PRESALES ARE EASY - THINK AGAIN!
An important message from a musician who's been there

INTRODUCTION:
How many times have we heard that worn out statement, “presales are not a problem as long as you are not lazy and have friends to sell tickets to.” The logic from P2P promoters (and bands who have fallen for their rhetoric) is that bands who are hard working can easily sell tickets to all their shows. In fact, they can continue to do this with every show they play. This is described as a normal sacrifice to take your band to the “next level” (that illusive term no one ever describes) and the normal way to promote yourself.



These promoters and clubs have done an excellent job integrating this idea into the minds of inexperienced musicians. Those musicians are now carrying this idea forward and starting to work that notion into their own music communities. Once it starts to spread and everyone adopts the idea, it can be tough to have regular non-presale shows. Let’s face it, most promoters and clubs are not going to discourage bands from bringing them money before they play. They just aren’t.

Musicians who support selling presale tickets are so immersed in this idea that it’s difficult to get any specifics. The details are lacking when pressed to give actual accounts. They mostly say that presale is easy or that it’s just a necessary evil of “making it” in the music industry (a notion that is perpetuated by bottom-feeding promoters).

That’s why I was delighted when I found this article from a Facebook post last year. From the detailed description, it’s obvious that the author has had many years of experience and firsthand knowledge about how presale tickets work - or actually don’t work. I will print it as it was written (with graphics from P2P promoters to illustrate) and at the end I’ll discuss some of the points.


Posted from Facebook in late 2013:

THIS IS FROM A FRIEND OF MINE THAT PLAYS IN A VERY WELL KNOWN BAND. HE ASKED ME TO POST THIS FOR HIM AS HE CANNOT DUE TO THE NASTY POLITICS IN THE INDUSTRY. I TOLD HIM I WOULD. IT READS AS FOLLOWS:

I wanted to write this for all the people out there with a love for live and local music scene, as well as promoters/bookers to see. I wanted to bring light to the hardships that come with required presale tickets.

What it’s like to be required to sell presale tickets:

Seven years ago was my first presale experience. It was 50 tickets minimum or the money was required out of personal pocket or you weren’t allowed to play. Pretty shitty. However, pretty easy considering it was a very well-known venue with a very well-known act playing. But that was seven years ago. Seven years later, it seems as though almost every venue in every city requires bands to do presales of anywhere from 100-300 tickets. No matter how many times I swear that I won’t do it again, it happens. Why? Because these days, unless you sell a legitimate amount of presales at every show, you will not get paid well or even booked for another show. The thing is, seven years ago presales worked to a decent extent. These days...not so much. The most promotion I see venues/promoters do these days is stick a flyer on their window. They leave it up to the bands, which at times can be understandable due to lack of self-promotion, and egos. We even had a venue states away try to require us to sell presales while on the road for a tour date, seriously. Obviously, we didn’t take the show.

Venues could care less as to why they are seeing presales go down because they know they have the upper hand and can just not book you to play because they can get some other local band to commit to selling 100+ tickets guaranteed or out of their own pockets. It can become stressful to the point of not even wanting to play the show anymore. You have to spend so much time driving around upwards of 20-60 miles just to sell one measly ticket to make that $1-$2 that the venue will pay you for. Not to mention, if you live far away, you still have to drive to the venue to pick up the tickets, which can be an unpleasant experience in its own (see story below). You end up annoying everybody by constantly having to text, fb invite, or message people badgering them about buying a ticket. It’s a chore. It’s not fun. And to be honest, it makes us band members look bad in so many ways.

Why do presales not work like they used to?

Lets face it, there used to be a novelty in meeting up with a band member to buy a ticket. It was exciting for fans to get to meet and greet face to face. It gave the fans a personal connection with the member(s). It’s 2013 now. The world is consumed by social media. Every move every person makes is documented by facebook, instagram, and twitter. Band members aren’t band members anymore. Their fans/followers see, read, and hear all about their lives, sometimes in more detail than they care to know. THE NOVELTY IS GONE. No one cares to meet their local talent anymore, because they can just send them a message or know all about their favorite bands’ personal lives on all the various social media without having to leave the house.


