Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Secret To Getting Booked

club band image
Here's an excerpt from How To Make Your Band Sound Great that talks about the secret to getting your band booked. The part I'm quoting was not written by me, but by a long-time club booker/musician in Memphis, who's seen it all.

"The following was in a widely circulated email that went around the music community. It’s from Memphis promoter Chris Walker who explains both how to get gigs, and more importantly, how not to get them. If you want the hard cold facts about club gigs for acts with original music, read on.
'From a 17 year vet: How to not get your band booked! 
I've had many many jobs in my life, from removing asbestos to strip club DJ to pizza delivery to unloading aircraft, but the one thing I've done and never stopped doing was booking concerts. When I say "job," that would infer that I get paid to do that "job.” 
Booking concerts very infrequently pays but I'm addicted to music and have been ever since my big brother gave me my first record, Destroyer by Kiss. I learned a long time ago that if I don't book the bands I like...they ain't coming. Over one thousand concerts and 17 years later of bringing bands to Memphis, I'd say I know EXACTLY how to get a band booked into any venue in the world. I didn't say I could get people to show up...I just said I could get it booked. 
I've been on all sides of the live concert equation. I've been the promoter. I've been in the local band. I've been in the touring band. I've been the patron. I've been the sound guy. I've been the bartender. I've been the door guy. I've been the janitor. I've even been the groupie. So there isn't an angle I haven't seen. 
You've got a band. You've got 30-60 minutes of music to play live and you want to hit the stage. Any stage. Hell, a floor. As long as it's a public place and you can get away with charging people to hear live music. Getting a show in your hometown isn't all that difficult. Most venues know that as long as you're local and especially if it's your first show, all your band members girlfriends, friends, and family will probably show up for your first show. I've booked plenty of kids bands on their first show and they usually draw well with decent bar sales. If you're worth a shit, they'll continue to come out. If not, those friends and family will drop like flies to future performances. 
Now about playing shows out of town.... 
Allow me to put things in the venue's point of view. When you're trying to book your band out of town, ask yourself this very very very very very very (x100) important question: 
Musicians hate that money actually comes into the equation.  In major markets, there are venues that make unproven bands buy 'x' amount of tickets to get a show. The band in turn then sells the tickets to their friends, family, whoever. The Milwaukee Metal Fest survived for years doing this. The response is: "Pay to play sucks, dude. It's bullshit." What no one seems to realize is that live music is always a pay to play proposition. It's just that it’s the venue that has to pay. A mid-size music-only venue in Memphis usually has a nut of about $3K to $5K to cover monthly. I will not list the expenses here but the fact that it's a long list should prove my point. Almost all of the venues in Memphis that I know of don't take anything out of the door for the venue itself except to pay the door guy and sound guy and maybe security if necessary, so that leaves the bar to cover that monthly nut. Risky business, eh?
Truth be told...if your band isn't on a record label, the best way you're going to get a gig out of town is to trade shows with some band in whatever city you're looking to play. MySpace is perfect for this. However, make sure that the out of town band you're trying to contact sets up said show for you. Odds are that band already knows people at the venue and has already played there a few times. 
Here's some perspective. The following bands have drawn right at or less than 100 people in Memphis: 
Queens Of The Stone Age (this was after their 2nd major label release with massive radio airplay complete with commercial spots that we bought. The station gave away 20 tickets....3 of the 20 showed up.) 
Morbid Angel 
Jeff Buckley 
Culture On The Skids 
There are a ton more, but you get the idea. Why do you think, if these bands can't even break 100 people, you can make it worth the venues time to book you?'
That email is an eye-opener.  If you’re a band with original material, heed what it says and you’ll find you’ll get a lot more gigs.  If you’re a cover band, many of the same things apply but remember the big one - bring some people so the club can make money."

The email goes on for quite a bit longer and has lots of great information. There's actually an additional excerpt today over on my Big Picture music production blog today.

If you want to read more excerpts from How To Make Your Band Sound Great and other books, check out the excerpts page at bobbyowsinski.com.

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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I couldn't have said it better myself! Well, maybe I could have, but that's beside the point. I advise bands all the time on this very thing - so many are going to venues asking to get booked with nothing to show the venue about their likely draw, what kinds of promotion they're doing, etc. and expecting the venue to book them on nothing more than some info about the band.

My advice is to lay out your plan to make the venue money in a PDF or other document, include your live show history (what shows you've played, how many people showed up, what the band and venue made, etc - especially if they're good numbers) and what you plan to do for promotion. This makes it MUCH easier on the booker to evaluate your potential and decide whether your band is right for them.

Keep in mind booking agents at venues get TONS of emails and phone calls from bands wanting to play - you need to stand out and have your act together. Make it easy for the booker to understand your plan -don't fake the numbers - they'll find out and probably blacklist you for it. If you're easy to work with, professional, timely and make every effort to fill the venue, the booking agent is going to be happy. And we all like happy booking agents, especially when they invite you back to open for that big name band when the other opener flakes.


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