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Fee Ranges For Venues

By Alan Beck, Pacific Concert Group

January 24, 2008

Types of venues in which to perform range from small clubs to theaters to large concert arenas. I am a promoter who deals mostly with mid-size to large arenas so I will address these here.

Venues love to rent out their space. If the client has the financial capability to follow through, this pretty much takes the risk and any losses away from the venue and puts a lot of the liabilities on the hot-shot entrepreneur who thinks he / she is about to make a killing!  Artists need to be entrepreneurs today to make a living until they have backing.

For the most part, four-walling (i.e., renting the building on your own to promote your own event) is like opening up your wallet, saying a few prayers and hoping that on the day of the show God deems you to be a good and decent person.

Here is what to expect:

For large venues there is usually a minimum rent vs. a 10-15% fee of the gross revenues after any state or city taxes. You will also be liable for a list of expenses that are spelled out in advance in a fabulous word called ESTIMATE. A week or two prior to the event, if you have not sold enough tickets to cover these expenses, you may be asked to advance such monies up front. Of course, the building may require at the very beginning a fairly hefty deposit to hold a date.

Some venues do what is called a flat fee to cover the bulk of expenses such as staffing which includes ushers, security, spotlight operators, towels, EMT’s conversion fees, clean-up fees, etc. On top of that will be rent and actual costs for items such as stagehands, box office fees, catering, etc. These expenses do not include radio promotion and print advertising, artist fees, backline, insurance, ground and air transportation, artist deposits etc.

The good news however is that you can negotiate with buildings and depending on your credibility, you can sometimes get the buildings to pick up some of these expenses. As in any business, EVERYTHING IS NEGOTIABLE.

If you come to the table with a fan base and / or a reputation for filling seats, you can partner with the building and the deal becomes quite different. Then you split all costs with the building and profits or losses, which is a good hedge. Just keep in mind the buildings have other ways of making money on the night of a show through concessions, parking, outside sponsorships, etc.

And if you are really good at this business, then you can produce the show for the venues, take a flat fee that covers all your costs and puts something guaranteed in your pocket. Let the venue or PROMOTER do all the work, and you still get a bonus if the show does well.

The smaller the building, the simpler the deal usually and the smaller the risk.

Oh, and wait until you see the contracts to rent these larger arena buildings. Ten to fifteen pages of everything that favors the building. Lots of fun.

In short, expenses are all relative to the income of the show. If you have $120,000 total expenses but gross $250,000, then who gives a damn? It’s only when you break even or lose that you wish you had become an accountant or ski instructor!

From a manager’s perspective or from an artist’s point of view, obviously renting a large arena is usually out of the question so you go after 200-500 seat clubs or try to get your artist on a larger show where you take ZERO risk. Tough thing to do unless your artist is known or has some form of value to the promoter. Why should a buyer of talent or a promoter use up stage time to expose your unknown artist in front of thousands of people? You tell me!

Taking on small venues is a good way to get your artist started. Invite industry people and friends. Use the Build Your Fan Base rules and get people out to see and hear your artist’s music. Getting them on mailing lists to be interactive with your artist or on your artist’s MySpace page is mandatory these days. Doing shows also enables you to sell some music and generate income. Clubs want to sell drinks and food, and if you can convince them that you can bring them a crowd who will eat and drink, you may get a venue really cheaply to promote your act, or even for free. The more your artist performs, the more people see your artist, the bigger your fan base gets, the better chance you have of kicking off a career.

Remember, clubs don’t want to lose money while helping you promote an act and you don’t want to lose money either… so talk to club owners. Find out what would make them happy in terms of selling food and drinks, and try to get a percentage along with them if you bring them a minimum amount of business that will satisfy them.

As far as you and your artists making money, you can always charge at the door. Filling a house is easy when tickets are free and keep in mind, you need bodies to come see your artist and become fans. And as an artist, if you connect with your audience, i.e., if you have that star quality, then you can make money staying after the show and selling CDs, posters, flats etc. Hopefully you can also get a piece of the club’s business that night

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. It’s a tough business and you have to work on it every day!

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Recordings of the panels from NARIP’s Concert Biz Expo – including the one on which Alan Beck (author of this article) was a guest speaker – are available
now in the NARIP Store. Click here to buy now, listen and learn!


See photos from NARIP’s Concert Biz Expo, click here: NARIP Snapshots