Despite the dry-sounding title of this panel, the words “record bundle” or “VIP meet-and-greet” seem to be the small-hall equivalent of the boogeyman. Fleming Artists’ Adam Bauer was on the defensive for much of the panel, being the only agent present, surely a thankless job and hostile environment. 

Photo

Photo: Jason Squires

Small Hall Challenges

“So you have to sell the fucking record. What does it matter?” Bauer said, somewhat pleadingly. “You’re still seeing something and you see a split sooner. It’s a pain in the ass and we’re jerks for doing it and asking for it. But at the end of the day is it really that big of a deal?”

That didn’t go over that well. The main issue for small halls seems to be that the record bundle – or even worse, the dreaded VIP meet-and-greet arranged by a third party – comes last-minute (and after closing the deal) and makes the venue look bad when things like security aren’t handled properly. 

Sometimes the venue isn’t even aware of the VIP situation until a fan shows up asking where to go. Also, a $4 ticket increase does matter.

Click here for full Pollstar Live! coverage. 

“At a certain level, maybe the price increase doesn’t make a difference,” said Anya Siglin, program director at 400-capacity The Ark. “But at a $15 ticket, taking it to $20, what If you don’t want it? There’s no option. It’s basically forced on anyone who wants a ticket. I think it’s great that artists need to get their product out there but not for every show and not through us.”

Bauer reminded the room that venues and promoters ultimately have the power to say no.

“Both parties have to agree,” he said. “You have every right to say no and walk away from the deal. If it’s that important to you to not fuck around with it, say no. “

That didn’t go over well either. Shlomo Lipetz, national promotions director at City Winery, said in his situation it’s usually not a big deal, and sometimes you have to play along when you really want the show.

“As we all know, as promoters we bend over and do what we’re told. As long as it’s early on I don’t see it as a big deal,” said Lipetz, who received a Happy Birthday chant before the panel began.

Of course, agents aren’t really the ones responsible for asking for the bundle or meet & greet in the first place. “I think just like we are trying to make the agents happy, the agents are trying to make the managers happy,” Siglin said.

The panel and audience had plenty of reasonable solutions: everything from adding extra staff into the rider to handle VIP security, to adding the bundle to the gross and sharing the revenue, to specifically including a “No meet-and-greet” clause into the rider.

One line could come particularly in handy: “You said no. I wrote it down!” Then again, agents sometimes don’t even read the offer.

Also, it’s not that venues don’t want to provide that VIP experience.

“To tell them you’re not going to provide security or anything is good in theory but it’s all about fan experience, and if you have them do it outside it will reflect badly on the venue,” Lipetz said. This brings up maybe the biggest takeaway from the VIP discussion. Acts that are big enough to warrant going through the VIP hassle, such as a Bonnie Raitt, will have the resources and experience to handle them properly.

“I try to tell developing bands, you know, let’s try to get to a certain level before doing that. Let’s really work on building the relationship with fans because that’s ultimately how you’re going to have a long career,” Bauer said. “If you want to be in the music business, engage with your God-damn fans and don’t charge people to do it,” Bauer reiterated.

That point did go over well.