From An Anonymous Contributor on BOOKING

August 28, 2018 7:04 PM | Linda Wilson (Administrator)

The article on Booking (below) was submitted by an ANONYMOUS artist who we requested put together an on-the-ground view of booking gigs.  So here is some great insight and things to consider when trying to book yourself. Go into it with an open mind and glean from the experience of this person.  You'll be glad you did! LKW

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WRITER'S DISCLAIMER:

This article might hurt your feelings. If your feelings are easily hurt, avoid reading this article, keep your instrument(s) at home, and never leave there.

I will attempt to share what I know as a 26-year old artist who has built an, at the least, sustainable career over the past several years as a working musician, band leader, artist, songwriter, manager, and ultimately CEO of his business.  I am by no means a “Pat Green” or a “Cody Johnson” and most definitely cannot speak with the same credit that artists of their stature have earned. I will attempt to share some strategies for booking your band gigs that is entirely based on anecdotal experience, as well as years of being mentored. These strategies will inevitably be considered wrong, right, and hit or miss by some or many other musicians and music industry personnel. Who knows, maybe I’ll be corrected in some areas! I’d be glad to. Know why? Because like you, I’m trying to grow my business, and to do so we must be open to criticism.

So, keep your mind open, know that if you haven’t been going about booking in the ways I will mention that it’s fine, and ultimately take my advice with a grain of salt and for what it’s worth to you. 

Alright? Alright! And here we go

BOOKING: THE RECURRING NIGHTMARE

On a scale of 1-10, 10 being best, how would you answer this statement: 

“I confidently, consistently thrive in booking my band gigs 

on the road and at home.”

If you answered a 10, I want to meet you and shake your hand. If you answered below a 7, I want to hug you because I completely sympathize.

Booking. Can. Be. A. Nightmare.

This nightmare though, doesn’t go away until you apply the right prescription. I understand that you’re a creative and that you just, “wanna play my guitar and write the songs, man”. However, you must get off your ass and do something about it. Not only do you have to do something about it, but that something should be intelligently executed – which brings us to our dilemma. 

You want gigs. You need gigs. You’re not getting them. 

The art of booking requires patience, constant hustle, organization, the ability to form and maintain relationships, and level-headedness. The art form itself has been, and will continue to be a constant evolution. LIFE HACK: We live in a world with internet and the ability to reach the entire global population in seconds. We are in the age of the email. Long gone are the days of cold calling venues, and even the short era of the infamous “Reverbnation” Press Kits are dissipating faster than you can tweet. If you want to be successful at booking, you must be current with the process. You must follow the trend. You are not special, sorry. You are one of the hundreds of thousands of bands or solo acts, all throughout the world, who are vying for the spotlight. If you’re reading this, I’m assuming it’s because you want to book more gigs, meaning that you’re not exactly The Beatles just yet. That being said, you need the venues more than they need you, right now. It’s okay though, take a deep breath, swallow that down along with your pride. You play their game, they don’t need to play yours. Therefore, we email. 

Before we can cover how to send a (to my knowledge) proper booking email, we need to cover the meat and potatoes of what all is going in it first. You need all the ingredients laid out before you can start making the soup. 

You will need, in no order of importance:

PHOTOS -

Professional, legitimate photos of yourself. These photos must match the tones of the music you make. Huh? Yes, match them. Do you know how to match your clothes when you dress? I hope so. It’s the same concept. A hippy-flower-child songstress should perhaps have bright, vibrant colors and backgrounds in her photos. A death-metal band should perhaps have dark, ominous lighting in theirs. Country singer? You should work to avoid the “by the railroad tracks, in an open field” cliché, in all honesty. Look up photos of artist you aspire to. What are those like? Where are those photos taken? Bars? Fields? What kind of lighting do they have? What colors are present?

VIDEOS -

These should be as professional as possible. The more professional they are, the better off you’ll be. If you are still with an iPhone recording, the good news is that the quality keeps getting better with time and advancement in technology. Use your better judgement before posting these up on YouTube. Is the audio clear? Does it capture the band at its best? Does it look like the band, the crowd, and everyone there is having a good time? These are all things that a venue owner/talent buyer will be looking for, and they will likely look at these first – so be armed with great videos to make a lasting impression.

