It’s all too easy to fall into a rut in the live music business. Whether you manage a venue’s calendar or you’re involved with a music festival, inspiration — and creative booking ideas — can be hard to come by.
Thankfully, there’s a time-honored, field-tested method for getting out of your head and mixing things up a bit: working with independent promoters.
Even though present-day consolidation is blurring the lines between everybody’s role in the music business, one thing remains the same: Independent promoters are the backbone of the industry. They’re the risk-takers, the trend-spotters, and they’re best-in-class at building and galvanizing community.
Here are three reasons working with an independent promoter is essential to keep your venue’s programming fresh and exciting — and to earn new fans.
1. Promoters love consistency — and venues do, too
The job of managing venue calendars is nothing if not Sisyphean: No matter how well you did filling it up this month, the blank slate of next month (and the next, and the next) always looms large. Those empty dates aren’t going to fill themselves, no matter how nicely you ask.
Working with an independent promoter can help take some of the pressure off. A certain promoter might know psychedelic rock inside and out, and wants to showcase a different local band every month. Another promoter might be deeply embedded in the local queer community, and wants to throw a weekly LGBTQ+ party.
Venues love the regularity — and promoters do, too, since regular dates help them book their own talent well in advance. And they don’t have to be Thursdays, Fridays, or Saturdays. The right promoter can work serious magic every Monday or Tuesday — which will help you keep the lights on during those slow nights.
2. Independent promoters keep your venue calendar from feeling stale
Every venue — from a dive bar with a rickety stage to a grand amphitheatre with centuries of history — has its own “thing”: a particular scene, sound, or style that it’s known for. But sometimes, it’s good to mix things up.
A dedicated, clued-in promoter can help. Smart promoters hone in on a particular scene or sound and court an audience to match. Strong promoters will book shows that might be completely outside your venue’s purview, bringing in new crowds that may never have walked through the door otherwise.
Plus, focused promoters have their nose to the ground. They’re more likely to spot breakout artists from genres or scenes that you or your team might not be paying attention to. The right promoter can bring an on-the-rise artist to your cozy venue — before they sell 2,500 tickets 18 months later.
3. Independent promoters can help navigate complicated relationships with artists and agents
One currency matters more than any other in the music business: relationships.
Strong relationships are essential for anyone involved in the music industry. Venues in particular live or die by these ties: If a venue or its staff has a bad reputation, key artists might turn heel and stay away.
If your venue is struggling to close a booking on a certain act, or draw in a particular crowd, the right promoter can cut through the noise and help ensure the right decision-makers (or tastemakers) give their stamp of approval.
Perhaps a local promoter took a chance on a buzzy new artist well before they blew up. Or a given promoter spent years working in a specific genre — with a legion of fans that trust them implicitly as a result. Artists and their agents remember these relationships — and lean on them.
In these cases and more, working with the right promoter will help you thread the needle between these tricky (and often delicate or complicated) relationships between artists and their agents. These connections are essential for getting the word out to the right fans.
Looking for additional strategies to grow your venue’s fanbase and create loyal customers? How to Craft Live Music Experiences for Millennials at Your Venue will help.