Imagine you’re a booking agent for a club. Every day you’re faced with a multitude of bands who want to play your venue. You’re responsible for booking bands that will (hopefully) fill the club and bring in enough money to keep your club in business. How would you go about making sure that happens?
And that, dear reader, is the key to understanding how you should approach booking a show. Once you understand the agents job, you’ll have everything you need to create the kind of presentation that will have the best chance of getting you that gig.
Find the venues that book bands similar to yours, read about their booking rules/guidelines and follow them. The worst thing you can do is anything contrary to what they’re asking. If you send a demo when they say ‘don’t send a demo’, don’t expect to get a gig there anytime soon.
When contacting a booking agent, the most important detail they want to see is ‘can this show make money?’. It is a rare occasion that an agent will take on a show that doesn’t have at least a decent chance of coming out in the black. If you’ve played shows previously, give them accurate info about how many people came out to see you and, if possible, how much money the venue made. Whatever you do, do NOT inflate your numbers! I don’t think I need to tell you in how many ways this can backfire. If you haven’t played many shows or don’t have a draw yet, consider networking with other bands that do have a draw and try to work with them on getting you an opening slot or consider alternatives like house concerts, warehouse parties and the like.
You should, ideally, have some live video of your band—venues want to know what a band looks and sounds like live and just listening to your songs online doesn’t always convey that. You should also have an online press kit and/or a press section on your site so the venue can see what kind of attention you’re getting, what people are saying, shows you’ve played, etc. If you can’t present the venue with a full-on event, where you’ve put together the line-up, and expect them to put the show together, they need to have quick access to this kind of info to be able to put on a cohesive event.
If you don’t have any press or live video, it’s probably not a good idea to keep pestering a venue for a gig. Remember—you’re trying to be the band that makes is EASY for the booking agent and constantly contacting them when you have nothing to offer is a great way to get on their ‘ignore’ list.
You’ve done your research, you have live videos and your press kit online and you’re ready to roll—what next? Contact the venue (again, following their submission process) and present your proposal. Keep it concise and get to the point! Don’t waste words and don’t include anything that isn’t an absolute necessity. Make your proposal, give a few options for the dates and show them how you’re going to make them money. Include your promotion plan, info about the other bands on the bill (if you’re presenting an entire event) or other bands you think would be a good match. Make sure those bands also have the prerequisites on their site (live video, press kit, etc)—remember, the bands you associate with will reflect upon you. Do not send attachments (unless specifically asked for) or do things like including your entire band bio in the message.
Booking the show is only half the equation—to really shine you’ll want to have the following ready for the venue should they be interested in having you play:
Another way to stand out above the crowd is to make sure you have your sound check dialled—and I’m not talking about spending a ton of time during sound check getting things perfect. What I am talking about is the ability to make the sound check process quick, easy and yet still ensure you sound great. Everyone in the band should be able to load in, set up and be ready to check as quickly as possible. No dawdling, no hanging out with girlfriends or chit chatting—typically you’ll only get 30 minutes, so make it count! I recommend practicing a ‘mock load-in and sound check’ during band rehearsals. Get it down to a science. Help the sound person help you—be the band that the sound person says ‘they were great to work with!’. Be flexible, be patient, but be ready to move when it’s your time. You can read my other article ‘Getting Started with In-Ear Monitoring’ for more tips on making sound check easy for everyone and ensure you sound great, even if you don’t even get a sound check. Bands I’ve toured with could load in and sound check in 15 minutes flat and we received no end of compliments from booking agents and sound engineers.
If you put yourself in the shoes of a booker and approach everything you do with the intention of making their lives easier, you can’t go wrong. They will remember you for it!