Dee West is the owner of Sasser Flea Market & Antique Mall in Sasser, Ga. She bought it ten years ago, and for the last eight years, she has been hosting musical events, festivals, and concerts. For the last four years, she has offered large concerts for big name Country and R&B acts, including Craig Morgan, Percy Sledge, Clarence Carter, Sammy Kershaw, and Jake Owen. She recently offered FleaMarketZone her advice for flea market managers and owners who are considering adding music to their markets.
FleaMarketZone.com: Why should flea markets and swap meets consider adding music?
Dee West: Everybody loves entertainment, and they love reasonably priced entertainment. With the economy the way it is today, you have to use every inch of available space. The extra advertising I do for the concert brings in extra people to the flea market and the bigger stars really bring in especially large crowds.
FMZ: How did you start things off?
West: I had a lot of extra outside space. We started with local bands at a day-long music festival, then the next year we went to a two-day festival. We got 100-plus extra vendors for that, including specialty vendors.
FMZ: How do you know who to book?
West: I listen to my customers, I have two daughters in their 20s, so I ask them who they would like to hear. The younger people, high school and college age, are the ones who will spend the money.
FMZ: How do you get the word out?
West: I do a lot of advertising. The radio stations take a fee for this, and they team up with me. I do have to pay them, but there are a lot of freebies involved too.
FMZ: What do you have to do to get your market ready?
West: You have to make preparations and have the right facilities. My concerts are outside, so you do have to have a stage, with the right electrical outlets. I use port-a-potties. I had to go to my insurance company and get special coverage added to my policy. I don’t sell alcohol, for example, but when people bring in their own coolers, it will be a little bit more for your insurance coverage.
FMZ: How did you take it to the next level?
West: It’s not hard, but you have to take the initiative to contact these people. You have to do your research. Google up the artist you would like to perform, and you can find out from the Internet who his booking agent is. In the last four years I have gone with larger booking agents, for R&B acts and Country acts. The larger acts charge anywhere from $12,500 to $40,000 for a concert, so you have to charge for tickets. But those will bring in the bigger crowds.
FMZ: What’s your secret for attracting big name acts?
West: The music industry is depressed, because the whole United States is depressed, so you can get bargains now. Especially if you get an act who is going to be close by, and they are booked for a Saturday night, maybe the next night or afternoon or the night before you can get a deal. You don’t want them too close to your area. They are happy to drive a couple hundred miles and perform again.
FMZ: How do you link your flea market to the concert?
West: If the concert is outside the normal market hours, then sometimes I have vendors open when a concert is on. Sometime I schedule the music during the market’s usual hours. Either way, when people take breaks they can go to the flea market and shop.
FMZ: How do you organize everything?
West: Planning is key. Make sure you have enough help. Parking help is important because you have thousands of car. You need a facility large enough to accommodate all these cars. You need people out in the parking lot directing them. If you let them park themselves, they just park any which way. The gate staff is very important. Make sure you have plenty of help.
FMZ: What suggestions do you have for staffing?
West: When I have a big artist, I use local talent to open up. The local talent usually performs free of charge just for the exposure of opening up for a big artist. Local bands can bring in fans too. For other jobs, you can get a lot of free help. Many people will volunteer just to see such a big act. Some civic organizations may pitch in too. When you have a big performer, like Craig Morgan, it brings in an astronomical amount of money. People come in from hundreds of miles away, they buy gas, cigarettes, food. Some spend the night. It’s an economic boost for the whole community. A lot of communities will pitch in and help because they want to bring in the extra revenue.
FMZ: Any other advice for flea market organizers?
West: You have to plan these things months and months in advance. Big artists are booked like a year in advance. I would suggest booking someone far enough out You need at least three or four months to actually plan it all and then the key is advertisement. Concert-goers and flea market shoppers do not fall from the sky. They have to know what’s going on. I do radio, TV, billboards, posters. And the advertising for concert is advertising for your flea market, too.
Helpful How-To’s From FleaMarketZone.com.