[Dixielandjazz] Getting better Gigs (Long)
TCASHWIGG at aol.com
TCASHWIGG at aol.com
Wed Dec 29 11:49:29 PST 2004
Hi folks: Here is a book worth checking out, you might find some useful
information, which is the most valuable commodity I know. Heck as long as I
have beeninthe booking business I learned something new just from this short
article that I was not aware of in just the opening paragraphs.
This month's article is by author Mark W. Curran who has written
a book called "Getting Gigs: THE MUSICIAN'S AND SINGER'S
SURVIVAL GUIDE TO BOOKING BETTER PAYING JOBS With
or Without An Agent". Mark has some great tips on generating
income by putting on local shows with new methods that are
growing in popularity called Four Walling and Two Walling.
Many of the traditional venues and methods for getting gigs are
jammed with competition that it's often very difficult to make
any headway, particularly in a crowded market.
The solution to this is to create gigs where none existed before,
thus being the only act that will do the gig. Here are some ways
I have found useful. Feel free to invent some of your own.
Four Walling/Two Walling - Your Act In Concert
A fairly new business model has emerged from the new economy.
"Four-walling"and Two-walling"venues. This involves renting or
co-renting a club, space, or theater and doing the advertising
and promoting yourself, as well as ticket sales. You take all
or part of the ticket money, depending on your arrangement with
One extreme example of this is In Las Vegas. Almost all showroom
performers rent the casino showroom, either with their own
production companies or in partnership with a producing entity.
Sometimes they are partners with the casino, sometimes not.
(See the Chapter on "Making It In Las Vegas" in my book,'Getting
Gigs,' for more on this.)
But for our purposes here, we are talking about your going to a
venue on your own in your community and renting out the facility
with your own money.
This can be great for an act with a great draw, but disastrous
if people don't show up. The public is fickle, and one can never
predict in what numbers they may turn out to see an event. Many
is a concert promoter who has gone into bankruptcy this way.
I have had some successes "Four-walling" my act and other tribute
acts into small theaters. It's a high risk gamble, and if you
can't afford to roll the dice, don't do it. I have friends who
have made money producing tribute shows and even name acts into
theaters, but even they will tell you that sometimes they lose
as much as they win.
As a Producer/Promoter, you are responsible for everything.
You would be amazed how many details go into producing even
the smallest show. There are contracts to sign, insurance
policies, printing, and advertising and promotion tasks.
There are an endless number of jobs that must be performed to
an exact timetable. Screw up on any of them, you could lose
But when it goes well, it can go very well. Let's say you
rent a 1000-seat venue for $3000, plus $1000 for the house
sound and lights and stage personnel. Add in another $1000
for box office services and miscellaneous things like
insurance and catering, you are in for $5000. Add to this
your advertising costs of say, $2000, and another $2000 for
your band and opening act.
So now you are in for about $10,000, as an example. If you
sell your tickets for even $20, that's a 10,000 profit!
But you must factor in the many weeks of prep it takes to
produce and promote the show, and that you must sell every
seat to make that kind of profit. At half capacity, you've
only broken even.
Believe me, it's no fun putting months of work and $10,000 of
your own money into a show and have a bad turnout. If you are
performing on top of that you are in the unfortunate position
of having to work your ass off, perform, and still lose money!
Remember, this can go the other way. It's a great feeling
selling out a show and walking away with decent profit, and
in the process be able to play on a large stage to an
appreciative concert audience.
There are so many factors and variables that can affect the
turnout greatly: Is it a weeknight (less than ideal) or a
Saturday (ideal). Is it a holiday weekend, (avoid it) is it
raining/snowing that night? (you have no control.)
Is the economy in a downward cycle? Are we in a war with yet
another foreign country? Are you under pricing or overpricing
your tickets? Is the theater well-trafficked and have they had
your flyers in the lobby for sufficient enough time as to
attract patrons attending their other shows? Have they included
you in their season mailer, even if they aren't presenting your
show as part of their season?
The public is so sensitive to these issues it can prevent them
from venturing out of their cocoons for any kind of event. Add
to this that there are many choices for people to spend their
time off and their entertainment dollars.
Even staying at home can be far preferable to going out and
enduring traffic, crowds, and a potentially bad show. With home
theater and gaming systems in almost every home, plus internet
and other distractions, you can see that getting people to go
out to your show can become a difficult task at best.
But, let's say you are a single acoustic performer with a large
following. Since you have no costs for a band, you can take the
ticket money for yourself. If you book a smaller venue of 500
seats and still charge $20, you could walk away with a tidy
profit, since the cost of the theater rental is less for a
smaller venue and you wouldn't be paying a backup band.
To offset your risk, you might consider "two walling" with the
venue, meaning you split the profit/loss equally with the venue.
If it's a theater, you simply split rent and ticket money. If
it's a club, you might consider taking the door ticket money
while the club gets the drinks and food.
This way you can see what your turnout will be and then maybe
take your act to a nearby town and try four-walling another
You will find smaller theaters are more willing to help you
than larger ones. In fact, in Los Angeles, many of the larger
theaters have a strict policy to NOT help you promote.
They are committed to promoting their own season shows, and
often feel that to help fledgling promoters pulls their focus
away from their own projects. But also be aware that many
smaller theaters have little staff and can rarely afford
someone to help you market your show.
If your act has a major following or some pre-sold elements
(as in a tribute act) and you think you can fill those seats,
you just might have the perfect situation for a successful
four-wall. But proceed with caution, this is an area where
you can lose money in a hurry!
If you do decide to four-wall a small theater, make sure
- Start early; six-twelve months is a nice window
- The theater is well attended by patrons throughout the year, so
they will see your flyers in the lobby
- The theater is at least somewhat open to helping you market
- You get a Saturday night for your show, not a weeknight
- You do a prize drawing to get your audience to join your
- You have theater include you in their season mailing
- To have theater include you in their newspaper advertising
- To promote your show using flyers, email, and posters
- You start promoting at least 3 months in advance of date
- To try to find local businesses to sponsor your show to offset
Finding sponsors to contribute to your show in exchange for an
ad in your program can often make the difference between loss
and profit. But finding sponsors is a tough, time consuming
job, and can become a very difficult pursuit on top of your
You may be able to find someone within your sphere of influence
to make phone calls to local business on your behalf to solicit
donations in exchange for a percentage.
Four walling can be a very satisfying way to build your
audience and make a profit. It offers a great way to get your
name out to the local community, and allows you to sell your
merchandise after the show.
Make sure you have some money put aside so you can four wall
a number of theaters in different regions, within driving
distance or one overnight stay. As these shows become more
successful, you can schedule them as an annual concert, while
expanding your circle around your home base radius.
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