Maximizing Live Performance Events with Comedian & Producer Joe Hill (Podcast)
In this episode we talk to writer, producer and stand-up comedian Joe Hill. Joe has over a decade of experience organizing live entertainment events. Based in NYC, Joe is the founder of The Come Up, producing live events for comedians and musicians.
Joe created The Come Up to share his passion for live performance, building an artist community and nurturing up and coming artists. In the episode Joe shares his experiences and insights from years of managing live events, producing shows and performing. He talks about how he got into comedy and producing his own events. As an event producer he talks about creating the right complement of programming to create a great audience experience. He also gives artists advice on how they can take more control of their own events, to maximize revenue, build their brand and develop an ongoing relationship with their audience.
- Coordinating live performances & the secret formula for a great show
- Balancing being an artist, with being your own promoter and event organizer
- Building a brand through consistent delivery of content
- The importance owning your audience data and contact information to be able to connect and grow your following
- Tips for maximizing revenue for live shows
- The benefit of early payouts to cover upfront expenses
Upcoming events by Joe Hill and The Come Up – Get Tickets!
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Joe is a writer, producer and stand up comedian with over a decade of experience organizing live entertainment events. Based in NYC, Joe is the founder of The Come Up, where he produces live performance events for comedians and musicians.
Lisa: Welcome back to Ticketbud Tidbits, where we share tips, advice and insights from event organizers, for event organizers. In this episode, I talk to comedian Joe Hill. Joe is a writer, producer and standup comedian, with over a decade of experience organizing live entertainment events.
Based in New York City, Joe is the founder of The Come Up, where he produces live performance events for comedians and musicians. Joe created The Come Up to help nurture up and coming artists, and share his passion for live performance. Joe develops, produces and creates with artists, and wants to support them in getting the tools they need to compete in their industry.
In the episode, Joe talks about how he got into comedy and producing his own events, what he’s learned about coordinating live performances, and the secret formula for creating a great show. Joe also shares the difficulties of balancing being an artist with being your own promoter, and sometimes event organizer.
He shares his experience building a brand behind The Come Up, and the value of being consistent with content and promotion, to build a following over time. We also discuss the importance of artists owning the data and audience information from their events. This was something comedian Andrew Schulz was talking about recently on the Joe Rogan Show, how some ticketing companies either don’t give you access to this information, or they charge you extra for it.
Data is so important, for you to be able to build your following over time, as an artist. You need to know who your audience is, to be able to connect with them. A lot of performers are also getting charged crazy fees with some of these companies. If you’re a big-name artist, and your ticketing is tied with a venue, fine. But for other artists who are free to ticket with whoever they want, it’s really worth shopping around.
The difference is, with some of these big players, they’re charging 25% to 40% for online ticketing fees, compared to Ticketbud, for example, that’s 2%.
In addition to saving money on ticketing, Joe also shares tips on how to maximize revenue by getting creative with your venue selection. He’s also a big fan of Ticketbud’s early payouts, as an artist who has a lot of upfront expenses, when organizing shows.
Joe is writing, producing, performing and running events, and he also has a career as a high school dean. So, he definitely has some great advice on maximizing your time, and what it takes to do it all.
I really enjoyed this episode, and I hope you do, too!
Lisa: Comedian and creator of The Come Up, Joe Hill, joins us today from the Big Apple. Welcome to the podcast, Joe!
Joe Hill: Hey! I don’t know why I waved my hands.
Lisa: It’s great to have you. We could always add that to Facebook!
Joe Hill: Yes, yes.
Lisa: Can you tell us a bit about your background, and how you got into organizing comedy and live performance events?
Joe Hill: I got into comedy – well, to start with, I’ve always been naturally a funny person, always liked to entertain and be a jokester. I was definitely a class clown, to a degree. I knew my limit, though. But I always found a niche for being the emcee or some sort of entertainment, wherever I was at an event.
It’s funny you asked. This is a great story, a quick one. I was on a date in 2010, and I was at a comedy show. I was just sitting there, and I said to myself “I could host a comedy show. It looks pretty easy.” Fast forward to now, and I’m doing standup, I’m writing, and bringing people together to laugh. So, yeah, it started with a passion to want to bring people together.
Lisa: So, what is The Come Up that you’re involved in; artist development, booking, event production, music, comedy? Can you explain a little bit about it?
Joe Hill: The Come Up symbolizes art, music and entertainment. But the bigger umbrella is The Come Up 365, meaning all year round, you’re always coming up. You’re never done finding yourself as an artist and breaking through. So, you’re always coming up.