A band playing a Project Independent Show admits that they had to eat the cost of the tickets.

How about that incentive of saving money by buying a presale ticket? Come on, people! Once again, it’s 2013. Gas prices are $3-$5 a gallon. Do you really think that anyone wants to go out of the way or drive somewhere to meet up to buy a ticket that will save them $2? Absolutely not! There’s absolutely no incentive in the “cheaper ticket” ploy. The most I’ve seen that somebody would save by buying from me was $5, and that has only happened once. Still, that’s no incentive.


Suggestion #3 of Gorilla Music's, 10 Ways To Have A Great Show.

Why it sucks to be required to sell presales, from a member’s perspective:

When a venue bases your payout on presales, bands start to have to figure out ways to entice the audience. There are very few things a band can do to entice someone to buy a presale these days. I’ve seen bands use free CDs with ticket sales to draw in business, which is just basically giving away their hard earned money they spent to make them, as well as a potential money of actually selling the album to those people.


Suggestions from Afton on how to entice your audience to buy tickets. They suggest giving away buttons, stickers, a full-length album and T-shirt!

I’ve seen bands even go as far as to eat several hundreds of dollars of their own money to throw a keg party or two. The ploy was, buy your ticket, and get your cup. Drink all their beer for free, trash their house, puke all over, disregard the request to stay inside to prevent the cops from getting called by the neighbors, and most likely not even attend the show. Aside from the entire police department showing up, it worked pretty well. However, was it worth it? Not really.


Suggestion #6 of Gorilla Music's, 10 Ways To Have a Great Show.

I know a band that had an experience with a venue that almost made it so they’d never get booked again. One of their members was passing through the city where their upcoming show was (which is 40 minutes to an hour away from our homes). He called the office of the venue to ask what the time frame was for picking up tickets to which the person responded saying that we should have gotten an email with the information. He then proceeded to explain that he was driving through and asked if “said person” could just inform him the time frame since he had that person on the phone. He got a very rude response saying, and I quote: “No, I want you to see if you can comprehend how to physically check your email and find the times listed.” He gracefully said “okay” and hung up. That’s pretty rude, right? So, after all that, they go through their email with a fine-toothed comb not finding any email whatsoever from the venue informing them on any details of the show. So, they never picked up their tickets because they didn’t know when they could. They still played the show and explained the situation to the promoter. The next time a band wanted them to play the same venue, while handling the business and informing the owner of the lineup, the owner was not very interested/pleased to hear that said band was to perform. They almost didn’t even get the show simply due to lack of/no presales from the show before. Pretty bummer deal to hear that the owner of a venue doesn’t want a band to play despite the hundreds of ticket sales and thousands of dollars they had already made for them in the last year just because of one show and one extremely rude employee. So there they were, nervous about not getting booked ever again, and having to “redeem” themselves by selling a large amount of tickets.

To the fans who buy the tickets;

Okay, here’s a little gripe from me to the fans and friends. If you really need to save that couple of dollars on a presale, don’t wait until the day of the show to hit up a band member. Every venue I’ve ever played has you turn in ticket money and unsold tickets hours before the show even starts. It never fails that the day of the show at the last minute I get calls/texts from 5+ people asking me to save them a ticket. I can’t “save” you a ticket. The only thing the band members can do is front the money for the ticket. That is more common than not a lose/lose situation. At one show alone a few years ago, I myself spotted $50+ of my own money for people who wanted me to “save” them a ticket. They said they would call me and meet me outside to pay me back and get their presale. Half of them didn’t show up, and the other half just decided they’d pay at the door instead of calling me and waiting outside. So there I am getting burned on $50+ of my own money with nothing but an “Oh man, sorry.” Obviously, I won’t ever do that again. So once again to the people who want presale: Please don’t wait until the last minute.

