Ever have a real good time at a cool show at Brooklyn Bowl, and wanted to thank the person who made it all happen? If it’s been in the last few years, you can probably thank Lucas Sacks, who’s been part of the talent booking team at the venue for the last three years and has been the main booker the past six months. Beyond thanking him, you might also want to ask Lucas how it is he managed to make a career out of booking acts like Robert Plant, Lauryn Hill, Deer Tick and The Roots. We wanted to know too, and Lucas was happy to clue us in.
What’s a typical Monday like for a talent booker, Lucas?
While I can’t speak for all buyers, my Monday mornings start with a podcast like NPR First Listen, All Songs Considered, or Marc Maron’s WTF while getting myself together after a weekend of shows around the city. I get into the office around 10:15am and check out the weekend’s numbers and notes about the performances. Next, I start seeing which of as many as 5-7 bands that are holding one date are actually likely to happen.
I also meet with our marketing department to go over sales numbers for the coming week and queue any last minute promo pushes. We announce shows on Mondays each week, so we also get a lot of requests by local bands to open that we then sort through. Beyond that, anything could happen: special events requests, planning brand partnerships, putting together one-off concerts and pitching residency ideas.
Based on your LinkedIn profile, you’ve been involved in this business practically since college. How did you know you wanted to do this?
I’m from New Jersey, Bruce Springsteen country, and grew up both listening to, and playing music. In high school, I managed and played in a band, worked in a recording studio and did live sound and production, which led to applying to college music business programs. The feeling of being on stage, but also being able to watch an audience rage at a great show, was too good for me to let go. I ended up in a newer music business program at Syracuse, which has a huge network of alums in the New York (and national) music industry and that really opened the door for me.
Is it super-competitive? Are you up against other music venues for acts? How do you win?
New York is one of, if not the most, competitive live music markets in the country. Any given band could be talking to 10 venues for the same show(s). To win, we have to be competitive with our offers, leverage each deal by offering multiple rooms for a national or international tour and constantly stay on agents’ and managers’ radars. With Brooklyn Bowls in London and Las Vegas aside from the flagship and more on the way, we’re growing fast, which is really exciting.
How does someone break in without experience?
The music industry is very much a “pay your dues” business where almost everyone starts from the bottom and a lot of people compete for the same few jobs. You have to work your way up gradually, but the more people in your network who willing to stick their necks out for you, the better. Internships are key in high school or college and they will help to build those relationships. Keep in touch with people you’ve met, even if they may not seem like they could help you directly at that time. You never know where someone will end up in the business or whom else they know.
What type of person is going to be good at this work?
Networking ability, strong social skills, eagerness and determination are all key. Honesty and conviction are key. It’s a tough business and if you’re too soft, people will see that as a weakness and take advantage.
Who’s gonna suck at it?
Someone who is extremely shy, with poor social and/or negotiating skills. You need a tough shell and can’t take things personally or let one failure bring you down. A strong backbone is important.
Do you get to meet the acts themselves? Any favorites?
I make sure to catch our shows at least 2-4 times a week. But, I work in the venue, so I get to see a lot of soundchecks. In most cases, if I want to say hi, I can, but try to give artists their space when getting everything ready for their shows. George Porter Jr. from The Meters, John Medeski and RJD2 are all ridiculously nice and easy going guys who end up playing the room annually and seem to love coming back.
Have you ever booked two acts on the same night or otherwise screwed up royally?
Let’s just say some emails got mixed up and one band found out they were getting paid less than another they were sharing the bill with, instead of equal pay. After a series of various four letter words, from the agent, all was resolved. Since then, I really check everything, especially band payments, with a fine toothed comb.
How’s your bowling?
The first rule of BK Bowl Club is: You do not talk about BK Bowl Club.