Brad and Del discuss some of the challenges facing gigging musicians and how to get round them.
- Get Gigs. The basic gig acquisition tool you must have
- The value of customer feedback for promoting your band
- The danger of customer forums
- How to handle negative feedback
- The value of educating your customer
- How to handle being asked to play late
- FAQ’s you must have
- How to be Pre-Event Prepared™
- The secret of enjoyable gigs every time
- How to make sure you’re paid
- Musical Talent versus band marketing talent. Who wins?
“We played to our market and our market was the wedding market and the corporate market.” – Del
“That’s the first big lesson. Every gig is the best showcase for the next one.” – Brad
“You should never come away from a gig without at some point along the road getting another gig.” – Del
“It really shows that you can keep the full-time job and almost have another full time income from your band.” – Brad
“You should have the mentality of deciding which gigs you want to do and when you want to do them.” – Brad
“You’ve got to make it clear to the people who hire you that you are not performing for a set number of hours but between set hours.” – Del
DEL: Probably a good idea here is for us just to say who we are for anyone listening. So the guy with the Scottish accent, that’s me, the jock, I’m Del Cotton from Hire A Band.
BRAD: Yeah, great. And I’m Brad Lazarus from London. My company is LM2 Entertainment. So Del, tell us a little bit about your journey to get to this point now.
DEL: Oh, it’s a long and winding road. I’ll try not to make too many of those rubbish jokes.
BRAD: The Scottish references.
DEL: Yeah. Well, that’s a Beatles reference, Brad.
BRAD: It is the Beatles. You’re right. Yeah.
DEL: All right. In 1999, I was a gigging musician at that time, full time. When I say full time, I was working on the weekends. I’m very proud to have been up until recently a weekend warrior. So I was a guy who would go out and perform with various bands and various lineups at weddings, lots of weddings, at corporate events, product launches, award ceremonies, things like that. And we got very, very busy. The upshot of that was that we decided that the best thing to do was to form an agency to get to handle some of those gigs that we just couldn’t cover anymore. The diary was full and we thought, you know… we were calling friends. As every musician will recognize, you get a call from someone… you can’t do the gig, so you try and pass the gig onto a friend. And that was becoming a full-time job almost. So we decided to take the plunge and just form a small agency right here on the west of Scotland near Glasgow and make some money basically from the gigs that we couldn’t cover. That was in 1999.
BRAD: And what kind of band was it?
DEL: The band I was in was just a covers band.
DEL: And we didn’t do any original material. And everything we did was in the charts at that time and the charts at that time were pretty poor. And we did classics, anything from the Beatles and Sinatra up to whatever happened, you know, at that time. But it was all other people’s tunes. We never did any original material because we couldn’t. That wasn’t our thing. You know, none of us in the band were really gifted in that way but we were a good, polished, fairly tight band and we knew what the customers were after. So we played to our market and our market was the wedding market and the corporate market. We turned up on time, that kind of thing. So we got really busy.
BRAD: So what was busy for you? How many gigs did you have in maybe a month or a year or…?
DEL: In 1999, there were two of us in the band, we’d slimmed it right down. We were using technology of backing tracks, and I know that a lot of guys listening to this just now are going to, you know, put their hands up in horror. I thought of that.
BRAD: A sharp intake of breath.
DEL: But money talked back then, you know, and midi files and stuff were just coming out. And we went down that road. We just got smaller and smaller. And I have to say that the impact and the fun quotient was, you know, in direct relation negatively to the smaller the band got. So when there was five of us originally, I was a singer and I played some rhythm guitar. And it was great fun. Rehearsing songs was great. That was all good. But we got smaller. I made more money but much, much less enjoyable at the gigs. But it meant we were affordable for clients. So we would be playing, without any exaggeration, easily 80 to 90 weddings every year. The summer was particularly hectic and I do remember one time, we must have done, I think this is our record, we did 11 weddings in 14 or 15 days. We were doing mid-week weddings and stuff. And we just kept on and on and on. It was a production lane but it was very lucrative and we got very busy. And as you know, Brad, a gig gets another gig. If you handle yourself properly at the gig, you should.
BRAD: Sure. That’s the first big lesson. Every gig is the best showcase for the next one.
DEL: And if you know what to do when you’re at the gig, if you’ve got your business cards with you and they’re in good condition and they’re up to date and you remember to take them, then you should never come away from a gig without at some point along the road getting another gig. So yeah, we got to that stage where I want to say we, myself and at one point just one other guy, we were doing 80 or 90 mainly all weddings a year. And people would call up to book us for theirs and we’d be booked and that’s where the agency came along. And at first, we were just passing on bookings to, you know, local guys, guys who I’d known, been in bands with. You know, just your mates, really.