So in closing. To the fans: We know it’s a pain and annoying, and we don’t like having to do it, but buying presales helps the bands to get better payouts that allow them to produce more albums, merchandise,, etc. To the venues/promoters: I fully understand that you need to make money to keep the business open, but if you truly support local music, there has got to be better ways to get people to promote a show and get people through the door. I’m not trying in any way to burn any bridges. I love my current local scene. I just wanted to show you the perspective of a musician on the subject. Maybe I’m just old school, but I still remember the days of no presales and good turnouts.

Thanks for reading.


From Wendigo Productions: Like our author illustrates, the "pros" turn out to be the "cons". And the only "con" listed is a classic example of P2P pyschological manipulation.


So what have we learned?

After reading this I’m sure you’ve already guessed my main question. If this musician could write so many negative points about the presale scenario, why is he still going ahead with it? I’ll tell you why. It’s because he’s stuck. He’s stuck like every band that starts this practice. He’s so stuck he can’t even reveal his name for fear that he won’t get shows! And yes, it’s clear to see from the tense changes in his writing the specific story about the “band he knew” was actually a personal experience.

This article illustrates a hard truth. It is vital for every musician to establish a good working relationship with clubs and promoters right from the beginning. Once you go down that presale road it is extremely difficult to turn back and play normal shows. Your value isn’t in your performance. Your worth only depends on how many tickets you can sell. The promoters/clubs this band has made connections with will never let them play without bringing them money. And why should they? They actually believe that bands SHOULD pay for their shows. They are not going to stop that now. If this band won’t cough up with the ticket money, there are a hundred new bands in line who will. This musician/promoter relationship is not built on musicianship, cooperation and trust. It’s built on how much money they can turn in. It would be almost impossible for this band to go back to square-one and get non-P2P shows. So they must continue down this path. The author admits, “It’s a chore. It’s not fun,” but what else can this band do?

This is a toxic situation and one that will seep into your music scene if you allow it to happen. And it starts with every band who agrees to sell tickets. It’s easy to blame greedy promoters but if we allow ourselves to be exploited like this, who really is to blame? It starts with all of us.




AN OPEN LETTER TO THE BAND WHO ADVOCATES PRESALE

Dear P2P Musician-

Excuse me for being blunt, but aren’t you any good? I’m serious. Is your band really that bad? Is your band so bad that you actually have to go out and personally sell somebody a ticket before they’ll go out to see you? Or worse yet, that you have to turn in money to play some showcase or festival to get a gig? Are you saying that people won’t just show up when you play a show? Well, why not?

The good bands never do P2P shows. They know what their job is. Their job is to work on their music and performance so just the mention of their name will bring people in. And they worked hard to make that happen. It wasn’t easy. But they didn’t fall for a fast track to “getting big shows” or “exposure” or “taking their band to the next level”, by selling tickets for some promoter. Nobody starts at the top. They started at the bottom and worked up. Yes, it took them some time. They had to be patient. But now they are at the point where clubs want to book them and people want to see them. They made themselves in demand. And they didn’t sell tickets to do it. They knew this wouldn’t get them a real fanbase. They gathered new fans gradually as they played more shows. (Selling tickets might work for close family and friends, but putting on a good show is the only way to get real music fans to come see you.) Of course they promoted! What numbskull doesn’t work to get people to see them play? Having people see them is why they are in a band in the first place. But they did their promoting the right way. And this helped them branch out into other areas. They did band-trades with musicians in other cities. Once they had a solid following in their city, it allowed them to take their show on the road.

I always hear bragging about being a hard working band, in other words working hard to sell a bunch of tickets for a promoter. You want to be known as a band that works hard? Then work to get people to your show the right way. Do it without going out and personally hocking tickets like a bunch of Girl Scouts selling cookies. Don’t blow your badass image by looking desperate. Just put on a show that no one will be able to pass up. Now that’s what I call badass!