Then, I kind of wanted to separate it, because I was doing music and comedy. So, that’s where we kind of birthed The Comedy Come Up, to give it kind of its own identity with comedy.
Lisa: Why did you decide to create The Come Up? What was the idea behind it?
Joe Hill: The Come Up is a New York-based platform that we’ve started to move around the nation, in different states. It’s a platform for artists, whether you’re a comedian, a musician, a singer, a songwriter, any type of artist. We feel like it’s a platform or room for you to be seen or heard.
I developed this back in 2012, just kind of my own idea of bringing out different artists that you may not have seen or heard before.
Lisa: What experience are you creating with your events? How is it different to other shows?
Joe Hill: Of course, we all have seen successful shows, and gone to productions. But I think mine is organic. It’s very community-like, especially in Harlem. A lot of the artists are from the community, and we get artists outside of the state to come, so it’s almost like a familyhood, I would say, of different artists.
And it leads to other opportunities, the way you’re growing with artists and we’re working with each other and networking, and producing stuff together. So, it’s more like giving the tools to the artists to start off on the platform, and then go their own direction, and take that knowledge that they’re learned, to produce an event.
Lisa: It’s like a nurturing environment where everyone sort of collaborates together.
Joe Hill: Yes.
Lisa: Your shows feature different kinds of live performances. You’ve mentioned music and comedy. Are they separate events? Do you mix them in together? How does that work?
Joe Hill: It’s always good to have a music artist open up a comedy show, and/or close the show, just giving you that whole entire laughter and music experience. And vice versa. When you’re having a music event, it’s okay to spice it up with a comedian host, or a portion of the show. Because you want to give them the complete experience, to make sure that “Wow! We had a good time! We heard some music, we laughed.” So, it’s all about the bigger picture of the quality of the production, I would say.
I produce a weekly show called Wednesday Vibes, in Harlem. It’s located at 138th and 7th Ave. It’s pretty much all comedy. We do have a live DJ, because comedy shows are always good when you have a DJ and transitions.
Then, on Sundays, we have a show called Sound Stage Sundays. It’s only live music, and it’s singers, songwriters, acoustic artists, poets.
Lisa: When you’re organizing programming for these events, how do you decide what the best combination is? Do you consider the types of comedians you put on together?
Joe Hill: With comedy, it’s interesting, because I’m always in the circuit, performing or producing. So, I kind of like to see the comedian perform first, live, whether it’s at my venue or another one. I kind of get a feel on their style. Then, I’ll say “Okay, I can fit them in on this show,” or have an idea.
But it’s definitely a balance, always, because you want to put the best show together. But sometimes, you never know. That comedian may not have the best night. It’s always finding the right balance, for comedy.
Lisa: That’s always going to be the thing with a live show. Anything can happen.
Joe Hill: Anything can happen. Yes. Music, too. But you know, I think that’s the fun of it, always finding that balance. When it does go well, you’re like “Ah! I’ve got this formula here! I’ve got the secret formula!”
Lisa: So, what is the secret formula for putting on a good show? What are the elements, do you think?
Joe Hill: I think knowing the artists, what they’re capable of doing. I think their level, whether it’s comedy or music, and balancing out the lineup. Almost like a roller coaster. You want to start off with a bang, and take them up and on this ride. It’s kind of like taking them on a journey throughout the night, whether it’s music or comedy.
Lisa: How have you gone about building brand recognition around The Come Up?
Joe Hill: A lot of it is being consistent, whether it’s posting your events, network, email lists. Just sitting and spending time on getting your event out to your network of people, and constantly putting it in the right places to be seen, whether it’s online, whether it’s ads. Because a lot of this stuff is self-willed. We don’t have a huge team, but we do have a small team of people that knows how to get things out consistently.
So, I think getting the word out consistently, over time, regardless of who’s seeing it or not. Sometimes, as a producer or an artist, you get caught up, “I don’t get enough likes on it.” I think over time, anything you’re consistent with, the numbers will grow and people will continue to come.
Booking bigger headliner acts to kind of entice people, having celebrity guests drop through. I think giving them more than something that they already have, just buys into it.
Lisa: I would imagine a lot of artists are very focused on their craft, and what they’re doing, whether a comedian or musician. But obviously, especially when you’re trying to build a reputation, you’ve got to be promoting yourself and organizing shows, and getting booked on shows, and things like that.
Can you talk about some of the challenges of that, and what you’ve learned along the way?