BRAD: What was your radius of kind of work? Where were you working, locally to you or were you traveling all over the UK?
DEL: Exactly, when we first started, we played pretty much anywhere that people wanted to book us for. We would go anywhere with the band, with the PA. And, you know, we’d jump in the van, head off. So we would have no hesitation in going to Inverness and Elgin which if you know Scotland, they are there in the north of Scotland. And we’d also be down in Harrogate, in Yorkshire and the Midlands if we were booked to play down there. So we would go anywhere. But as the band got busier, we could pick and choose where we’d perform. And there’s a lesson there as well. And that meant that certain venues would become on our little blacklist because what we call the “Get In” was a nightmare. If you had too many stairs and stuff, you thought, “I don’t want to play there.” If the general manager or the duty manager was a pain in the ass, then you would put that venue on the blacklist. And it became a long list because as I got older all the stairs became steeper and I thought, you know… yeah, that list got quite long. But we were able at that time to continue to have that list and to choose where we’d play. And then eventually, we said, you know, “We’re going to play within an hour of our base.” And we maintained the diary at that level for several years actually, just playing fairly closely so nothing more than 30 miles from our base. But when we started, yeah, hands up, we would play anywhere.
BRAD: Right. Okay. Okay. So how many years were you going at the kind of the rate of 80-90 gigs a year?
DEL: I think we were probably at that kind of level for eight or nine years. We worked up to that. So yeah, a long, long time. We worked up to that level. It took a while and then as I got older and the agency got larger and larger, as Hire A Band grew, you looked forward to the weekends. What I should say is that through the week when I was gigging at that level, I was a stay-at-home dad and my wife was what every musician needs, which is a breadwinner.
DEL: She worked and had a good job. And that left me able to look after our daughter. And the weekends and, you know, lots of weeknights, I’d be out gigging with the band or rehearsing with the band and things like that. So yeah, for probably eight or nine years, we maintained that peak. It does burn you out. I mean, that’s a lot of gigs to do. And people will recognize that you miss birthday parties. You miss it all if you want to gig at that level. And we also eased our prices up. So towards the end, I mean, we were earning really good money and the equivalent to what a lot of four and five-piece bands were charging. And we were getting that fee.
DEL: So a long time. And then it kind of just petered off and, you know, my last gig was last Saturday. That’s the last one.
BRAD: Was it really?
DEL: Been in the book for a year and a half. Weddings kind of book so far in advance. So, you know, the diary was starting to fizzle out and it was only the fourth or fifth gig this year that we had to do. But that was the last one and, you know, I was mixed emotions. It was a long time that Jim and I had been performing together. So very mixed emotions but relieved at the same time because, you know, I’m 48 years old now.
BRAD: You mentioned the other guy in the outfit was Jim.
DEL: Yeah, that’s Jim.
BRAD: What was his kind of status, if you like, to that time? Was it full time for him?
DEL: No, he had a day job.
BRAD: Oh, he did have a day job.
DEL: Yeah, he had a day job.
BRAD: Wow, so he managed to keep up that day job with 80 to 90 gigs a year?
DEL: Yeah, he did, and he never missed a gig.
BRAD: So what did he do?
DEL: That’s a good question. He started off as the roadie, and I was what they called self contained. It got to the point where there was just… the only person making the music was me and we were using backing tracks. So Jim came along and was essentially the roadie. We graduated to using, I don’t know if you remember, MiniDiscs but we started using MiniDiscs, and Jim started to work the desk. So he became a self taught sound engineer if you like but specific only to my own show. So he knew the sound I wanted to get. We always had good gear. We had the best equipment we could afford. I mean, we had a good income then. I had a good income then so I could afford to buy the best. And Jim learned how to work it particularly well to my kind of… you know, everyone has their own ways of having their sound, and I liked the sound that Jim got. So that’s what Jim did and, you know, we drove all over the country. We’d set up the equipment and it weighed a ton back then. We had big, heavy Yamaha amps and EV speakers and subs and things.
BRAD: That’s impressive on Jim’s part, isn’t it? It really shows that you can keep the full-time job and almost have another full time income from your band.