Do your homework. You need to do some research. You need to see all the local shows and who’s popular. Why are they popular? You need to hang out and soak it in. Find out what makes people want to see the bands they are going to see. It will give you ideas on how to do things. Meet people, be visible, be part of the scene. Networking on-line is fine but it will never replace doing it the old fashioned way, by actually going to shows and hanging out with everybody. That’s real networking. You’ll learn a lot but more important get some really great friends out of the deal.

I’m sure you want to be a successful band. Who doesn’t? But you aren’t going to achieve that by presale. It just doesn’t work like that. People really don’t like that supersalesman routine. They don’t want to be pressured to personally buy a ticket to every show you play. It gets old real fast. People start to avoid you when you have tickets for every damn show you play. In all the research I’ve done, ticket sales goes down and not up. It becomes increasingly tougher to foist tickets on people until the band finally just offers discounts, gives them away or worse yet, offers them hard-earned merch for free. How could that help you? And how could it help you when you keep inviting those same people to crappy overpriced shows that feature a marathon of too many unknown mismatched bands? Do you think abusing your crowd will help build your fanbase? It won’t.

This isn’t rocket science. Anybody can do it. And yes, it’s not for the weak. It takes work and determination and faith in yourself when the going gets tough. But it can be done. It can be done by any band that puts their minds to it. If the only way you can get people to see you is to personally sell them a ticket, you need to go back to the drawing board. If your band really is good, then prove it.

Keep rockin',
Bon Von Wheelie


Project Independent attempts to defend themselves from my "10 Signs It's A Pay To Play Show". By the way, this General Motors scenario would be true if it was the job of the people on the assembly line to also sell the cars after they built them. It's not. Yes, it's always nonsense when musicians discover they don't need to sell tickets.


The blog as it was written without the graphics:

I wanted to write this for all the people out there with a love for live and local music scene, as well as promoters/bookers to see. I wanted to bring light to the hardships that come with required presale tickets.

What it’s like to be required to sell presale tickets:

Seven years ago was my first presale experience. It was 50 tickets minimum or the money was required out of personal pocket or you weren’t allowed to play. Pretty shitty. However, pretty easy considering it was a very well-known venue with a very well-known act playing. But that was seven years ago. Seven years later, it seems as though almost every venue in every city requires bands to do presales of anywhere from 100-300 tickets. No matter how many times I swear that I won’t do it again, it happens. Why? Because these days, unless you sell a legitimate amount of presales at every show, you will not get paid well or even booked for another show. The thing is, seven years ago presales worked to a decent extent. These days...not so much. The most promotion I see venues/promoters do these days is stick a flyer on their window. They leave it up to the bands, which at times can be understandable due to lack of self-promotion, and egos. We even had a venue states away try to require us to sell presales while on the road for a tour date, seriously. Obviously, we didn’t take the show.

Venues could care less as to why they are seeing presales go down because they know they have the upper hand and can just not book you to play because they can get some other local band to commit to selling 100+ tickets guaranteed or out of their own pockets. It can become stressful to the point of not even wanting to play the show anymore. You have to spend so much time driving around upwards of 20-60 miles just to sell one measly ticket to make that $1-$2 that the venue will pay you for. Not to mention, if you live far away, you still have to drive to the venue to pick up the tickets, which can be an unpleasant experience in its own (see story below). You end up annoying everybody by constantly having to text, fb invite, or message people badgering them about buying a ticket. It’s a chore. It’s not fun. And to be honest, it makes us band members look bad in so many ways.

Why do presales not work like they used to?

Lets face it, there used to be a novelty in meeting up with a band member to buy a ticket. It was exciting for fans to get to meet and greet face to face. It gave the fans a personal connection with the member(s). It’s 2013 now. The world is consumed by social media. Every move every person makes is documented by facebook, instagram, and twitter. Band members aren’t band members anymore. Their fans/followers see, read, and hear all about their lives, sometimes in more detail than they care to know. THE NOVELTY IS GONE. No one cares to meet their local talent anymore, because they can just send them a message or know all about their favorite bands’ personal lives on all the various social media without having to leave the house. How about that incentive of saving money by buying a presale ticket? Come on, people! Once again, it’s 2013. Gas prices are $3-$5 a gallon. Do you really think that anyone wants to go out of the way or drive somewhere to meet up to buy a ticket that will save them $2? Absolutely not! There’s absolutely no incentive in the “cheaper ticket” ploy. The most I’ve seen that somebody would save by buying from me was $5, and that has only happened once. Still, that’s no incentive.

