I have been involved in the running of shows in the Spokane area for about six months and from my experiences with that and my observations with other independently ran shows, I have seen what works and what doesn’t. Here are some of those observations.
Everyone needs to be on board: If you are running a theme show or just a normal comedy show, everyone that is participating needs to on board with what you are trying to do. If you are doing a show where you tell jokes and then dress like a dinosaur and then tell more jokes, you need everyone to be comfortable with putting on a dinosaur outfit.
Promotion: If people don’t know you are doing a show about telling jokes dressed as a dinosaur, how are they gonna pay you to see you tell jokes in a dinosaur outfit. This goes with the first point: Get people on your show that are excited to do the show. That way, they will want to let their fans know about it. This also means that you as the show runner need to be on top of things. That means getting flyers ready and the events made. Comedy is filled with folks that just want to get up on stage in front of a sold out crowd, and not do the little things to ensure there is a sold out crowd. Don’t book those people! Book people that will work with you to make sure it is a success. I don’t know how many times I have worked with someone that did no promotion for the show, but then sat there and wondered why the pay was low. This does not apply to out of town comics because they may know less people in that area than comedians that work in that town.
Properly review the venue: I have helped put on shows that were not suited for the venue we had access too. If you have hints that your show involving dressing like a dinosaur and telling jokes is gonna be a small event, then putting it in a 600 seat theater is not good. You loose money and you give off the impression that it is not a success. If you would have just locked up a nice place that had 70 seats and you sold 50, you look better, and you don’t have the extra cost involved with renting a large venue. Make sure that the venue has a competent staff. The last thing you want is to have a great show, but the bar didn’t make money because the staff was too slow. Can they handle an influx of people? If they can’t then you might have to look elsewhere.
Keep your promises: If you promise to pay everyone a certain amount, then you better have the money to pay them! Nothing kills your rep faster than telling people one thing and then doing another. Not ever will be in it just for the dinosaur suits. I would rather leave the show with no money in my pocket then to short change the performers and have them tell people that I can’t give them what we agreed upon. The reason this is an issue is because most people that are putting on shows like this have high hopes that it will sell out and they can pay people well. What I have learned is to expect the worse and be surprise if it turns out different.
Make it an event: Make it seem like this is the show that you want to see. Make it seem as though those are the only dinosaur costumes in the state and they will be set ablaze after the show. You have to SELL the show! If you are not excited about it, then why should someone that has to pay five bucks to get in? Sometimes you have to put your modesty to bed and pull out your inner cheerleader and pom pom the shit out of your show. The best promoters make their monthly shows seem like events that will rock the town to its core. That is what you want.
I hope this helps. I am not an expert promoter at all. I just observe and see what works best and what doesn’t. The biggest take away is that if you want to run your own shows you have to treat it like if you don’t make it a success, they will take your kidney.