DEL: Oh aye. Absolutely. So Jim did well from that, you know. But, of course, I had the lion’s share of the income and as the band got busier, you know, it became a very good income. And that meant that I didn’t have to look for that day job. But Jim did have the day job, still does. He’s kind of in demand now. He’s become a bit of a celebrity in the circuit over here. So when people became aware that he was becoming available, he picked up another gig very, very quickly, and is still gigging away.
BRAD: So where does that leave us then? You pretty much formulated Hire A Band as a fully fledged agency. When was this?
DEL: That was in ’99. Fully fledged is a bit… that’s a bit of a compliment really. It was very much on the kitchen table with an old, old PC. I think our first PC was a 4-gig Pentium 2. And that was kind of it.
BRAD: So was that you and Lisa at that point?
DEL: Just me actually.
BRAD: Just you.
DEL: It was actually me and Rachel who’s my daughter.
BRAD: That’s Lisa, your wife.
DEL: This is my wife. So really, the business is run by me and a 3-year-old girl who would get to the phone quite often before I did which was a bit of a pain when you were trying to project that big, corporate image and your 3-year-old answers the phone and tells them she’s just done a poo
BRAD: It’s like the dog barking in the background, isn’t it? Yeah.
BRAD: If we kind of move forward then quite a few years. Now, you’re building Hire A Band and then you get to, let’s say, like three or four years ago, and where were you at that point?
DEL: That became a tipping point for Hire A Band. We just got to the point where the agency was so busy. The time that I had to devote to gigging and learning songs and keeping up with practicing and stuff like that was becoming very, very tight. And something kind of had to give. And what happened is that we took our eye off the ball when it came to the band because it became secondary and to keep a band fun, any musician listening will know this, you have to learn new songs and have new things to do.
BRAD: Keep it fresh. Yeah.
DEL: Yeah. I got the idea and I realized that eventually, Hire A Band was going to become so big, which it has now, that I wouldn’t be able to continue to gig. And it took me a long time to give it up because it’s addictive. You do enjoy it. There’s the whole social side of it when you’re going out. You know, I’m the only guy in my house. So it was great to go and see Jim and have a few beers and play at gigs and still try to impress girls. But, you know, the writing was on the wall and we knew that Hire A Band was the future for us. And gigging was kind of a young man’s game, I’ve said this to you before.
BRAD: Sure. Well, I suppose it depends, doesn’t it? It depends on how far you’re prepared to travel and that kind of thing. You almost should have the mentality of you decide which gigs you want to do and when you want to do them. But then at the same time, a lot of the gigs are at weekends and do you want to sacrifice your weekends?
DEL: We all do. We’re all faced with that challenge. And the busier bands; the income’s there. But the drawback is the fact that it takes up so much of your time. There are bands on our roster who are doing more gigs every year than we did. There are bands with way over a hundred bookings a year. And, you know, they are working Thursday through Sunday especially in the summer. So those guys are there. And they’re the big earners. Those are the guys who make large sums of money.
BRAD: So let’s kind of shoot forward a bit because we want to try and keep these podcasts only to about 45 minutes. Okay. Maybe I’ll summarize for you there. You’re at the point now where Hire A Band’s become so successful, you’re actually franchising the agency now.
DEL: Yeah, we are, and I’d say we’re the first entertainment agency franchise in the world as far as we know, certainly in the UK.
BRAD: Which is a huge, huge achievement.
DEL: It’s been a lot of work. It’s had massive uphill challenges but it’s also been really rewarding. It’s great to have other guys getting involved with the business that are the same as us here at head office. We just got word yesterday of a new Midlands franchisee coming on board with this which gives us really good UK coverage.
BRAD: So now, you’ve got northwest, south, and Midlands, haven’t you?
BRAD: Broadly, but it doesn’t stop there.
DEL: It doesn’t. We have plans for further UK coverage. But yeah, an office near Glasgow which is head office, Newcastle, this will be the Midlands which will be near Nottingham, and we have an office in London. And, you know, that’s how you and I met actually through the London office. In fact, a gig a few years ago back when we booked one of the bands that you managed.
BRAD: That’s right. Yes. Yeah. And then you were on the receiving end of one of my marketing pieces.
DEL: Yeah. I’ve never really recovered, to be honest. It landed on my foot.
BRAD: [Laughs]. Which we’ll go into more detail either in this episode or kind of future ones as well.
DEL: I think what people will get to know is they’ll get to know which of us has the background in marketing and who takes in the information and, you know, where you and I are concerned, that’s certainly your bag.
DEL: That’s your background though Brad. I mean, you’re from the corporate music background, aren’t you?
