This is the second part of my interview with Howie Schnee of Creative Entertainment Group. You can see the first portion of the interview here.
What is your feeling on the pay to play concept and why?
I don’t have a problem with it as a talent buyer or a manager. Bands pay for advertisements, promotion and publicity. The bands that “get it” realize that playing in front of a good crowd of like-minded fans is the best exposure available. Better than ads or publicity. When we book a strong regional or national act it generally carries a lot of risk on our part. We hedge that risk with opening acts that we know are worth a good amount of tickets. When a band comes along that we’ve never heard of submits to open on one of those shows there’s not much incentive for us to do it, so if it’s a good fit musically we may suggest that they “guarantee” their draw by selling or buying some tickets to the show. I’d understand why some bands would object, but I’ve found that most smart, motivated younger emerging bands will get out there and hustle and sell some advance tickets for the great exposure opportunity.
What are some of the most effective promotions and / or campaigns you
have seen that have made for great shows?
I could name a lot of great promotions and campaigns but I think the general themes an act should focus on are: not overplaying any market they’re building; align themselves with other like-minded bands; try to build their own little scene; making their fans feel a part of the show and the success of the show in some way- in any way. That and delivering a great experience once they actually get to the show.
I remember when I played your club as a kid that some bands from out of
town would bus in their fans for the show and nightlife in NYC. Does this
kind of thing still work for people looking to build New York as a secondary market?
Bands from Jersey, CT, PA still do this. Here is an example of where we’d be amenable to putting a band on a really good exposure slot. The band obviously put a lot of work and money into organizing the bus trip, and they’ve guaranteed that they’d have at least 40 – 50 people coming to the show on their bus. Therefore, I think it can be a really smart way for a band to begin to build their audience in the city. As long as they play on the right show at the right time slot and gain some good exposure from the show, and they follow up the show in the not-too-distant future, it’s a worthy investment.
What are the absolute requirements for getting people out to a show in
your opinion? Is it promotions on Facebook and MySpace, or good old-fashioned flyering? What works in your opinion? Also, do you find that there is more impact from in person promotion than online promotion?
All of the above. A band should be utilizing every tool at their disposal, and these days, there are so many free ways online and off for a band to use. I definitely think musicians, particularly outgoing ones, should be out there networking, meeting potential fans and other musicians like it’s their career. They should always be armed with music for those that seem interested – CDs, MP3 cards, flash drives. Bands shouldn’t be too concerned with giving away their music vs. selling it. The primary goal is to create fans in the long run, not make a few dollars in the short run.
There’s a band we booked a few years ago that are doing really well. Touring nationally. Their band is their full-time job. They’ve gotten themselves onto a lot of the major summer festivals out there. Anyway, a couple guys from the band were always out there pushing their band. At every show and event, handing out cards, giving people CDs, almost every night. Constantly making in-roads with the tastemakers. If it wasn’t for their hard work ethic, I don’t think they’d be anywhere close to the level they’re at now.
What would you say has separated the groups that have gone on to play bigger and bigger clubs and draw more and more people from the ones that never got an audience beyond their friends?
Talent, drive and organization. You can get a sense of all three pretty quickly.
Knowing what you know now- say you got to start over as a musician and
retain this knowledge – what is your best advice or guideline for building a
It’s a mix of what I’ve been referencing in my answers to your questions. I’m a big proponent of a band working really hard on their live show. If the show is something special, and the band is hard working, and employs many of the tactics I’ve referred to, then the band has a great shot. In the 90s and the first 3 or 4 years of this decade, it was all about getting a record deal. That was what was on every band’s mind. These days, many bands’ goal is to find a good agent. The diminishing influence of the major label system has evened the playing field in many ways. I think these days, if a band doesn’t have a killer live show, and they plan on having a career, they should work tirelessly on developing the best live show possible.
For more information on Howie Schnee and his company visit Creative Entertainment Group.