Bad Deals, Buyouts, and Brand Outreach

(7 min read) Abby Govindan on negotiation tactics, touring economics, and navigating a membership platform transition

Abby Govindan

I think it surprises a lot of people when I tell them that touring is only about 30% of my income.

Abby Govindan sells out 300-person comedy clubs, and opens for Hasan Minaj, but rent in New York is expensive, and touring economics kind of suck (more below).

Despite her success as a touring comedian, Abby pays the bills as a multi-hyphenate Creator with over 250,000 social followers.

She’s made some smart moves and has had some tough learnings along the way.

Let’s get into it!


The Business



While Twitter is Abby’s largest audience, it’s declined in value to her business.

Twitter being taken over by the new CEO lost a lot of value.

There were brand deals…coming back to me with about 25% of the money than they had offered previously.

Partly as a result, membership is her #1 income source.

Subscriber support really means so much to a lot of Creators like me, who aren't given traditional avenues into the entertainment industry.

Well…Abby was a Fanhouse Creator.

While many Creators might either:

  • Roll with the inertia (“Fanhouse is shutting down…I guess I’ll just transition to the acquirer”), or

  • Jump to a company they recognize (“I don’t know Passes, but I have friends using FanFix, I’ll move there,”)

Abby knew that starting her membership from scratch would risk her livelihood.

I replied to the websites that reached out to me and I said:

“Whoever can give me the best buyout deal gets it!”

So they took a look at my monthly income on Fanhouse and [Passes] offered me a guaranteed price that they thought was fair…essentially like:

“If you don't make this much money, we will give you this much money…And then on top of that, whatever you make is yours. 95% of it is yours. And then we take a 5% cut.”

She mitigated the transition risk by securing a deal with Passes to guarantee her previous level of Fanhouse revenue!

Abby’s touring business is her 2nd largest income source, and TikTok is the sleeper driver for this.

If you go viral at the right time…like right before a show, and you put the city in the caption, the algorithm will feed it to people in that city.

Even though she sells out most of her few dozen headline shows each year, the margins aren’t great.

I only charge about $20 to $25 per ticket, I have to pay for travel and hotel stays, and on top of the venue cut [15%-50%], I give my manager 15%…I'm not walking away with a lot of money after touring all these cities.

It’s not about the money, though - comedy is all about honing the craft.

I do Brooklyn bar shows where they pay you $10 to do 10 minutes. Shows like that…I do well into the hundreds, and I'm on the lower end, if anything.

She knows she’s not the only digital-native comedian who has to find other income sources to make ends meet.

I think we all do it with the belief that the harder we work, the less we'll have to turn to all these other means of supplementing our income.

Abby’s approach to brand partnerships focuses on outreach over inbound.

If you reach out to a company, you kind of have more leverage…I can show you my numbers, I can show you how much success I've had with past brands.

Her negotiation approach is an elegant solution to the classic Creator problem of how to price oneself.

With brand deals…I'm like, “OK, here's what I charge. Don't let this number scare you. Let's have a conversation about it.”

And we kind of work backwards from there.

She starts with a high number to anchor the conversation on the high side of the buyer’s range.

By softening the number with “Don’t let this number scare you. Let’s have a conversation about it,” she prevents the buyer from walking away.

Sometimes buyers try to negotiate even when she’s in-budget.

Her advice? Don’t do that.

Not everything has to be a haggle.

Sometimes you can just nod your head, you know?

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The Stack

Web Designer - Wendy Nguyen

Website - Bluehost + Wordpress

Email - Mailchimp

Anyone who gives me their email for the newsletter gets a discount when I'm able to give one to the show in their city.

I really don't want to spam anyone because I know that I subscribed to newsletters of people that I supported and got kind of irritated with the spam.

Graphic Designer - Nikita Srinivasan

Abby’s merch creative strategy is the one I think all Creators should pursue:

I try to create merch that's really relatable - that people think are funny and would have no problem wearing in public…and then attach my name to it, to help strengthen the brand.

Examples include clothing bearing the phrases “Hot Girls Can’t Do Math” and “Go Down on Your Girlfriend or I Will” (a reference to DJ Khaled).

Merch Storefront - Shopify

Merch Manufacturing + Fulfillment - Printful

Before her current setup, Abby had a nightmare merch partnership.

I think there was just a fundamental misunderstanding of what it would entail….they would sell out of the stock and then automatically order new ones, but I didn't know that was the process.

I had never seen money from them because every time we ran out, they had used the surplus money to order new stock.

When it came time to end the merch drop, I was indebted to them, even though we had sold over 300 pieces.

Let me explain.

There are two ways Creator / Artist merch can be handled - bulk manufacturing or print-on-demand.

With bulk manufacturing, the merch company orders a bunch of inventory, holds it in a warehouse, and ships it when purchased.

This is good for touring artists, because they can take some inventory on the road to sell. It also enables higher margins from economies of scale.

The problem? Someone has to buy and hold that inventory, and unsold merch is money lost.

Abby never saw profit because it went to buying new inventory, and she ended up owing her partner money because that inventory didn’t all sell, but her deal with them put her on the hook.

I always think of how Taylor Swift, you know, just signed the first record deal that came into her lap, and how now she has to re-record her whole back catalog…

Again, it was just a general misunderstanding, but it's one of those things that I had to learn kind of the hard way.

She’s a really good sport about it, but I’ve done merch partnerships for 13 years, and this story upsets me.

I guarantee that company made money on every one of those merch items. Abby should have too.

Regardless, she now does a print-on-demand model, which means that there’s no cost up front.

Once a merch item is purchased, then the product is printed, so no one is on the hook for inventory.

Profit margins are lower, but they can actually be taken instead of needing to be reinvested in inventory.

I just had so many friends who had really, really good experiences with Printful…I looked at a few fulfillment centers, or I looked at a few like manufacturing websites and Printful had the best profit margin.

Link in Bio - Linktree, is planning to change to her own website

My Linktree gets 30,000, 40,000 views a month. If you just create a page on your website with all of those links, you get to have those links be part of your monthly statistics.

If she can figure out how to monetize her website (perhaps through ads, like previous guest Rishi Jethi), it’s worth owning that traffic!

Membership - Patreon + Passes (formerly Fanhouse)

I think there are lots of Creator platforms that I see people expressing bad experiences with, and it makes me a little bit hesitant, but truly so far so good with Passes.

Project Management - None

Abby doesn’t use any tools for project management, but does think she needs help.

I'm really trying to make enough money to hire an assistant this year, but of course, I want to be able to pay them a fair wage and be able to give them a raise if the work is good …so I'm kind of waiting for that to follow through.

Finances - Self + LegalZoom

Credit Card - Chase Sapphire

I also have this credit card, it’s fantastic. Not sponsored, just true.

Representation - Jake Wachtel @ No Worries Entertainment

I needed someone who is extremely versatile. The others that I talked to were extremely specialty-oriented, you know, focusing on one thing or another, whereas I'm trying to be a multi-hyphenate.

Video Production - iPhone + CapCut (on iPad)

I had Splice for a little while…

I was so impressed by CapCut that I deleted another video service that I had, even though I had already paid $30 for the annual subscription.

Video Distribution - Posts natively

Team - 2 producers, web designer, graphic designer

I try to only employ other Asian women or women of color, just because as a woman of color, I know how hard it is to come by opportunities…

As someone who's been doing comedy for a while, I know that it's kind of a catch-22… people don't really want to book you unless you have experience.

Abby sources her team members through open calls on Twitter, and then trains them herself - thus giving them the experience they need to get a foot in the comedy door!

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