Joe Hill: Most artists and comedians, they’re trying to make it. They may not have the resources that I may have, because I’m working out of, I would say the triple bet. I’m trying to perform as Joe Hill, I’m producing as Joe Hill, and I’m promoting and producing for The Come Up. So for me, it’s an intricate balance, because – don’t get me wrong – I would love to get booked on a show as a standup comedian.
But I have the know and the how to produce my own event. So, after people seeing that he’s producing his own event, I think it helps with the standup part. You know, it just helps everything, because I’m already doing it, and doing it at a high level. For now, just trying to find an even balance for all three.
Lisa: What about newcomers who are just sort of getting started? How do they go about getting booked on shows?
Joe Hill: I think for me, the coolest way to do it is by submitting an artist’s submission. Usually, if you’re a comedian, you would come to a show, and you’re like “Oh, my god! I want to get on this show,” which is fine. I love the excitement, but I love of the process of submitting, so that we have that on you, giving that to every artist.
It’s not just like “Oh, yeah. You can just jump on next week.” I want them to follow through the process, and I think that’s like with anything you do in life. If you want to be a part of something, there’s steps that you have to follow to submit, whether it’s a comedy festival, a show, or bookings. I think presenting that in a business, teaching them without really saying it, it’s helping them to learn how to reach out to someone.
Once I get their submission, I’ll say “Okay, okay.” I’ll see where I can fit them in, and I’ll throw them on the show like that.
Lisa: One of the big advantages of pre-purchase tickets for shows is all the attendee contact information that comes with it. Those email contacts are really valuable, because you can invite people to future events, you can ask them to join your social media channels, and keep them up-to-date with what is going on.
I’ve heard other artists voice frustrations around some ticketing companies that keep the email lists, and promote other events and shows, or charge you extra fees, to get access to it. So, I was just curious about your perspective on how important it is to have access to that data.
Joe Hill: I think it’s good, too. I think any data is good, for you to see your target network and, like you said, use those emails for future events. I just think that data information is so important, for you to grow. It’s research of your own data. It’s almost like “This person lives here.”
And you’d be surprised, because when you do certain events, you can see which boroughs or which cities you want to go to, because you may have people in town. It’s good to have that information. I agree. I think having that information definitely helps you.
Its almost like your own cheat code.
Lisa: Especially if you’re going to like Atlanta or somewhere like that, and you’ve been there before. You can reach out to these people and say “Hey! We’re coming back again. Come to the show!”
Joe Hill: Exactly. I agree.
Lisa: It’s so important to have that. What are the benefits of working with a company like Ticketbud?
Joe Hill: I’m going to just get right to it. The typical artists, we here in New York, the main thing has always been Eventbrite, because that’s what you know. You’re familiar with it, so you’re going to use what everybody else is using.
What always would happen to me is a lot of comedy shows, bigger productions are done on Fridays and Saturdays. I started paying attention to “Okay. If the banks are closed on Sunday, and they’re not processing this money until next week Wednesday, Thursday, then I have to have my budget in advance.” Things like that.
I have to factor in, from a financial aspect, that money is not accessible to me until next week. So, I don’t know. I was just sitting there, and I was dealing with it. I just said “There’s got to be another service or platform, where you can access this money quicker.” I started researching, and that’s how I found Ticketbud.
What I liked about Ticketbud in particular was as the ticket money comes in, it’s processed in one or two days, and it’s actually in your account in three to four days. So, no more of having to wait until the fifth day, to get the money. I can get that money two days after someone buys a ticket, and use that toward my budget.
I think cutting out that time of gray area, as an artist, because a lot of the stuff produced comes out of our pockets a lot of times.
Lisa: You need that money to run the events.
Joe Hill: You need that money sometimes. And let me tell you something. With that Atlanta event, with Ticketbud – because I also produce with a group of other comedians, and we travel to these states. I told them about it, and at first, they were like “I don’t know, man. Use Eventbrite!” And I’m like “Nah, trust me. You want to be able to access that money.”
So, I used it. And leading up to the event, we already have 40 pre-sales tickets for $20, online. So, you do the math right there. We had our budget for our comedians. That kind of cut into some of the liquor money, because we were kind of producing our own event.
For them, they were just like “Yo! We need to use this from now on, everybody!” It was that moment where I was like “Yes!” And I still use it, to this day.
Lisa: Wonderful! We love having you working with us.
Joe Hill: Yes.
Lisa: Something else I saw on your YouTube channel is that you sometimes do video interviews with performers and artists that are going to be at the events. I was curious about why you extended that experience to be on the show.
