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“Stagekeepers” seeks to examine a key role in the touring industry: the talent buyer. This person coordinates with a band or booking agent to present a show to the public. They negotiate expenses, coordinate appropriate venue spaces and dates, and in some cases promote shows. As “gatekeepers of night spaces”, Stagekeepers hold the key to public spaces and are responsible for effectively choosing which artists will be ‘presented’ to the public.

Despite recent plummeting profits for record companies, the concert touring industry is on the rise– particularly for independent artists. Technology makes producing and distributing music easier than ever, allowing new artists to create fans ‘practically overnight’. This combined with reduced income from record sales has pushed artists to subsidize losses through touring. Online tools and social media make reaching audiences, sharing, and nurturing niche communities easier than ever.

DFW is a particularly interesting case study for several reasons: it is a large metroplex with distinct community identities (Dallas, Fort Worth, Denton); it houses two major production companies: AEG Live & Live Nation, whereas typically one emerges; and there is a perceived sense of growth after a suspended period of ‘cultural drought’.

StageKeepers

The highly transformative nature of these small communities places extra importance on a local, active participant to play the role of talent buyer– who must be knowledgeable of popular venue spaces, trends and bands. With such narrow profit margins, trade and social capital have also become vital to community development. These promoters may not be able to afford extensive radio campaigns or expensive marketing efforts, but they can trade for blog posts, street teams, and often create local brand advocates with access to niche markets.

This project specifically focused on 4 emerging trends:

  • All Work, or All Play?– The destabilization of the music scene, from unpredictable schedules and increased amateur participation to shifting hierarchies.
  • Background– Does background affect a talent buyer’s approach?

Posts are categorized according to these four trends.
There are also additional posts on resources (glossary, reading list, tips), and areas for further research.

Inherently a night-time activity, maintaining a traditional 9-5 work schedule in the concert industry is nearly impossible. Unpredictable schedules, increased amateur participation and shifting hierarchies all contribute to the destabilization of the music industry.

SOCIALCAPITAL

Especially at lower levels, the music industry is held together through implicit relationship expectations. Promoter brands are often closely related to personal identity. The ability to use clout to influence can be a vital tool, especially within favor and trade based communities.

DESTABILIZATION

Is long term professional viability possible as a talent buyer? The profession of talent buyer is extremely difficult to monetize.  With so much risk, fluctuation and the unpredictability of audiences– what safe guards are emerging to create stability and ensure long-term viability?

FOUNDATIONS

Talent buyers generally fell into two camps: musician or music enthusiast. Background seems to be most important when a talent buyer is still trying to establish him/herself within the community, but they quickly become socialized to participate in group norms.

  • Top 10 Best Promoter Qualities

    Top 10 Best Promoter Qualities

    Promoters tended to be very opinionated, especially about other promoters. These tips provide an interesting glimpse into their opinions of peers, and especially bands.

    Read more
  • The Gamble of Booking Shows

    The Gamble of Booking Shows

    Booking shows can be quite a gamble– the market changes quickly, costs are high and attendance unpredictable. Especially at smaller levels, a few losses can run a promoter out of business. How can promoters reduce the risk?

    Read more
  • DIY or don’t

    DIY or don’t

    Most ’boutique’ promoters founded their mission with a ‘DIY’ aesthetic, and continue this identity assimilation even after adopting more structured, profitable ideologies. However, strict traditional DIY models do not align with profitability, which can create tension among active DIY participants.

    Read more
  • The Power of Local Promoters

    The Power of Local Promoters

    A majority of these research focuses on smaller, local promoters– rather than large corporate identities like AEG Live or Live Nation. The nuances and power structures of independent promoters offer more telling and influential data on the local music scene.

    Read more
  • The Distinction Between Booking Agents, Promoters and Talent Buyers

    The Distinction Between Booking Agents, Promoters and Talent Buyers

    For most public purposes, the term booking agent, talent buyer and promoter are all relatively interchangeable. However, among promoters and talent buyers, each of these terms corresponds with different roles.

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  • Relationship Expectations & Loyalty between Promoters and Talent Buyers

    Relationship Expectations & Loyalty between Promoters and Talent Buyers

    Promoters consistently reiterated the importance of maintaining strong industry relationships– especially between themselves and booking agents.

    Read more

Further Research & Resources

Ultimately these observations would be much more useful if viewed in a larger context. Further research should include evaluations of other cities– being particularly conscious to choose music scenes of various sizes and types. Developing a solid system and utilizing crowdsourcing could make this a very realistic endeavor.

Click here to for more ideas on further research and how you could potentially recreate this study in your own town.

Whether you’re looking to get more involved within your music scene, or learn more about the political economy of music– I’ve compiled a list of resources.

Ranging from example contracts to reading lists, these are tools I utilized to help create this project.

Contact

Photos above by Jeremy Hughes, and drawing by Hannah Weir

All information gathered for research purposes by Laura Carroll for a senior capstone project for a BA in Emerging Media and Communications from The University of Texas at Dallas.

For more information or questions about Stagekeepers, feel free to contact directly at lauramichelecarroll (at) gmail.com or via twitter @laracarroll