The Big Problem With Overbooking...

What's up Dreamers!?

So I wanted to write this based on an experience I just had this past weekend. I normally don't like to post and/or harp on negatives. However, I feel this was a learning experience and I always like to share my knowledge. Knowledge is power right? Bear with me. This is gunna be a fairly sizeable read.
So this past weekend, I was booked for a show at Takoma Station Tavern. I was booked through a booking agency known as Afton Shows. I have booked with them many times since 2014. The experiences were always positive for the most part but there was always something I noticed that was a turn off. These shows, each and every one of them, were overbooked! This show was no different EXCEPT, this time, I was unable to be fit on the bill along with a handful of other performers due to having sold fewer tickets than the other performers on the bill. Mind you, this was being conveyed to me after handing in money upfront for 10 tickets from supporters coming out to the show. I was given the option to stay for a little while so they could sort things out. I opted to leave and notified those coming to see me that I wouldn't be performing that night. It was very upsetting and embarrassing to say the least.

Now it isn't uncommon to find yourself in these kinds of situations as an emerging independent artist trying to get your name out there. There are many scams and bad deals that people throw at hungry performers who are just dying to get their chance on stage. Everything from pay-to-plays, unorganized open mics, all the way to the ticket scam (i.e. sell X amount of tickets to perform) have been employed by would be promoters in order to ensure they achieve the highest profit while putting in the least amount of effort to make their own show a success. This is unprofessionalism at it's worst.

Overbooking acts for an event is harmful to all parties involved. The promoter doing the overbooking, though ensuring a return on their monetary investment, will ultimately look bad and loose future business deals and connections. Artists will not get a proper situation to perform and thus, the show will not benefit them in any capacity ESPECIALLY if they are made to pay anything upfront just to guarantee themselves a slot which mind you, CANNOT be guaranteed when an event is overbooked. See where I'm going with this? Show attendees and fans will likely not want to sit through so many acts. This is not a random fact I'm throwing out either. This is what I've heard from many of those who've come out to my shows these last few years. Most proper organized events/showcases have about 4-8 acts on the bill and that's including 1-2 headliners. The only exception to this is a music festival or all day event, wherin, there is a long list of performers but they go on throughout the course of the day(s). Lastly, and probably most important for promoters & artists alike, the venue can and probably will loose money from these types of situations. Overbooked events cause venues to loose patronage, and any sort of profit they could have made that night. For example. Let's say you book a venue for your event. Then, you book as many artists as you can so you can make sure YOU don't loose any money. Most of the artists you booked then decide that they will just front the money themselves because they may not be able to make the necessary ticket sales. Day of the show, you have a ton of performers at the event but a very thin audience. The venue is not going make any money from that situation, unless of course the performers along with the few guests in attendance decide to get drinks and/or food. If venue doesn't make any money from your event, they are less likely to work with you in the future.

So, what am I getting at? What's the point of stressing on all this? Well I want to point out ways to work out shows if you're just starting out so that everybody involved can win.

If you are a promoter, I understand the financial burden that booking an event can be. So this is what you do. One. Make sure that the artists that you book can be vouched for. In other words, would you yourself pay to go see them? Would you recommend them to others? Two. Can these artists bring in a crowd. A dope act is a dope act. But you want to make sure when booking artists, that they can bring atleast 5-10 people each. Three. Make sure YOU are working the hardest to push the show. Get flyers designed. Sell tickets (especially if you are having artists also sell tickets). Your artists will do the work, but remember, YOU are the one putting it all together and if the event fails, it is YOU who will deal with the consequences. Lastly, if you can, give the artists incentives i.e. a percentage of ticket sales, or just a simple booking payment that's within reason for all parties. You win some, you loose some, but this way will help you build a professional working relationship with individuals which pays off in the end.

If you are an artist, KNOW YOUR VALUE. No artist should be made to pay to play. That is backwards. If you are putting any money into a show, it NEEDS to have a guaranteed benefit for you. No matter what you do as a creator, your time isn't free. Payment for services rendered is status quo. "Payment" is also not always monetary and can be defined by you. Just be sure that whatever the payment is, it is worth your time and effort. Also, make sure every time you step on the stage you give it EVERYTHING you have. Make yourself memorable. Bring merch, and always be ready for new fans. 

I am just starting out on the promotional end of things so this is all I have to contribute to this conversation. I hope this helps you no matter what category you fall under and I wish you much success. Thanks for reading.


Leave a comment

Add comment