Playing Gigs in France
Check out our Greater Region Live Music Directory, with more than 300 concert bars, venues, festivals and concert organizers.
There is a national directory for France - updated yearly - named “L’Officiel de la musique” with a premium version online, WOFFI, both edited by IRMA. It provides a comprehensive overview of the whole live music sector in France, listing the contacts of registered music professionals, ranging from the higher branches of the French music industry to small independent organizations operating on niche markets. The capacity spectrum of the listed venues starts at 100 and most of the featured addresses work in accordance with professional standards.
When you set out to play in a new territory, you certainly ask yourselves where to start. Here a few tips on what locations you might want to choose first and which partners to team up with:
Contact French acts which you like and which might attract a fanbase similar to yours. Co-organize and co-promote your shows on their and your territory respectively.
In the Lorraine region, you will find a rather strong and active community of music enthusiasts working together to promote the music they like by organizing shows. As the territory was rather under-equipped to host proper amplified music shows in the past, regional collectives have developed a DIY (do-it-yourself) know-how over the years. Furthermore, since the nineties, various citizens’ initiatives – thanks to a set of appropriate regulations - have been empowered by dedicated subsidies in order to anchor those players in the musical landscape. Lorraine now boasts a number of quality venues spread all over its territory facilitating the work of the collectives. These are less-market-oriented and oftentimes more eager to give opportunities to emerging bands as they are very close to their audience and have the know-how to plan and promote a concert in their surroundings. Don’t expect a big cheque but a nice and interested crowd. Be aware as well that most of these collectives are connected with more established venues of the area and related to professional bookers, so it might be useful to keep an eye on the bands set forth by those collectives for potential swap shows!
In the Nancy area non-profit organizations have created a common communication platform to promote their activities named "Le facteur musique", which features a record of its 29 members.
As a foreign act, you might want to consider playing festivals first. In France, a certain number of them are partly publicly funded and might have a mission to showcase emerging talent, often by adding a special day dedicated to up-and-coming acts. Moreover, festivals are quite interesting due to an extensive promotion of their line-up and the larger audience they generally attract. Identify showcase, niche and small to medium-sized festivals as they might be more inclined to book unknown artists if their sound matches the taste of the festival audience. Some festivals might also have a history of cooperating with your national export bureau, which may grant you an easier access. Make sure to be ready, though, as playing a big festival stage might be an awe-inspiring experience the first time!
Most relevant French venues are partly publicly funded. When they are fully dedicated to amplified music, they are compelled to support musicians and emerging artists through different schemes and devices, by booking them, as support acts for international shows for example, by building up a regional visibility through regional touring or by organizing festivals dedicated to up-and-coming acts.
Keep in mind that eligible bands must have at least a connection not only with the French soil (e.g. represented by a company registered in France) but also the regional area. The profile of an emerging artist in France is actually fairly well defined and national programmes are very strict with the requirements to meet.
Those venues are bound to conform to legal requirements and to promote these good practices with a postulate: “any band playing on a stage in front of an audience – with or without cover charge - is supposed to get paid except in one case: when the performance takes place for a promotional purpose.”
Lately, cross-boarder cooperation in Euroregions systematically tends to loosen those criteria when mutual benefits arise, as it has started to happen within the Greater Region thanks to initiatives such as the Multipistes Network.
Obviously, booking agencies provide you with a service that comes at a certain cost: the booking fees (a negotiable percentage of your artist fee). Generally, you must claim a relevant background in DIY before getting their attention and should be represented by a legal entity registered in your home country, because this enables you to edit a proper invoice. In that case, a French booking agent will be able to sell your show with a “Contrat de Cession” (more info under "Paperwork" below) at a reasonable price. Working with an actual booking agent might actually open some doors on the French circuit.
You should try to play in Paris as it is a genuine taste-maker city in France. Out of Paris, a set of famous festivals disseminated in the country actually take on this role as well but remain out of touch when you are neither strongly recommended nor supported by your export office.
Be aware though that a lot of the clubs in Paris are privately run. They work more like pubs than like proper venues and programming/hosting – even regularly concerts – is part of a strategy to attract a crowd and sell drinks. Nevertheless, as the entrance of these "live music pubs" is free of charge, they manage to attract the wide Parisian music-lover-audience and are essential venues to play for every act eager to start in the Parisian scene. You might expect your travel expenses to be covered and to get a hot meal when you’re given the chance to hit the stage. That’s really worth it when you can turn the opportunity into a showcase by attracting targeted professionals, most of them residing in Paris. Swapping shows with Paris bands may prove very useful, too.
In France, a concert promoter license is needed, if you want to legally organize shows. Only a few big bands own a promoter's license, though (more info under "Paperwork" below).
