5 Ways To Impress Venue Bookers & Get More Gigs
Getting shows is not always easy. But there are great ways to open the doors to future gigs and impress booking agents that you work with. At the end of this article is an example of an actual e-mail conversation I had with a promoter and his response about my band’s professional.
1. Think 3-4 months in advance
Many venues are booked at least 3 months in advance. The more popular a venue, the further in advance you should contact them. This is especially true if you’re looking to book a tour or if you are looking to play on a Friday or Saturday night. Be sure to contact the booker at least 3-4 months in advance. Most places will not give you a Friday or Saturday night right off the bat until you prove you can bring people in on a Monday night.
Work with your promoters. If you get a Monday night gig, try to push for an earlier slot and get as many people out as possible. Offering free beer always helps. They want you to prove that you have a following before they give you a prime time slot.
2. Be patient
Bookers are very busy people, so be patient. If you didn’t get a response right away, it doesn’t mean that they’re not interested in booking you. Chances are they just haven’t had time to evaluate your music yet. Follow-up 6-8 weeks after your initial contact to see if your e-mail/message has been received. Make sure you are polite. Whatever you do, don’t try to rush them or sound annoyed that they haven’t gotten back to you. Be persistent, but always be polite.
3. Be honest
DO NOT lie about your draw. You’re better off being honest with a booker about what your draw really is rather than stretching the truth and disappointing them. If you tell a booker that you can pack the place and only your mom shows up, chances are you won’t be booked at that venue again. Also, chances are that they will tell other promoters about you.
If you were honest about what your draw realistically is and you surpass it, then the booker will no doubt want to book you again. I once had a promoter ask me to fill in for a last minute show saying he needed 20 people to show up for a Friday night (it was Wed.) I replied back saying I did not think that I would be able to get 20 people out, but that I would try my best to get as many people out as I could.
He still booked me for the shows, we got 18 people out for a very last minute show that night and the venue immediately booked us for another show there. When we had more time to promote, we did end up packing the place for them and again, they were happy.
No matter what venue you’re playing at, whether it’s a high-end club or a seedy bar, treat the staff like they are your best friends. Some of the best ways to show respect to the staff:
Show up on time: If soundcheck is at 6:00pm, show up early, and never show up late.
Leave on time: Don’t make the staff stay longer than they normally would because you want to take your time having one last drink. Finish it up and get out of there on time.
Start on time: Even if there is nobody in the crowd, start playing on time like the room is packed.
Tip bar staff: Even on free drinks, and especially if it’s a slow night, be sure to tip the bar staff. The gesture will not go unnoticed.
Thank staff: Every chance you get, thank the staff and especially while on stage, which is always appreciated.
Be extra nice to the sound tech: They can be your hero or your worst enemy that night, depending if you treat them with respect or not. You can also tip your sound guy. Sometimes, when venues need last minute fill-ins they will ask the staff if they know anyone. A sound guy is more likely to recommend you if they know you might slip them some cash at the end of the night.
5. Be thankful
Sending a nice thank you note to the booker the day after the show is always a nice gesture. There is so much competition out there, be sure to let the booker know that you’re thankful for the opportunity to play their venue. This will go a long way to building a long-term relationship with them that will help get you many more gigs in the future.
Below is an e-mail conversation I actually had with a promoter:
My response to his initial e-mail about the date and show times, etc:
Thanks for the information. Sounds like a well organized event. I have forwarded this to my bandmates and sent them all text messages to check it out so hopefully I will have an answer for you today. Just waiting to hear back from my drummer but so far, it’s a yes.
I think those are very reasonable times for a Monday night. It’s tough getting people to come out at 11pm on a Monday.
I feel we can make this very successful. With all the snow, I’ve been tentative to book shows this Winter season. So having a show at the end of the season would mean we could really promote it and get people out. I’m also planning our tour for April-May so we could totally kick it off at Church. I’ll see what I can do in terms of College radio promotion and interviews. I have good relationships with DJs at Tufts radio and Simmons.
If there is anything we can do to help you promote the show and make it better, let us know. My bassist is pretty good at making flyers and posters. If you need me to stuff the Boston Pheonix, I’m all for it.
Thanks again and I look forward to working with you and your band.
The Promoters Response:
Thanks for such a well crafted, thoughtful reply. I get many submissions in response to my postings, but you (and your band) made an impression. Obviously you are an abundantly talented singer and songwriter, but you convey a sense of professionalism that is not always so apparent with some bands.
I also admire your discretion in booking. I do not subscribe to a “play every show you can find mentality. After performing for so many years, I have often found it more important to choose a quality performance op. vs say playing to an empty room a 12:15 am on a Tuesday night for the sake of a booking. Once you establish yourself and achieve a measure of brand identity, discretion should be used in selecting shows.
Certainly anything you can do in terms of marketing this show is always welcome. I always encourage each performer to promote each show like it is an A&R/Industry showcase, and put their full efforts into shameless self promotion! Circa1920 has a vested interest in the success of each event, but for very similar reasons.
My company is a very grass roots continuum of my experiences managing and promoting my own bands over the years. I operate the company with my wife, who is an Artist, and we do so less to turn a profit, rather perpetuating the Music and Art scenes that have always been our passions, and have some measure of control over the details over a given event. I am very open to a collaborative effort to produce, promote, market and perform. The collective efforts of many can accomplish great things, and in this age in the music industry we need to work harder.
I love the idea of kicking off your tour there. We could throw a “going away party” of sorts maybe?? Perhaps we can get Performer mag in there for a live review. Thinking perhaps we could do a web/pod cast. Perhaps show some Art and offer entertainment between sets (Dj’s Performance Artists, ect.) Any thoughts you have are welcome. Feel free to call if you like. Lets throw one hell of a show!!