Today’s free tips are comedian and writer Zack Stovall, who sent me the following email:
Josh,I’m considering trying to put together a series of shows across the country. What’s the best way to go about booking venues? Never done it before, and am wondering how to go about it. I’m looking at small, 80-125 people venues, traditional for now, and looking into less conventional places while I’m there.So do I just call them up and ask for the door? Flat fee? Whatever works for them? How far in advance should it be? I’m hoping to do some things in April, and a bigger thing in June. Just wondering if you had any pro tips.Thanks,
Here’s my suggestions for booking your own tour…
TIP #1: Figure Out What You Have To Offer
The most important thing to do before you reach out to any venues is to figure out exactly what you have to offer and to anticipate how you’re going to answer the questions that the venue owner will likely have. They’re not just going to trust you because you tell them that you can get a lot of people to show up for your show, they’re going to want to know how you can be so sure – what’s your marketing plan, what connection you have to an existing audience in that area, what will happen if nobody shows up, etc.
The venue owner is also likely going to want to know what’s in it for him – will you guarantee a certain amount of money is spent at his establishment? Will you guarantee a certain number of tickets sold? The stronger the offer is that you bring to the table, the easier it will be to get a venue to book you. Remember, all venues are in business to make money and that’s how you need to appeal to them.
TIP #2: Choose The Right Size Venue
I have no idea what kind of connections or fanbase you have in the cities you’re planning to go, but setting your sights on 80-125 seat venues may be a pretty lofty ambition. Unless you’re sure that you can easily draw 80 people, I wouldn’t book yourself into an 80-person venue.
In general, you’ll be much better served by putting on a “sold out” show in a smaller venue than you will having 50 people show up in a 100-person venue. This will be better for you because it will make the show better, it will make the venue happier, and it will convey to the people that attend your show that it was a “hot ticket” as opposed to that they’re in the minority of people who care about you.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t do bigger venues, but I’d recommend you be honest with yourself about how many people you think you can count on drawing, and book venues that are a little below that number as opposed to a little above it.
TIP #3: Every Deal Will Be Different
Because every venue is different and has its own unique set of goals and needs, just about every deal you do with a venue will likely be different. Some venues know that they have a regular audience that shows up and they don’t need you to bring in a crowd, so they’ll pay you less than another venue that needs you to get people to show up. Some places make the majority of their money on the booze and food and will let you keep all (or most) of the ticket fees, but none of the food and beverage money, while other places will give you a cut of that money.
There’s no one-size-fits-all for doing deals with bookers, but the best strategy is to understand how the venue makes its money and what their needs are, and then negotiate a deal that will help them do that while at the same time allowing you to profit as well.
TIP #4: Team Up With A Local
Again, I don’t know how extensive your promotion machine is or isn’t, but one thing you might want to consider is teaming up with a local comedian, producer, or promoter in each city to help put together the show. While you’ll likely have to share in the success of the show, it can make the whole thing much easier for you.
A local person who is already connected to that community can likely help you get a venue (and a better deal at that venue), can help you attract an audience because they likely already have their own established following in that area, and can give you some instant credibility in a town where you may be an unknown commodity. Plus, in addition to sharing profits, you may be able to introduce the local person to your own fanbase (or return the favor when they come to your city) so there’s benefits for them as well.
TIP #5: What’s Your Main Goal: Money or Exposure?
Of course if you’re going to book your own national tour you’re hoping to get a little of both, but I do think it’s important in your own mind to define for yourself which is more important before you head out on the road. Whatever you decide is your top priority should influence all the decisions you make in terms of planning the tour.
I hope these tips help, and if anybody else would like to get 5 Free Tips, please let me know.