Once you have identified a number of music professionals (bookers, agents) you intend to get in touch with, make sure to pay attention to these essential elements:
> make sure to present a decent concert curriculum (at least) in your country of origin
> locate the people with helpful resources & contacts:
Within the Greater Region, the members of the Multipistes network (in Lorraine: L'Autre Canal) are committed to deal with inquiries from their neighbours. You also might want to seek information at your export office about available support devices.
> identify and get to know the bookers and the local audience for your music
> always customize your correspondence:
- show your interest with the targeted venue with no particular flattery
- select and point out formally your significant live background
- be accurate and concise
- embed relevant links (audio, video, electronic press kit)
- record, track and follow your correspondence with care
> make the most of networking opportunities (music conferences such as Sonic Visions for example):
Avoid wandering around with a pile of CDs (be creative & pragmatic regarding your promotional material) and schedule some meetings with targeted professionals.
> be polite, be on time, be responsive
As indicated above, each time you play a live show in France and you are expecting payment, you have to make sure to make use of the corresponding contract.
CONTRAT D’ENGAGEMENT (employment contract):
Each member of the band’s crew is individually hired for the date (and gets a minimum wage – cca. 170€ / 90€ net once all taxes are collected. Personal data (ID, social security number, date & place of birth, A1 form) must be supplied in advance on request of the employer (concert organizer, e.g. venue, collective etc). A dedicated support service is available online - www.guso.fr. It ensures everything’s in order for employers whose duties are by the way simplified. It is very convenient for occasional/small/newcoming organisations but is quite costly: a crew of four people eventually costs 680€ + expenses.
CONTRAT DE CESSION (purchase agreement):
A third party (e.g. a booking agency) hereby sells the right to stage the band to the promoter or venue for one particular date/event under contractual terms and conditions and is allowed to issue a single invoice for the whole service with a reduced VAT rate of 5.5%. There is no minimum amount but it is the third party duty to pay the whole crew a decent wage. Selling abroad sometimes requires having a corresponding partner registered in the host country as entitled to do so. For one-shots, some bookers may prefer what is coined in France "portage salarial". You can place an offer, relying on a pooling organization. Check, for example, Smart EU for further information.
In any event, whenever you sell your act in a DIY mode, you might be requested to prove that you indeed pay taxes and act legally in your home country by presenting the A1 form (Statement of Applicable Legislation).
Keep in mind that many of the shows/concerts scheduled in bars, in small and occasional venues – whatever the capacity and kind of promoter (profit or non-profit) – don’t necessarily meet those legal requirements and might suggest alternative offers to consider.
LICENSE D'ENTREPRENEUR DE SPECTACLE (producer's license):
Only licensed companies/business/organizations are allowed to organize concerts with no volume restriction. There are 3 types of licenses available: #1 for festivals / venues, #2 for concert producers / tour agents, #3 for promoters. They are delivered by the D.R.A.C (Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles), the regional representation of the French Ministry of Culture and Communication. Note that local and regional authorities running any type of venue usually hold both licenses #1 and #3.
It is quite easy to obtain it as far as the licensee is able to prove that he is capable to deal with the specified obligations: security, copyright, payroll, taxes etc.
However, any institution/company/organization who does not have one of these licenses is allowed to organize and promote up to 6 shows per year. It also has to declare the event one month in advance to the D.R.A.C. It does not prevent it to conform to the initial postulate: "any band playing on a stage in front of an audience – with or without a cover charge – is supposed to get (properly) paid".
Next to settling the contract, you have to check if the concert organizer pays the French collecting society SACEM (author & composer rights).
As you are leaving your homebase for a new territory, make sure your gigs are properly promoted, or else no one will notice you are around!
> work with the right promoters, which are into your style and have the credibility to sell your show
> have a decent EPK (electronic press kit), including contact information, short & extensive biographies, links to 2-3 representative tracks, link to a live video, high resolution photographs in different formats
> at a certain point of your career, you might want to consider hiring a professional PR agent for a specific territory you are touring in
> be clever: if you have a promotion deal for a certain territory already, with your label for ex., don't spend your money on extra PR/promo work. See what your label can do
> there is still an active network of local radios settled in the French regions, addressing a general audience, usually with a wide offer of programmes dedicated to music genres and run by passionate volunteers. Feel free to get in touch
> try Radio France, the french public radio broadcaster. France INTER and LE MOUV’ may decide to support you for artistic reasons, as they are less-market oriented than their commercial counterparts
> try to identify music, lifestyle and cultural blogs, check their contents and reputation. Remember that they reach a quality audience.
These practical info sheets have been edited by Rocklab in collaboration with our partners from the Multipistes network. The information contained in these sheets is based on the various presentations held during the "Oberkorn, it’s a small town - Touring in the Greater Region" workshop during the Sonic Visions Music Conference in 2014 and is updated on a regular basis.