Live & Touring

A Casual Scam: The Truth About Pre-Sale Tickets

Guest poConcert.ticketsst by artist manager and booking agent Justin Herring.

December 2005, the band I was playing in was offered a show at this venue in Tampa called The Masquerade. It was the venue in Tampa. I saw all my idols there growing up. Slayer, Down, Superjoint Ritual, Fear Factory, Cannibal Corpse, GWAR, Clutch, Lamb of God, Machine Head, Amon Amarth, Vader, Kreator. When I say I saw every metal band that came through the area while I was a kid… I saw them at that venue.

So, you can imagine my excitement when we got the offer to play at this venue. I was beyond stoked. Everyone in our band hated me for the weeks leading up to this show because I wouldn’t stop talking about it.

A couple weeks before this show we were told to head up to the venue to collect some tickets to sell. We were handed 50 tickets and told to sell however many we can, and bring the money the night of the show. Tickets were $7; we kept $3 out of each ticket we sold. On top of that bands got a split of the door. Four bands played. A solid amount of people showed up. My amp blew up during the 3rd song. Everyone had fun. It was a great experience.

Fast forward 7 years and I work with unsigned/independent bands every hour of every day of my life. 7 days a week I’m thinking about the guys I work with. What ways I can improve their merchandise. What shows we can get on. Things they can do to gain more exposure. Every thought I have somehow leads back to these bands and other bands in their same spot. Every single musician does this (hopefully) for one reason, to play live. In my opinion, playing live and stepping out in front of people and showing them what you’ve got to offer is the only true way to connect with people and impact them and make them a fan. Sure, we have Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, but nothing replaces the impression people get from a band the first time they see you live.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Bands, obviously, must rely on venues to play in in order to get that chance to impact people and gain new fans. And this means that majority of my job is spent focusing on finding new venues for my guys to play in. Needless to say, I see a lot of venues operating in different ways. Yet over the past few years I’ve seen the advancement of “pre-sale” tickets seemingly skyrocket all over the country. It seems like more than half of the venues I come into contact with force bands to sign agreements to sell a certain amount of tickets for a guaranteed amount of time to play their set, and what time slot they get. If the band doesn’t sell the tickets, they don’t get to play.

Now, before I go into my honest opinion of this practice, let’s take a second to analyze some figures here. And no, I won’t name any names of venues, promoters, or anyone involved. The figures however, are real.

So lets say, generally speaking, you wish to play a 25-minute set. In order to play this 25-minute set, you must sell 40 tickets at $14 apiece. If you sell these 40 tickets, the total profit you have to turn in to the venue is $560. Now, thankfully, the system of payment for you is $1 for selling 25-49 tickets. Which means out of $560, you get paid a massive amount of $40.

Now, while I attempt to piece my brain back together after reading these number figures, I find solace in discovering that there’s another opportunity for your band to get paid. We’ve already established that the pre-sale tickets are $14 apiece, but the door price is $17 the night of said show. If you get a walk in that mentions they’re at the venue to see your band, you get $4 out of that $17 door charge. Which is obviously more than the $1 per ticket you sold, but remember, if you don’t sell all 40, you don’t get to play. And, since the venue is so thoughtful of your band, they tell you that you have to include a tally counter and keep track of every person who comes in and mentions your band name. (Wonder if the door guy is even told to ask?)

Obviously it’s going to be much more difficult to sell pre-sale tickets than to get people to just show up, which completely makes sense as to why you’d receive a DOLLAR per every ticket you sell instead of the $4 for a walk in at the door the night of the show.

Here are the last few parts of this whole “agreement,” if you fail to sell the 40 pre-sale tickets, you don’t play the show. Regardless of if you sold 35 tickets or not. And you’re required to turn in the money for every ticket sold. It’s a fail safe for the venue to ensure they still make money off of your shortcomings, even if it’s just by a few tickets.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, this 40 ticket pre-sale requirement is for a time slot of 6:30pm. The rest of the time slots are much worse. So while some of you may go, “40 tickets, that’s not actually that bad,” which I know for some bands it’s really not, but if you wish to play at a better time slot, you’ll double the amount of tickets, and for the best slots you’re coming close to tripling the amount of tickets you’ll need to sell. Oh, and by the way, the max set time you get to play under the most tickets sold is 30 minutes. 

After all of that is said and done I pose these questions, why aren’t venues being told this practice is uncalled for, unfair, ridiculous, and a downright scam? Out of $560 you turn in you keep $40 dollars!? You put on a four band bill all selling 40 tickets that’s $2,240 the venue is collecting, minus the whopping $160 cut to all four bands the venue is collecting a total of $2,080 for every band's hard work. Not to mention the amount they make at the bar.

Now, I completely understand that without the venue, the bands don’t have a place to play (sort of, I’ll get to the alternatives in a second). The venue obviously has to cover their insurance, their staff, their bar, the sound guy, light guy, the power bill, etc. So they definitely have bills to pay. And they rely on people to walk through the door in order to stay in business.