STUDIO RECORDINGS -

These MUST be professional. I will not allow you to cut corners on this. Your livelihood as a musician depends on it. This is by far the most expensive product you will invest in, but trust me when I say that it’s worth every penny. You can spend a small 2k to record an album or an EP and make a hopefully decent product that no one will listen to because the quality is that bad OR you can invest in a much more expensive 10k – 50k range product that is going to rock the socks off everyone who hears it. The term “radio friendly” comes to mind. Ask yourself, do my recordings sound professional and are they on caliber with what is on the radio right now? Your goal might not be to sound clean cut and dressed up – maybe you’re a ragged Americana act. Whatever. Make sure it fits. Again, look to the artists you aspire to. What are they doing? What are they putting out? What’s the quality like? If you cut corners on your studio recordings, I genuinely feel sorry for you. This is one thing that you will leave behind when you pass on to meet the author of our world. This is your legacy. This is what people will have to remember you by. You’d better make it a good one. I don’t want to hear any excuses about financing.  HUMBLE BRAG: I worked three jobs at once to pay for my debut full-length record. I also paid rent and fed myself while this happened. I busted my ass like many others before me. Your turn to do the same. How to go about ensuring a great product is a discussion for another essay, but you can start with finding a reputable producer. The rest tends to fall in place when that is accomplished.

PRESS -

What are important people saying about your music and your live show? Keyword: important. Make sure they matter to some extent. Do not quote what your friends and family think about your music. Chances are, they absolutely love it because they love you. Radio personalities, music critics, music blogs, magazines, newspapers, music podcasts are all examples of viable press options. Reach out to them! Don’t wait for it to happen on its own.

THE BASICS - 

Where are you based out of? What’s your genre? How many members? That kind of thing.

WEBSITE - 

WIX, Squarespace, GoDaddy, they all do the same thing. Go claim a URL if you haven’t already, and design a website. WIX and Squarespace are especially user-friendly and you should be able to figure this out yourself. Again, look to the artists you aspire to. What are they doing? 

All that info brings us to what will be the most important document/link that will appear in your booking email – the Electronic Press Kit (EPK). Your EPK should have all the necessary components I have listed above, and maybe some more. It should have photos available for download as well as viewing, throw in your logo too. The venue can access these for promotion without really having to bother you to send them. It should have videos that the person your inquiring with about booking can view easily – one click away. It should have recordings to let the listener digest your sound to see if it’s a fit for their venue, again – one click away. It should have quotes from press that immediately upon reading, let the reader know you are reputable and have buzz. You should try to include a stage plot and an input list. If you don’t know what those are, a simple “googling” of this will teach you quickly. Leave your links to your social media accounts, as well as Spotify, Soundcloud, iTunes, Apple Music and anything else important. The EPK will serve as your one-stop-shop for everything the venue needs to know about you. For some, this will be a tab on the website. For others, it basically is their website. Whatever the case, organize it wisely, and make sure it’s one link and one click away. 

Take another breather. We are just getting started. Let’s jump into the email, now that we have our vital ingredients. 

For the email.

Let’s start with the subject line. “Hi!” and “Booking Inquiry” will not suffice. You will be to For the email: Let’s start with the subject line. “Hi!” and “Booking Inquiry” will not suffice. You will be tossed into the trash, or at least rapidly dismissed and remain unopened. Consider the time and manner of the venue owner/talent buyer’s job. They get hundreds of these a day or week, they are busy running other parts of their business, and don’t have time to get to all their emails. A poor reading subject line, to them, is already a telling sign that you’re a rookie. They will not have that. Your subject line should read something like:

“Band Name // Booking // Venue Name // Specific Date” 

See how much information we just threw in there? Aint’ that awesome? Right away, without even opening the email, the reader knows exactly what you want and when you want it. I’ve also heard of some people putting their genre in the subject line. It’s definitely something that can benefit! Use it if you feel like it fits. The insert of the “Venue Name” may seem redundant, but it actually plays to your advantage. You may be emailing someone that does the booking for several venues – this is common – and if you aren’t, it doesn’t hurt to put it in anyways. I cannot stress enough how specific dates are as a requirement to the subject line. Do not be loose with it. Know what date you are targeting and before you ask for that date, check their calendar on their website to see if it’s open. Granted, some venues may not have a posted calendar or a website. Check their Facebook page – if they don’t have one, do you even really want to play there? – and look for their events tab for some sense of a calendar. Some might even post their schedules regularly with a graphic, so look up their photos as a last resort.

