Book your own gigs. Way easier said than done, right? For some of you, you may have never booked your own gig before. Some of you may be struggling with the whole endeavor and some of you may be killing the game. Fact of the matter is every band must begin by booking their own gigs. It is truly a do-it-yourself process. It may feel like a task that you wish you could hand off to someone else, but for now it is wise to do the double duty and embrace the task. You will end up learning a lot about the workings of the music industry and, with success, you may end up delegating the task to a booking agent in the future.
On the flip side, promoters and talent buyers are the ones who, essentially, buy the talent. In other words, these are the people booking musicians for gigs. Sometimes they work independently or with booking agents to book performances. In the end, the promoters receive a percent of ticket sales making their overall goal filling the room. If they don’t fill the room, they don’t make money. So on that note, they are looking for mind-blowing talent to win their game of numbers. If you want a gig, you must prove yourself to these promoters and talent buyers and show that you are a low risk band who will sell tickets. This can be a tricky game to play, but if you follow the necessary steps you will more than likely end up with some gigs.
What are the necessary steps to book a gig?
- Research venues and pick the ones that apply to you.
The first step in booking your own gig is to research the venues in the area you wish to play. This is an important step because you want to be knowledgeable about the type of music each venue you plan to contact books. If you play heavy metal music, you wouldn’t want to waste your time contacting a venue who books singer-songwriters. It is also important to understand the demographic of each venue you consider contacting in comparison to your fans. If your fans are typically teenagers, attempting to book a gig at a late night adult club would not be a smart business move. In addition, people are always looking to book gigs for parties, festivals and community events. Although these events do not always occur at set venues, don’t rule these out. These opportunities are still a great way to put yourself out there.
- Network and making connections.
Making friends with other bands is important! They are the people that can help you make a connection at a venue where they’ve already played at. They will also help you appear as a lower risk band when pitching yourself to promoters. In addition, you could end up splitting sets for gigs with the bands you meet, which can be attractive to promoters considering booking you! Two bands equal twice the crowd.
When it comes to directly pitching yourself to promoters, first impressions are everything! They last. It is almost like going on a first date or working your way through a job interview. On that note, be prepared. You are essentially a salesman for your band and you want to sell yourself in the best way possible. Do your best to appear put together (Even when in reality you may have absolutely no idea what the hell you’re doing. Don’t worry, no one in life really knows what they’re doing either). Have an EPK (electronic press kit – make an online EPK here!) ready to send to promoters if and when they ask for it. At the very least, this will give them an easy way to check out your music and get to know you. In an EPK, include your music, photos, videos, a description on who you are, press clippings, quotes, etc. Don’t force the promoters to have to sift thought oodles of information. Make your EPKs clear and to the point. Then, send the interested parties in the right direction to figure out more about you if they please (i.e. you social networks, website, etc).
- Make contact.
If you are not establishing connections through other bands, making initial contact with promoters can be a little more difficult. While it is best to make connections in person, many of your efforts will be through email. This is where your EPK will come into play. Make your subject lines clear and concise so promoters know exactly why you’re emailing them. If you have a certain date you are seeking to book at a venue be sure to include this in the subject line, as well as your band name. I repeat, include your band name in the subject line (Remember you’re selling yourself. You are the salesman and your band in the product)!
If you’ve already established contact in person, reference this interaction immediately in your email to remind the interested party who they are talking to (Lets be real, its hard to remember everyone you’ve met. Don’t be afraid to tell them who you are. However, be sure you’re referencing a positive interaction. You wouldn’t want to remind promoters about they time you met and spilled your beer on their shoes.) Tell the promoters about other gigs you’ve played in the area and give them an idea of your average turnout. If you are unsure of your general turnout at a gig, check the audience next time you play. How many people are out there? Also, how is your presence on social media? Do you have a lot of likes, friends, fans, engagement?