There’s no doubt that running a bar or venue is risky. There’s a lot that could go wrong. But with every service based business you have to rely on a loyal customer base that connect with whatever establishment they visiting. If you want people to remember you for having the best seafood restaurant in town, you’re going to hire the best cooks you can find. In any business, you hire professionals that can get the job done because they’re the best at their craft that they can be. Which means, if a venue is in the business of having great music, then it’s their job to search and find great talented bands that they can showcase. The music a venue holds is absolutely no different then the food a restaurant serves.

If a venue consistently booked solid acts, and everyone in town knew that this specific venue always had great music then people who are looking to go out and have a good time will already have in their head that that venue is where they need to go. Regardless of whether or not they know the band playing, they’re confident that the venue books good acts. Just like I know with confidence that Outback has really good steak. And if I want a good steak, I’m gonna go to Outback. And if I can afford it or not.

On top of all this, some venues even go so far as to take a very large (sometimes up to 30%) portion of your merchandise sales. All the while they offer zero promotion for the shows that are taking place. Because now, they no longer have to. Instead, they have you doing it for them.

This isn’t a debate on, “Well, we need bands to guarantee a certain amount of people to come in or we can’t function as a business,” it’s a debate on what’s fair. And in this industry, there are a lot of practices that simply aren’t fair. And the only people who get hurt in the end are the kids who are trying to reach a dream. Kids who are sitting in their room all hours of the night practicing scales till their fingers bleed. If a venue is going to require you to sell 40 tickets, do it, as long as what you receive in return is fair, and the venue is offering promotion for what’s going on in their place of business to help drive as much traffic as possible on top of the tickets bands are selling. Or better yet, promote the contact information of the bands and direct people where to go in order to buy tickets. When was the last time you saw that? Cause I haven’t.

Some of you might not have any issues with this, because a lot of younger bands are coming into this game under the impression that this is just the way things are, and just accept it as fact. But everyone needs to start opening their eyes to this, and start implementing changes in your community if this is running rampant in your area.

Local acts should start coming together and throw in the money to rent a hall yourselves. See if there’s local community centers in your area that allow you to put on your own shows. House shows if you’re able to. Five bands throwing in money to rent a hall, team up with a local promoter, set the price for the show, pay off all the expenses once the night is done, and every band split everything equally.

OR, if you really want to help fund more shows in your area, take a certain percentage from the profits of your show, and put it towards renting the venue again for another show to put on.

OR, if you really want to get crazy with it, set up everything like I just mentioned, play for free, take the money that’s meant to go to the bands, save it to rent for the next show your group of bands want to put on, and make money for your band entirely off of your merch. Which means, you have to focus on having GOOD merch, and are able to put on a good live show to bring people in to pay attention and want to buy merch.*

Bottom line, don’t focus on competing with other bands in your community for how many tickets you can sell to get on a local show, instead start working together to find ways for your bands to play your own show so everyone gets a fair chance and an opportunity to reap the rewards of your hard work.

Power always lies in the place people think it is. If every band in your community told venues with practices like the ones I’m mentioning in this post simply, “no,” then venues would have no other choice but to alter their methods of doing business to create a fair set of rules. YOU and your fans are what allow venues to stay a float, which means without you, they wouldn’t have a business. Don’t forget that. 

*Yes, I know this idea goes against my entire argument of getting paid for your hard work and playing live, but if everyone in your band made sure you saved your money at whatever job you work and made sure you got good merch, you’ll see money coming in. Stop buying video games and beer, start buying higher quality merch. Again, this is just a suggestion if you wish to do it.

Justin Herring is an artist manager and booking agent that has over a decade of experience with the music industry, in both bands and business aspects. His strong and controversial opinions have grown out of a love of music and the desire to see musicians treated fairly. Find him on Twitter and Tumblr

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  1. Justin.
    Interesting piece. In regards to the “threshold ticket sales” to play, I think that’s terrible.
    However to be fair, this sort of practice of pay-to-play artist exposure happens on the artist/label side as well. I can think of numerous hip-hop acts or even rock acts that got their start by siphoning part of their revenue off to the bigger branded artist/label (didn’t use examples, don’t want to go there.)
    I think your point on the hall is a difficult one. Halls are extremely expensive, time con suming and nuanced to run. A utopian world where, say, artists come together to fund a hall has difficult working because there are only 12 nights a month that would be off the highest value (Thurs, Fri. Sat.)
    Further it’s the artist manager’s job to manage the artist–getting into the venue business is something completely different.
    I also think that double holds, triple holds and cancellations by booking agents and bands play a big part.
    Enjoyed the piece and it’s good fodder for discussion…..I won’t shamelessly plug what my company does, but promoting tickets in real-time is part of our solution.

