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Monopoly...

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by ChrisQuinn91, Jun 8, 2018.


  1. Wondered what you guys thought of this?

    My local area has about 10 main venues to gig at.
    For the past 10 years we've played these places (as-well as out of town) with no issues. All our shows have gone down well and had a good turn-out.

    Recently this one booking agent has come along and wormed their way into every single venue. We've had some issues with this person in the past so can't get any bookings from her. She consistently books the same acts in rotation and has made it so that we can't get in any of the venues. If you approach a venue, they refer you to her.

    Have you ever experienced this? How would you go about getting back in? I'm getting fed up of all of our shows being out of town now.
     
    Peteyboy, ELynx and Admiral Akbar like this.
  2. Ouch! That sort of person is bad news, man. They're in it for their personal reasons instead of for the good of the music. At least that's what I think.
     
  3. Exactly, they are charging bands £20 per booking and will have all 10 venues filled with acts. It's a good way to make some money but it's killing our scene. You can pretty much predict next months lineups as she constantly books the same acts in.
     
    Axstar likes this.
  4. The same acts over and over again? Audiences must get tired of that over time. So what should happen, is someone opens a new venue so all the bands that aren't playing now, can be heard again. People will come listen for sure. No reason why it wouldn't work that way, but someone will have to step up and take the risk. It might even be you, if you happen to have commercial talent.
     
    PauFerro likes this.
  5. Yeah, the audiences are dwindling. The acts aren't necessarily bad but nobody wants to hear the same setlists over and over again. I would love to run a venue but don't have the funds right now. I considered asking the booking agent to get us some gigs (we wouldn't play the venues all of the time - wouldn't want to), but as mentioned earlier, we've had some issues with her.
     
  6. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Wow! does the situation you're in ever bring back memories.

    You’ve run into what’s called a gatekeeper. One who’s running what’s effectively a closed shop...

    That’s a probem.

    And to further complicate matters, it’s a gatekeeper you already have a strained relationship with.

    That’s an even bigger problem.

    About the only thing you can do is push back indirectly by getting the venue’s patrons to speak up and complain to the venues about being bored always hearing the same bands. A direct challenge to a gatekeeper is seldom a wise move. Because your gatekeeper already has the venue management on her side. So a confrontation or direct attack on her would only get your band branded as troublemakers since she’s always going to be the one to get the last word in with the only ears that matter - the owners.

    If the patrons care as much as you think they do then their attendence will drop off and the venues will soon take notice. If the bulk of the patrons end up just making the best of it and decide to accept what they’re given (which is far more likely based on my own experience) then you’re sunk and the scence your band helped to build is no more. Wish it were otherwise. But so it goes.
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2018
  7. You're probably right. I suppose my biggest hope is that she gets bored of booking or messes up somehow and goes out of the picture. It can't last forever surely?
     
  8. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Depends. She got in by giving the venues something they wanted. Lower cost of hiring bands, predictability, ease of dealing with one person as opposed to multiple bands, kickbacks, sexual or other personal favors…whatever. But either way she got in by doing something right by the owners. Something they weren’t getting by dealing with individual groups. She put together a package. And the venues bought into it.

    I often wondered why bands in a going music scene don’t coordinate more with each other and form their own booking agency. One they control rather than the other way around.

    But I guess they’re just too busy competing with each other (when they’re not otherwise too busy getting stoned or laid) that there isn’t time for that kind of forward thinking.

    The Roman legions figured it out a long time ago. A bunch of more or less average guys working closely together on a mutual goal, who just want to get the job done and get paid, beats out the most heroic “everyman for himself” challenger virtually every time. And also suffers the least possible amount of damage those rare times it loses.

    There’s strength in numbers and a common purpose.
     
  9. That's quite possible. But don't wait for it, keep on doing your thing, play elsewhere (I think you said you're already doing this) it's not ideal, but make the most of it.
     
  10. IamGroot

    IamGroot

    Jan 18, 2018
    Unionize
     
    colantalas and Peteyboy like this.
  11. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Connecticut
    If the venues keep making money with the agent, they are doing the right thing, and you are SOL. You could try a sit-down with the agent, or try to undercut her.
     
    electracoyote likes this.
  12. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2011
    Minneapolis
     
    mwbassace likes this.
  13. PauFerro

    PauFerro

    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    I've run into this before. There are a few strategies. When it gets like this, there aren't a lot of really nice ways out of it. I hate being heavy-handed, but methods like these can work. They do require personal sacrifice, as well.