BRAD: Well, I suppose so, yeah. I mean, I went straight into the post room in the mid ‘90s. I went into the post room at A&M Records. All I wanted to do was work in the music business, you know, and the music business proper, so to speak, as it was known then. But, yes, so I went into the post room at A&M Records which at that point was owned by PolyGram in actual fact. I moved my way up into promotions to what they call a plugger. So I was the person that would take the record and negotiate with the programmer of the radio station to get the record either onto spot plays or onto the playlist.
DEL: What’s a spot play?
BRAD: Spot plays is occasional plays every now and then. So it might be they give the option to the actual DJ as to what… he’s given maybe five records that he can play when he wants but the rest of them are all programmed by the station, you know. So we’d go and kind of court various different DJs and producers and whether that be on the phone or personally and effectively you know, bully them into playing the record really which wasn’t too hard, I have to say because A&M Records was a big label. So we were plugging records by Sheryl Crow, Sting. Who else was on there? You know, it was the label for the Carpenters so they would reissue albums and really kind of…
DEL: Yeah Carpenters Gold album
BRAD: Yeah. And there were some really kind of big… AM:PM Records was the big dance label at the time which was an offshoot of A&M Records. So that was great fun. And then I moved on to become an independent plugger working for an independent company. So there was only two of us, me and my boss, at the time. And again, I was a TV plugger. So I was the middleman. Our client was the record company. They would give us artists to plug/promote and get onto TV media. So that would be anything from getting them onto the MTV playlist, the VH1 playlist. There’s about 18 MTV channels now, aren’t there? It’s a lot harder work. And you know, getting Top of the Pops. You know, because it’s almost a bit of a myth. You know, you have to work quite hard in actual fact to get your band on Top of the Pops. It doesn’t just kind of happen, you know. There’s a whole sales and promotion process that the record has to go through in order for it to appear on TV. Quite a few years I was there and then shooting forward here, but then we got to about 2004-2005 and I decide to go it alone, and I set up a management company which I had great ideas of setting up a management company which also mixed media and we put brands together with music and all this great stuff. And it ended up being a management company. It was all a bit complicated. I thought, you know, “I’ll just do what I think I know how to do.” So we ended up signing, it was a great moment actually, signing two acts to a major label. So I signed one act to Universal Records and I signed another act to… it wasn’t a major but it was the largest of the independents which was Telstar Records.
DEL: Yeah, yeah, Telstar.
BRAD: And we had some really decent success. But decent success in the music business, in the music industry, if you like… you need to have more than decent success to make money because it is so stacked in favor of the record company. They’re the one fronting all the money up. They’re the one investing everything effectively. And they want their pound of flesh really before they’ll give you anything back, you know. So you end up having to sell literally kind of thousands and thousands of records before you see a penny. So it was very difficult and then you’re dealing with politics in the labels and, you know, you’re having to convince people to love what your act is and all the rest of it and make it a priority. So before I knew it, I was like, “You know what? Sod this. I’m done. I need to go and build a business and I need to do something more predictable and start earning a predictable living.” And that’s when I morphed the business into what we call now a management company of professional function bands. And that’s when we started to take on… I was doing a bit of corporate bookings with one of my acts because he was a jazz swing act. And we were doing a bit of corporate stuff and we were getting great money and I was getting a real taste for… those were the best paid gigs by a long way. Yeah, we would fill out a theater for one of those acts in the early days of 250 and 300. And I’d get a third of the amount of money that I’d get on a Saturday night for a corporate gig for the same act. So it made sense really just to really kind of power down the corporate private events market route and, you know, start to kind of take on board some acts which could help me do that.
DEL: Your roster is fairly small but it’s really, really high quality. How did you identify the acts that you wanted to take on as a managed act?
BRAD: I started to dabble with the agency thing because I saw that there was money in it. I saw we could make some money, exactly, which you very evidently found out.
DEL: Well, I’m not so sure. If I find any, I’ll let you know. [Laughs].
BRAD: Yeah, sure. [Laughs]. I’m sure it’s stashed away somewhere. But yeah, I decided to try that agency route and suddenly realized that I think I needed more control… because I’m a bit of a control freak, I think, at heart. But I needed more control. So what I ended up doing was going… I come from a management background so it wasn’t alien to me to actually commit to an act, to a band, and then for them to commit to me. I didn’t find that a hard thing to deal with, whereas, I think, a lot of agents can find that a difficult thing because they’ve always worked with a lot of acts.