  2. Justin this is a very well written article. I’m a promoter in Boston and work mostly with unsigned bands. While I do require them to sell tickets, I would never keep the money if they don’t sell the minimum (which is usually $100 worth or 10 tickets at $10). I’m not even sure that’s legal, but somehow it goes on. I promote mostly metal, and the other game in town has bands signing contracts for ticket minimums, and operating exactly how you said promoters shouldn’t. Bands become so used to taking this kind of treatment from promoters, even when they have some leverage and can bring around 80-100 people. It happens because in most cities, there is only one game in town, and to open for the big guys, this is what you have to do. The bands need to understand when they have the right amount of leverage, and it generally takes an agent like you, or a promoter like me to come in and fix things. The bands will continue to gravitate toward the promoters and venues that bring in the acts they want to play with, because they want to bring out the most people. They don’t understand that you need to make some money to really sustain the band and make some things happpen.

  3. I respect your point, but this article is a little bit of a straw-man attack on pre-sales. Ticket pre-sales don’t need to be done using the parameters you give. I will sometimes (not for every show) take shows that require (or desire) pre-sales. Most of them are “good faith” pre-sales. That is, even if I sold 0 tickets, I would get to play, etc., but I give my word that I will get X tickets sold (and I do). On top of that, the pay rate is always negotiated to be something fair – not $40 out of $560. My point: the problem is not with pre-selling, but rather with bad deals. Door deals are often bad too. Ever see a band play to a full room and somehow get paid only $50? Happens all the time. The trick is negotiating a reasonable and fair deal regardless of how tickets work and then not working with people that don’t hold up their end of the bargain. If we are treated badly by a venue, we probably just won’t play there again. Granted, I’m in Boston where there are 20 or so clubs I could play, so maybe it’s different in places with fewer suitable venues. Most of the promoters and venues I’ve worked with here have been great to work with…because if they aren’t great to work with, they won’t succeed. Also, no small clubs should be taking a cut of merch either. That’s just silly. No one here on the small size does it.

  4. Micheal nailed it with his comment “the problem is not with pre-selling, but rather with bad deals”.
    I too have worked for a few promoters and also promoted my own events. The thing is, there are promoters and there are “event organizers”. You need to determine if the promoter you’re dealing with actually engages in efforts to actually promote the event. Also, in many cases the venue keeps any profits from food and drinks and the promoter keeps the door/ticket money. To assume that the venue and promoter are always one in the same is a bit naive. Another thing to consider is that there are costs involved with hosting the show to begin with that the artists are not really accountable for. If an artist brings 5 people, plays four hours, and there is rent of $500; the artist doesn’t owe the venue or promoter anything unless there is some form of “safeguard” in place. In my opinion, this is one of the main reasons for ticket presale – to ensure that overhead costs are met. Even if a band rents a hall, they will most likely use whatever money is generated to cover the costs of renting the place and paying for staff before anyone makes any money…so it’s really not all that different. However, if the promoter is trying to make more money than the artist then that is definitely questionable. Real promoters take care of the bands they work with and will always try and give the fairest deal possible. People who just make artists pre-sell tickets and let them do all the work, then just show up to collect cash are not promoters but simply event organizers.
    It’s better to attack shady business practices, rather than attack an entire concept.

  5. It definitely wasn’t an attack on an entire concept, just towards those who take that concept and abuse it. I state within the article that if a band can sell the tickets WHILE being treated fairly for their work, go for it.

  6. Thanks for clearing that up, Justin.
    I guess I’m a little on the defensive because I see so many people and bands, now more than ever, have a “holier than thou” attitude when it comes to preselling tickets. I too have been in bands and definitely know what it is like to feel used and under-appreciated, but I also know what it’s like to feel a great sense of accomplishment after playing a kick ass show that had a lot of hard work behind it.
    Regardless, we do this because it’s in our blood and we have a passion for it. Let’s all work together to put these money-grubbing abusers of the system out of business.

  7. This article brings up soo many relevant issues – working with up and coming artists at our studio we here so many horror stories of them not packing out venues etc. Hopefully people as mentioned above will try get better deals to protect everybody all around!

  8. There are a number of shady business practices that have, unfortunately, become common place. Keeping most of the ticket money, while simultaneously furthering the attitude that the bands are “lucky to have a place to play” is probably the most disrespectful and unrespectable. Charging the bands money for the over head expenses of the venue (like advertising, staff, AND renting the room) with out any sort of a guarantee is another common one. It got bad enough in Portland, OR that musicians came together to do something about it. It’s called Fair Trade Music
    The idea is simple in concept. Let the fans know which places DON’T do these things and encourage them to patronize those establishments. It’s based on the already recognizable Fair Trade ethical purchasing mentality and dove tails into the “support local music” ethos. It’s also supported by the AFM and we’re currently in the process of preparing a roll out to the US and Canada so that other locations can start creating a tangible system of support in their local music communities. It takes a whole community to make this change happen. It’s been almost 40 years on the downhill slide, though, so it’s not going to happen overnight.
    The harsh reality of the situation is that the bands are equally at fault. They say “YES” to a variety of business deals that are just plain abyssmal. We encourage musicians to have the confidence to tell these entities (promoters, venues, etc. . ) that they would rather do business with folks who are respectful of their skills and accomplishments as a PROFESSIONAL. If somebody approaches you with this type of bad deal, just say NO.

