I’ve been asked a lot lately about booking shows. What places will book shows? What venue is right for me or my band? How do you contact them? Where do I start?
These are some very important questions for bands and musicians who are just starting out and who are looking to play live shows. There are a few ways to get started and quite a few resources to help.
First things first, most cities have a show schedule listed in a local paper or magazine. These listings should tell you 1) which venues book live music on a regular basis, and 2) what bands and musicians are playing out on a regular basis. Do some research on both of these things. If you’re a singer/songwriter, go to some shows at smaller venues that feature other local singer/songwriters. If you’re in a band, go to shows featuring other local bands.
This will hep you decide which venue is best for you and what other bands or musicians that you might be able to play with when you do start playing shows.
Make a list of all of the venues that fit your sound and draw. Call or go in person and ask who books the shows and when they are usually there. Add the contact name to your list. Call or go in and talk to that person about setting up a show there. Take a CD of your music so that they can hear it. Often, you will leave your CD and follow up after they’ve had a chance to listen to it.
If you leave your CD with the contact, let them know that you’ll follow up in a week or so to discuss setting up a show with their venue. FOLLOW UP! So many opportunities can be missed if you don’t follow up. After a week or so, call or go back in to talk to the person about setting up a show. Hopefully, they like your music and agree that you’d be a good fit performing at their venue. Set a date. Make sure you promote your show and get as many people there as possible to show the venue that you’re serious about what you do. If it goes well enough, you’ll be asked to come back to perform.
Another way to go about booking shows is to contact local bands and musicians who have a similar sound and ask to open for them. There’s lots of negotiating that you can do from handling promotion (posters, flyers, event pages, etc.) to taking a smaller cut to offering to set up another show with them in the future. However you do it, networking with other local musicians is a very important part of your music career and something that you must do a lot.
Another idea is to approach non-typical venue type places with show ideas. This could be a local gift shop, restaurant, book store, grocery store, etc. But keep in mind, when you pitch your show idea to these places, you should focus more on the benefit that they will receive from letting you perform there. Since these places won’t typically have live music, they will have to see some benefit for it.
You’ll have to come up with some benefits to offer them such as, you’ll be able to draw a large crowd who might not normally go into this store, or offer discounts on your merch (if you have any) if people purchase from the store, or agree to hand out their business cards, brochures, etc. at your shows for the next month or so. Whatever you come up with, make sure that it’s a good deal for them.
At this point, you should try to get some press for your non-typical show. But more, on that still to come.
The main points here are to use your local resources (local publication and local musicians and bands) to begin and continue booking shows and to network with local venues and bands to expand your local network of music contacts.
Now start booking some shows!