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Intro To Booking For Artists
In last month’s column we discussed the advantages and disadvantages of performing cover tunes. One major advantage that a cover band holds over an all-original act is the abundance of solid paying gigs available. Booking a band that plays primarily original material is more challenging and normally much less lucrative. Although each situation is different, here are some basic concepts that should make the process less painful.
Attempting to book a gig is basically a sales pitch. Before you begin looking for gigs, you should prepare your presentation, usually in the form of a press kit. The press kit, similar to a personal resume, is often the first impression of your band (or product). It is imperative that a band with professional aspirations invest adequate time and money into making the best presentation possible. Each band’s press kit will be different, and kits can be modified to fit an individual situation. Here are a few items which will likely be included in any press kit.
–Recorded material, live or studio recordings
–A concise biography or history of the band
–Any positive press, include the date/publication
–Photograph, A good live photo will work in a pinch
–A listing or reference from venues already played
The best advice we can give is to keep your kits efficient and as inexpensive as possible. Check out these books on how to build killer press kits.
With good press kits built you are ready to attack the challenges of booking original music. As you have probably already learned, this is where it gets tough. DO NOT get discouraged! This is a tough business and club managers and
bookers are some of the toughest people to impress. Many times the rejections or unresponsiveness you will undoubtedly encounter have nothing to do with your presentation, music or salesmanship. You must keep yourself focused and excited about each new prospect. Proper follow-up can sometimes turn a ‘dead’ prospect into an opportunity.
Finding a venue
The most obvious choice for a venue is a local bar or nightclub which hosts live original music. But, you should always be on the lookout for alternative venues that will provide you with a different audience. Keep up-to-date on all regional events like festivals, benefits, and large parties that feature live music. These can be great venues if the events are well organized because you will have the opportunity to perform in front of an audience that doesn’t necessarily frequent nightclubs. Also, consider creating your own venues. If you have full production capabilities and a good promotions network, you can produce your own shows. The goal of performing live is to showcase your music to as many different people as possible, so keep that in mind when considering potential venues.
Approaching the venue
As you begin looking for gigs, you’ll find that its not always easy to get to the right person. The key to success is to be professional and persistent. Whenever possible, try to personally deliver your press kit to the venue during off hours or weekdays. Write down the name and phone number of the person you met with. Be sure to ask what time and day is most convenient to follow up. Then, follow up exactly when you are supposed to. Always be respectful of the booker’s time, and be persistent, never pesky.
Some venues like to handle booking on only one or two days a week. Make notes of those days and respect the venues wishes. For example, we have dubbed Tuesday as “Universal Booking Day” because so many regional venues only book on Tuesdays.
Confirming the gig
Once you have made the sale, confirm all the gig details immediately. Make sure you understand the venue’s expectations on issues such as load-in time, sound check, performance time, set length, number of sets, pay, and promotion. Then, make sure that everyone in your band has all of the pertinent information. We find it very helpful to have a written ‘Gig Sheet’ with the who/what/when/where and any helpful information like important people to look for and greet, directions or hotel information.
Club owners and bookers greatly appreciate a band that is professional. Failing to arrive on time for sound check or take the stage on time are the two most common complaints about bands from the venues. Being prompt is critical to good first impression and will only help your chances of being invited back. Understanding the venue’s expectations and respecting them will eliminate some of the tension that inevitably surrounds live performances.