Playing clubs usually involves door sales. Depending on the deal you negotiate, it is very likely that your income will be partially or wholly dependent upon a percentage of the tickets sold.
Many clubs have official box offices and sell pre-printed tickets, but many simply tear a ticket from a roll of non-specific tickets or simply take the customer’s money at the door and stamp their hand. When you play clubs that don’t offer advance ticket sales nor have a real box office selling pre-printed tickets, your income is at the mercy of whoever is collecting the money at the door. Do you know that person? Are your interests their utmost concern? Are they working for the club? The answers to these questions must be of paramount interest to you since it may make a huge difference in how much money you take home on any given performance night.
I’d like to respond to these questions and make some suggestions for you to maintain a certain amount of control over this all-important aspect affecting the financial success of your club gigs.
When you negotiate your date, one of the items up for discussion must be about ticket sales. You need to know in advance whether there is an official box office and whether tickets will be available for advance sales? Are the tickets pre-printed specifically for each concert? If you have this information as you negotiate the date, you will be better prepared to take action if you discover that none of the above will be in effect at this venue. You will know what to expect when you arrive the day of the gig and make arrangements to manage the door in a way that assures you of an accurate sales count.
Once you are aware of how money will be collected for your gig, it is appropriate to ask, “Who will be handling the door?” Depending on the club, they may have a paid employee whose specific job is to collect money and get an accurate count. This will be a good situation but keep in mind, they work for the club and not for you. Some clubs are not that well staffed and might have a waitperson handle the door that night. This is a less advantageous situation for you since they are even further removed from being concerned with your income. This is a prime opportunity for their friends to slip in unpaid. Your income dwindles.
In every instance where an official box office is not used, plan to have someone from your group stand with the club’s money collector and keep count with your own clicker. Unless you have someone counting paid people, you can’t be certain that the numbers given to the manager or owner are the same numbers you receive when you settle the gig later that night. Having your own counter may take some arranging, especially if you tour solo. Here is where your mailing list can be very helpful. You might offer two tickets to a loyal mailing list fan prior to the gig in exchange for them being your official representative at the door, clicking and counting the paid customers. If you have friends or family in the town, entice them to help count tickets or even collect money. I guarantee it is worth it. Your count will be that much more accurate in your favor when you take this very seriously.
When the door person is working for the club, they are getting paid by the club to do a job for the club. Most are very diligent and good at their job. Their goal is to make money for the club. If they do a good job on the club’s behalf, it is more likely that you will benefit, but their primary focus is the club and not you. I urge you to meet the door person as soon as they come in and give them a copy of your CD, a tee shirt or buy them a drink to win them over to be more concerned about your success in the upcoming hours as they collect your money. If you have made arrangements to have your own counter stand with club’s door person, introduce them and make them aware of your arrangement to keep the situation friendly and not adversarial. You don’t want to make them feel mistrusted.
The most advantageous solution is to negotiate your deal with you providing the door person to actually collecting the money. You might pay your collector something, offer them tickets, but you will make more money. When you do this, many times the club will ask to have one of their people co-counting with your person, but that’s fine, the money is in your control.
The guest list is another aspect of door management that requires some attentiveness. Your contract should clarify the exact number of comps or maximum percentage of the room that may be allocated for complimentary tickets. If you are inviting any media to the gig, that needs to go on the list. Make sure you know the number of media comps normally used by the club for their promotion. Go over your guest and comp list with the door person well in advance of the doors opening. Ask them to cross off the names as those individuals arrive and return the list to you at the end of the night so you’ll have an indication of how your guests responded to your invitations. This will also provide you with the list of “Thank You” and follow-up calls to make.
Before you start your show, take a head count of those already in the room to give yourself a base of comparison. Some rooms fill up as the night goes on and others are mostly full when the show starts. If you play rooms that continually fill, you might make another head count before you start the second set.
Managing the door sales is an important aspect of your success. Don’t leave it up to the club to watch out for your interests. Take charge of each club gig and insist on your own people assisting the club in order to get accurate counts. Good luck!
And, I invite you to learn more about this and other topics important to your career development and to sign up for free weekly audio Biz Booster Hot Tip! Every Monday you’ll get another valuable strategy and technique that you can put to use immediately. You’ll find helpful books, career development seminars, Booking & Touring Success Strategies & Secrets online course and information on booking tours, the music business and performing arts. It’s all waiting for you at http://www.performingbiz.com. Jeri Goldstein is the author of, How To Be Your Own Booking Agent The Musician’s & Performing Artist’s Guide To Successful Touring, 3rd Edition.
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