    You need to put pressure on the venue owners and the monopolizer to leave some space in the market for you. Believe me, I don't like being coercive, but sometimes, when people get out of hand, and all other nice methods have failed, you have to be firmer and more punitive to get them to listen.

    I would start out nice. Promote one of her events to your following. Make sure she attends her own shows (!) and when at the event, approach her and indicate you brought X tables of people from your own following. You would like to get in rotation with the other groups, and will do promotion like the kind you did that evening. Try to make friends with the enemy and be an ally.

    If she gives a non-committal answer, you strongly suggest she puts you into rotation with the other bands. You had these venues at one time, and you would like to see some deference for the fact you are a successful local band who once had these venues -- sure she can book exclusively in a few, but ALL OF THEM? Is this politically wise or ethical? What if these local band members retaliate in some way? People generally don't like monopolies.

    Now, she may ignore you -- that is understood, but your professional appeal is actually a kind of warning to her for what comes next. If you're like me, it also makes me feel better that I tried to be nice and gave the person a preview (say, warning) if they don't play ball -- particularly when she's being greedy in tying up the ENTIRE town, shutting out good local bands permanently. Sheesh!

    If moral suasion fails, you need to decide how far down this next path you want to go. Remember, if she's done this in your local town, what is stopping her from going after your out of town business next??? So, decide how much effort you want to put into this, and how coercive you are willing to be.

    So, here goes -- no more Mr. Nice Guy.

    First, check if there are any licensing requirements for booking agencies (also known as talent agencies) in your state. In my state, we have the department of professional business regulation, and they regulate and discipline people who run talent/booking agencies without a license. A lot of it goes unreported and undetected, based on what I have heard. But you can always count on the government to follow up when someone breaks a big rule. In my town, most musicians don't even know about these regulations, and she might not know about them either, if they exist in your state.

    Check to see if you have it in your state. When you talk to this monopolizer, ask her if she has a professional license if required. She probably won't tell you if she doesn't in which case you advise her of the penalties of operating without a license. In my state, I think there are criminal consequences, if the old rules still apply.

    Talent Agencies – FAQs – MyFloridaLicense.com

    Then share how it's happened where people who have formed monopolies put themselves at risk of being reported to the state business regulation department by the people shut out of the market. And that she should seriously consider the consequences of her monopoly and allow some space for your band. You certainly wouldn't like to see that happen to her, but you've heard people talking about starting to report these agents that sew up all local venues and shut out all the bands. You think the solution is to allow some space in your local town for other bands. See if that convinces here to open up.

    She could respond by getting a license, but it means posting a bond, administration hassle, reporting, and all the admin hassle that comes with working with government.

    Two, put pressure on the club owner. Encourage band members to hold birthday parties and other things there provided the venue owner hires the band. If the guy refuses due to his relationship with the monopolizer, then indicate you'll be taking your business elsewhere. Do it regularly. in fact, contact other bands and have them do the same. Some will ignore you because they don't have a sense of what you are trying to do, but the wider you can cast your net, the better. I once booked a big crowd at a place and then cancelled, telling the owner that I heard he wasn't participating in a business interest I had. This makes them see the consequences of not playing ball.

    Three you go to the venues she has sewn up and indicate you are a local band, and would like to see him support local bands as a good community corporate citizen. To shut out so many local bands by this booking agent is not good for the town, or the venue's reputation.

    Offer him a deal he can't refuse so he starts working with you. It may mean even doing it for free for a while. I know this is a touchy topic -- I'm the last guy who wants to work for free, but breaking monopolies takes sacrifice, unfortunately. You have to suffer now for the longer term good. Make it a condition that the venue owners doesn't share your discounting with her though. Leave her guessing how you convinced the guy.

    It'll wake up the monopolizer that you're aggressive about getting back the marketspace unless she voluntarily makes space for you. Someone did that to me once when I horned in on an important disc jockey services client and I stopped going after that firm's clients.

    Four, if she's peed in the pool anyway, and won't change her behavior after all the nicer methods, I'd ask her if she has verified the venue owners have a BMI license, and that the music in the various catalogs (BMI/ASCAP) has been licensed to the venue owner?

    Ask her Is she aware that she's left local bands with nothing to lose now? And when people have nothing to lose, they consider calling artists' rights groups about unlicensed public performance at public venues? Let her know of the fees and fines that venue owners have to pay that essentially, makes live music infeasible. Go to the PMI site and download the license application for her so she knows you aren't blowing smoke -- and give her a copy "to pass on to the venue owner".

