Who is the first party to get blamed when the turnout at a show is less than the amount desired? We all know the answer: the promoter. The general opinion of a lot of people is that promoters don’t pull their weight in raising awareness of shows, and while that is correct about a lot of promoters, here is something to consider that never gets discussed:
What, generally, is the reason for attending a show? Wanting to see at least one of the bands that are playing. While I can get the word out to all my friends about the show, and they may attend if they’re interested, they may not know about all the bands on the bill and therefore the show doesn’t stand out or seem special to them. Anybody who knows about my booking knows that my shows are always a friendly atmosphere and a good time, but that alone isn’t enough. People most likely won’t go and pay cover just to hang out with me, as they can hang out with me for free any other time. So, to whom would the lineup stand out and be special? Friends and fans of the bands. I obviously don’t know all the friends and fans of every band I book, and even if I could find that out, they are probably not going to be receptive to a stranger asking them to go to a show.
Therefore, it’s of course the promoter’s responsibility to promote the show through the avenues through which she can advertise, but it’s also the bands’ responsibility to tell their friends and hype up the show. What is the ultimate goal of a show? To have a lot of people present and therefore make it a fun time that generates a lot of money to pay the bands. This is the goal of both the promoter and the bands. Relationships between a promoter and bands should be ones of perfect friendship and perfect trust, not an “us vs. them” mentality. It’s far too easy for one party to slack off on their duty to promote and then blame the other party when the outcome matches their lack of effort. Anytime a band member has bitched to me about a turnout being less than expected, I say “Wanna know who to blame? Look in the mirror.” The exception to this being if the band truly did make an honest attempt. Other factors besides the level of publicity can negatively affect the attendance of a show.
I am no band’s manager, and it’s in the band’s interest to have people there excited to watch them. It’s beneficial to me as well, but not only to me. When a band doesn’t promote and doesn’t keep in communication with me, it’s time to say goodbye. Fortunately, this describes almost none of the bands with whom I work. While we’re on the subject, might I also add that it’s also a band’s responsibility to promote the band, record music, have merch made and sell merch, and be able to book and run a show themselves. Our thoughts create our reality, and the outcome matches the work put in. Anybody who sits around whining and waiting for things to come to them, will see all the things they claim to want pass them by, while those who truly want success will see it realized.