Joe Hill: Come Up 65 web series on YouTube. I was sitting there, and I was coming along with the brand. I was saying “Alright, we’ve got a lot of shows. We’re getting there. We’re getting some traction.” I felt like I wanted to give us a different identity, being that everybody is so consumed with streaming, and everybody’s attention is to their phones.
So, I said “I want to create a web series that kind of gives you a birds-eye view of what happens on the road, when we’re producing an event.” You know, sometimes things don’t go right. And giving you that behind-the-scenes of what it takes to put together an event on the road; the travel aspect, amazing music, the comedian/artists. Me sitting down with them and putting it into that interview form, it just makes it more organic.
A lot of the artists that I’ve been working with perform in New York City with me, and I was able to go see the in their city. So, it kind of creates this story mode almost, too, of how I met them. You see them in New York City, and now you see Joe in their hometown. It kind of gives you that reality show type feel.
But more importantly, I felt like that was the identity we needed for people that may not be in the city or be at the shows. Now you can kind of see, “Oh, wow! This is what this guy looks like. This is what the shows look like.”
Lisa: You are based in New York City, and you have regular shows there. But you also travel to different cities. How do you go about coordinating across different locations? What are the challenges of that?
Joe Hill: First, the biggest challenge is I have a nine to five job. A lot of people are going to be like “He does? How does he do all that stuff?” I am a school dean of a high school, currently, in New York City Public Schools. This is my 17th year, this September.
One of the cool advantages of working with my school title is when the kids are off for vacations, I’m off, too. I’m paid to be off, because it’s part of my salary. Summers, I have off, as well. So, I find the wiggle room in those big vacations or summer breaks, to hit the road. Or three-day weekends, you know, to do that and produce it.
So yeah, I kind of balance those times to hit the road. I think it’s important to get out of New York and meet people and connect, because you never know what comes after that.
Lisa: Yeah, expand the network. What do you look for, when you’re choosing different venues? Are there certain things you’re like “That will create the right atmosphere.”?
Joe Hill: As a producer, one, I think you want to maximize on profit, when you’re hitting the road. I would say that’s the first thing. You always want to be mindful of that, because you do have expenses. A lot of it is your own budget. You’ve got to pay for the flight. You’ve got to budget. “How’s the DJ going to get here?”
I think the right venue, to make you profit the most, is always the first step. And whether that’s an art gallery, because an art gallery, you can kind of create it into your own experience. You can cater your own drinks, your own food, to profit off of. You can keep all of the door. And at a small price, you rent the gallery out.
So, I think a music or art gallery space, or some type of open space for me to kind of curate myself. For comedy, I think it’s always good to take it into a comedy club. But from a profitable standpoint, you’ll win more from a profit standpoint, from doing it at a gallery space. When we went to Atlanta the first time, we used an art gallery space for our comedy show, and it was great.
Lisa: I think it’s good to mix it up, as well, though, and have different experiences. And you’ve got control over where that’s going to be. That’s definitely a good tip. What are the production or logistical elements of things you’ve got to bring or set up?
Joe Hill: You definitely have to factor in sound and video. Usually, you want to have visuals or something before a show and during a show. You definitely have to inquire about the sound, quality, equipment, whether you’re renting the space or the venue itself. Making sure the microphones and folks sound good is always the first thing you want to focus on, because you need that.
I think video, also, like I said, if you’re showing anything. And if you’re recording it, it’s good to capture this stuff on high quality cameras, so that you can use them for promotion later, or use as validation, if you’re using it to promote or probably get a tour. Like “Hey, I already did this in this city. This is what it looks like.”
I think that definitely is needed, when you’re hitting the road.
Lisa: I was talking to someone the other day about comedy shows, and they were saying “Well, they don’t have to set up too much.” I’m like “I think you’d be surprised.”
Joe Hill: Very surprised.
Lisa: Even with speaking events, like I’ve done comedy events. You think you just need a microphone, but you’ve got to do sound checks. You have to make sure the equipment is working properly. You’ve got set up cameras.
Joe Hill: It’s a lot.
Lisa: Is the lighting working? You can’t just assume that it’s going to be going. A lot more goes on behind the scenes that sometimes the audience is not aware of.
Can you tell us a bit about the upcoming event that you’ve got in Atlanta? It’s the Atlanta Comedy Invasion 2.0.
Joe Hill: 2.0, because this is our second time back. We did one with you guys, using your site, last October, and it did really well. We did two shows, and we highlighted comedians Mario Tory and Janet Dollar. They are the two comedians that were highlighted on Kevin Hart’s Hart of the City tour.