  9. I definitely try and make sure none of the artists I work with have to be involved with this sort of thing. Unfortunately, with independent metal/hardcore bands, a lot of the venues that allow those types of bands to play use this practice to their advantage.
    In the 80s and throughout the 90s, the use of VFW Halls were much more common then I think they are today. It may be simply due to a lot of those closing down for various reasons, however if that is an opinion in a town then it’s definitely another route to think about. I’ve seen plenty of shows growing up in places like that, but it just depends on what the artists are willing to do. If their town/city is overrun with venues who practice this sort of business, then it’s always another alternative.
    Glad you enjoyed the article. Discussions are simply the first step towards fixing an issue.

  10. Thank you Lance. You hit the nail right on the head. I have a few bands around your area, I’ll have to shoot you their info soon.

  11. I completely agree with your point. For some of the artists in this genre of music (metal/hardcore), the majority of the venues operate like this in their city and there’s really only a small amount of venues that will allow it.
    Thankfully for some of the artists I work with that are in larger cities with more options, its much easier to dodge this sort of practice.

  12. Keep in mind also, bands have no leverage until they are actually good and can actually get people to come to shows. In a sense, if a band can’t get people to shows, they should probably stop playing. I think a lot of bands miss that point. They assume that they deserve to have an audience. No one deserves an audience. People earn an audience. So, venues that are smart are teaming up with bands that are successful and they establish long-running, informal partnerships in which bands regularly play at the same venue, regularly get people to show up, and regularly get paid well.

  13. So then with this practice becoming more and more popular, how are those “new” bands supposed to evolve into “good” bands without the opportunity to play live? I understand your point completely, no venue wants to book sub par bands. But no great bands were simply born that way, they became that way through playing live every chance they could get.
    And with promoters and venues using pre-sale tickets in this format, whoever sells the most amount of tickets gets the spot. That in no way shape or form takes into consideration the talent of the act, but more so relies on how many close friends or family members they can get to purchase tickets from them. So even if a band ends up getting booked due to how many tickets they sell, it’s still a good chance they aren’t “good” yet.
    I agree 100% with your statement, “people earn an audience.” It’s just the more I see things such as this pop up, the more I fear it’s limiting younger bands from performing as much as they need to in order to mature to the next stage.

  14. Great article. This is a highly discussed item in music circles, something I’ll be addressing in my book.
    Shameless plug: Chapter One is available for free (I’m still drafting) at
    It’s called “BEFORE YOU GIG,” and is FREE. Share it, give it away, tell others about it. And it’d be awesome if some of you professionals AND newbies give t a review. I’m looking for feedback as I draft the other chapters.
    Justin, your article is dead on.

  15. “Which means, if a venue is in the business of having great music, then it’s their job to search and find great talented bands that they can showcase. The music a venue holds is absolutely no different then the food a restaurant serves.”
    But what if the venue is not good at finding “great talented bands”? What do they do then? Some venue owners or bookers can’t tell the difference between great and terrible. The ability to run a bar and find someone to find great talented bands who will draw isn’t the same.
    Perhaps in 2012, people don’t really want to see “great talented bands” who they haven’t heard of.
    Some venues are prestigious. Bands want the name of that venue on their resume. If the band is opening for a national act, they want that as well. Money can be used for rationing.
    There exists a great supply of bands who if they bust their ass can sell 40 tickets at $15, because they have to. If there was no incentive for them to sell those tickets, they wouldn’t. And they wouldn’t have 40 people showing up.
    No matter what the payment system, there are very very few people who want to see bands they’ve never heard of. Often, people who do care run music websites, blogs. New local bands are not the draw they were back in the day. The people who do show up for an unknown local band are mostly family and friends. If bands get paid a lot or a little, the same people are going to show up. Friends and family. And it doesn’t matter if the band is good or sucks. It’s more complicated that that, but friends and family are the core audience for new young local bands.