DEL: That’s exactly right. Yup.
DEL: We have to have a large roster in order to have enough variety to offer to clients. But also if you take a Saturday night in June or July, you know, you’re going to need 50 to 60 bands available to cover the demand for weddings and things like that. But the flip side of that is you have no real control over the bands themselves because as the agent, it’s your job to go there with the finished product.
BRAD: I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there because what I was saying that I was pouring a huge amount of time, effort, and resources into promoting an act, and then they were getting the booking, and then I was finding that they from one way or another were getting a repeat booking from a guest at that particular wedding, let’s say, but that wasn’t coming through me. And I sat there going, “That’s not great. I’m not particularly keen on that.” And that’s when the whole management thing came and really kind of hit home. You know, guys and girls that are listening to this that are in bands, you know, the obvious, the first thing to think is, “Well, I don’t want management. Why would I want an agent exclusively?” And I got that immediately even though my intentions were only honorable and I would, you know, excuse my French, work my ass off to make it happen. You know, that’s just the way I am. But to convince them of that, I had to do more than just say, “I want to work with you exclusively.” So that’s when the model of actually investing in them, in the sales, the marketing, the audio, the video, the imagery, everything we would invest. And we would become partners. So I would partner with a band. And that’s where that model came about really, that kind of business model, if you like, came about, because of me feeling the necessity to show my end of the bargain and commitment to the band.
DEL: Sure. Well, your bands are known to us. Hire A Band does book a lot of the bands in LM2. There’s a big advantage to Hire A Band when we are working with LM2 acts because you are there and we don’t want to make this a love in, but we know that, you know, the bands are organized. They get to the gig without any hassle. We’ve got a phrase that we use here in the agency which is “book and forget.” That’s the dream band for us. You know, we want to check the band are all fine, we arrange the booking, we do the contract, everything’s great, and then we expect the band to deliver the show, you know, to the best of their ability and then to hear no more about it other than good feedback from the client. We always ask for a feedback after these bookings.
BRAD: And if you don’t ask for the feedback, hearing nothing, silence is gold.
DEL: Yeah. Because if someone contacts you in a Monday morning, if your phone rings at 9 a.m. on a Monday morning, you kind of suspect there may have been an issue over the weekend. Unfortunately, it’s unusual to get unsolicited feedback from the clients. And that’s a tip, I guess, one of the first tips.
BRAD: Exactly. That’s one of the things that we’ll cover in greater detail in the future, is you have to orchestrate the testimonial, if you like. How can you gather it in a systematic way?
DEL: You know, the first thing you have to do is to ask for a testimonial and we see now quite often bands are… I don’t know how I feel about it but bands are going to weddings and events now with their own handheld camcorders and they’re grabbing the person that’s booked them, invariably it’s the bride and groom, and kind of interviewing the bride and groom and asking how they felt things went and, you know, invariably there’s great feedback. Otherwise, the band wouldn’t send us the feedback interview. But you have to kind of go out there and ask, “What do you think of the show?” You have to. If you’re going to do that, you’ve got to be prepared for some negative feedback, as well. But that can be useful in its own way because there might well be something that you’ve not noticed about the band which does annoy potential bookers. And they will tell you if you ask them and, you know, that can be useful, too. If we get negative feedback from bands, you know, any agent that says that every band they look after or represent always gets glowing feedback… you do get the occasional issue. To be honest, we always kind of know straight away that the… we take the musician’s side because I’ve been there and I’ve, you know, been through the stuff the musicians have been through for nearly 30 years. And so you kind of know that if you get a negative feedback, you always have to go to the bands side of things, and listen to what they’ve got to say. And invariably, 99 times out of 100, the client’s got the wrong end of the stick or are complaining about something that was out of the band’s control. So, yeah, but getting back to what we were saying, feedback is a fantastic tool for getting more gigs. But they don’t volunteer it. So you have to have a method of getting the feedback. The busier you are, the more automated that has to be.
BRAD: And I would say, as well, the other benefit to, you know, soliciting feedback, if you like, is not just to market yourself and get more gigs by, you know, helping other people to sell you. It’s also to understand where you maybe have gone wrong and what you could put right or what is working and do more of it.
DEL: Absolutely. Yeah. Definitely.
BRAD: And I think it’s huge. I think too many bands which I have dealt with in the past… and we’ve coached all our bands in all these areas again are what we’re going to infuse your podcast, but, you know, to really kind of take onboard criticism and almost not see it as criticism. See it as a critique on how you can then service your client and, you know, your market better, you know.