The main section of the email should be short and concise. Get to your point, quickly, and be professional and nice about it. A little, “hope your week is going well!” never hurt nobody. Start with the basics. Who are you? Where are you from? What kind of genre? Where are you trying to book and when are you trying to book it? This lead will be a small 1-2 sentence reiteration of your subject line.

Now, get to the good stuff. Insert a quick 3-5 sentence description of your music and artists you categorize with. You might want to list any notable past performances at notable venues. Be honest about this, if you haven’t headlined the House of Blues, don’t say so. These are easily cross-examinable. This information is used to show the reader that you are legit, that your résumé is killer, and that you can handle performing professionally at their venue. If you have played in that area before, let them know when and where, and how much crowd you drew. Be honest about your potential crowd draw. Again, be HONEST. You want to build a relationship with this person so that you can continue to have a working, symbiotic experience together, do not start with a lie. If you cannot draw a crowd, or have never played in the area, emphasize that you will promote the show heavily online – as you should anyways. Maybe offer to throw a local band on the bill that can help with bringing in patrons. Everyone appreciates honesty, and they will respect you for being upfront with them that hopefully, they will take a chance on you if they like your music and think you’ll do well. Insert some press quotes if you’ve got the space left, and then ultimately direct them to your EPK, where the bulk of your artistry will be on display. This should be a URL link by now, leave the link – one click away. Leave them any other important links, such as your website, social media, yadda-yadda all that jazz. If there is a certain video that you want them to see first because maybe that’s your best foot forward, then leave that link there too. 

End on a positive “thank you”. Show that you are appreciative of their time that they do not owe you. Leave your email and phone number for them to reach you at.

Proof read. Send. 

TROUBLESHOOTING:

If you cannot find a booking contact on a venue’s website, call and tell them your name and reason for calling, explain that you were looking for a booking contact on their website but couldn’t find one, and ask what’s the best way to reach them to inquire about booking. Be ready with a pen and paper. Do NOT call them during lunch hours or rush hours. Be smart.

I’ve reiterated enough times by now how busy these folks tend to get, so likely, your first email – as glorious as it might be – may get accidentally overlooked. If you haven’t heard from them within a week, follow up in the same email thread. Do NOT start a new one. This will push your original email back up to the top of their inbox, they will likely see the “(2)” that lets them know you’ve been trying to reach them. Be nice in the follow-up, express your gratitude for their time, and show some understanding of their busy job. You may have to do this for a third time, a few days to a week later. If after three emails you still have no response, call the venue and politely explain that you’ve been trying to reach them about booking and have sent a few emails already. Ask them if there’s a better way to reach them about booking. They will likely direct you to another email address, or handle the booking right then and there. Most talent buyers want to give you a fair shot, you just need to be consistent, polite, respectful and gracious. Yes, sometimes they opened your email checked you out, and didn’t want to book you. Do everything within reason that I’ve mentioned here and if it doesn’t work out, then you drop it and get back to booking other venues. 

YOUR PERCEPTIONS V. REALITY

Do not waste your time and energy trying to book a big room when you know you have no draw. For example, don’t inquire about the main stage at Gruene Hall if you’ve got maybe 200 devoted “fans” on Facebook. Be honest about your worth, where you are in your career, and find venues that are within your reach right now. 

This segues nicely into something I have purposefully left out until now. Payout.

