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To whom it may concern in the realm of booking electronic shows in small cities,
I rarely solicit artists to book in the small city I live in. Because it’s not really feasible. But I get hit up all the time by acts and agents about shows. Some totally understand and some seem to get a little offended when I try to explain, but usually don’t have the time to go in to great depth and detail, why I’d be happy to help put together a show but cannot promise L.A., San Fran or Atlanta prices for Asheville, population 83,000. So I’m just gonna try to spell it all out here (if population 83,000 isn’t enough for you, lol!). I think this will resonate with other small, artsy cities, maybe even larger cities with smaller scenes too.
After watching event after event of all kinds of promoters bringing in up and coming DJs and acts to headline Asheville, I just have to say STOP being so damn unrealistic with the fuckin guarantee, people! We are not NYC! We are tiny little Asheville!
Photo Credit: Visual Bliss Photography
But the thing about Asheville is that it’s a totally different economy when it comes to throwing parties…
It’s a really small city with A LOT going on ALL the time. There are other small cities where the risk isn’t so great because they don’t have as much going on. Asheville is saturated with events more than Hunter S Thompson’s brain was saturated with drugs. So it’s not realistic to make guarantees that other cities can make…unless one is willing to take the risk of paying out of pocket or has some money to blow, lol. Which I don’t, ha.
Or you could let some little shit muffins who barely know what they’re doing book you, promise you your fee, throw you a shitty party then have to pay you out of pocket or go rob their grandma to honor your contract (or just totally not pay you at all!?) There are a lot of these shit muffins who give touring artists a false sense of reality for what is doable in our little city. They pop in with a party or two and fail, ruining themselves by paying acts way more than what is possible here and fade away real quick. We realistic people are the ones who stick around, steadily throwing realistic events and have to keep picking up their pieces of shitty failed party after they screw around flinging their small amount of shit on our scene. (But the shit muffins pop up like mushrooms so there’s usually always new ones to tool if you’re into that kind of thing and want to go shit muffin mushroom hunting.)
You could possibly get someone to book you and put every cent towards your fee without being able to budget in fliers or a decent venue or a decent PA system or decent support. Which, if you think about it, is much less valuable for your career than opting for a bit of a lesser guarantee for a properly produced event where you can look, sound, feel great and get actually promoted to the whole city condoned by respected people in the scene, being exposed to all their friends and supporters, generating more fans for you which is a way bigger pay off in the long run than making a few hundred more dollars at a poorly produced event with 5 people standing around in the corners and shitty speakers that you want to shoot to death with a double barrel shotgun.
photo credit: David Oppenheimer – Performance Impressions Concert Photography
Throwing successful events in a small scene that is bursting with parties like a fertile new mothers torpedo tits burst with milk every time her baby cries is fucking risky and hard and takes a lot of work. Just how hard is it to wisely budget a good party in a little scene without ruining yourself? Is it a coincidence that a promoter in our little scene left this life (rip, dude.) after his parties failed and he could not pay everyone what they were promised and he kept trying to invest in more parties to make it up but just kept falling further in the hole? I don’t know…but I don’t think so. Luckily, that is an extreme situation but still part of the nitty gritty reality of how harsh shit can be.
There is a possibility you could get a venue to just book you directly themselves who can supplement failed shows with other successful shows and bar sales. Good luck with that and have fun not having the great support of a real classic freakville lineup! A lot of venues won’t take on gambles either though. And many end up closing due to our overrun, crazy scene. I watch show after show with out of town acts fail because the numbers cannot add up to pay what these acts are asking for in Asheville. Most likely, only shit muffins, idiots, highrollers, shadyasses, naive or way too optimistic types are going to guarantee you an amount that is too much of a gamble to pay you unless you’re a really big deal or touring with a really big deal, sorry! And even if you are a big deal somewhere else, you might not be a big deal here yet.
(QE’s note: How do we get to be a “big deal”? Click here for the Definitive DJ Mindset. )
While I can and will organize the most kickass event possible, I cannot (normally, lol;) take significant gambles for an out of town act. But if an artist is worth what they are asking then it shouldn’t be a problem to take just a bit of the gamble *with* me for a smaller guarantee plus sliding scale/profits of the door, right? You could even make more than your asking price if you are that hot shit enough, right? If you have that kind of pull and can get people to come even if a freaky local burner queen just happens to throw a free sexybunnyhop birthday party at a communal housing project that night or if you are so awesome that people will still come in the rain, then sweet, no worries, right? I know I will do my part of proper promo but if you don’t have that kind of pull to get people there no matter what, even with great promo, why the hell should I work my ass off, invest in fliers, promote the hell out of you, tell all my fans to like you, etc, etc just to throw myself under the bus?
Typically, there’s no money to be made with parties in a little artsy fartsy city like Asheville. Usually a successful event with an out of town headliner involved means you covered venue costs, covered fliers and then gave most of the profits to the person you just hyped as the most awesome thing ever to everyone you know without paying yourself barely a few peanuts, if anything at all, much less covering all the time you spent on the internet hyping it or the gas and time and shit it took to plaster posters all over town to advertise that artist… and sometimes the only thanks for all that free work and handing over all the profits is for the artist to take that money out of our tiny city’s economy with little appreciation for making them totally known in the area and able to move up in the game here, yay.
Bassnectar and Pretty Lights both came through Asheville several times, first playing the smallest venues, working hard to get known and pack out the small venues…then moved up. They moved up *after* they had not just *played* the smaller venues but *packed* the smaller venues.
And if I do throw you a party and tell everyone I know about you, give my fans to you, bust my ass making sure you play the best venue available, put quality color posters all over town, make sure there’s a quality PA system, dope visuals, solid support, sexy performers and a great vibe even though I cannot promise your regular price that big cities, high-rollers, delusional people, shit muffins or liars can; it is a privilege and an honor if I hook it up for you. Because whether you make more or less than your regular fee, playing a quality event in a little mystical, magical mecca like Asheville and gaining even just a few mystical, magical, freaky Ashevillian supporters is totally effin priceless on a cosmically glorious level.
If you don’t have a gambler or bigwig booking you here or you’re not yet a super bigwig yourself and don’t want to share the gamble of your pull in a small but immeasurably awesome city, you could by pass Asheville and only stop to graze in the money green shit muffin pastures of bigger cities…
None of this was directed at anyone in particular at all. It is an overall viewpoint almost 10 years in the making.
No offense to anyone. Just raw truth tangent. Dig it.
Thanks to Celeste for adding her thoughts here. You can find Celeste aka GalaxC Girl at GalaxCgirl.com or connect on her Facebook page.
I also want to add. The absolute best thing I have ever read on this topic is over at Audible Hype. Go read Is Touring Really Necessary? Part One, Part Two, & Part Three.
Additionally, if you want even more insight about taking your DJ or EDM career to the next level, learn about The Definitive DJ Mindset.