  16. pardon me while I have a belly laugh…
    “The music a venue holds is absolutely no different then[sic] the food a restaurant serves.”
    From now on, I’m going to compare visual artists to advertisements…bands to big macs.
    Good job.
    This practice is nothing new. It was called Pay to Play. And with all of its faults, many promoters and venues utilized it to a)guarantee show expenses b) weed out lame acts that would not bother promoting on their own.
    You are not the first one to strike a match here. I don’t agree with this policy, either. But let’s look at both a) & b)
    a) sure, some clubs just do this on “new music night”, you know…showcases of local talent…I could think of at least 2 better incentives than this to encourage bands to bring a crowd on such a night.
    But plenty of venues use this in order to cover the expenses of…wait for it…THE REALLY BIG (really big) headliner that wants an advance on its guarantee, and might even demand to be paid before soundcheck. You tallied up $2080 for the 40tix/band draw…what if the guarantee was $2500? Banks are not actually giving out loans to nightclubs…ahem, ever… Not for per diem expenses. That venue might have put stock in local acts to draw, in addition to the headliner, and gave them a (wooden) leg up with an advance ticket rate.
    In this instance, the venue’s fee is still not covered. Yeah yeah, poor them…
    b) bands that cannot figure out how to attract people to a show, or believe that “if we play this awesome, awesome chord progression, the people will understand, man” Well, hell…if that club’s policy is going to grind that particular band into bonemeal…maybe they’re doing us all a favor…and bonemeal is a delicious part of most doggie treats…I’d say, Win/Win situation.
    No, I don’t like the set time policies, personally. Everyone starts somewhere, I guess. We don’t get to be in the barrel everyday, even if that’s your thing.
    But when bands have proven themselves, they usually move up to better set times/arrangements (guarantees/door splits)…unless… Unless they’re the kind of pack animals that shit where they eat…which leads me to…
    I still love the part about comparing bands to steak fries…and groupies could be…ketchup? mayo (if yer in the midwest)? I have a similar credo, if Black Flag is an Angus Steak (or, really big [really big] salad, my bad; veggie people), then Emo is the dollar menu at 4am.
    And hall rentals. What a great idea. There’s plenty of those around…VFW/American Legion/KoC/Shriners/Scientologists…the problem was, dear INDEPENDENT hardcore/metal promoter/band/show attending fan. Your older friends, and maybe some of you; done fucked that up royally years ago. You trashed the place, time and again. The security deposit meant nothing if you could let your friends kick in walls, wreck toilets, book bad luck 13 RE.
    I understand…you were scared. You didn’t want to look like the Man, squashin’ everyone’s good times. Or maybe you were in your car with the engine running, counting door receipts…not caring that this is the LAST TIME the sound guy will drag his gear out to be destroyed…
    So, no more rental hall for “punk rock” shows in town.
    I know some guys, and this is great-some ladies are getting involved. They’re opening up their basements & garages to bands…they’re taking donations for touring bands. It’s intimate, it smells like cat, it’s all good.
    I know they’re trying to start up collectives, but it’s the same as it ever was. It’s cool, it’s fun, it smells like incense…but out of a 10 person collective, 1 or 2 do ALL the work. The other 8 are looking for college credit or a notch on the hipster resume.
    I see you’ve got a resume. And a blog…ooh, and a twitter! You’re moving up the ladder… guy…guy learning an instrument…guy in a band…guy booking bands…guy managing bands…Why not, guy opening a club? It’s great, we get to play with the tastes of burgeoning music fans, as you’ve already implied.
    but Justin, come on, man…you can do better.
    We can do it…you and me. Get a job at that Club, and we’ll bring the whole system down from the inside.
    They’ll say “those guys, who ran that club, they were awesome!”
    Because you and I know, that’s the real reason why everyone came out tonight.

  17. Considering that the entire point of running a venue is to promote live music, which means bands pretty much make up the foundation of your business, if you aren’t good at recognizing the difference between good music and bad, you simply shouldn’t be running a venue.
    Perhaps if more people who are around in this year of 2012 adopt the mentality of “not wanting to see a band that isn’t great” should realize that EVERY band throughout the existence of musical history, started out as being not that “great” themselves. Bands weren’t simply born great without the continued experience and education of playing in a live setting. If that is the case, then we might as well all stop playing music right here and now.
    I’m not saying bands SHOULDN’T bust their ass to sell however many tickets they need to in order to play a solid show that will put them in front of a larger crowd then the last. What I am saying however, is that they should be compensated fairly for their work. For without them, that venue wouldn’t have 40 extra people showing up.
    Again, going back to my previous statement, if there are very few people who want to see bands they’ve never heard of, then we should all throw in the towel now. Honestly, with that way of thinking, what truly is the point of continuing to work with music? That’s got to be the worst circle logic I’ve heard of. “Hey, you’re a decent guitar player, maybe you should join a band” “I can’t” “Why not?” “Because no one wants to see me” Imagine if someone like The MC5 or Sabbath were told that, especially considering the fact they were playing a new style of music that didn’t sit well with mostly anyone at first.
    Bottom line is every band starts off being unknown, and I know you have to understand and believe in that concept, for I refuse to think anyone in this business doesn’t know that. But bands don’t get “great” by sitting behind a computer sending their “bad” demo out to blog websites for reviews. They cut their teeth by playing live. Now, whether or not they can only bring friends and family out for the first 15 shows makes zero difference. They’re doing their job, which is to play music and bring bodies into whatever establishment they’re standing in. And for that, they deserve to be treated fairly.

