Booking Promotion

How To Make Money At Gigs

The real way for indie bands to make money at gigs is not with "guarantees" from the venues; instead it's with all the other ways you have at your disposal. Instead of trying to get just a few gigs with guaranteed pay, it's better to get ten times as many non-guarantee gigs, and make your money directly from the fans. So it ends up being the same money per gig, but you get a lot more gigs (because you are not asking for a guarantee). Also, by filling up your schedule with more gigs, you will look successful to larger venues and anyone else that you want to impress. Here are some money making options:

CD AND DOWNLOAD SALES: Every artist/band knows about selling CD's (and now, download cards) at their gigs, but few do it correctly. "Correctly" means selling the most possible, considering the number of fans that are there, and the amount of time you have to do it. The most important thing to remember is that you need a live person to do the selling. You can't just put the CD's/cards in a stack in front of your monitor, with a little sign that says $10, and expect them to sell.

At the very least, you need one person next to the CD's/cards, who will ask everyone who walks by if they'd like to get one. And the best type of person for this? A little ol' lady! They are the least threatening, and they are kind of person that people have trouble telling no to. Second best, is a young girl-scout type of girl (for the same reasons), if of course they are allowed inside the venue. You do not, however, want a hot girl, or any guy, because people are used to avoiding them.

The next step for CD/card sales is optional, and more work, but will absolutely maximize the number of sales: A cocktail waitress who walks around selling your CD/card. Now, this person needs to be a hot girl, who walks through the crowd with a stack of product. Every single person in the venue gets asked if they'd like to buy one. And the best way to arrange to pay this person is by a percentage of the CD's sold. Some additional places to sell the CD's/cards: An after-gig signing; from the bartender; from the valet (especially cards), etc.

DONATIONS: All artists should be set up to take donations. Not all artists, of course, feel comfortable verbally asking for donations, and certainly, some venues would not want to hear it being done. But there should at least be a bucket or vase with some money already in it (two $5 bills is good) to get it started. Artists with younger audiences (especially when not in restaurants) would do well to have someone (like a "granny") sitting by the donation bucket/vase, so as to "guard" it and also to "remind" people to donate (even if it's done by a stern look from her.) And here's a twist: Have a stack of "paypal cards" next to the donations, so people without cash can take one of the cards home and donate via paypal. The cards would have the needed info printed on it.

MERCH: Selling T-shirts and other items is a staple for most acts. It should be set up just like the CD's, as described above. Depending on your personality and your genre, some items to consider are shirts, hats, guitar pics, bandanas, pens, stickers and posters. Note that these items must be physically there to sell. If you just say "go to our site and get them", you won't sell any.

FOOD/DRINK UPGRADES: A more advanced technique is to arrange with the venue (especially a restaurant) so that you or your helper gets to announce something like "Everyone who orders the Super-Size Margarita or the Super-Size T-Bone Steak and asks for the band special, gets it for the regular-size price." You then get paid something like $2 for every order, and the customer saves something like $4.

A different version of this is to arrange with the venue so that every time a customer orders some food or drink, they get asked "Would you like to add on a CD or download card?" The venue would get half of the extra money, and you the other half. For the venue, this becomes sort of the "thing of the day", since each new artist will be like a new menu item. And of course the waiter gets more tips!

Next topic: Lifestyle Promotions

Click here for a list of all articles...

For a complete description of our booking campaigns, including pricing, send an email to

Internship Opportunities