You think you’re worth a certain price. The venue thinks you’re worth a certain price. The actual price you’re worth at this moment in time is the one you both AGREE upon. Your price will flex based upon where you are playing. You might draw 500 people in Austin and 3 people in Santa Fe. You cannot ask for the same price in Santa Fe as you do in Austin. Don’t be silly. I’m sure you play extremely well and y’all kickass everywhere you go, but until you can prove it in person or with numbers, you must be humble enough to accept the fact that your perception of your worth may not be the reality. I personally like to attempt to inch closer to confirming a date first before discussing payout. If a price is asked of me, I provide one. Navigating these waters is like looking for Atlantis. You want to give a price that is going to be mutually accepted. It’s the golden goose, the golden snitch, the…you get it. You may want to start only a little bit high since the counter will likely come down. Start too high, and you’re told to f*** off. Consider asking them what their normal payout is, and go from there, but know that by asking this, you do risk getting low-balled. Stand firm with what you can and cannot do, and show that you’re willing to flex until you can’t flex anymore. You will have to consider the worth of the gig from time to time. It may not be worth the time for the pay, maybe it will, that risk is on you. My recommendation is to balance out risks with certainties. Have gigs lined up where you will pocket some cash, because you’ll need it for when you have gigs that don’t pay out well. Make sure that you cover all bases with the venue. Do you keep 100% of your merch sales or do they take a percentage? Are you bringing your own PA or do they provide one? Are there any expenses that they take out of your pay for sound and promotion? These things do happen. Don’t get surprised and played for a fool.

THE DO NOT’S:

Do not hit up the venue on their Facebook page unless that is their expressed request. What are you, 15? You might actually be 15 and I just don’t know, so no offense! If you are young, that’s fine, but you’re still required to act like a professional if you want to get anywhere.

Do not, under any circumstances, be rude. Yeah, you might have shrugged when you read that. Some experiences with venue owners are God-awful. Maybe they were disrespectful to you and your crew, maybe they screwed you on the pay, maybe they didn’t fulfill a requirement on the rider, I don’t know. Whatever the case, be nice. Let the powers that be work it out. Word travels fast. That terrible venue owner that you now hate for whatever reason still has a mouth and a reputation, just like you do. Be the bigger person. People will notice this, I promise.

Do not walk into the venue and try to book face-to-face, in person. Promise me you won’t do this. Right now. Pinky-swear it. If you try to do this, you will 99.9% of the time fail and won’t be taken seriously. Allow me to explain why. When you walk into the venue, you are walking into the busiest workspace imaginable for everyone there. They are having meetings, they are answering phones, they are cleaning the place, maybe they have patrons they are taking care of, they are taking inventory, they are just BUSY. Would you want someone to bother you while you’re the busiest you’ll be all day? I hope not. Now, sometimes it just so happens that you were in the neighborhood and you figured you’d stop in. Fine. Ask for a contact for booking, leave a card – which you’d better have ready – let them know you’ll be in touch, thank them for their time, and walk away. Do this as fast as you possibly can. Do not take up more than 30 seconds of their time.

Do not try to persuade a venue owner to book your band by buying them drinks, or attempt to book while they are drinking. You have more respect for yourself than this. If you truly believe in your band, you will go through the proper channels of booking and be successful. If you resort to this desperate attempt of booking, it’s probably time to call a rehearsal with the band and work at playing better.

THE POST-GIG FOLLOW:

I’m personally all for bringing back the hand-written letter of thanks. Now, you don’t have to write a letter for every gig, but oh my, you will be so respected if you did. Whether through a letter, a phone call, or an email, send them some form of thanks for having you and your band play there. Maybe the gig went so well that you’ll be back soon for another, maybe it didn’t go so hot and you screwed your chance, either way you should thank the venue for having you and taking care of you. This, like many other thoughtful touches, will go a long way. 

“What does the world need with just another musician? What the world 

needs is good people.” – Victor Wooten

I wish you Godspeed in all your booking endeavors. Again, take this with a grain of salt. What has worked for me may not work completely for you. There is not a linear pathway to success. Surely, others have gone about booking in other ways and have been successful. This is merely a piece of what I do regularly to ensure that I stay as busy as I want to be. Use it if you found it helpful.

Remember that on top of the mountain is a plateau, not a sharp peak. There is room for many folks on top of the mountain. Once you’ve made it to the top, reach back down and help the next in line.

Comments

  • August 28, 2018 8:31 PM | Curtis McKinney
    As a venue owner... everything written above is totally on point! Kuddos!
    Link  •  Reply



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