it is mind numbing. It’s harder than you think. My books offer excellent examples of plans and proposals and cost sheets, if they are too difficult to learn from, then you need to choose another direction, before you lose your shirt.
Do I need a lawyer?
Yes. It’s best to find a large firm with a lesser priced younger lawyer so you don’t pay as much but you have the backbone of experience and force if needed. No lawyer, no brain. Do you need an accountant? As a small operator, not really except tax time, for a big budget, yes. But you always need to keep expense and revenue books and never mix personal funds or checking accounts with the business money, they are separate!
Author’s Note: If you can’t find funding enough to do your show right, hold off. Make a one, two or three year plan knowing that you are learning along the way, giving you sufficient time to formulate a solid investor proposal to secure the right funding. It’s better you wait and do it right, then act on impulse only to learn the hard way that you made a dire decision having long range, negative consequences on you, your family and your reputation. Learn to be grateful for daily life and think good, productive thoughts. You will get where you want to be one day. Great things take time. It’s ok to say no, I’ll plan more.
Check back, many more concert promotion and festival promotion answers to come!