Ever wondered how to be a venue booker? Patrick Balfe has shared with us the ins and outs of a week in his life booking shows for venues, along with other various things that his role entails. Patrick began booking shows in 2012 when he was a music programmer for Backbone’s 2high festival and creative director for “Trainspotters”, a weekly music event at Grand Central Hotel in Brisbane CBD.
I’m an event booker. For the past four years I’ve worked primarily with two venues, The Foundry and Bloodhound Bar and two festivals, Mountain Goat Valley Crawl and Blurst of Times. I’m currently based in Tokyo, the bulk of my work is with Australian venues and festivals, but the internet and the minimal time difference makes working remotely easy to do.
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My Monday morning routine generally involves settling the presales from the weekend’s events at Bloodhound and sending Foundry ticket reports to the bookers of the weekend’s shows. I also usually message Nick, the venue manager from The Foundry, to check how bar sales were and make sure everything ran smoothly. Based on Nick’s report, we chat out the areas we can improve or tidy up for future shows.
There’s an event scheduled for August that I’ve been working on for a few months, which I will finally announce tomorrow morning. I start a group email thread with everyone involved in that show to schedule tomorrow’s announcement.
Next I review a checklist I created on Friday afternoon of the things I need to set up early in the week, such as scheduling social media posts, show announcements, mailing lists and pushing ticket sales for specific shows. I’ve got a couple of sold out shows coming up in August which I arranged updated artwork for to hype that they have sold out. This is my starting point to gauge (and generate) audience interest for 2nd shows.
The Foundry is nominated for best live music venue in this year’s Queensland Hospitality Awards so I send through some venue photos for the selection process. BIGSOUND is around the corner so I have conversations with a few people about showcases, parties, that kind of thing.
Finally, I reassess my week ahead and rejig the priority of some of the items in my checklist. Some things I will focus on this week: finalise two dates in July at The Foundry, brief monthly artwork and promo videos for the month, a few show announcements and sell out this Friday’s L. Flora show at Bloodhound Bar.
First up today is announcing the August show I mentioned yesterday.
To prepare for a benefit gig announcement scheduled for tomorrow, I build the Oztix listing and start a group discussion with everyone involved, send through the worksheet, artwork, links and introduce them to our PR and production teams.
I’ve got a late night party coming up at The Foundry this weekend that a colleague is making a promo vid for. He sends it through and there’s a couple of things that I think need changing, so we go back and forth for a little while on some edits before it goes live on our socials.
I review some artwork for another show that’s happening in a few months’ time. To push ticket sales for a show this weekend, I speak to the artist’s team about a giveaway competition on social media and we end up organizing that to go live this afternoon.
This afternoon I had a phone call with my buddy, Cael, one of the other Mountain Goat Valley Crawl organisers. We compare calendars and lock in a date, speak about the venues we want involved, chat about roles and procedures and send out a group email to key people to get the ball rolling.
I’ve got a four show residency coming up with First Beige in July/August and this afternoon their booker sends me a copy of their forthcoming single – it’s awesome and I listen to it about five times. I’ve been speaking with a venue at the Gold Coast about some shows so I’m facilitating a conversation between the venue and a promoter friend of mine about doing some regular events.
I’m still trying to sort out one of The Foundry shows in July but it’s a challenging date because it overlaps with Splendour in the Grass, it’s winter and fewer people are going out and a lot of bands aren’t touring at the time. Plus the date is only about four weeks away.
It’s hard to predict how much money to invest in the show, what the return will be and I’ve pretty much exhausted a lot of the options I initially had in mind. I speak to a friend about some of the bands he’s listening to at the moment that could suit and he introduces me to Wurst Nurse. I listen to their new EP a bunch of times.
A date, about two weeks away, falls through at Bloodhound. On the upside, my morning announcement of the August show has received a good response online and a decent amount of ticket sales throughout the day.
A pretty rainy and miserable day in Tokyo and three shows to finalise by the end of the week. Happy hump-day.
I announce the benefit gig that I set up yesterday and it’s receiving a good response online, which is a nice boost. I also set up the announcement for the First Beige residency and announce supports for a party at The Foundry in July.
Brisbane friend slash amazing musician, Jeremy Hunter, has a single he’s ready to release so he calls me to chat about release timelines, PRs, premieres that kind of thing.
Another friend has been telling me about the new Snail Mail album so I spend the next little while listening to that while I go through emails. It’s a great album.
There are a few promoters I work with on a monthly basis. Looking at the October and November calendars for The Foundry, I realize that they’re starting to fill up quickly so I go back and forth with a few people trying to juggle availability for those months. I’m hoping I can find availability for my regular collaborators and touring bands but chances are I will have to turn someone down which is never fun.
