The Booking Process – How an artist gets on the Levitt Dayton stage

< Back to News / May 15, 2020

You should get Kenny Chesney or John Legend to perform at Levitt Dayton!

While we would welcome either of these artists to perform on our stage for our free concert series, the reality of being able to afford their fee puts things in perspective of the reality that it may never happen. We are asked often, “how do we put the season of 50 free concerts together each summer?”, so that is the focus of this blog.


Let’s start with the budget. Every artist on the Levitt Dayton stage is paid. When we put our annual budget together, we have an average fee that we budget per artist, which puts our target artists in the emerging or up and coming artists categories. The bigger the artist, the more expensive their fee is and often this puts them in a venue that generates ticket revenue to afford them. Also, aside from an artist fee, there are many other expenses that factor in the affordability of an act. Things that are often negotiated are hotels, meals, backline (instruments and amplifiers), travel expenses and backstage hospitality.

Listening to the community

Community members enjoying a free concert at the Levitt Pavilion in Dayton, OH.Key elements of putting the Levitt Dayton season together are representing a diverse, high-caliber and family-friendly music, while managing the budget for artist fees. We believe that having diverse genres gives representation to the community that we are serving, so we begin with the genres to be intentional of this. So, we are listening. You have given us suggestions to look into and we take those into consideration during our research. You have also helped to shape decisions of what we program, just by the number of attendees that show up on the lawn for genres and artists. So, for instance, in our first season in 2018, we saw that Funk, Blues, and R&B brought out the largest audiences, so as we moved into 2019, we were intentional to program more of those genres. We also want to balance the local, regional, national and international acts that we book.

Listening to music & negotiating with agents

It is very important to be able to see the live performance before making the financial commitment to booking an act. I attend booking conferences in the early part of the year and attend many showcases to see acts that we might consider for Levitt Dayton, along with seeing our local bands as often as I can. During those conferences, I am working to develop strong relationships with booking agents that represent the talent. This helps to facilitate the negotiating process. It is important for the booking agent to understand who we are, our mission, and what we are looking for, as we are much different than a commercial venue that charges to enter.

The Levitt Network

Westport Connecticut Levitt Pavilion

We benefit by being part of the Levitt network of 8 permanent venues and 20 additional cities that are part of the Levitt AMP grant program to bring free music to communities across the country. We all share information regarding artists, like how they are to work with, how many people showed up, was it a good show for the value, and other information. We look to one another to create routing opportunities that can create a better negotiated fee with an artist. For instance, if we can route an artist between multiple venues then it tends to be more favorable fee.

It’s a team effort

With all of this input and information the Levitt Dayton team goes to work. We research the artists, listening to A LOT of their music, looking at their following, their social media presence and their past performance data. We then start working with the booking agent to learn more about them; is there routing through our area that makes them affordable and what are they looking for in an offer. Often by the time we are reaching out to book them, we have already become fans of their music, their message and their “brand”. We are working to balance the season across the 50 dates, making sure that the genres are not bundled into one part of the summer, and that there is a great cross representation of music.

The Breeders at the Levitt Pavilion Dayton

Every artist that we book becomes part of our Levitt Dayton family and the legacy that we are creating together each summer. Because of that, we take this process very seriously and we work very hard to curate a family-friendly, high-caliber and diverse season for all to have access to. So, please know that we are listening, and when you show up on our lawn we are paying attention, as this will help to inform our path forward, with you, our Levitt Dayton family as our compass to bringing our community together through the power of music, one free concert at a time! See you on our lawn soon!

Lisa Wagner

Executive Director, Levitt Pavilion Dayton

Share this Post