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Essential questions to ask gig promoters

Blog by Louise Dodgson under Live

Good news! You’ve been in touch with some gig promoters or venue booking contacts and have some potential gigs lined up. But…before you confirm dates there are some crucial questions you should ask to clarify how the gig set-up will work, what the promoter expects and needs from you, and what you expect from the promoter.

Gig promoters run their nights in varying ways; each one has a different ethos and way of working. None are right, none are wrong (except pay to play which should be avoided at all costs!) but it is essential that you are aware of the arrangements you are agreeing to before confirming dates. Don't just turn up on the night and hope for the best.

Make sure you’re happy with the arrangements. If you’re not or they don’t make practical or logistical sense for you, then at this stage you can simply decline the date with no harm done. It will cause a lot less stress for both your band and the promoter/venue than not making any enquiries and discovering too late information that means the gig will not work or be worthwhile for you.

So take note of these questions and considerations to put to promoters you’re in contact with.


Payment
Probably one of the most pertinent questions when it comes to playing gigs – but you want to know in advance whether you will be paid a set fee for playing, a percentage of door takings, or whether just expenses such as petrol costs will be covered. It’s also worth asking if there will be any rider – if you’re travelling from out of town or planning a tour, it’s good to know whether you’ll be getting fed before the gig and it can also help with working out a budget.


Promoting the gig
Ask what promotion will be done for the gig to get new faces down. Will there be posters, flyers, or promotion through social media, newsletters and mailouts? Of course, you will need to do your bit to help promote things too – after all, you’re the one with the fanbase who want to check you out live. Nobody enjoys playing to an empty room. There should be a fair balance of promotion for the gig taken on by both the promoter and the band so it’s a good idea to chat about this first to make sure you’re all on the same page about what will be done and by whom.


Audience expectations
Some gig promoters will expect you to try and bring a certain number of people down to the gig, whereas some don’t have any expectations of this kind. Neither is right or wrong and it often boils down to the economics of the gig in question, with some set-ups requiring more expenses to be covered than others. If you’re playing an out of town gig, it is more than likely difficult to guarantee any audience so be honest and upfront. It’s always best to find out about this early on and if the arrangements won’t work for you, then you can politely decline the gig on this occasion.


Backline, load in & soundcheck arrangements
Will backline be provided? Will there be a drum kit? If not, does a band on the bill need to supply it and will that be you? It’s usually easiest for a local band to supply a drum kit as they can be at the venue earliest for sound check, but whatever the set-up is, make sure you don’t leave all these arrangements until the last minute. Find out what time you need to be around for soundcheck. Will you get a full soundcheck or just a line check? All things you need to check out.


Selling merch
Find out if there will be any opportunities to sell merch on the night so you are prepared. Will there be a merch table already set up that you can use? Do you need to share the space with other bands? Or will you need to bring your own stuff if you want to set up a merch area? Selling merch at gigs when everyone is buzzing from your performance can be really profitable so make sure you find out what’s possible.


Guest list
On some occasions there will be an allowance for a number of unpaying guests per band. Don’t make assumptions that your mum/dad or girlfriend/boyfriend will just be able to come in for free – discuss what the deal is first.


 

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Questions to ask gig promoters when booking tours and gigs for your band

 

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