We are making deals all the time. Whether you are looking for a record deal, a publishing deal, booking a performance date, hiring a side musician, renting a car, buying new sound equipment, hiring an engineer to record your next CD or even deciding where you are going to have lunch–you are entering into a negotiation. There are techniques that could help make you more comfortable and more skilled at handling each of these situations so that you can reach your desired outcome. In this article, I will cover some of the techniques more specifically geared toward increasing your skills for booking performance dates.
I believe that everything we do, each new project, each tour, each phone call will be more productive and successful when we first establish the goal for the situation. Consider the next tour. Why are you touring? Are you releasing a new CD? Are you simply filling the calendar with dates? Have you decided you want to expand your touring region? Do you want to tour in a completely new market? Do you need to make a specific amount of money within a specific time frame? For example, during the next 3 weeks, we want to play 16 dates and make $10,000.
Establishing a goal for a tour will influence how you conduct each phone call and what extras will be acceptable or unacceptable. For instance, if they throw in two hotel rooms, will that make it acceptable when they are not able to pay the guarantee you are asking? It may be an added bonus in some instances. It may allow you to do this date if the guarantee was small and the value of the hotel is greater than what the guarantee might have been. Considering this small example again relates back to having established goals for the tour.
Let’s look at two scenarios that will help clarify the need for setting touring goals.
Scenario 1: The CD Release Tour
The Goal: Get as much publicity as possible, open new markets.
In this situation, getting radio airplay, getting print reviews, getting the act in front of as many new audiences as possible, is the focus for this tour. Yes, you would like to make some money, but getting publicity for the CD and therefore the band is the priority. By setting this publicity goal, the types of dates you are now seeking will differ from those you would be seeking if your goal were to earn a specific dollar figure. Now you would look for dates to open for larger acts, thus putting you in front of larger audiences. Booking radio interviews and live performances on radio shows would be another advantageous situation. If you were able to get a support act slot opening multiple tour dates for a major act, you would make minimal dollars. However, you would have the opportunity to play in front of much larger audiences while also being able to sell the new CD. Those sales have the potential to support the tour.
Scenario 2: Touring for a specific dollar amount
Goal: Play 16 dates and make $10,000 in 20 days
When you establish this goal, it demands that you look for dates in venues that will allow you to earn $625 per night. This means you need to book dates in markets where you have a following, can command a guarantee and have the potential to increase your earnings with a decent percentage if the guarantee is not equal to $625. Do you still want publicity? Absolutely! Will you accept publicity instead of money in this case? Possibly-but now it really depends on the type of publicity and how many of the other 15 dates can make up the shortfall of $625 so you still can meet your goal. Set realistic goals. When you are building a following but have never drawn the kinds of crowds that would earn you this kind of money, unrealistic goals will set you up for disappointment. Set touring goals that are in line with your career development, so you measure successes.
Once you have established the goal for the tour, it is easier to begin discussions with promoters and club bookers. Now let’s consider some of the additional techniques necessary to increase your negotiation savvy.
Ask open-ended questions
Negotiation is a process that depends on developing a relationship with the other person. Your success in the entertainment industry depends on how well you develop industry relationships. Asking open-ended questions allow a relationship to become established. When you ask a question that can be answered with a “Yes” or a “No,” there is no room for a fluid conversation to develop. When questions are framed in an open-ended manner, the conversation can mature and flow more naturally. For example: “Do you present jazz at your club?” The booker can answer, “Yes” or “No” and the conversation never gets off the ground. However, if you ask, “What kind of music do you book at your club?” there is no opportunity for “Yes” or “No” answers. The booker answers, “We book some jazz, but mostly blues and rock.” Now you have some information to consider. Continue with information about yourself and ask additional open-ended questions. A conversation has begun. Now you can gather much-needed information to decide whether this club fits into your touring goal.
Be sure to gather as much research as you can from online resources and directories about the venues you are calling, before actually making contact. You will sound more professional, and the bookers will appreciate you not wasting their time with questions already posted on their website.
Don’t be the first one to mention price
Continue with the open-ended question technique. You need more information about the club to decide whether they will have the dollars or the media outlets to support your goals. They may ask your fee right away. You might have a set fee, but you still don’t have enough information about the venue to offer your fee yet. In an effort to discover what kind of budget they work with, you should check their online schedule to see whom they’ve already booked. If the names are familiar, and many of the acts are at the same career level as you and you know approximately what they get, you may be able to determine the kind of money they would spend on your group. If they name mostly major, well-known artists, you may determine you are not ready to play this venue, or you may use the information to pitch your act as an opener for one of the upcoming major acts.
Other questions you need to know before offering your fee might be.
- What kind of sound system do you have?
- How large is the stage?
- What is the seating or standing capacity?
- What is your ticket pricing policy?
Answers to these questions can help you determine an appropriate and now educated answer to the question, “What is your fee?” or more likely, “What are you looking for?”
Don’t be thrown off by abrupt questions about your fee. Ask the open-ended questions necessary for you to give a well-thought out answer in line with your goal for the tour. At some point you need to discuss money, first, get information.
No is just the beginning
When you get “No” for an answer, don’t hang, up-get information. “Yes” is my favorite answer, but “No” is my second favorite. I’ll take a “No” over a “Maybe” any day. Once the answer is “No” you can move on. Talk about other tour dates when you are coming through the area. Find out when they are booking a major act. Perhaps you might be the opener. Ask when you should call back to update the booker about developments in your career which may make them more interested in booking your act. If you finally get a “No” from one venue, you can begin a more aggressive search into other venues to fill that date.
It is important to move your negotiations along and not let them drag on past the point of no return. You have a promotion timeline, mailings to get to your fans, and publicity to disseminate to the appropriate press. When a negotiation drags on, you might miss some important deadlines. Offer a deadline. It could be one week, 24 hours, or 48 hours. You need to have an answer about the date in the discussion so you may set your promotion in motion. In some cases, you need to get an answer so you may search for another venue if this one is not going to work out. When you offer a deadline, the negotiation moves along and comes to a conclusion.
When you are offered a deadline, be sure that there is enough time to consider all the issues and make and educated decision. Don’t allow yourself to be rushed into making a decision you may regret in the future. Take the time to consult the appropriate people on your team or in your group or simply work the numbers and review all the options.
In part two of Negotiating Techniques, I will discuss some of the standard deals one might expect when booking performance dates. There is always room for flexibility. Knowing how to work some of the more regularly used types of deals and when each may be used advantageously to both parties, will boost your negotiation savvy and ensure successful touring.
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 https://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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