Nine Tactics to Save Money on University Concerts

By: Rob Evanoff, CEO – 1888 Media

Once you’re saving money on concerts, then it’s time to make money!

As a recurring speaker at universities across the country, including NYU in NYC, industry veteran Pat O’Connor has 25+ years of experience at providing and producing entertainment content and events in partnership with brands, broadcast outlets, as well as professional and collegiate sports leagues. Since 1990, his company, POC Media has produced more than 200 concerts and events in venues ranging from NFL stadiums and NBA Arenas to Convention Centers and Campuses (NC State, UNC, Duke, University of Mobile, University Central Missouri, Alfred, University of the Sciences), from NASCAR & NHRA tracks to Walmarts (including a series of concerts with a then brand-new-artist named Taylor Swift).

In addition to having T-Swizzle perform to thousands of fans at Walmarts, Pat has worked with the likes of Coca-Cola, Honda, Heinz, Webasto, Bass Pro Shops, and Angie’s List to produce sold-out events for TRAIN, Ludacris, TOBYMAC, Easton Corbin, 3 Doors Down, Vince Neil of Motley Crüe, The Band Perry, Boyz II Men, 3OH!3, The Summer Set, Tyler Farr, We The Kings, Brandy, MONICA, MercyMe, Jennifer Paige and Rae Sremmurd, among others.

Whether working with a massive superstar or a new kid on the block, Pat knows how to broker a deal to create a win-win scenario for all involved. He sees concert production as an opportunity for everyone to succeed, including the fans who get treated to a great concert experience. His straight-forward approach cuts through all the clutter and perceived mystery of the music industry. He regularly consults with universities for free, and finds ways to save them money, while driving the student recruitment and retention value of on-campus entertainment.

In the meantime, here are some POC theorems to assist you in making educated decisions, to negotiate smart deals that keep you within budget, and allow for the opportunity of an upside, securing the most highly coveted artists for your student body.

Arm yourself with these 9 sure-fire maxims, and in no-time, you’ll be the rock star of your campus!

1. Create Your Artist Wish List: This is where it all begins. It’s supposed to be exciting, so have fun with it. Dream and scheme about what artist you might be able to get, and then crunch the numbers to see where you’re at. Your talent fee should only represent ~ 60% of your working budget, so be diligent about trying to stay considerably under that to allow for upwards wiggle room if need be.

2. Check Average Gross Revenues For Your Artist Wish List: Sometimes this info can be accessed through an internet search but the most effective way is to work with a trusted liaison such as POC Media. Another option would be to register for a PollstarPro account (annual subscriptions run $500-$600, which includes print editions and directories), although the challenge is knowing how to process the information, and how to use it to your advantage. Working with a trusted liaison may be your best bet. Once you see the average gross revenue, you’ll have an idea of what the cost ceiling is for each artist, which will you allow you to make a more informed offer. Until you develop a long-standing relationship with a manager or agent, start ~ 25% below where you expect to end up. Factors affecting artist fees include, but are not limited to, current Billboard/Mediabase chart activity of singles, travel distance from the artist’s last gig, and trending popularity (as measured by socials & Spotify) among other intangibles. An interesting negotiating style that POC uses is to “never negotiate” . . . in Pat’s words, Page 2 of 3 “Negotiating is the process of two people being dishonest with each other until they arrive at a number neither of them wanted in the first place.” The alternative to negotiating is to determine a “win-win” scenario, having transparent options if the agent passes, and making a firm offer to the agent with a short turn-around time. This works best when one is already established in the business; specifically, when the liaison already has the reputation for not negotiating, but rather dictating terms.

3. Check The Routing Of Artists On Your Wish List: This is tantamount to making an educated decision. If your school falls along the tour route and the artist appears to have an opening, this is a good sign as it will greatly reduce the production costs (many tours carry their own production, crew, and backline). Routing matters. If a band is traveling from say, Chicago to Denver, with only one off-day, that day has probably been designated as a travel day. Also, if adding your city to the routing makes sense, you’re actually providing the artist with an opportunity to make extra money via a show that didn’t previously exist. So you may be able to negotiate a better deal since it’s already along the route.