I’m looking forward to always hitting the road and creating new content, and finding more fresh talent, and matching that with some headliner comedians from Comedy Central. I’m looking forward to going back in October.
Lisa: Nice! Can you share some quick tips for event organizers and other performance artists, around organizing live events? Any advice you’ve got?
EE I think the best advice is you have to be your own business advisor. When I say that, you’re your own business loan in a lot of this stuff. Unless you’re getting outsourced from funding or sponsorship, a lot of it is on your own. I think a lot of these producers and artists, having a part time job to help you fund these things is key when producing, because you need money. It sucks having to wait on money, to do stuff.
So for me, being that I have the full-time job, it helps me fund my own productions. It doesn’t limit me. I can set dates and I can drop deposits, because I have that funding in place. It’s different for a person that doesn’t have that structured of a background.
My advice is securing your own funding for your own events, because you won’t be limited to what you can do.
Lisa: You have more control over it.
Joe Hill: Yes. Definitely more control.
Lisa: Is there any advice you wish you had been given at the start of your career? I like to ask people that.
Joe Hill: Of course! I wish I were given advice. I will say be prepared to work. Be prepared to stay up late hours of the night. A lot of what I do is on stage, live. I’m also a parent, as well. So, balance is key. When you’re not performing or producing, I think the best thing is stay ahead. A lot of my hanging out is in my living room on my laptop. I am staying months and months ahead of my own productions, in terms of flyers, in terms of bookings.
Because then, it takes the immediate stress off, knowing that you have things ahead. Then, once you get yourself into that rotation of always going ahead, ahead, the flow is even better. Just be prepared to work, because a lot of it is not all about the talent you have. It’s how hard you want to be working, to put into it. I think that advice is key.
Lisa: The grit. Keeping going for it.
Joe Hill: Stay with it!
Lisa: Because we like to talk about events, I was going to ask you about a great event that you’ve attended.
Joe Hill: I love live music because live music, for me, whether it’s a band or artist, you kind of forget where you’re at. It’s similar to a comedy show, because you’re laughing and forgetting.
In particular, I went to a live a show – a friend of mine who was on the show Desus and Mero – I’m not sure if you’re familiar with these guys on Showtime, but they had a very big podcast called the Bodega Boys. It’s just those two, talking about things, experiences. Now, they have a hit show on Showtime.
I was able to go see the show live, be in the audience. It was good to be able to see someone come up from a little podcast in their room, to one of the biggest shows on Showtime, and one of the biggest podcasts ever, the Bodega Boys. But yeah, to see that was inspiring for me, because I know where he started and where they started as a show.
It’s inspiring to know that if you just continue to keep knocking on that door, somebody’s going to have to let you in, after a certain amount of time.
Lisa: I like that. That’s the end of my questions. Thank you so much for talking to us today, Joe!
Joe Hill: Thank you! I have a question for you guys. Have you guys ever thought of doing your own platform? Maybe you don’t have the answer to this, but seeing Ticketbud take this platform, or creative platform, around to different colleges maybe, target a lot of young artists, a lot of young producers that are in college or even in high school, and maybe producing events, to kind of expose you guys a little more, as a platform to produce comedy and music?
Kind of like Ticketbud produces their own events for young artists.
Lisa: At the moment, we don’t produce any events. We’re just the ticketing platform. But we do get involved with Universities and colleges, that sort of thing, get involved with like the student associations and that.
Joe Hill: Right. If you’re interested, let me know! Just a friendly old producer!
Lisa: Okay! We’ll keep our friend in mind!
I will mention again that you’ve got the Comedy Come Up event in October, which is the Atlanta Comedy Invasion 2.0. It’s Saturday, October 12th, at 7:00 PM. I’ll put some links on the podcast site, so people can get tickets, because there will be tickets on sale through Ticketbud. They’re on sale now.
Joe Hill: You can also find me on Instagram. I didn’t mean to cut you off. ThisIsJoeHill, one word. You can find us as well, at TheComeUp365. That’s all music. You can see all of the live performances in the last three years and a half. And ComedyComeUp, as well. You can find all of the comedy stuff.
Feel free to reach out to me. Thank you so much, Lisa and Ticketbud, for working with me always, without even knowing!
Lisa: I appreciate it! Thank you! I’ll make sure I get the links off of you, and we can put them on the site.
Thanks for joining us! Until next time, this was Ticketbud Tidbits!
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