In addition, tell promoters exactly what you’re looking for. If you want to open for a certain band already on their bill, tell them. If you already have an idea of additional bands the promoter can group you with to fill their bill, tell them that too! Name-dropping is also okay. Tell them the bands you’ve worked with so they don’t have to spend as much time figuring out where you fit. Promoters will respect you for giving them all of the information up front. Telling promoters the other venues you’ve reached out to for a certain date could also make them more inclined to tentatively book you (or in industry terms, book your hold). Remember, you are trying to sell yourself as a low-risk option for these promoters and you want to make them feel good about their decision to book you. Also, don’t forget to attach that EPK you worked so hard on.
Something else to keep in mind is you will not always receive a response from promoters immediately. They are busy people. Be persistent, not annoying. It is okay to reach out several times to a promoter if you have given them a decent amount of time to respond. Sometimes your emails, phones calls and messages just get lost in the mix. But, be observant. If a promoter responds to you with five-word emails, keep your responses short as well. If they ask you to contact them by phone, do it! If they give you any specific instructions on what to do and what not to do in your correspondence and booking process, follow them. Going against what a promoter says or being really annoying in your efforts to reach out is a great way to get blacklisted. Remember, although we live in an email driven age, a phone call can go a long way. Sometimes it’s easier to have a 5-minute phone conversation rather than emailing back and forth. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. (Tip: After a phone call or message it is a good idea to follow up by email and reference your phone conversation and/or message.)
- Plan for promotion.
If you’re playing at a local venue, you will most likely be promoting the show yourself. Don’t sweat it! You can do it. Tell the venue what you plan to do. They might have suggestions or advice for you. Send them your promotional tools (posters ,fliers, photos) right away. Announce the show on your website and use your social media and email list to help you promote the show (reference previous blog posts for tips in this area). Hang up posters in areas where your fans and potential fans hangout (again, if your fans are teenagers, don’t place your poster in bars). If you do not have artistic skills, it is easy to consult freelance graphic designers to cheaply make a show poster for you. College campuses are a great place to find these people. Ask other bands as well. If you are on the bill with other bands for a gig, include the other bands on your show poster. This is polite etiquette. Ask the venue if they have a media list so you can try to get local coverage of your show.
- Follow through and be professional.
Be sure to arrive to your gig on time. In fact, get there early and have your gear ready. It is hard enough getting your first gig with a venue, so don’t mess it up by making a bad impression. Make sure the equipment you bring works and be sure to treat the house light and sound guys with respect. They are there to help you and make the show great. Work as a team. You will most likely want to play at this venue again in the future, so show the venue you care by upholding your end of the bargain. Make the effort to create a good relationship with them. Come rehearsed and perform to the best of your ability.
In addition, don’t oversaturate your market. Playing plenty of live gigs is important, but don’t play them all in the same area. Your fans will get tired of hearing the same thing over and over again, so make sure you space out your gigs at the same venue (and in the same area) by a couple months. You want to keep them interested.
Your mindset about this process is everything. The more you think about your band as a business and promoters/talent buyers as potential business partners, the more likely you will succeed and create lasting music industry relationships. Over time, this mindset will build your momentum and keep your business going.
What online tools are available to help me with this process?
To help you book gigs, there are also some great online tools to help get you started:
- ReverbNation’s Gig Finder (search over 100,000 venues and clubs, and locate those that have booked similar Artists)
- GigMasters (booking platform for artists and talent buyers)
- GigMaven (free and easy-to-use booking website for musicians; currently available in NY, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, DC, Austin, Phoenix and Ohio)
- Gigwish (influence venues, promoters and booking agents by enabling an artist’s fans and their local music scene to vote for them)
- Sonicbids (the largest and most successful online booking service for musicians, bands, managers, promoters, etc., as well as corporations and organizations looking to book artists)
- SplitGigs (a new social web-app that helps emerging artists find other artists to exchange and share gigs with)
- Indie on the move (music venue database, venue reviews, quick pitch emailing, college and university booking database, band directory, band and show availabilities, music festival and conference directories, press, radio and media promotions references, classifieds)
- Gigsalad (booking platform for artists and talent buyers to browse a database and book events)
- Bandwagon (booking platform for artists and talent buyers)
Featured Image: Samantha Fitzpatrick Band