  18. I’m glad my post brought you joy, Chris.
    Let us dive deeper into my analogy of comparing music venues to restaurants. Venues main source of revenue is alcohol, and music. Restaurants main source of revenue is food. If I know a specific restaurant does not serve good food, I’m simply not going to waste my money. If I know a certain venue has had a consistent run of horrible music, after a while I’m simply not going to return to that specific venue. Venue owners must be able to see the spark in a band. I’m sure we all know what “spark” I’m talking about when it comes to younger musicians. Some get it, some simply don’t, and some take time to develop those skills. Because a venues reputation is based off of the music they book for the people standing on the floor, and because a restaurants reputation is based off of the food they serve, I link the two together.
    If you do not agree with this policy then why waste your time picking apart my post just for the sake of getting a good “belly laugh?” To me, that simply does no good in getting the matter at hand, something you clearly state you don’t agree with, fixed. But if that’s not your style I won’t judge it. Maybe some of us are more comfortable sitting behind a computer screen shaking our fists at those who make points on topics we both don’t agree on.
    A) If the band is charging that large of a guarantee then I think it’s safe to assume its a rather large enough band to do so. One that I’d like to imagine would draw very well on their own. Its very rare that I ever see local acts opening for nationals in my home area (Tampa, FL). In fact, growing up I maybe saw five or six locals open for a national. Out of hundreds of shows. So if a band is demanding that price, chances are the venue or promoter took on that price knowing the draw for that specific act is high in their area. After all, why bother to agree to the price if they aren’t 100% sure they can pay it at the end of the night?
    As far as local showcase shows, you’re absolutely right. However, and this is speaking from a generalized standpoint since every city has venues that operate differently, not every venue has those. I come across more venues who operate with this pre-sale method than they do local showcase nights. Also, the venues who do have local showcase nights putting on shows with ONLY local acts, a lot of the times participate in this pre-sale method as well. So the bands are still faced with it whether it’s playing for a national act or not.
    B) Any booking agent who’s been in this business for long enough to see artists they’ve worked with from their beginning stages as a young band to where they are today will be the first to tell you that every great live band started off as a bad live band. And as I stated in my reply to Jim above, bands need that experience in order to grow into a “great” band that people such as yourself are expecting everyone to simple just, be.
    Let’s not kid ourselves here, we both know Black Flag wouldn’t be considered a Steak. Especially since I don’t think anyone in the band could afford a steak throughout the entirety of their touring career. I’m sure Rollins would have had an emotional breakdown if that had been the case.
    I feel after having to re-read your last few paragraphs that your points missed the mark. Sure, I have a blog, AND a twitter! I think it’s safe to assume you probably do as well. If not, at least you have this clever little comment box to do the same thing I do with my blog, which is write. So despite that point, we’re both in the same boat.

