Phil Sweetland’s BIZ BUZZ: Get Ready For Country’s Hottest And Strongest Season

Is there any better time for country music than these hot summer days and nights?

For many of us, the feeling of driving in a pickup with the windows down, rocking out to Alan Jackson or Brooks & Dunn, or the feeling of fishing in a bass boat as Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard blast out of the speakers, is one of our fondest memories.

And from your standpoint as an artist, a label, or a country artist’s manager, these hot summer months should be your peak moneymaking period of the entire business year.

Sure, you’ll get lots of sales right before Christmas, and that too is a strong season. But the summer, in large part because of the fairs-and-festivals season, is a potential gold mine for you and your artist.

Because of file sharing, downloading, and online music theft, touring revenue has never been as important for a country artist as it is today. Not only are your ticket sales a giant potential income source, but so is the merch table at every one of your shows, where you will move more T-shirts, more hats, more autographed CDs and photos than you will ever sell online or in stores.

Fair and festival operators have both “soft” and “hard tickets” for the music at their events. A soft ticket means that the cost of the show is included within the general admission; a hard ticket is a separate admission for the artist’s concert.

From your standpoint, which is better?

Touring experts and booking agents would have a more informed answer on this than we would, but it seems that both soft and hard tickets have potential upsides for an artist.

A hard ticket, obviously, is easier for both you as an artist and for the fair operator to track. You know exactly how many fans came to the event to see you, so you can very justly ask for a higher percentage of the gate than on a soft ticket.

On the other hand, soft tickets may well help you build your fan base because fans who have never heard your records or seen your shows before will attend, and you can turn them into new fans.

Radio often differentiates between these types of fans in a different way. It has listeners that are called “P1 listeners,” the most passionate fans of that particular station and that particular format. P1 fans typically enter most of the contests, make lots of requests, interact with the station staff at live remotes, and show up at every touring country show that comes through that town.

But it’s already early summer. Is it too late for you to book fairs-and-festivals work for this year?

Not necessarily.

First of all, artists have to cancel shows at the last minute all the time. Maybe the bus broke down. Maybe the lead singer has had to go on vocal rest – which is being ordered more and more nowadays since acts have to tour so much more to break event. Or maybe the artist scheduled to play that night got drunk and couldn’t make the stage.

Besides, if you’re a good artist or a good manager, you’re always thinking months or even years ahead of time. Even if a fair or festival is fully booked for 2012, who’s the man or woman doing the booking? Get that contact information, and keep in touch with that person throughout the year. Send them your newest recordings, along with positive reports you’ve gotten from other venues about your shows, and how easy you and your artist have been to work with.

And even if the guy is fully booked, maybe even for 2013 as well, ask him if he knows anyone else who might be looking. Good fair and festival folks, just like good country and good radio folks, know one another. They have a good pulse for what’s working and what’s not working.

So good luck. Have a great summer, make loads of money, and build your fan base bigger than you ever imagined possible.

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