I get some responses from a few of the people I was talking to about BIGSOUND events the other day and start putting together some solid ideas and dates. I also lock in two shows in August, which I’ve been working on for a while. They’re both bands I’ve been following for a little while and I’m stoked that they both get to do their first big release shows at The Foundry.
I finally settle on ideas for those Foundry dates in July that I’ve been thinking about all week so I brief artwork and finally get to tick them off the list that I started on Monday. I send emails to try and fill that date at Bloodhound that’s coming up in two weeks and hope I get some positive responses tomorrow.
A friend invites me to see Gorillaz at Makuhari Messe and the weather is heaps better than yesterday so the day is already off to a good start. One of my favourite Brisbane bands, These Guy, released a new single and video, which goes down smooth with my morning coffee.
Thursday is generally spent triple checking that everything for the weekend’s shows is all sorted. I’ve generally got about 6 shows across two venues most weekends + DJ sets and after parties or whatever.
I start emailing to make sure everyone involved in the shows have a copy of the worksheets, they’re staying on top of promotion, the production manager is across load in times and tech specs, if the show is at Bloodhound that the band has organised sound tech, door person, backline etc. I check in with DJs to remind them of their set times.
Thursday afternoons I have a regular Skype meeting with Nick from The Foundry, my booking assistant and the venue’s in-house PR whiz. We go over our notes from last week to make sure all tasks that arose from the previous meeting have been actioned and track results. We then have a look at presales for upcoming events, gauge how they’re performing and think about ways that we can push the shows that need a nudge.
After that I generally have another Skype meeting with Nick and our production manger to go over upcoming shows for the month and make sure we’re all on the same page with anything that’s out of the ordinary, production wise. There are a few things happening in July that are out of the ordinary because it’s generally a quieter month.
I’ve booked some extra events here and there to maintain revenue for the venue. My previous assistant finished up recently so I finish the day by organising a time for a meeting with him and my new assistant. Now I’ve got an hour-long trek out to Chiba to see the Gorillaz.
I couldn’t risk missing the last train home last night and staying in a capsule hotel in Chiba so I got home at a reasonable hour and I’m feeling pretty fresh. I usually start Fridays by reviewing my list which is looking pretty good. Thankfully, those two shows at The Foundry in July are now all sorted AND that date that fell through at Bloodhound in a couple of weeks has been filled – I’ll announce it later on today but, I still need to push L. Flora’s show at Bloodhound tonight.
I have a look at ticket sales and sales are at 50%. Bloodhound capacity is 100 so that last 50% is a sellable amount for a few hours. I email the band and ask them to hype it up on socials, I send a mailing list via Oztix and make some posts from the venue’s FB page and via my event company’s channels on social media. I’ll keep an eye on it over the next few hours.
I wrap everything up for July – monthly artwork, promo video, DJ rosters and send The Foundry’s venue manager a list of the month’s events outlining specific deals for each show and any out of pocket expenses. This helps him and the accounts team keep track of spending and lets them know who to expect invoices from.
I have another look at presales for the Bloodhound show tonight and we’ve sold another 20% – 30 tix left to go! I post in the event page we’re down to 20 and before I know it the show is sold out. I update the online artwork for the show and make a bit of noise about it on social media to congratulate the band.
Finally, I make a small list for Monday – scheduling social media, mailing lists, announcements and actioning some of the tasks from the PR meeting yesterday.
Challenges and accomplishments in your week
The main challenge of this week was filling those July dates at The Foundry. On top of that I had a short notice fall through at Bloodhound. The main accomplishments of this week were filling each of those dates and moving on to start planning for the rest of the year.
Highlights of the week (pros of the job)
This week was pretty exemplary of the main pros of the job. I listened to a lot of (great) new local music – First Beige, Wurst Nurse, These Guy. I helped host a really special fundraiser with some great local bands and I started taking steps towards working on next year’s festival with a bunch of friends. I am stoked that I helped L Flora sell out their album launch. I also got to announce some shows that I’m really excited about.
Lowlights of the week (cons of the job)
This week I had two dates fall through which is an unavoidable frustration of this job. The music industry is super seasonal and at this time of year it’s easy to hit a lot of dead ends trying to organise events to fill gaps in the calendar.
Putting together a good event can be largely dependent on upwards of 10 other people’s schedules so there’s a lot that is completely out of your control no matter how hard you try. When there’s a lot of pressure from higher ups to have consistently good events it can be tough, but it’s a good opportunity to get creative and build your problem solving skills.
Words of wisdom for people considering a job in your field
A lot of the job is very social. You’re dependent on a lot of other people’s skills and knowledge so you need to get out and meet people, see bands, build your networks and knowledge of how the music scene works. Learn how to compartmentalise set backs, it’s not the end of the world when a plan falls through. It can be an opportunity to get creative, think outside the box, discover a new band, make some new connections or come up with a new idea.
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