Why it sucks to be required to sell presales, from a member’s perspective:

When a venue bases your payout on presales, bands start to have to figure out ways to entice the audience. There are very few things a band can do to entice someone to buy a presale these days. I’ve seen bands use free CDs with ticket sales to draw in business, which is just basically giving away their hard earned money they spent to make them, as well as a potential money of actually selling the album to those people. I’ve seen bands even go as far as to eat several hundreds of dollars of their own money to throw a keg party or two. The ploy was, buy your ticket, and get your cup. Drink all their beer for free, trash their house, puke all over, disregard the request to stay inside to prevent the cops from getting called by the neighbors, and most likely not even attend the show. Aside from the entire police department showing up, it worked pretty well. However, was it worth it? Not really.

I know a band that had an experience with a venue that almost made it so they’d never get booked again. One of their members was passing through the city where their upcoming show was (which is 40 minutes to an hour away from our homes). He called the office of the venue to ask what the time frame was for picking up tickets to which the person responded saying that we should have gotten an email with the information. He then proceeded to explain that he was driving through and asked if “saidperson” could just inform him the time frame since he had that person on the phone. He got a very rude response saying, and I quote: “No, I want you to see if you can comprehend how to physically check your email and find the times listed.” He gracefully said “okay” and hung up. That’s pretty rude, right? So, after all that, they go through their email with a fine-toothed comb not finding any email whatsoever from the venue informing them on any details of the show. So, they never picked up their tickets because they didn’t know when they could. They still played the show and explained the situation to the promoter. The next time a band wanted them to play the same venue, while handling the business and informing the owner of the lineup, the owner was not very interested/pleased to hear that said band was to perform. They almost didn’t even get the show simply due to lack of/no presales from the show before. Pretty bummer deal to hear that the owner of a venue doesn’t want a band to play despite the hundreds of ticket sales and thousands of dollars they had already made for them in the last year just because of one show and one extremely rude employee. So there they were, nervous about not getting booked ever again, and having to “redeem” themselves by selling a large amount of tickets.

To the fans who buy tickets

Okay, here’s a little gripe from me to the fans and friends. If you really need to save that couple of dollars on a presale, don’t wait until the day of the show to hit up a band member. Every venue I’ve ever played has you turn in ticket money and unsold tickets hours before the show even starts. It never fails that the day of the show at the last minute I get calls/texts from 5+ people asking me to save them a ticket. I can’t “save” you a ticket. The only thing the band members can do is front the money for the ticket. That is more common than not a lose/lose situation. At one show alone a few years ago, I myself spotted $50+ of my own money for people who wanted me to “save” them a ticket. They said they would call me and meet me outside to pay me back and get their presale. Half of them didn’t show up, and the other half just decided they’d pay at the door instead of calling me and waiting outside. So there I am getting burned on $50+ of my own money with nothing but an “Oh man, sorry.” Obviously, I won’t ever do that again. So once again to the people who want presale: Please don’t wait until the last minute.

So in closing. To the fans: We know it’s a pain and annoying, and we don’t like having to do it, but buying presales helps the bands to get better payouts that allow them to produce more albums, merchandise,, etc. To the venues/promoters: I fully understand that you need to make money to keep the business open, but if you truly support local music, there has got to be better ways to get people to promote a show and get people through the door. I’m not trying in any way to burn any bridges. I love my current local scene. I just wanted to show you the perspective of a musician on the subject. Maybe I’m just old school, but I still remember the days of no presales and good turnouts.

Thanks for reading.

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