Advice for bands in South Africa to play better club shows – by Gareth Wilson

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I’ve been booking bands and festivals for quite some time and recently have started booking my own venue. As much as I like to do it for just the love of the music it isn’t always that simple. Here are a few tips to artists trying to play better club shows and get paid a better rate. To those of you who have toured a lot this is no new info but it is worth looking at.

  • Market the event regardless of the deal.
    It happens to us all the time, fly a band to Jozi, pay a guarantee and then watch the band punt the shit out of the filler show they got where they are playing for the door. I hate restriction clauses but for this exact reason sometimes one has to use them just to protect your investment. Every time you play a venue and don’t pull a crowd your status in the industry takes a hiding. When people go to shows with poor attendances the first thought is always, shame the poor band has no fans and not what a shithole. ( in some cases the shithole venue is responsible but most times not ). Look after the guy paying the most money first.
  • Quote accordingly to your fanbase.
    I’m not talking about the odd corporate event that has money to burn but rather your everyday club shows and festivals. If you consistently make R5000 on door deals then charge R5000 when it is a guarantee. Whenever I lose money on an act I am always very wary of booking them again. Be honest with the promoter and build your profile and performance fee together. That way if they do lose a little money due to unforeseen circumstances they won’t be as quick to jump on the nobody knows this band bandwagon. If you do manage to pull a much bigger crowd than expected the promoter should really also sweeten the deal for you.
  • Try not to play to many shows in one city in the same week.
    This is for both new and established bands. Don’t try and make a quick buck by adding extra shows if the venues are to close to each other. What you end up doing is splitting your fanbase and having two average shows instead of one banger.
  • Don’t be afraid of a door deal.
    The bigger the acts the keener they are on taking the door. You need to back yourself. This also gives the promoter confidence in your pulling power. What is important here is that you insist that the venue does proper marketing and covers all technical costs.
  •  There is no worse publicity than a quiet show.
    Not all publicity is good publicity. If your last show was dead quiet no matter how much somebody enjoys your band they will probably choose another band on a Friday or Saturday night that they know will pull birds and have a vibe.

*Gareth Wilson is part owner of The Good Luck Bar – a great live entertainment venue in Joburg
good luck bar

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