Weeks and even months before any band hits the stage, a lengthy and often tedious process of negotiation has already taken place behind the scenes. The skill and “pull” of a club’s talent booker can make or break their business. Booking is a challenging mix of balancing budget, networking, having a good ear and a fair amount of luck. The Roxy Theatre’s Megan Jacobs is one of those talent bookers making magic happen behind the scenes.
Jacobs has booked talent at The Roxy Theatre for the past four years. Starting as the assistant talent buyer, she and the team at The Roxy have made the legendary venue a current, thriving club on The Sunset Strip.
Her style of booking is influenced by her ability to masterfully balance diverse genres while also spotting up-and-coming talent on the cusp of stardom, a task that few other venues are able to accomplish so successfully. Also an accomplished musician, she barely has a minute to catch a breath. Fortunately we were able to steal a moment of her time. Get to know this tastemaker a little better.
How did you get your start as a talent buyer?
I started booking shows when I was fresh out of college. I was performing at Rusty’s on the Santa Monica pier and they liked me and asked me back. I brought a friend or two and the next thing you know I was paid $200 to set up a PA and book shows. It started as a series called “Women that Cook” featuring L.A. women rockers.
How has being a musician influenced/helped your career as a talent buyer? Has it made you more empathetic as a booker?
Being a musician has absolutely helped my career as a talent buyer. I understand all sides of the game. I want the artists to be paid, treated right and to work hard, and I want the venue to have great talent while making money. As an artist I know what it feels like to be on stage, and so I always think of the talent when booking the club.
What has been the biggest milestone in your career as a musician thus far?
Having a song in a major feature film called A Thousand Words coming out in February – featuring Eddie Murphy and produced by Nicolas Cage.
What is the most difficult part of booking a nightclub? What are some of the challenges that the average person wouldn’t be aware of?
The most difficult part about booking a nightclub is making enough money to keep the business thriving. It’s also a big challenge handling the high volume of emails and phone calls.
Describe your screening process as far as what you look for when booking an act.
I’m looking to see if the acts have a fan base, if they’re working hard at promoting, if they have a new record out….I’m looking at MySpace pages, Twitter, I’m asking around, I’m looking at past L.A. history….shaking the eight ball [laughter].
What are the “do’s and don’ts” for bands looking to get booked at The Roxy?
Don’t ever book a show next door in the same week. Don’t drop off an old school press kit. Do send me an email with your MySpace page and information about your past L.A. shows. Do follow up in about a week, but don’t follow up if you just sent the email. Give me a few days, please!
Have you found it challenging being a female in a largely male-dominated music industry?
Yes I definitely often feel like it’s the boys club, but I get respect so it’s all good. If I played basketball…I might be able to cut better deals [laughter].
The Roxy Theatre does not engage in “pay to play.” Can you relate your feelings about this practice both from a talent buyer’s perspective as well as a musician’s?
Pay to play is a survival technique; it’s not easy to stay in business on The Strip. Everybody’s got to do what they have to do to survive. I don’t personally like to cut “pay to play” deals and for the most part we’ve stayed away from them. We prefer to risk with the artist and gamble on the shows we believe in. This allows us to book top of the line talent and cutting edge music.
The current economic downturn has hit the live music business particularly hard. What are some of the changes you’ve noticed and what do you think is the key to surviving in the current climate?
I’m noticing great venues going out of business because of the recession. I’m noticing less tours, less tour support…I’m noticing that everyone is working three times as hard just to stay afloat. I think the key to surviving is conservative deals, and bands and venues working together to get through the hard times. Everyone needs to keep their heads down and keep working.
Top three biggest shows you booked at The Roxy?
Dolly Parton, Sex Pistols, Dead Weather.
Everyone has at least one story about a crazy night out on The Sunset Strip. Anything you’re legally allowed to share?
Don’t you wish you knew. Let’s just say it ended up with me in a cab and one shoe on …
–Brent X Mendoza