Booking A Local Show 101: There’s Only One Saturday Per Week
As a small venue booker in one of the country’s most musician-dense cities, I am forced to constantly choose one band over another. Here are TEN THINGS that might give your band a better chance at landing a date at a venue:
- Try to be a little more specific than “We are an indie band from Portland.” Everyone is an indie band in Portland.
DO: Tell us what other bands you have in mind for your bill. Include bands that have played at the venue before, who are known to bring a decent crowd.
- For God’s sake, put all the venue email addresses under “Bcc”. Don’t plainly copy them all in the “To” Field! It’s a huge and embarrassing faux pas and a quick way to get your band flagged as “amateur.”
DO: Take the time to write each venue individually and by name. No form letters; we can tell they are form letters no matter how crafty you are.
- Realize that your sound is not special.You’re a great and talented band who plays awesome music (in a city where 18,000 great and talented bands play awesome music). There are others like you. It will be your humbleness and friendly attitude that sets you apart from the rest, not your unique sound. So always be as nice to people as you can stand to be, everywhere you go.
DO: Be friendly and adaptable.
- Bookers are doing an actual job: managing their employer’s calendar.
And it’s tedious. They don’t need to know what year the band started or where the members went to school together.
DO: Give us the info we need to do our job. A simple link to your music/photo, date options, proposed lineup (if you are local, then YES, we want you to work on building the bill yourself). Never lie, and don’t add unnecessary background info. We’re not writers for Rolling Stone.
- Do not say you can only play on a Friday or Saturday. Of course all 18,000 bands in Portland want weekends. Unless you are 1. Famous, 2. An established regular act at that venue, or 3. Asked to open for someone bigger, there’s only one way you’re going to get a weekend: if something bigger falls through.
DO: Allow the booker to place 2nd, 3rd or 4th holds for your show because things sometimes do fall through. If the booker says there are no weekends available, they probably mean that in a “permanent” sense (work on #2 above by graciously accepting a Wednesday show and doing a killer job of it).
- Don’t make yourself look bad. If you’re new, do not admit you’ve never played live before. If you don’t think you can draw, don’t say things like, “we are still building our audience.” If your band is in fact good, promoting properly, and not a bunch of assholes, you should be able to draw a good crowd.
DO: Say you are dedicated to promoting your show. Volunteer yourselves to do a poster run for the venue, and follow through. Be sure the band has at least a couple hundred likes on Facebook, and promote every event thoroughly (hint: we look at your past practices).
- Do not send attachments. No songs, no photos, no PDF’s.This goes without saying. In today’s world of hackers, spam and scams, sending an attachment via email is going to get you deleted without reading.
- Don’t Lie.
Don’t say you’ve played here before when you haven’t. Do NOT say you can bring 300 people. If you could bring 300 people, someone else would be doing your booking for you. Don’t say, “We sold out the Doug Fir” when you were the opening band for two bigger ones. DON’T SAY YOU PLAYED AT SXSW WHEN ALL YOU DID WAS GO TO THE FESTIVAL AND PLAY A SHOW IN THE SUBURBS WHILE YOU WERE THERE.
- Do. Not. Lie.
This is so important it’s worth repeating. We research bands all day, every day. We know when you’re lying.
DO: Be genuine and honest, and take the time to know the venue’s background. We have a lot of bands to choose from, we are going to pick the ones who are excited to play here.
- The kiss of death: Do not keep calling the venue asking random bartenders for the booker’s cell number until someone gives it to you thinking you are a friend, and then call them asking for dates. (Yes, this happens!)This is a real invasion of privacy and will only make them hate you.
DO: Give us a few whole days to email you back. Your email is not “acting funny”; yes, we got it—and about 200 others. Thanks for your patience.
Now get out there and play a show!
Talent Buyer at Backspace, Youth Music Mentor at Old Town Creative
Former Talent Buyer at Someday Lounge