(or, the Art of Hounding)
The other day, someone asked me, “What’s the difference between a promoter and a booking agent?” Booking shows can be a two-part process, with most artists using both an agent and a promoter. For those who don’t know, a promoter can be as corporate as Live Nation, as grassroots as a local rock club owner, or a local promoter (who might be somewhere in-between). The promoter is essentially the person who hires the band to play a venue and is responsible for production, advertising, tickets, and more. Booking agents are the middle-persons, the liaison between promoter and artist. Most artists hire an agent from a booking agency. The booking agent represents the artist and books their tours and concerts; sometimes an artist will have multiple booking agents in different territories of the world. For Y&T, I do all the booking “in-house,” worldwide, and I deal directly with promoters, venue owners, and talent buyers.
While I was prepping for tour, a friend once asked me, “What could you possibly have left to do? Doesn’t the promoter do everything?” I thought, promoter? As in singular? Oh, how I wish there was just one person I could contact who would magically do everything. Wait…that person is me.
Dealing with a plethora of contacts—promoters, venue owners, talent buyers (and crew!)—I’m miraculously able to assemble a tour every year, all around the world. But planning isn’t without its highs and lows.
I’m in constant communication with many promoters, talent buyers, and venue owners the world over, and I’m pleased that most of them are responsive and professional. Unfortunately, most don’t handle anywhere close to everything required in assembling a tour. Some necessitate relentless hounding in order to extract the information I need to ensure that show day will run smoothly for my crew and the band.
In perhaps 98% of the shows on the tours that I plan, the promoters don’t plan the travel from point A to point B—that massive chore falls on me (read: travel agent—another of my many hats). In the instances where promoters happen to be providing accommodations, I certainly don’t demand five-star, but some try to cheap-out on fleabag motels instead of a more acceptable moderate hotel. I realize that promoters regularly deal with a multitude of acts and with varying requirements, and I’d like to think that puts them in a more experienced position, but it’s not always the case. Some don’t initially allow ample timings for show day, and instead leave less-than-adequate timings for the crew to set up, the band to sound check, dinner to be squeezed in, changeover after the support act, and ultimately my artist’s (the headliner’s) lengthy set. A good promoter first knows not to book a venue that has an inadequate sound systems and lighting that barely illuminates the stage (or is so dim the guitarists can’t even see their strings), or if they do, they’re willing to provide appropriate supplements when I point out the inadequacies.
These are just a few of the many details that must be sorted in advance of every show on every tour. If it’s a fly date*, there’s no way in hell I’m leaving the backline** solely to the promoter to hire; left unchecked, my artist would likely end up with a student drum kit instead of pro kit, subpar amplifiers instead of prime gear in working condition, and speaker cabinets that sound as honky as a horn on a 1972 Ford Pinto.
These factors all affect the final intended result, which is the most important thing to Dave and the guys—a stellar show for the fans. I love dealing with professional promoters who have the same goal.
* A fly date is when it’s logistically illogical to transport the band, crew, and gear by ground. Therefore, the people, guitars, and suitcases must fly, and the promoter must provide the backline.
** Backline is everything but the guitars, drums, and cymbals (in other words, the amplifiers, speaker cabinets, drum kit and miscellaneous stage items).