Booking Your Favorite Artists

So you've got this awesome theme, perfect venue, and the ideal date to host the best concert/festival your city has ever seen. And all you now need is the right artist to headline the show.

So how do you book them?

The most common answer is to find the artist's booking agent, shoot him/her an brief email, and offer a respectable amount of money to play your show.

And 80% of the time the agent will reject your offer.

Now it's most likely that the artist is touring in a certain part of the world or not even touring at all, which is why the agent probably said "thanks but no thanks". But what if I said that you could have a sizeable chance at persuading the booking agent and even the artist to come play at your show? Well it's true, and this is how Paul Tollett, president of Goldenvoice, does it with Coachella (in one of my favorite interviews):

"I feel bad divulging this, but when you're talking to a band, you can't lead off with money. You'll be shot down almost every time. They know what kind of money they can get. You have to approach them with why they should get back together. We'll say, "There are thousands of people wanting to see you. You're still relevant, and you're the third most-asked-for band on the Coachella message board." I've had bands, including one this year that I won't name, confirmed before we even talked money."

This response was specific to reunion bands at Coachella but there are a couple things to take away from it:

1. Never mention asking price in the initial email - it makes it seem you are just interested in the services of the artist. Try to show genuine interest in the artist.

2. Have stats to back up your case. Booking agents and artists like to have confidence in the promoter, because when it comes down to the bottom line, they want the most possible tickets sold. So if you had sold 500 tickets to your last event or packed the house with just 2 weeks of promotion, then tell the whole world! (By the way...have you noticed a Facebook fan page for "Bringing Avicii to UCI"? The organizers of this event are trying to build an online fan base to persuade other student body executives to let a 170K concert take part in the Bren. But in order to do that, they need stats to prove that the concert will sell out and the Facebook page is just the start of the market research.)

And here a couple of personal tips coming from me that should bode helpful:

3. Sell your event! If you have an awesome venue or a great philanthropic cause then make sure the recipient of your email knows that. Artists do hundreds of shows every year, what differentiates yours?

4. Start early. The earlier you start planning the more likely the artist will be available and it increases the chance of booking the artist at a cheaper price.

So take this advice and rethink your first email or phone call you make, it just might be the deciding factor.

Paul Tollett interview -


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