DEL: Yeah, absolutely.
BRAD: It’s a really powerful thing when you open the doors and your barriers drop a little bit, you know.
DEL: I think, as well, that there can be the occasional fairly extreme complaint, if you like, if something goes wrong at an event. And, of course, the big ones are weddings because these are, you know, one-off events. So people get married, unless they’re Elizabeth Taylor, they get married one time. So you can’t really do the gig again. It’s a different thing from a bar gig or a pub gig or a club gig where you can kind of go back and fix things. But the big thing that haunts musicians and our kind of guys, the covers bands that we look after now are all these forums. You’ve probably come across…
DEL: Even a band that had been playing for 10 years and, you know, hit it every single night and then one night something goes wrong, and on the Monday the bride’s on the forum, you know, slating the bands and advising people against booking them. That’s why you have to respond really quickly to negative feedback if you get it.
BRAD: Yeah. You can’t hide from it.
DEL: No, you can’t. You have to nip it at the bud.
BRAD: The world is too transparent now to sweep it under the carpet.
DEL: Feedback is feedback. You know, it’s useful even if it’s negative. But how you respond to the feedback is essential in recovering from a potential disaster. So if something did go wrong and, you know, it was your fault, the band made a mistake or something went wrong, or the agent’s fault, you’ve got to put your hands up right at the start. You’ve got to go to the client and say, “We are really sorry this happened.” You’ve got to find out what you can do to make it up to that particular client. And sometimes, there’s nothing you can do. They’re going to go off on one. You’re going to have to take it on the chin and make sure it doesn’t happen again. But if you respond positively to your client, even if it’s a fairly serious issue, you can at least leave the client feeling, “Well, you know what? These things can happen. These are human beings coming to my wedding or coming to my event. We’re all subject to the vagaries of fate and you know, things going wrong. But at least they manned up and they took ownership of the problem and they’ve made some sort of effort to fix it.” That’s a massively useful thing to remember. Because the busier you get, the law of averages determines you’re going to have a problem.
BRAD: The more potential issues you face. Yeah, absolutely, yeah. And it can be so subjective.
DEL: Oh, absolutely.
BRAD: However consistent you are, you know. So often, we kind of call it one of the deadly… we don’t have a name. I know, Del, in your office you’ve got a brand name for every issue, haven’t you, or every process. We haven’t quite got to that point yet. There’s a scenario where, you know, if the band are playing in one room and all of a sudden food is served in another room but the band only came on 10 minutes ago and they still got 50 minutes of their set left, and the client can’t work out why everybody’s rushing away from the room that the band are in and towards the food and beverage. And, you know, it’s just certain things that you can almost kind of… as a band, if you list down those things that are potential problems and educate your client before the wedding, before the event as to what the potential issues might be if these scenarios happen, you can really kind of mitigate yourself against any of those potential negative feedback areas if you educate your client.
DEL: And that’s a great point. Educating the client is something that… we’ll have to think of a brand name for that because it’s a good one. It does need one. And the way to do that, I guess, the basic way to do that is to have FAQs. If you’ve got a website, you need to have frequently asked questions, a lot of what ifs. So what if this happens, what if that happens. You know, often on the night, when tempers and emotions are high, it’s difficult to say, “Well, you should have read that in our FAQs.” But it does help enormously on the Monday morning when you can say to that client… and here’s a big one. I guess everyone listening to this is going to recognize this scenario. So you’re due to start performing, say it’s a wedding, for instance, and you’re due to start performing at 8 o’clock. That means you need to get to the venue for 7 p.m. because you need an hour to set up your equipment. And everyone thinks that PA and gear and lighting is inflatable. It just comes up straight away. So you get there at 7:00 and the speeches are still going on and the venue is just serving the soup. And, you know, things are running really, really late. Maybe the weather’s been too good or too bad. Photographers are a nightmare. They slow things up really, really badly. So you’re there and you’re still sitting outside the function room at 8 p.m. and then everything comes to a close. Everyone gets up and they leave the function room and then they say to you, “Okay, when will you be ready to play?” You know, and the band then have got five minutes to set up.
BRAD: Yeah, to blow up the PA
DEL: Yeah, to inflate the PA.
BRAD: Get the pump out. Yeah.
DEL: And the thing is, you know, you’re booked to play… bands in Scotland, they work hard. A typical Scottish wedding, will see a band performing between 8 p.m. and midnight with only a half hour break. We work hard up here. And our English offices it’s entirely different and most bands will do…
BRAD: Yeah. We generally quote the bands at two hours of playtime with at least one break.
