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Should Artists Sell Tickets?

Should artists sell tickets? There’s been some heat recently on whether performers should help promote the shows they play at. The argument I’ve heard most often is, “Well, I’m an artist. Selling tickets is the promoter’s job. My job is to perform.”

This is true. Your job is to perform. But, the most effective people realize that going beyond what’s required of them is the best way to get ahead.

Play the game, pay your dues

“Should I sell tickets to a show I’m playing?”

“Do you really want to play?”

Here’s some unfortunate news. If you don’t have any clout to your name, and you want to play a show, you will probably have to sell some tickets. Most local promoters will require–or strongly encourage–their local artists to sell tickets.

If you don’t want to play the show, and you don’t want to sell tickets–no problem. Don’t do either.

If you do want to play the show, and you don’t want to sell tickets, you have a choice: whine and bitch, or sell some tickets and play the show.

Promoters book headliners based on how many tickets the artist’s brand can sell. If you don’t have an established brand, where just seeing your name on a flyer will make 30+ people come out, you should be hustling hard tickets to build that audience. This benefits you, too. While you sell tickets, you will meet potential fans face-to-face.

Lastly, let me qualify this: there will be times where you should not sell tickets because of shady promoters. There are promoters who will require artists to sell 100 tickets to play their big venue. There are promoters who choose their opening acts based on who sells the most tickets, not on who’s has the most talent. There are promoters who require artists to actually buy tickets in bulk, giving the artist opportunity to flip them–or eat the cost if the artist can’t sell enough to repay the initial investment.

All of these strategies are sketchy. If you’re working with a promoter who uses these tactics, you need to evaluate it if it is worth it for your to sell tickets. In my experience, selling out 50+ tickets or being required to pre-purchase tickets to sell is exploitation, and promoters who use these tactics are to be avoided. There’s nothing wrong, however, with volunteering to sell 10 tickets on the side.

Building relationships with promoters

If you want help, help someone first. If you want to build a relationship with someone, help them first.

While selling tickets is not the most glamorous job, it can help develop good relationships with promoters.

In the end, a promoter’s job is to make money. It’s a business. Providing good talent, a great atmosphere for guests, and all of the trappings that come with a solid concert experience all help in making a profit. Even if a promoter throws events for the love of it, the reality is that without money, there are no events. Promoters need both deep pockets and consistently good attendance to last in the market.

If you can help the promoter make money–by selling tickets to the show–you are directly affecting their #1 goal. By becoming a top ticket seller, you increase your value to the promoter. You can bargain to play more often, or to play the bigger shows. If you kick enough ass, the promoter could introduce to fellow industry friends. You can build your network and secure more opportunities for yourself by simply selling tickets.

Now, this only works if you do not have any expectation of return. What do I mean by this? If you are just selling tickets in return for future favors, you’re doing it wrong. You should be wanting to directly benefit the promoter, without any expectation that you’ll receive anything back.

You’re not using them, you’re serving them. Don’t keep score. Don’t get offended if that promoter chooses another artist over you. Even if you sold more tickets, or have been selling tickets longer, it doesn’t matter. You are not in this to trade favors, you’re in this to help. If you help people with no expectation of return, you’ll be surprised with abundance. If you help people for as long as they are useful to you, karma will catch up to you just the same.

Examine your ego

I believe the primary reason local artists refuse to sell tickets, is that they believe its beneath their station.

It’s easy to think that you’re above doing grunt work.

But the fact is, nobody owes you anything. You’re not too good for anything. You need to pay your dues.

If you are going to be playing EDC Main Stage like you say you are, why couldn’t you get three friends to pay $10 to see you play in your hometown? If you have the dedication to make it to the top of the music industry, why don’t you have the dedication to hit the pavement with flyers and hard tickets?

Here’s the thing: you can totally rise to the top of your city without selling tickets. It is perfectly fine pass up on shows and sit in your studio producing music until you’re “big enough”. However, if you complain about not playing shows, and you’re not willing to make the sacrifice to do so, you have no ground to talk.

Choose one or the other, but don’t expect the world to bend to your preferences: because it won’t.

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