  19. how about we kid ourselves…
    I believe you’ve gone out of your way to thrash the Straw Man that is the music venue. All because you had a bad show 7 years ago, and you find it hard to get the bands you are working with to sell tickets? Perhaps I presume the latter, since you are quick to bandy numbers, but loathe to mention any specifics.
    First…you compared bands to steaks…HAAAAaaa. You’re from Florida, I get it. You’re not the only one who cannot drive to a real steak house (I’m looking at you, New Jersey). But people go to real restaurants for ambiance, to be seen, and yes, for the food. I don’t ever recall going to a club for its atmosphere…but plenty of kids go to shows “to be scene (ahem, Seen)”.
    And actually, I believe a lot of restaurants try to keep their food prices competitive, since, their real source of income is still drinks…hence, a restaurant cocktail is always smaller/pricier/or both, than a bar’s.
    It’s no stretch whatsoever to tear your “what is fair?” argument to pieces. Maybe I will… Guess what, INDEPENDENT (love that one) band/promoter…Life is not fair. The Music Business is not fair. It’s not fair for the patron who’s seen ticket prices rise 300% over the cost of inflation in 20 years at the Major Circuit (them U2s & Rolling Stones..). It’s not fair to the lil touring band who’s been paid the same amount in “gas money” since the 80s (remember when gas was under a dollar a gallon?).
    And…wait for it…it’s not fair for the venue…which unlike your idiotic (yes, you’ll take offense, but so would that straw man you keep poking) assumption, is not 100% guaranteed anything.
    Ever know anyone who has ever been to a show with what should be an amazing headliner/tour package and “it was like we were the only ones there, except this old guy who looked like Jerry Only”
    Or, hey; hurricane season is on its way in FLA, I’m sure you’re a trooper, and you’ll be at the show whether the the band blows the roof off the place or not…but not even your best friends were that crazy about the show…
    The club still has to pay the band…not half, the whole price. And then they can screw their staff, because I’m guessing that’s the kind of clubs you have in Tampa…unless even the barback is driving a lexus…why don’t these cretins buy american anymore?
    This is purely an aside here, but…you say a club has a “consistent run of horrible music”. Isn’t that subjective? Or are you such a definitive authority that we should be keeping you under observation? Is Pop Punk Horrible? How about Emo? Juggalo music should be flogged (sorry, that’s not opinion, that’s my 2012 resolution). But if it’s bringing the crowds to the venue…um, what? It would be great if every venue could balance that with new (and hopefully interesting) music events.
    Hey, it’s an imperfect world. Even the Outback Steak House closed down here recently…they should have kept my idea for the BlackFlag Flank (and, let’s not pretend for a second that onstage Rollins is real nor that I care about rollins’ emotional well being, I’m more of a Greg Ginn kind of guy).
    Not every club has a full liquor license. Not every club has a policy exactly as you describe. But, you’re not interested in a solution. You are only interested in being a (I believe 19th century lingo applies) RabbleRouser. You extol the virtue of your blog, and ask people to repost it, whether they agree or not.
    And what have you actually taken a position on…”It’s not fair, we want money no matter how our show fares”
    That’s unique.
    We are not in the same boat. I care about the big picture. You don’t. I will give you examples…because you are unable to.
    I figured I would allude to them in the previous post…but you’d rather focus on “hey, you’re a guy behind a computer” What does that make you, Justin? Tron?! Oh, and before you get on about the “long” reply…it’s my lunchbreak, my time, not company time.
    Don’t assume people want to hear your music. Don’t assume that because “crunk emo” is drivel, your Chung Chung/jank jank HC-metal breakdown shit is not. Chances are…it is. Sorry.
    Maybe you are secretly a genius, waving that burning effigy (nightclub) as your clarion call to musicians everywhere to band together. I doubt it (not the genius, the statement) since you never offer a solution. Here are some now…
    GET INVOLVED. In a band? Not playing tonight? No? GO TO A SHOW. See, you won’t believe this, but my first band seriously rocked our very first show…none of us had working experience, but not only did we practice for hours at a time, we also went to a lot of shows, and witnessed loads of fuckups, and lots of good ideas. We embraced the good, ditched the bad.
    Also, as a result of going to a lot of shows at that time, many people knew us. They wanted to support these kids who always managed to get to their show (I’m not talking one particular band, or genre, for that matter)
    Oh, and when you go to a show…GO INSIDE. Here’s a secret…everyone of those local bands that is talking about ‘making it’ and talking about ‘their tour’ (two nights this week, Woo!) and are sitting outside waiting for their ‘turn’, are missing an experience.
    Here’s a touring band, on an indie label (or not), on the wrong coast (having already played every decent club on their coast-and indecent venue, to boot)…and you’d ignore that. Because it’s more important to get a road beer in you, than to support.
    I don’t believe in karma, but I believe in morons. That band might warm up to you-you guys who are pretending to listen to our set. You can talk to them afterwards, they tell you about the clubs to avoid, you give them the right contacts for other local places…share the experiences.
    Bands, stop blaming people for not making it. You suck. Get over it. Your music is derivative without offering any presence whatsoever. You’ve got a statement to make. Is it, “I just read Karl Marx/Noam Chomsky and I saved a lot on my car insurance”?
    You still think it’s as easy as picking up a guitar to get a girl…well, it is. Girls aren’t being retrofitted with “avoid losers” dna. But no one wants to hear poorly rehearsed music at all…more than once, if it’s your mom.
    Bands, you start out with crappy show deals…take it as a barometer of your suck if, after 30-50 shows, you are still getting the same crap show deal, in the same area you play in. I don’t say ‘same town’ since, if you live in DC, we know how screwed you are there.
    You don’t run a club, you don’t get to determine club policies. Hence, my “go work for a club” notice. Offer to book shows for them. Put your best foot forward. See, that’s the only way we’ll ever know how full of shit you are. Six months later, Justin writes a “what I learned while working at a club” blog…well hell’s bells, won’t that be something. Book all of the metal shows you want. See your finger slowly miss the pulse of what is Hip…watch all the kids avoid your club with its Horrible Music. Or not. Now, you are a tastemaker…the FreshMaker!