DEL: Typical southern softies.
DEL: But our guys work hard up here. But, you know, the contract will say, “Performing between 8:00 and 12:00.” Now, they can’t possibly get going until say 9 p.m. through no fault of their own and the big one is, “Well, okay, you didn’t start until 9:00, so just play through until 1:00.” Yeah?
DEL: Those guys have babysitters. They’ve got wives. They’ve got long drives home. You know, they’ve got work in the morning. And yet, they’re being asked to stick this extra hour on even though they’ve been on site as per the contract.
BRAD: When asked, Yeah.
DEL: That’s the first FAQ 101. That’s the big one. You’ve got to make it clear to the people who hire you that you are not performing for a set number of hours but between set hours. So in other words, if you’re booked to do 8:00 until 12:00, if you don’t start until 10:00, you still finish at 12:00. You’re not booked to do four hours. Otherwise, they could put you on at 12:00 and you play through to 4 a.m. and that’s just crazy. But people think that’s… they think nothing of asking for that.
BRAD: Yeah. You know, in a situation like that, again, the preplanning stage will almost kind of avert that issue potentially. And when I say preplanning, I’m talking about being very clear from the first point of contact that you have with your client when they’ve made that inquiry, through to the quote, through to what’s on the contract, through to the conversation you have pre-wedding, pre-event, just to be clear that again, you know, you are contracted to finish at midnight.
DEL: Absolutely. And that’s something that you mentioned actually in… I think you’ve almost branded this because you referred to it the other day when we were talking about being pre-event prepared.
BRAD: That was my brilliance.
DEL: That’s fantastic. It flows off the tongue, but it’s absolutely true. And even to the point of sending a checklist to the bride or the venue to reiterate all the things that you’re going to be doing on the night of the event. What we do at Hire A Band is we automate it. So as soon as a band checks in for that forthcoming weekend’s work, our system automatically sends an email which summarizes everything that’s in the contract to the client. They may have booked the band months ago, you know. It may have been a year and a half ago that their band was originally booked. And people forget. So although we’ve had contact with the client and the band will have contact with the client, it does no harm at all just in that week that lead up to the event taking place to send the pre event checklist, if you like, just to confirm, “We’ll be there at 7:00. We’ll be playing from 8:00.”
BRAD: Yeah. All those other elements. I think it’s really easy for us to forget… when I say us, I’m talking about bands, musicians, that are booked to play. It’s really easy for us to forget that we aren’t the focal point. We’re not the center of our client’s universe. They have got inevitably 15 other vendors or suppliers, if it’s a wedding, for example. What is it? Ninety-three percent of brides are working full time. So they’re organizing a wedding with multiple suppliers. They’re working full time. The last thing that they’re thinking about is the band. They’re thinking about it but they’re not looking at the detail. So if you lay that detail out to them pre-event, it just, as you rightly said, just refreshes them as to, you know, what the parameters are at least. So, you know, they’re kind of prepared for the evening, you know, should they think that they can ask for another hour and take for granted that, you know, it’s a given.
DEL: Well, absolutely. Just kind of reiterate it so it’s fresher for them. Whether they read it or not, it’s up to them, but at least on the night, if you’re faced with an issue, you can say it to the client, “Didn’t you get that reminder that we sent out to you?” So if you’re a band looking after yourself, trying to run the band like a business, then these little things, they’re easy to implement, but the positive results that you get for the little bit of effort that you have to put in can be massive.
BRAD: I have to say, I’ll be honest, I’ll hold my hands up, I don’t go to many of the shows of my bands. You know, we’ve got it down where they go out weekends and they manage themselves really. So I would imagine it can be stressful.
DEL: Yeah, definitely.
BRAD: If you turn up at a gig and you set up and, you know, everything’s running an hour, an hour and a half late, and you just know that question’s going to come. “Can you stick around until 1:00, 1:30?” It’s like that deflated feeling that you’re going to get home at 5:00 in the morning now.
DEL: Well, you can see them coming when you’re on the stage, you know, and you see this little guy or this little woman and they fix their gaze on you and they’re heading towards you and you’re trying to play a difficult part or whatever. And they beckon you over. And they shout in your ear at massive volume, you know, “Will you play until 1:00?” You see it coming. And some of us just avoid that part.
DEL: Yeah. It’s one of those things. It doesn’t happen all the time but if you can be, prepare for it.