4. Determine Actual Production Needs: Determine actual production needs, rather than assuming a tech rider will suffice. Before signing off on a deal, inquire about actual production needs, and determine what will have to be rented (i.e. lighting, trusses, larger PA, etc). Also, address non-traditional issues, such as barricades, additional power sources, hazing gear scenarios that require permits and fire department inspectors, or the possibility of having to hire additional security, including local police.

5. Artist Management vs. Booking Agents: Whenever possible, reach-out directly to management first rather than starting with the booking agent, (or worse, a middle-booker whose lack of authority to close a deal, and additional commissions can add substantially to your costs).

Dealing directly with people who have the authority to make a deal is always preferable, and is just smart business. Ultimately, it is the agent’s responsibility to paper the deal. But early in the process, the agent’s job is to get the most money they can for their client, which benefits the agency as they work on a commission basis, and it makes the agent’s job easier as they need to sell the project and associated parameters to the artist’s manager. It’s generally more effective to go to the manger first, hammer out the deal points, and then loop in the booking agent to issue the contract. The agent won’t like this, and if you don’t already have a personal relationship with the artist’s manager, the manager may just kick the request over to the agent. But it’s often a good practice to first go to the manager to make sure they see your offer. Some agents will choose not to present an offer to the manager, preferring to offer a less-established artist for the price you are proposing.

6. Technical And Hospitality Riders: Work out tech & hospitality riders directly with management before an offer is presented to the booking agent. A simple way to go about this is to take an artist’s average gross revenue (+/- 15%), allot $2K for hospitality as a buy-out, determine the rental and backline needs for your concert performance area (with associated rental fees), work in the cost of 6-10 riggers, lighting, sound, stage-build, trucking, and construction personnel, and provide that as your tech-rider to the artist. Delineate each detail in advance, and get the manager’s approval before approaching the booking agent to issue the contract.

7. Make The Booking Agent Paper The Deal Within 24 Hours: Take agreed-upon parameters to the booking agent to paper the deal, and only give them Page 3 of 3 24 hours to turn around the approval. This may seem like a small detail but it’s one of the most important. By setting deadlines and managing expectations, you will exert leverage with the unspoken knowledge that you have the opportunity to make offers to other prospective artists, and that your time and business acumen should be respected. Also be wary of the agency trying to substitute a smaller act as a substitute or support at an inflated price. Sometimes they will try to offer a package deal. Be open-minded, but also be ready to pass on their offer. Unless the artist manager also manages the additional artist being packaged, the agent will not risk losing the deal and having to explain to the headliner’s manager that things fell through over someone else’s management client.

8. Advance Production Early: Advance the show early with the tour manager to avoid surprises. This is true in just about all facets of life. The more lead-time you have, the better off it is for everyone involved. In addition to getting on the same page regarding your specific show, be sure to inquire about the artist’s availability to do press and radio. If management or their record label have a dedicated person that is handling tour press, give them a set of expectations, couching the request with the understanding that you want the artist and their representatives to do everything they can to make the show a success . . . it’s in everyone’s best interest to make it a great show, and to engage media, social media, fraternities, sororities, and school partners.

In engaging school partners, make sure that you keep the artist and management apprised of any partners in order to avoid surprises or implied endorsements that may rub the artist the wrong way, or even cause them to cancel the show. Maximizing coverage can lead to increased ticket sales, viral buzz, student enthusiasm, and enhanced merch sales, all of which will add to the bottom line.

9. Engage The Artist In Promotion Of The Show: As obvious as it sounds, it bears repeating, don’t assume that just because you have a solid artist, the show might promote itself . . . it won’t. Discuss with management in advance of signing the contract, what your expectations are, and the availability of the artist to engage in these activities. In some cases, it’s possible to put some forms of promotion into the contract. If the artist is willing and has designated time, provide concrete ways to generate additional interest, and maximize your reach by presenting creative ways to provide exclusive content to engage your audience. Have the artist film a short exclusive video talking about the show . . . even a “lo-fi” cell-phone video will do the trick. Designate a day leading up to the show as an “Artist Takeover Day,” and allow the artist or someone affiliated with the artist to log into your social media accounts (Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat), and post shout-outs, pics and stories. Inquire about the availability of merch for giveaways, and the possibility of VIP Meet & Greets. Once again, dream and scheme about what’s possible, and have fun with it! If you show passion towards making the show a success, the enthusiasm will transfer to everyone involved. Get more insight and information by clicking on the POC Media banner on the APCA web site at: www.APCA.com

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