As a booking agent, it is imperative that you keep check on your emotional attachment to the product. You see. We all have our favorite bands… a song that has touched our heart… or an album that helped us through a dark time. This emotional attachment is a unique characteristic of the product of music and can be a dangerous way to go about procuring entertainment for your establishment if left unchecked.
As for the performance space. Owners also have an idea of what they hope their venue will look like. They envision a certain type of customer that will sit at their bars, the employees that serve them their libations, and the entertainment that drives them through the doors. These concepts we visualize are rooted in narrative psychology. Basically, we all envision a way we perceive ourselves, our environment, and our meaning for existence. As children, we dream of becoming astronauts, police officers, and even thieves. Interestingly, we do not stop our internal play as we get older. We are constantly assessing how the world does, will, and should perceive us. This carries over when we think about the performance space and, left unchecked, can lead to erroneous qualitative assessments regarding what that space should be.
There is nothing wrong with having a “vision” for your venue, bar, or club. However, one should never let that vision go unchecked without quantifying their assumptions first. For instance, if you see your club as a country bar with fiddle-fronted bands, two-step contests, and lots of Budweiser. It would behoove you to undergo market research before you invest in that concept. How many radio stations spin country music in your market? Where is the venue located? Is it in Manhattan adjacent to Skyscrapers filled with investment bankers or on the outskirts of Houston with oil fields in the distance? Walk or ride your bike around the area at various times of the day to get an idea of whom is in your backyard. Are they wearing cowboy hats, jeans, and big belt buckles or white on white Nikes and flat-brimmed caps?
Tip: (Budget research costs into Your investment.) Allocate a percentage of your intended purchase towards a research budget. Even one percent of the cost of a $300,000 investment would cough up $3,000 for zoning maps, competitor analysis, and market trends. It will help you make better decisions moving forward and could easily save you that amount (plus some) in misinformed decisions.
Once you have your data. Combine your qualitative assumptions with those quantitative facts. Then, make your decision. Don’t get fooled by the stories of great leaders who went with their gut. I bet they gathered their own empirical evidence. Sam Walton was a private pilot who picked out store locations by flying over prospective towns for Walmart. He then made deals on lot prices based on his literal “bird’s eye view” of the situation.
If instead, you choose to just “go with your gut.” You enter into the danger of what I call Egotistic Booking. Or booking based solely on non-scientific evidence regarding the venue or it’s programming. There is nothing wrong with this type of booking…if you get it right! For years, the best agents were egotistic and successful.
But the game has changed.
The great bookers and promoters of the past never had to compete with the substitutes your customers have right now…in the palm of their hand. Your customers can choose to binge on Netflix, catch-up on their favorite Kardashian happenings on Instagram, check the daily news on Snapchat, and scroll through all of their friends’ lives on Facebook. They have Spotify with their favorite playlists loaded and ready to go and if they want to see a live band. They probably can with a live stream on YouTube, Facebook or one of many apps that now make that experience a reality.
That is a whole lot of competition that didn’t exist twenty…even ten years ago and chances are. You probably can’t compete with it.
But don’t worry. Neither can the local venues you contend with. This opens up a potential competitive advantage that you can grab. One borrowed from the online competitors you are now facing. They are using algorithms based on science and math to quantify and execute their decisions. Maybe it’s time you include a little math in your brick and mortar bookings. It will shield you from some of the dangers of egotistic booking.