The relationship between independent bookers/promoters and venues should be friendly and symbiotic, realizing that we have the same goals. Each venue is different, thank God, and that’s why communication is the most important item. The process should be based on sound principles and procedures.
The following list is gleaned from my experiences booking venues in various cities over the past dozen years. GPI greatly appreciates its hosts, and wishes to make each event smooth sailing, profitable for the venue, and as enjoyable as possible for all involved, especially the audience. (By all accounts we’ve had 99.9% great nights, but we always aim for perfection!) No one item on this list is a deal breaker; if for any reason, a venue does not meet these criteria, discussion is encouraged. GOOD COMMUNICATION IS THE NO. 1 CRITERIA (this does not need to be time-consuming, we like short and sweet but near immediate).
- The venue should understand that Gram Parsons InterNational (GPI) is not a typical night of gig slots; it is in fact a tightly run one-night (six-hour) festival which some venues have never really done before.
- Clear understanding of agreement from Day One. Prefer a simple business model: an agreed upon “split.” Many factors are involved, including the distance we travel (from Buffalo, NY) to bring the show to your local audience.
- When we have an agreement via email, the venue immediately posts on their Facebook page and calendar (if they have one) that Gram Parsons InterNational is booked for such and such date (for Nashville the Saturday in November closest to Gram’s birthday, usually the first Saturday). After you announce we announce and promote the heck out of the event and your venue.
- Gram Parsons InterNational is the booker of the bands; your input as the local venue is always appreciated and very welcome; however, we make final decisions on the bands we book to celebrate Gram Parsons and Cosmic American Music.
- A mix of seating and standing room is good; some ticketed advance seating is good, if possible 30-40 table chairs, as many of our regulars are, well, about my age! My team of two requires a table close to stage for Emceeing, videotaping, stage management, etc. (bands communicate with me from the stage).
- Important: The entire audience is inside the space of the event; in other words, the gate is paid at the entrance (not necessarily a door) to the bar/venue, NOT inside at the entrance to another room or a space partially divided by a curtain (yes the latter has happened!). If an outside area exists open to the show (say a patio), the gate needs to be at the entrance to the secured area. All persons inside the space at the time of down beat need to have paid admission, exclusive of the players, bookers (us), and those on a List, and it’s up to the venue to secure capable door personnel to handle this as standard procedure.
- The booker/stage manager/emcee, working closely with the sound engineer, shall ensure strict adherence to the 10-minute changeovers (unless otherwise agreed upon); this has not been an issue except for venues and sound engineers that don’t understand that this is a tightly run one-night festival. Yes, there will be some fine tuning on the fly, and the sound engineer especially needs to understand this.
- Therefore, a great sound engineer is required, one who needs to respond quickly to requests by me or the artist on stage. Also helpful if I can communicate with this person before the night of the event about items such as downloadable files for changeover breaks, etc.
- A venue that provides backline gear, at least a good drum kit and bass amp, is preferred.
- A decent size stage, stage monitors.
- Good stage lighting, doesn’t leave drummer in the dark.
- Solid P.A. and a serious sound board.
- On a public transportation line and/or good free/street parking.
- Adequate storage space for bands’ gear; a good-sized green room is great but not a deal breaker.
- If possible load-in through a separate entrance from customers, especially if parking in front is difficult.
- While realizing that we have up to 40 musicians in one night, a discount on beverages and food for musicians and GPI staff is appreciated, or some other minimal accommodation (we all do end up spending a lot out of pocket).
- A realization that Gram Parsons InterNational is a well-respected multi-year festival event that has been held in many cities, some 30 nights in several countries, and that we have proven that we will be one of your premiere events of the year.
- A good website with a calendar that if possible will fit our acts (usually seven in a six-hour show). A page I’ve found very helpful points me to a media list. I usually produce the poster but welcome help with printing expense and a street team.
- The venue understands this is a festival-type situation with upwards of 30 to 40 musicians and that there no doubt will be some changes in personnel and the lineup for various personal reasons, and that we will do all we can to substitute, if necessary, for bands or artists that drop out for such legitimate reasons. You will have six hours of music guaranteed.
- After an agreement is reached and a date is set (usually many months before the show), no surprises with any fine print or a contract that hasn’t been discussed. I hate surprises (why you are reading this!). If you have paperwork, please send it when we have an verbal and email agreement (the latter is typically the contract). I promote early as many in the audience make plans to come from out of town.
- A desire to front some of your area’s top Cosmic American Music bands in one night of great music and a reputation that you do.
- If a sponsor is involved, I need to know the details of the deal and how/if it affects me and promotional material.
- GREAT COMMUNICATION THROUGHOUT!!!!! (That’s No. 1.)
- And then we do it again next year!
- Venues ideally have a deep appreciation for the music of Gram Parsons and understand his contribution within the context of American country and cosmic music.
- It would be nice if the venue signs the Petition to Induct Gram Parsons Into the Country Music Hall of Fame.