Trends in Booking Shows
February 13, 2013
Simon Tam in Booking Agents, Breaking into the industry, Marketing 101, Pay to play, Touring, Touring and Gigging, Trade Shows, booking, booking, booking bands, booking fees, craigslist, deposit, finding bands, finding local bands, music promotion, promoter, renting a show, renting shows, reverbnaion, tour

Every few years, promoters and venues begin trying new ideas to make their show successful:

Pay to Play

In the 80’s, “pay to play” was a trend that forced artists to pre-sell tickets for their shows to help made up money lost for shows with a low turnout. This is something that still continues today (especially in Los Angeles, where the movement was birthed) and in the UK. The concept is pretty simple: you guarantee to sell a certain number of tickets for your show. However, if you don’t meet the quota, you’re personally liable for the difference. In most cases, even if you sell the prerequisite number of tickets (it can be 15-50 tickets or more), you only get paid a fragment of whatever you sell above the agreed minimum (usually 50%), not the entire batch of sales.

The Deposit

Due to the backlash against the “pay to play” model, some promoters are now asking for a deposit to secure the show. Usually, they want $75 or $100 for “production costs” which you can earn back after you make at least that much in door sales (very few will allow you to count bar sales). It’s pretty much the same concept except they claim that you don’t have to pre-sell tickets.

The Rental

Another option that promoters will ask for is a rental fee. Sometimes, they are forthright and tell you it is a rental fee – whatever you make that night, you keep (you just pay a flat fee for the night). Other times, they are dishonest and will tell you that “production costs” are X amount and the initial split of door money will cover that. However, what they don’t tell you is that if you fail to meet production costs, you’re expected to pay the difference. Most venues/promoters are not like this but it’s why the agreement should be clear ahead of time. It also helps to check their reputation: talk to bands who’ve played there, read some reviews.

Booking the Other Bands

Finally, many promoters are now asking touring bands to find local talent for the show. Sometimes, they will only confirm your show if you have a local on the bill. Other times, they want you to book the entire lineup. So now that Myspace is pretty much defunct, how do you find bands in the area that would be a good fit?

Try these ideas:

Remember, many bands are willing to do show trades or will take a show to make a connection. You just have to prove that it’ll be worthwhile for them: they’ll get press, it’ll be fun, they will get help when they come to you in the future, etc. It’s a two way street.

In conclusion…

Booking trends will continue to change. From payout structures to putting more responsibilities on the bands being booked, it’s best if you know what to expect and how to overcome these challenges. As the market becomes more competitive and businesses struggle, more promoters will be relying on bands to do the booking, promoting, media relations, and yes, even covering the rent. With a little education, dedication, and hard work, you can exceed those needs…so when you ask for a show again, the promoter will be more than happy to welcome you, without the extra clauses.


Simon Tam is the President and Founder of Last Stop Booking, author of How to Get Sponsorships and Endorsements, and performs in dance rock band The Slants. Simon’s writing on music and marketing can be found at He is on Twitter @SimonTheTam 

Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (
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