Google+ Q Dot: Artists Vs. Promoters - The battle continues.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Artists Vs. Promoters - The battle continues.

Some music promoters are the equivalent of slum Lords, in my opinion. I call them bottom feeders, just like the fish that eats all the algae and crap at the bottom of the fish bowl. They make their living by preying on artists, literally selling them a dream of instant gratification and what’s even sadder then that? There are a lot of artists, seeking stardom that gladly take the bait.

In the case of the Bottom Feeder promoter, who’s generally a guy bringing an act out for one or two shows, they’ll take a seemingly harmless concept and do a great job of selling an empty unfulfilling dream to artists looking for fame and notoriety. In so many words they target locals unknowns with the whole “Get on with this ‘famous rap star’ for only $XXX! You buy in, get X amount of tickets, sell them and make a little bit of money for yourself!” spiel. It doesn’t sound like too bad of a deal for the local unknown on the surface. Famous rapper comes to town and if he just sells his tickets he’ll not only get to perform, he’ll get to make a couple hundred bucks! Fair enough. Let’s do it! (Hey rapper, how about not?)

In slight and I stress slight defense of this concept, the only time I’ve ever heard of this being a standard practice in the industry and definitely the only place where it’s beneficial to the party ‘buying in’ is when there is a tour involved. It’s not all that uncommon that new artists signed to a major label will buy on to a tour of a more established act to quickly and effectively attract a broad fan base. The thinking goes, an unknown act can go on the road for X amount of dates and not only get all the free press and radio play they can imagine but also be in front of thousands of people night in and night out in cities across the country. This will generally cost thousands of dollars for the artist buying in but the payoff is significant and the effects can often be readily seen in the form of another tour, higher profile press coverage or a spike in album sales. Furthermore, in a lot cases I’ve heard about, those buy-in artists still get some sort of compensation be it free travel, room and board or a small payout of a few hundred dollars a show.

The truth about this particular situation is the local rapper generally never sells all the amount of tickets he bought. Why? Because he doesn’t spend all that time in the studio to perfect his sales pitch, he does it to perfect his rhyme skills and also deep down, he doesn’t care about the tickets THAT much, he wants to get on that stage in front of all those people. That’s why he bought in anyway. So if the local doesn’t sell his tickets, the promoter says in defense “oh well he should’ve hustled” which is absolutely right if the artist bought in the show, hell all indies need some hustle in their bones and then promoter walks away at the very least breaking even and the big name act, who was already paid in advance goes on with his life as a Famous Rapper. So tell me who’s losing here?

I can’t knock the hustle, if it’s working for you Mr. Promoter man, get your money, we’re all trying to eat but you know you’re taking advantage of these unknown artists. You know deep down this one show will not be beneficial to their careers. Why? Because 1) You’re playing on their emotions and only offering them a potentially huge, but temporary ego stroke. 2) Half the time you’re banking on the artists to promote the show, which then doesn’t really make you a promoter but a talent buyer, which is not better or worse just different. Or even worse, because you’re more concerned about making money rather than putting on a quality show, you let 6 locals buy in. Now you’ve got your money, Mr. Promoter man but you’ve also got 6 acts performing mostly sub par music thus watering down the show. By the time the famous rapper gets on stage the crowd is antsy, annoyed and ready to get their money back.

When I got the buy-in proposition, I said to the promoter:

Thank you for considering me for your event featuring XXXX artist, while I’m flattered that you thought of me as a fit for the show, at this point of my career I don’t find these types of shows, as proposed, to be of any benefit to my business or my brand. I’ve attached my Press kit to this message that not only highlights the work I’ve done over my career but also speaks to the value I offer as an artist.

How would you feel if you showed up to work one day and your boss asked you to work for free during the next pay period “just to get some experience”? Or how about your boss offered you a promotion but you have to “buy” your work hours?

I’m not a promoter, I’m an artist, and in our respected positions I can assure you that working with me on your show as an artist will be beneficial to your company just as I also believe that working with you as promoter would also be beneficial to me. I’d be more then willing to discuss how we could work together on making this show a success collectively and in doing so, I’ve attached a proposal highlighting some of the resources I can offer this event. Albeit not to be negotiated for ‘free’ or ‘buy-in’ opportunities. (I cut out the last part of this message because it totally gives away one of my negotiating techniques)    

I’m in no way saying I’m some badass and need $10,000 and only the brown Reece’s Pieces in a porcelain bowl and Fiji Water.  All I’m asking for is respect as an artist because this is my livelihood we’re talking about here. And believe me, there are SOME shows or events that are worth playing for free because of the amount of exposure is great or it’s the type of headline group or event that has a big draw and selling merchandise could net you some serious cash. But just like any job you want, you’ll submit your resume and hope an employer sees the work you’ve put in and offers you a PAID position. It’s no different in music, the point of a press kit? It’s a resume! It says look at my work and make me a respectable offer. And promoters (artists too), you’ll go a lot farther if you can offer somebody something ANYTHING but trying to get something for nothing or making people pay for something they really shouldn’t is sleezy business.

OR…if you can’t afford to pay the headliner, promotion costs, venue costs AND the openers, find a new hustle.