BRAD: The point I’m trying to make, if you are prepared in that way, then you’ll enjoy the gig so much more because you won’t feel that kind of potential pressure or issues arising around every corner.
DEL: Absolutely. The secret is, for you to enjoy the gig, you want to just go there to play. You don’t have to go there and do any of the business side of things. That should all have been done before you go. And what we do at Hire A Band is we arrange for the bands that we represent to be paid before they go to the event which means they never have to get there and worry about getting paid. So many times, I’ve been, you know, standing there at the end of the night waiting for someone to approach me with an envelope with our fee in it. And, you know, you’re standing there and you’ll be on your own at the end of the night. You know, that moment comes up where the room is empty with tumbleweeds blowing across the dance floor and you don’t have any money to pay the guys. So the solution to that for us was to say to clients, “Look, you paid for every single thing that you’re having on your event in advance except the entertainment. Why would you wait until the end of the night to do that?” So we insist now that we are paid on behalf of our bands and the money is in our client account and it’s safe and secure. The band can go and do the event.
BRAD: It’s funny, isn’t it? Because they wouldn’t wait until the caterer has packed up, all the ovens are done, the kitchen surfaces are cleaned down, and you know, all the waiters and waitresses have gone home and just the owner of the company is kind of hanging around waiting for the… that wouldn’t happen. So, you know, it’s up to the band to make sure that that doesn’t happen for them as well.
DEL: And those are your terms. We’ve had no resistance to it, you know, no resistance.
BRAD: It’s a tricky one that, isn’t it? It should inspire confidence. You want things to inspire confidence in the client, you know, that they’re going to be looked after and everything’s going to be okay. So I think your messaging around asking for the balance of the fee two weeks upfront needs to be right. But again, those are the kinds of things that we’ll go through in future episodes.
DEL: Yeah. But that is a massive one. And just to finish on that, it’s how the band is perceived by the client. That’s what will determine how easy it will be to be paid in advance. If they feel that they’ve been dealing with pros right from the start, then it’s much, much easier for that to happen. And, you know, it’s doable. It just takes some balls to ask. But if the client’s had a really good experience with you, there’s really no reason why that can’t happen. But that’s what, I guess, Gigging Success is all about. It’s not about how to perform better or how to, you know, become a better musician. When a band comes to us, we very quickly can tell whether they’ve got that ability. And, you know, once they’re on the roster, you assume that they’re going to do the job properly on the night, you know the musicianship’s there. What we are trying to explain and to demonstrate through Gigging Success, I think you’ll agree is that there’s way more to it than just being good as a musician. Yeah?
BRAD: Oh, yeah. Well, effectively, the manifestation of that is almost you can have an almost awful, rubbish singer who’s brilliant at promoting and marketing themselves, and you will have an absolutely fantastic act.
DEL: You’re talking about someone we both know here?
BRAD: You know, you can have an absolutely, you know, fantastic band which, you know, almost are too arrogant to go market themselves because they think they’re so fantastic. I know who’s going to win out and who’s going to be earning more money. It’s the band that can promote themselves better. It’s not how good you are. You know, there’s way more to it.
DEL: Let’s face it. Most of us are pretty competent musicians but, you know, none of us, with some exceptions… you get some really, really fantastic musicians, brilliant bands who are, you know, part time guys, they’re working on a part-time basis, or full-time musicians but doing covers. And you nailed that earlier. You can have the very, very best musicians, what we call the Steely Dan bands, guys who can play Steely Dan covers, and they can do it all properly. But if they’re too arrogant to look for work and to do the business side of things properly, they are going to be playing in a pub in, you know, some corner somewhere with, let’s face it, crap gear because it’s expensive to buy good equipment, for a few hundred dollars or a few hundred pounds. But you get those guys who are out there doing covers, playing cheesy tunes, pop tunes and stuff who are gigging three or four nights a week.
BRAD: Yup. And the point is, there are very good reasons for that and those are what we’ll try and dissect in future episodes and give you all some kind of, you know, strategies and tactics and tips on how you can replicate their success as well. So, Del, we’re on 45 minutes. We value everyone’s time, don’t we? So we’re going to stick these podcasts to 45 minutes, I think.
DEL: We’ll try our very best. Absolutely.
BRAD: We will. We will. So this has been great to chat and we’ll do this all again next time.
DEL: See you next time. Yeah, absolutely.
DEL: Thanks, Brad.
BRAD: Speak to you soon. All right. Cheers. Bye.