Thanks to Matt Dunn for taking the time out of his day to answer these questions for me. He kicks ass.
Frank- Define the terms “Talent Buyer” and “Promoter” in your own words, based on your own experiences. Matt- Well, honestly, in my opinion, they are almost two completely different things. While I do both of them on a daily basis, one and the other are really different when compared. A “talent buyer” is someone who is contacted by a venue to negotiate a purchase for a venue or event for entertainment, while a promoter really does it all and then some to really push the artist and the event to the next level. Talent buyers don’t necessarily make flyers, update websites, contact venues, etc, while a promoter really does all of that and then so much more. We, in the position that we, are in really do a lot of each.
----- Frank- What are the responsibilities, goals, and tasks of a talent buyer? Matt- Well, when hired to actually purchase talent for a specific venue and/or event, our first responsibility is to acquire something that not only the event/venue is looking for, but at a price that enables everyone involved to succeed. You can throw money around like its nothing, and the event/venue will work with you once or twice and then tell you to fuck off, or you can really aggressively try to build something that the venue, the event, the talent, AND the buyer can really benefit from for years to come. You really just want to make everyone happy.
----- Frank- Usually, what does a normal day of work involve for you? Matt- Depends on if I actually go to work…hehe. Before I started at Max, and before this year, I worked full time at AT&T in downtown Syracuse 40 hours a week, sending out and answering emails on company time while there. Oh well, they laid me off, fuck them. Anyways, in March, the company left Syracuse, and left me unemployed for the first time since I was 15, so I had to decide on what exactly I was going to do. Spending the summer chillin in my pool, answering emails from my laptop with my wireless in the backyard really was living it up, but now its actual work. 10 am arrival, answering calls, researching tour avails, checking with venues, handling advances…all day, every day. Out anywhere from 6-8, Monday through Friday. Actual work, its scary.
----- Frank- What are the ups and downs of your field of work? Matt- Same as any sales job would be…changing times can lead to market changes that lead to money loss and frustrations. Venues open and close in the blink of an eye, so that leads to problems and such. Markets like Syracuse cannot draw anywhere near like a market like Rochester or Albany can, so fighting equally for my kids is a difficult fight on a daily basis. Agents and managers sometimes need favors that are guaranteed money losses, and sometimes the favors don’t get repaid. That’s business, it happens, not the end of the world. However…ups, man, there are a TON! Just imagine if YOU booked a Fall Out Boy show at the Ritacco, thousands of kids STOKED on life to see these bands, bands STOKED on life to play for this many kids, and it all happened because YOU answered the phone and YOU did the work to make it swing. Emotionally, it is very rewarding, because when we were kids, there was someone doing this for us. The more you think of it that way, the more it really pays off. Sure, its awesome to make money and hang and be seen and think your cool shit and what not, but when thousands and thousands of kids leave an event high on life, an event you put forth the effort to create and succeed with…it rules.
----- Frank- What are some key terms and commonly used phrases in your field of work? State and define these words (Guarantees, Back End, etc.). Matt-
guarantee: amount of compensation due to the band for performance of said event
back end: amount over split point percentage that the band earns for drawing ability
promotion: flyers/radio/tv/web spots/etc
representative: babysitter, person who handles the business at the show
tour manager: babysitter of the business of the band
I cant remember any off the top of my head, I suck.
----- Frank- Where do you feel the performance aspect of the music industry is heading, and what changes should kids and fans expect in the future? Matt- Well…think about what has happened with MCR and FOB in the last 12 to 18 months. Same thing is about to happen to Panic, maybe to Cartel, maybe not to that size of explosion, but to that extent. Bands become the flavors of the week, and just blow the fuck up. Kids need to get out and see EVERY show possible, everywhere. VFW’s, small clubs, etc. Looking at some of the shows I have done in my time, bands like The Used, TBS, MCR, Glassjaw, FOB, Thrice, Story Of The Year, Killswitch, Avenged Sevenfold, Brand New, and the list just goes on, bands that were small playing small clubs that just fuckin exploded. Kids that loved them then and saw them experienced such intimacy in their performance. Kids that see them on MTV now, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a band getting exposure…its just that most kids nowadays that are seeing these bands in their huge status have no idea that these same bands played their town 2 years ago in front of a handful of diehard kids, and have no idea that there are 20 bands that are JUST LIKE THESE MAINSTREAM bands playing their same town every month. Gotta reach out, grasp the moment, have fun with it.
----- Frank- How do you go about determining the “worth” of a band and what is involved with doing that? Matt- Simple. Gotta check their history in the city, what kind of album sales they have, what bands are a part of the package, what drawing ability the show in itself has, be it on a weekend or a weekday, how large the venue is, what the sellable capacity is, how much of a ticket you want to charge, estimated gross potential of the event. Then, once assessed, then you figure out what the next step will be…the OFFER! You know, how much the band is being paid, their catering budget, the promotional expenses, staffing, security, support bands, insurance, etc. Everyone has a price for the Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase knew what he was talking about.
----- Frank- Are contracts or other binding documents involved in the securing of a concert/show? Matt- Absolutely. This is business, try not to forget. When shit blows up in your face (*coughHELLFESTcough*) its good to have a binding agreement between the band and the promoter of the event to cover in case of loss. Also, there is the occasional shady promoter out there who will want to cut corners because s/he didn’t do enough to make the show work, and doesn’t want to honor the previously negotiated guarantees. Contracts, while annoying, are respectful and honorable, and very protecting for all parties involved. This is a business, the ship needs to run smoothly.
