Bands, Promoters, or Venues: Who's To Blame When A Show Tanks?

Categories: Fan Landers

Not to be all Ayn Landers up in this informational yurt, but, the humbling hard work associated with being in a band helps weed out the weak and easily discouraged; it is useful to toughen people up. Being in a band is harder than ever, for a multitude of reasons. Accepting the pure pain-in-the-ass factor of it and embracing the struggle, getting good at the struggle will help bond a band. It also gives a band some much needed perspective and experience if/when they eventually arrive in a place where they can/need to hire someone to do their publicity or manage or book their band.

Do bands need to bring the full force of their promotional capabilities for every single show they play? Obviously some shows are more important than others, but I think the minimum of flyers/posters, Facebook show invites, tweets about it should be the baseline. The other reason to get good at promoting your band (or at least be valiant/earnest/consistent in your efforts) is that it will please the promoters you work with. The world is larded with lazy musicians; a band that has it together to flier their own show and get some posters and handbills to the promoter is going to be a shining beacon of responsibility and consideration. It is an easy way to gain favor, regardless of your draw or sound. I know we all grew up thinking being a musician meant flailing around in your ego and being a dick, but simply being a little helpful and carrying your weight will get you a lot further.

So, dear writer, if you find that the baby bands you are dealing with are just not getting it, put an outline of what you expect and a FAQ on the "booking contact" page of your site. Young bands may appreciate your tutelage on how to do promote their shows--and stay in a promoter's good graces.

(Y'all like how I took this question about booking into a lesson in manners and the value of hard work, paternalistic grandpa style? THIS IS MY LATE-CHRISTMAS PRESENT TO YOU, READERS.)

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jessica hopper's response strikes me as misinformed.  the primary gauge of success in a musical artist does not necessarily include high attendance at a show.  that is a goal of many musicians, but some see market consideration as a waste of time they'd rather spend focusing on all the other aspects of life from which one can draw inspiration or, you know, practicing. 


Why should someone be to blame?  How could you even tell in most cases?

This is all based on the fallacy that a band playing a show must have fans. It's a catch-22. You can't get fans if you're not performing, and your performance fails if you don't have fans.

Promoting means almost nothing if you have no following. Your girlfriend and her brother are following you on twitter, and your dad liked you on facebook. People see your flyer and they have no idea who you are.

This is the same with the venues. They work their asses off to put their calendar on the website, in print ads, radio, etc and no one has any real reason to go. Who are these bands and where is this club? People look at flyers to see names they recognize. If they love a band, they'll drive two hours to see them perform at a landfill on a Tuesday.

It's easy to demonize the bands in this situation, but it comes down to one thing: do you have a lot of friends who like going to see local music? If so, the venues will love you. The venues don't care if you spend hours putting up flyers, tweeting or whatever you can to get your name out there. They care if people show up.

Guess what? So do bands.


I think this is a little off base for a number of reasons.

If you're booking local small bands at a small-medium sized venue in the midwest, most of these bands probably have little to no following (facebook/myspace/twitter fans does not guarantee real fans who go to shows). The whole point of having a rock club that caters to small/local bands is that the venue is providing an atmosphere for people to hang out, see local (and usually new) bands, and drink. How can this club expect a band that has no real press/label/buzz/etc even on a regional level bring even 20 people to a show (let alone 50-100? Furthermore, how is a small local band thats just starting out expected to gain fans if they're playing to empty rooms?

While I agree that the bands should be using social media and making flyers to try and get people to the how, at this level, it really falls on the venue and promoters to get people in the door. First off, if ur calling urself a promoter, the whole point of u even being involved in this is to promote the event. The promoter needs to have a solid following, contacts with different popular local music blogs, and use social media and email lists to promote the events to their followers. Otherwise, all ur doing is taking a cut of the money (usually a lot more than each band member gets even on a good night), for simply booking the show.

Ive seen this and experienced promoters like this many times before. Why would a band want a promoter to book this show if the promoter has no clout and doesnt bring people to the event?

As for the venues, if they want live music with young local bands and want business, they need to develop a built in customer base (just like a fan base, but for a venue). if ur booking 4 local/new bands on a bill 6 nights a week, most likely ur gonna have a lot of inexperienced, new, or bad bands playing ur venue, most of which have little to no following. thus, unless ur the only venue in town, most likely people are not going to see shows at ur venue unless its their friends band. what the venue wants is to build a reputation for putting on good shows and having solid bills, plus a cool scene, which then creates a built in fanbase where people would go to the venue to hang out and see a show on a whim, even without knowing any of the bands, because they know that the venue usually has good bands playing and is a fun place to be. my suggestion for the venue is to limit the number of shows a week to 2-3 and do a better job with booking bands that sound good and tight (even if its their first gig). it sucks paying $5-10 to see a bunch of crappy bands with only a handful of people at the venue when u could be at a fun spot getting drunk with a bunch of people.

altogether, yes bands share in he responsibilty of making an effort to bring people to their shows. however, in this situation (small club, local/small/new/unknown bands), its up to the venue to create a solid scene and a built in crowd who come regularly (even if it means cutting down on shows), and its up to the promoter to create a following of their own where the promoters fans are interested in going to shows booked by the promoter cos they trust his/her taste, and they know there's gonna be a bunch of people at the show.


Why would people think it's a promoter's job to promote? Please Keep, I'm afraid you're only a booking agent. Start calling yourself that and maybe the bands will stop treating you like a promoter. 


@blankdrug good lord I didn't read a crucial sentence in there.  my apologies to ms. hopper and ms. landers.

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