This Article Originally Published July 1999 By Donald S. Passman
In the last issue, we discussed the role of the Personal Manager with regard to artist personal appearances. Now, we turn to the responsibilities of the Promoter, Business Manager, Road Manager, and look at personal appearance deals.
Promoters are the people in each market who hire you for the evening. Promoters are the entrepreneurs who take the full risk of the concert. They can be local (meaning they work only in one city or area), regional (several states), national (covering the entire U.S.), or international. They book the hall (which means they owe the rent even if nobody shows up) pay for the advertising of the concert, and supervise the overall running of the show for maximum efficiency. Promoters actually have a tough time. If they lose, they can lose big, but as acts get more successful they squeeze them and limit the promoter's upside. The result is a friendly game of "hide the pickle" that promoters routinely play in rendering statements of how much has been earned.
The Business Manager is in charge of all financial aspects of the tour. This job begins way before the tour starts by forecasting (a fancy accounting word for predicting the future) what the likely income and expenses are going to be, and about how much money you're going to make or lose. If you're a new band, this information lets you go to the record company and beat them up for tour support. At all levels, it helps avoid unhappy surprises along the way.
If you have a Road Manager (and if not, your Personal Manager should be doing the job), he or she will make sure everything runs smoothly for you on the road. This means that the hotel reservations are in fact there, that your airline tickets are where they should be, that the bus is where it's supposed to be, that you are on the bus or plane when you're supposed to be, that only certain groupies get through security, etc. It's the Road Manager who is responsible for collecting the money due for each show and depositing it in the right place. As you move up the ladder, you'll have a Tour Accountant doing the money part of the job.
Personal Appearance Deals
In the beginning, you lose money on touring. You also get stuck in uncomfortable dressing rooms, with food left over from last night's headliner. And you'll be regularly humiliated, playing to concert audiences who are there to see someone else, still arriving and buying beer while you're performing, talking loudly during your ballads, and chanting the headliner's name if they don't like your show. Did I sugar-coat it too much?
As the Chief Executive Officer of your professional team, the personal manager is in charge of the tour. He/she is the one who gets you onto the right tour in the first place; ensures that your agent is making the best possible deals for you (read "hounding the agent on a regular basis"); and once the tour is set up, mechanically makes it happen. He/she has to coordinate:
If you're a brand new artist and you don't have a record deal, you can forget about doing anything other than playing local club dates. If you play only dates in and around the city in which you live, (meaning you have no travel expenses), and if you can use the local club's sound and lights, you can make some money from this, create a "buzz," and showcase yourself for record companies. Enough said.
If you're a new artist in the music business with a record deal, you don't want to be touring until your record is out. As I said before, the only purpose is to let people know you, so they'll buy your records. And there's no purpose in them knowing you if you have no records to sell.
The major touring season, not surprisingly, is May through September, primarily the summer months when kids are out of school and can go to concerts every night. Superstars can tour throughout the year, and traditionally, new artists in the summer months (unless they were opening for a major artist who was touring at some other time.)
Recently, however, newer bands have taken to hitting the road in the fall, when there is less competition for concertgoers' dollars. This is especially true for college/alternative acts who want college radio blasting while they tour, and who want school to be in session when they get to town.
As a new artist, your choices are to play in clubs (100-1,500 or so) as a headliner, or to be the opening act on a big tour. How you get to be the opening act on a major tour is very political. If your album is only doing so-so and there are several other groups in your position, then it depends on the political clout of your manager and agent. It's that simple and cold.
If you're breaking out in an exceptional way, you'll have an edge in the political process, but it's still political. The exception is where you're really exploding from the start. In this case you have a much easier time, and in fact, the headliners may want you.