“I’m looking at what that artist can sell that night in that venue and I’m making an offer based on that.” David Rodrick, Talent Buyer for Noise Pop Industries.
Ever wonder just how festivals come together? Here’s the inside scoop.
Hi David. Thank you so much for talking with us and for sharing your expertise. So let’s start at the very beginning. What does a talent buyer do?
The biggest part of a talent buyer’s job is to really understand the audience and to book bands that appeal to them. You have to recognize who your audience is and pick bands that will do well with that audience. You have to research what bands appeal to the fans in your area and then figure out who is available.
Then there’s the whole other component to it which is the actual transaction: contacting a band’s agent, finding out if the band is available, figuring out what their rate is and negotiating a fee. There’s a bit of negotiation there and in the end—hopefully—confirming a show. There’s also the manager. If I put a bid in with an agent, the manager still has the ultimate say in confirming the show.
So you’re mostly dealing with the agent? Is the agent the band’s representative for booking shows?
Now, are these long-term relationships that you’ve already established?
In my case, there are many relationships from the past. I used to work at an agency and I still work with some agents from back then. And there are new agents popping up all the time — all over the country and at different agencies. But for the most part, they are established relationships mixed with a few new ones. Some newer agents have great rosters — especially with newer electronic and dance music.
So are there different types of talent buyers? Buyers for festivals and buyers for venues?
The talent buyers at venues are often referred to as promoters. Some people buy for one particular venue and others are buyers for festivals or events.
OK. So trying to place all of this into the bigger picture, for any venue or event there is a budget. You have an understanding of how many tickets you can sell and that you believe you’ll sell so you have an idea of your parameters… so then what?
Well, Noise Pop is a different kind of festival. We are a venue festival. So when I buy for them, I’m not working with a budget. We sell tickets to every individual event so I’m making my offers to each artist based on the event—from event to event. If I’m putting together a show for the Independent, which is a 550 capacity room in San Francisco, I’m basically looking at that artist and that deal specifically. I’m looking at what that artist can sell that night in that venue and I’m making an offer based on that. We come up with the ticket price. We look at the last few plays that the artists has made in this market and we come up with a ticket price that is comparable or hopefully a little higher since you want growth and then you calculate. You look at the ticket price and the capacity and you make an offer based on what the potential can be. You hope everybody is going to sell out but… There are other factors that get figured in. There are expenses from venue to venue and those get figured into the deal as well.
Now for 20th Street Block Party, which is a different kind of event, we’re working with a budget. So we’re looking for artists who will work for fees that fit into our budget.
Got it. But how do you find out how much an artist sold previously?
Well, there are websites that you can use. Pollstar is one site that offers some info. It’s limited but they do show how many tickets were sold and the ticket prices. Celebrity Access offers final numbers for shows that come through town all over the US but my main way—the way I really like to do it—is to contact promoters who have booked the bands in the past and ask them specifically how the show did. If it didn’t do well, what was the issue? I want to know why the show did what it did. If it was a sell-out, great. But I really prefer going that route instead of trusting a website.
So as a festival buyer, you really need to work with all your local buyers. And that goes back to your original point about knowing your market and your audience.
Yes, that is very true. The relationship with all the local venue buyers is everything. I’m in constant contact with them all throughout the year: finding out how shows are doing, talking about who we think will do well during Noise Pop. Yeah, it’s definitely a relationship we’re always working on.
So that makes perfect sense. Do bands ever contact you directly?
Yes! Some bands contact me directly. And we also use SonicBids. Noise Pop specifically picks 5 SonicBids bands for the festival every year.
Really? That’s a big deal.
If the music is good, it speaks for itself. We usually have 4 bands on a bill. The 1st or 2nd bands might not have as much draw but we like to give local bands a chance to play. That’s what the festival is all about.
Thank you David!
For over 20 years, David Rodrick has been an influencer in the music business as an agent, a manager, and as a promoter. His market expertise has been heard and felt around the globe and besides for buying talent for Noise Pop Industries, he recently joined the music marketing division at Go Pro.
This interview was originally published by Mike Dias for Ultimate Ears