Artists I work with often complain that their management or record company gets their hands on the band’s guest list passes and tickets before the band members do. This is especially true of festival tickets and passes. Although I can see the band members’ point of view, I find this complaint to be short-sighted. I will explain why.
Your management team is presumably working hard to promote you and your music. Part of this promotion involves getting taste-makers and pundits to see you play live and to meet you in person. Because you are all working on a tight budget, it obviously makes sense for the management team to use all means at its disposal to ensure free entry for these VIPs (Very Important Person is the correct term in this case; anyone who is going to be influential in your musical success is a VIP!). So this means using your guest list places.
Obviously, there should be some advance discussion about the allocation of passes and tickets, but consider this: Giving guest list tickets to your mate Dave, whom you have known since you were a kid, is all very nice, but Dave is not going to help further your career much, is he? (He probably does not even pay for your music, because you give it to him for free anyway) Wouldn’t it be a greater use of the guest passes if that hip journalist from Pitchfork or Drowned In Sound got in for free and had access to your dressing room, where you could ply her with free food and drink and impress her so much that she would write a really good review of your new album?
Yes, it is annoying if your management/leader/record label takes all the festival passes without telling you or assumes that they can use the guest passes on your behalf. It is even more annoying when you find out that the management/label personnel are using your passes to get their mates in! To avoid this scenario with festival passes, you should always make sure that your contact information (or your tour manager’s contact info) is with your booking agent and the promoter, rather than with your management or label. The agent usually will send out any festival passes or pass requests directly to the contact he has on his system—in other words, your management—because that is who he usually deals with. Contact your agent and make sure all passes and so on come to you. That way, you can sensibly allocate the passes, bearing in mind the point I made about your mate, Dave.
Finally, record companies are supposed to buy tickets to use for promotion of their artists. The way it works is this: the label will contact the promoter directly and buy 20 or 100 tickets (depending on the size and importance of the show), and then give these to journalists, DJs, retail staff, and other taste-makers. At an average of $30 a ticket, this can be a considerable expense to the label, but one they should incur in order to further the career of the artist. Recently however, I have noticed a trend involving labels buying fewer tickets and then trying to use the band’s guest list to ensure free entry for the “important” people. Look out for this practice. Although you obviously are trying to maintain an honest and productive relationship with your label, you need to point out that they have a duty to spend money on promotion for the mutual good of both artist and label.