    Dear venue,
    Stop instituting ticket policies with impossibly high numbers, with ridiculously low rates of return. Stop treating touring bands with contempt. This is not 1987. It’s not 1997. It’s not even 2007, when Myspace takes an our to load…
    I am not asking you to take as many unnecessary chances as you may believe. In fact some of your policies are having a very real world effect, and that effect is to the detriment of us all.
    Some of these out of control prices are discouraging bands that do not have trust funds, or rich, living relatives. Now, some trust fund acts have real merit, don’t get me wrong, Arcade Fire. But probably the creepiest thing in recent memory is the “Mommy/Daddy Manager”. Shivers, I tell ya. Their music is banal. Mediocre. And a pain in the ass when they’ve brought along someone from the burbs to downtown who
    Doesn’t like the neighborhood
    Doesn’t like the smell in here
    Doesn’t like the wine selection
    Doesn’t think the sound guy should ignore their idea of what “good sound” is.
    These are the asscadets who, when they don’t like your business plan, rent your venue out, and give you too many wrong ideas…remember, this is the equivalent of Soccer or Karate or Space Camp for their kids.
    This will also put some severe limitations on the musical gene pool…you’ll be seeing the same few bands, until next year’s popular kids learn an instrument.
    Same goes with taking lessons from HipHop promoters. Ever see a HipHop promoter work with rock bands?
    “okay okay, we’ve got ManMan, Red Fang, the Wonder Years, and that kid from youtube…we’ll give them 3 songs each, and five minutes between sets to set up/break down”
    Give the bands real incentive. Sell 40 tickets @ $14 (for a $17 show…$17? that’s random) Give them $1 per ticket #1-40. Ticket #41 and up. Give them 100%, on ticket sales only. Come up with your own bright idea on the Door Deal.
    You just made $520. And you’ve got 40 people inside…drinking shots out of dixie cups and $3 water bottles. If those fans knew that their boys were getting decent money because they rolled in 60 deep, they’d probably tip a lil better, too.
    I know, I know…what are these bands bitching about, right? They’re asked to sell tickets. No one told them to buy the tickets themselves, right? Wait, you’re not telling them to do that, right? Stop that.
    And don’t kick them off a show if they don’t reach that magic ticket #…unless they lied about it in the first place. By way of “uh, we lost them? ate them?”
    “sell 30 tickets?..Sheeit, my man, we can sell 100…just fax them over”
    First of all, Fax? Second, let everyone else know why they’ve been cut from the show. They lied. Tie them to a touring band’s bumper before they leave.
    Dishonesty is what needs to change here. If a club has a policy and you don’t like it. Waah. Waaaaaah. They are telling you what their policy is, and they stick to it…and don’t make an exception since they don’t know how special you are…uhoh, here comes the belly laugh. Seriously, I think the policy is lame, but I think your ranting on it is sad. But not so sad, because I’m laughing at that silly idea.
    Dishonest practices must change. Clubs denying the fact that all of those people in the crowd; wearing your shirts and singing along, are here by coincidence… “sorry Justin’s band, we were trying to have an intervention”. By not counting walkups towards a given act, that is devious. Changing set times around due to back end deals with other local bands, without a conference involving all parties. Shameful. Dear venue, stop doing that.
    To all the Justins out there, stop assuming that the digital music “thing” has had no impact on live music. Venues are STRUGGLING. In big metro areas, that may mean, only 5 nights sold out, where there used to be 7 nights sold out…in advance. In secondary markets, some venues have just folded. And they’re not making new venues. Banks are not that interested in the “HIGH RISK” business that is live entertainment. “You’re better off opening a restaurant” is what a bank manager will tell you, when that has traditionally been an at risk venture.
    It has brought upon us high cost merchandise, because CDs are not the seller that they used to be, and cassettes are simply ironic.
    People do not go out as often as they once did. Parents are concerned about what kind of area that club is in. Local zoning laws have almost always ensured that it is at the end of a darkened street. Oops.
    The numbers don’t lie. That’s why some entrepreneurs have taken to broadcasting live shows at clubs via this thing called an internet.
    To all the Justins I ever loved before…take some initiative. To bands that work with these booking agents, if you are tired of their inability to book you on better shows, dump them.
    But, take some responsibility…when you are on the road, talk to people at these venues. Sometimes, clubs take a very low opinion of touring bands, as a blanket policy. If you get a good contact for the future, pass it along to your Booking Agent (your justin). That goes for you, too…Justin. Contact other local bands & promoters, not just regarding where to play, but who to contact/work with.
    You might get one or two bands on a crappy local night in Cleveland, or you might exchange a show with another promoter from that area. They might even book their own nights at a club that would normally give you the raw deal.
    And book that hall, rent that sound system. Do it. I dare you. Get that job at the venue.
    No, fuck it. Open your own venue. That’s my new rule. You don’t have a venue, you don’t get to discuss venue policy without sounding like a whining maggot.
    You weren’t around for the 90s, you don’t get to talk about the 90s as an authority. You weren’t around in the 80s, I WISH you wouldn’t be allowed to rehash 80s fashion, but until we have President Santorum, that’s not likely.
    See, all we have in common, dear Justin, is that we happen to be on computers…I hope you are not a pretentious mac user, though.
    Lunch is almost over…gotta sell them Lexii…

  20. My 2 cents: screw the live venue – take painstaking steps to create a live performance video ANYWHERE in your city – and post it to youtube.. if you are good in the video and people love your song – you can kick in the door of those venues with your “asking price” otherwise – STAY OUT OF THESE BULLTISH venues – the playing field has never and will never be even, fair, just, or .. negotiable!

  21. “If a venue is in the business of having great music, then it’s their job to search and find great talented bands that they can showcase. The music a venue holds is absolutely no different then the food a restaurant serves.” – Justin Herring…Great point!!!

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