    Most places in my experience won't pay the licensing fees unless they are really successful places. And it destroys live music at that venue, as well as her business there. If she doesn't play ball, do it to one venue just to make an example of what you are going to do to the other venues. If you report the venue, BMI will send out one of their reps. In our town, they pay them $150 to get the set list of the band, and then next thing you know the venue owner gets a nastygram from BMI with a fee schedule and a threat to stop doing it unless they pay. Share this with your stubborn monopolizer.

    If she won't play ball, go to the venue owner with the story, but do him or her last since you don't want to tick him off. Better yet, get a friend unconnected with the band to do it so you're not involved.

    If neither will play ball, report them to BMI and ASCAP. Report her to the department of professional business regulation if an option in your state, and let her learn a lesson -- don't go into a town and sew up every single venue or the local competitors will nail her to the wall.

    If BMI sends out their team, I would then consider going to the venue with an original music offer, if you have it. Provided the guy doesn't know you made the report to BMI, he might hire you. There are no fees due and BMI/ASCAP can't do anything if the music is original. You are the copyright owner. Make the place a spot for original music. I know it doesn't pay well, but it'll send a message for this monopolizer to be more respectful of the market space for other bands.

    I got 10 bookings at a place due to the original music angle after an owner got BMI'd. I didn't report him, but someone else did, or BMI saw our live music marketing. But it made BMi go away and I hold events there semiannually now.

    And if the venue owner can only do original music after you put the poison pill in live, cover band music in his venue, maybe he'll start paying for it!

    Again, I don't like being coercive, but when people are greedy and disrespectful like this, I consider these kinds of tactics. I think it's important to be reasonable at first, to give them a chance to have a mutually satisfying deal first, and to use the less coercive measures first. For the sake of your personal self-respect and personal character. But when there is greed and stubbornness I consider these techniques as a last resort. Sometimes you have to be tough as nails. No one likes monopolies....
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2018
  14. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2011
    Minneapolis
    This is an amazing post. FANTASTIC!
     
    maxmaroon, Wisebass and ChrisQuinn91 like this.
  15. InhumanResource

    InhumanResource

    Dec 28, 2012
    Yup. Sounds like she is just a better competitor and took over the market. That plus a burned bridge means OP can't work with her.

    The comments about how she isn't doing it for the music are a bit naive. This is a business.
     
  16. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Agree. It’s not even a factor in the formula. In many respects it’s usually better that you don’t love the product you’re selling too much. Love (like ego) can cloud good judgement.
     
  17. Skybone

    Skybone

    Jun 20, 2016
    Scotland
    @ChrisQuinn91, You don't mention what sort of stuff you're doing, originals/covers/style etc.

    Liverpool has a great history of music, and music venues. Liverpool also has a great history of "maverick" venues & promoters, who are actually music fans as well as promoters, and who want to put on bands that don't play regularly. Certainly was the case when I lived there, though I do know that the scene has changed a bit since I lived there.

    Anyway, there is always a way around these things, speak to the people that you know, especially if you know anyone else in other bands who are having problems getting gigs. Maybe get a few other bands interested, find a venue, and promote a night yourself.

    Look for some more "out of town" opportunities too.
     
    Wisebass and ChrisQuinn91 like this.
  18. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    I've never experienced this, but I would go directly to the club owner / manager and remind them that you've made them a lot of money and that the agent is not booking you. Beyond that, there isn't really much you can do. The club owner wants to make the most money possible with the least effort possible. If the agent is satisfying that, I don't know what else you can offer.
     
    InhumanResource likes this.
  19. Yeah, Liverpool is great. I live about 10 miles from there but display Liverpool as more people will understand whereabouts I am.

    Myself and quite a few bands are considering getting together and forming a 'Musicians Collective' to see how we can tackle this. There are loads of talented artists from our town that have also been left out by this booking agent.

    EDIT: We do covers and are working on originals behind the scenes. We will be taking the original set to Liverpool with some crowd pleasing covers very soon
     
    catcauphonic, Skybone and Wisebass like this.
  20. Yeah, The venue managers do have it easy for now but will soon start being unhappy as the crowds dwindle. 7 people turned up for a gig the other night. This band were booked in the venue nextdoor the night before and another across town the day after. It's just silly. It doesn't give the audience anything to look forward to.
     
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