Booking regular shows is an essential part of being a musician when expecting to be heard by the public, and a question we here at Phosphene Productions get asked a lot about. Though everyone has their own technique when it comes to finding the perfect show, many artists new to the scene should devise a “template” to work by and to keep yourself organized when contacting so many different people.
Our goal in this article is to give you a sort of template to use when beginning to develop your own booking strategy, and by the end you should have all the necessary information to kick off your gig.
Finding a Venue –
The first step in our booking template is finding the proper venue to be a host for your show. Where finding venues in town is a generally straightforward task, finding the right venue to suit your project (genre, scene, etc.) can be a little more difficult and takes some research and effort to maximize your potential.
When searching for potential venue candidates, a simple Google or Yelp search usually yields good results. There are many sites on the web that call themselves “venue-finders”*, and this is often a great place to start. (*List of useful links is at the bottom.)
Check out what your fellow bands in town are doing and where they are playing. Of course a simple phone call works, but if you need a little more you can check out a website likeReverbNation. Just about any local event calendar or ticket stub website can do the trick. Use the tools at your disposal and results will follow.
I find that looking at the situation from the venue’s perspective is beneficial. The guy booking shows for the venue wants to ensure a high head count with alcohol sales, as that is how venues make their dough. Most venues will want to see that you have a web presence as well as a fair amount of fans that could potentially turn up to your gig, so make sure you’ve got your plan of attack worked out prior to contacting and be organized!
First Contact –
Alright, we’ve found the venue(s) most suitable to our project, so now it’s time to make contact with the venue and get this gig booked. Good business practice shows that making first contact with a phone call solidifies a more promising first impression over other means, but that doesn’t mean that following up with e-mail isn’t essential to your success and return business – and ultimately your business relationship with the venue. Simply introducing yourself, asking a few questions, and ultimately letting the venue’s booking manager know you will have an e-mail in their inbox is all there is to it. As they say, keep it simple.
Following up with an e-mail really engraves your band in the minds of those looking to book shows, and we discuss the importance of e-mails and e-mail lists all the time here at Phosphene Productions. Here’s a basic template you can start with; just remember to personalize it to your situation and try not to sound like a robot.
Subject: [Band Name] Seeking Show for [time frame]. [Genre]
Body: Hello! I represent [Band Name], we’re looking to book a show for [List Dates].
We are a [Genre] band. We sound similar to (*list similar bands preferably well known acts).
I invite and encourage you to listen to our music and see our videos here: [Provide Link]
If the above dates aren’t available, we are flexible and open to playing other times, whatever works best! You can view our booking calendar for our availability: [Provide Link]
Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing back from you,
Remember the key here is to establish a working relationship with the venue, and a level of professionalism goes a long way in this industry. Chances are you won’t get a response right away, and in this situation I love to say: “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again!” Booking shows isn’t really a science and can depend on any amount of varying conditions. Wait a few weeks and repeat your process, and when all else fails, retrace your steps and make improvements until you begin to see success.
Don’t get discouraged if you get an outright “no”, as it may have nothing to do with you. Chances are the venue is up to their eyeballs in show requests and it may just not be the best time. Give it a few months and try again, keeping in contact for any potential last minute cancellations. We understand not everyone can be available at the drop of a dime, but there are definite benefits to those that are.
Remember too there are always options outside the normal realm of venue shows that can be worth exploring. Some examples include house parties (or house concerts), restaurants, churches, malls, etc… Or even more fresh ideas including online shows through websites likeUstream, StageIt, Google Hangouts or StreetJelly.
A Word on Booking Agents –
What I’ve been showing you thusfar is what a booking agent can (and with payment, will) do for you. There are many benefits to having a booking agent, and as your band grows in fans and gig size you’ll eventually need someone to take the managing hassle off your back. Enter the booking agent.
Though the role of booking agent has been somewhat blended into a band manager’s tasks in recent years, a good booking agent will communicate with promoters to get you on the bill, negotiate gig contracts, organize travel accommodations, attempt to push you higher on the bill, and basically ensure your show runs as smoothly as possible. Many agents (and certainly the better ones) will be taking full focus and responsibility of booking your gigs and will be able to pull you into better shows with more well-known acts such as the festival circuit. Though finding a booking agent is again fairly simple, for the most part when an agent thinks you’re worth representing, they will likely find you.
I don’t want to get into promotion too much here as we have other content dedicated to the subject. However, once the show is booked it is time to get started on promotion, and though there are many different techniques, having a plan and schedule ready to go is key to successful promotion. There are many tools across the web that can assist you in keeping track and gauging performance of your efforts, and we go over some of these techniques in other blogs.
Making sure to alert your fan base as well as the general pubic of your show is the idea. Creating events across social platforms, making regular posts and engaging your audience will lead to more pleasing head counts. Remember that the continued success or failure in relationship with the venue will balance on a successful first impression. Everything from flyers and YouTube videos, to ticket contests and press contacts are available in this wheel house.
We recommend checking out our Promotion for the Independent Musician, as well as our Online Band Marketing & Social Networking Crash Course for more information on this subject.
Just be sure to pull out all the stops!
At the Gig –
Above all, the goal at the show is to play the best gig of your life. Play your heart out and give the audience a reason to pay attention. Remember the entire time you are at the venue you are on the job and a living image of what your band represents.
Having basic things like an e-mail/newsletter sign-up sheet available (preferably at your merch table) will really make a difference in the long run, and with constant contact will insure repeat customers for your band and the venue. Try to be social and friendly, both with anyone interested in meeting you as well as the venue staff. Make yourself someone others will want to see, be around and work with and the success will follow.
After the Dust has Settled –
Regardless of the success or failure of the show, following up is essential. Be sure to thank the venue for hosting the event, as well as the fans for coming out and participating. Be sure to update your e-mail lists and event pages. This is also a great place and time to share pictures and video from the previous night, really make those who weren’t there jealous, then inform them of your next show, instill a determination for fans to catch you next time around.
Once the excitement wears down, review and take note of what worked and what didn’t, adjust and improve.
Be sure to leave your own booking tips below in the comments!
Other useful links and websites –
- Austin Live Venues
- BandMix (Venues search)
- Muzeek (booking services)