----- Frank- How do you market the show and what does an “ad plan” involve? Matt- All depends on the show, to be honest. You aren’t going to advertise a Lamb Of God show on a Top 40 radio station in your city, but you will run ad’s on the local metal show. Local entertainment related papers, maybe even some TV spots for the more mainstream type stuff. Plus, flyers and handbills NEVER get old, no matter how dominant the internet is these days. Myspace kicks ass to promote through, as well as websites and the like. Gotta spread the word, there are kids everywhere without a clue. Gotta hand them that clue.
Ad plans include exactly what you want to do for a show, and how much it is going to cost you. Break it down individually, date it, sign it off based on the expense, stay close to budget, and run with it. Pretty simple…you just have to always pay attention to detail.
----- Frank- How do talent buyers and promoters make money? Is it based on % of profits on the events they arrange? Matt- Business standard is 15% of the gross receipts of the door. Talent buyers usually pull in something like 10% of the estimated talent budget for the event in question. However, not every show makes profit, so there are estimated losses from time to time. That’s business, it happens. Isn’t a bad thing to make $1000 on a show, just to lose $200 of it here and $300 of it there on other shows. Sure, it SUCKS to lose money and all, but EVERY show has happy kids stoked to see their favorite bands, so it brings back the rewarding side of it all.
----- Frank- How do you determine how money much an artist makes at a show? Matt- Ticket price times capacity, minus expenses, divided by estimated drawing ability, usually gives you a rough number to work around.
----- Frank- How are ticket prices determined? Matt- Agents and managers usually determine ballpark, but it’s the responsibility of the promoter to know his city and venue and band on the show to know how much a ticket should be for a show. Sometimes, it is a brutal fight to the death over how much a show will be, but others, it’s really a cakewalk.
----- Frank- Lets say an act like Yellowcard (just an example) was to approach you about a concert. From beginning to end, describe what would need to be done to make this happen. Matt- K, easy. First, the call/email from the agent would come in, looking for a group of dates to reserve for routing of a pending tour package. Usually, they will recommend a venue size they are looking for and the like. Next, you contact the venue to determine availability. From there, you will compile your financial offer sheet to coincide with available dates for the package offered. Agent will look over your offer, bug the shit out of you for more, you will negotiate and come to a happy medium, and then you have your confirmed date. Once confirmed, promotion comes into play. Flyers, web blasts, radio, TV, whatever needed to get the word out about the show. Show happens, bands play, kids stage dive & sing along, everyone has a blast.
----- Frank- When, why and how did you decide to get involved with this area of the music business? Matt-
When: February 20th, 2000
Why: it was my birthday, and I wanted to have a show.
How: contacted the bands and put it together.
It was a very different time then, since then more bands have acquired managers and booking agents and such, and its become far more of a business behind the scenes than the exploding pleasure at the show and the like. As the business side of it all grew, I grew with it, and just memorized what needed to go into the whole ordeal. Paying attention and asking LOTS of questions gets you places.
----- Frank- What internships, and past companies did you work with before ending up where you are now? Did those past experiences teach you a lot? Matt- Honestly never worked for or did any internships for any companies to get where I am today. I worked a little bit with Trustkill Records over the past 6 years in an advisory stance, which did teach me a lot about the industry and the like, but like I mentioned before…I really just jumped on board at the right time that self teaching really earned me the knowledge to help my career take off.
----- Frank- Did you attend college? If so, how did that affect your knowledge of the music industry and the area you work in. If not, why didn’t you? Matt- Never went to college. While in high school, I never wanted to do work, and that was on the state’s dime. College is on YOUR dime, so I was like “fuck that.” However, my girlfriend goes to school at Syracuse University, and is taking Music Industry as a minor, and is really learning a lot about the business side of this shindig…more than I am, to be honest. The right classes are available at the right schools to really get you deeply involved as much as you want to be…as long as you are always open to learn. Gotta crawl before you walk.
----- Frank- Anything else you'd like to add is welcomed. Advice, thank you's, shout outs, plugs, etc. Matt- Remain focused, really strive for what you wish to attain. If someone tells you that you cant do it, try that much harder to succeed. I busted my ass for a long time, and it is really finally starting to pay off. ASK QUESTIONS, you really want to know the right way to do things without fucking up with the wrong way. However, TAKING CHANCES and making mistakes is a learning process we all have done and will continue to do. Its scary, it sucks, the rewards are few and far between…but always try, and success will eventually show its face.
High fives and stage dives out to Max Cruise, all the agents/bands/managers who put up with our shit from time to time, and to the KIDS for continually supporting. Listen to Panic, Nightmare of You, I Am The Avalanche, As I Lay Dying, ETID, Fire When Ready, Built Overnight, For The Horizon, Anorexic Beauty Queen, MC Goldie Wilson, Kelly Clarkson, Slipknot, Dredg, First Blood, No Warning, Thrice, Cartel, Acceptance, Hit The Lights, and Ashlee Simpson. Keep an open mind, and keep it edge, and visit www.syracuseshows.com and www.maxcruise.com. Thanks to Frank for asking the questions. Thanks to ABP.net for entertaining me 1000 times a day, even though we really don’t give a shit when Petey updates his journal.