How to Book Your Band
By Anonymous Venue Owner
So here’s my perspective on how you should go about breaking into a new venue, or booking your band/self in general. Being a fairly solid music venue, I get a decent amount of requests to play my venue.
Act like you want to be taken seriously. I love live bands, but I’m not in it for fun, that’s a perk. I’m in it for money. First impressions can’t be undone, so make it a good one, here’s a few of the things I’ve gotten through Facebook messaging…
“Yo. How can I play your bar?”
“Forget those same bands you use, book some young blood like us.”
“So-and-so said you’d book us”
Or just a simple link with no introduction at all!
I know it’s over a computer, but try to talk like there’s a live human on the other side. I don’t even answer these people, neither will most rational bar owners. And for the record, I feel that this is the best way to reach me. I probably won’t listen to your CD or look through your physical “press kit”. Facebook messaging is fine. Just know how to use it.
Do not send a novel worth of info about your band, nearly everything can be summed up in a short paragraph. Send me: Name of band, FB or website, number of members, home area, other venues you play, fee requirement, need sound or not, what type of music, 1-3 links of performances. That’s it. I’m not reading the autobiography on each band member, I don’t care. Most people don’t, that’s just your ego getting in the way. Either I think you’re a fit for my place or you are not. Open with a greeting and use words like “please” and “thank you”. It goes a long way being courteous. Words you should remove from your message: “Classic Rock”. Everyone plays classic rock by default, like 30 of you have the same script and just seem to change the band name. “Ultimate”. You’re not. If you are playing small bars for modest pay, chances are you are not the end all be all of tribute bands. “High Energy”. That should be a given.
Another reason I may ignore you is that you book out too much. While that may seem like a stupid thing to criticize, because obviously you want to be in front of as many bodies as possible, what I mean is you play the area too much. There’s a band that hits me up a few times a year to play my venue and I’ll never use them. It’s not talent related or money related, it’s because they play the same area over and over. Literally 4 to 5 places, same towns, within a 7 mile radius, almost monthly. “Missed them here, oh well, they are across town next week, then down the street in two weeks.” Playing anywhere and everywhere doesn’t necessarily mean you’re popular, it means you plan badly. Create a demand for your show. Things you give away all the time have no value.
Look the part. This falls under being taken seriously. In fact, have pro photos done at one of your gigs. Pay for photos at least ONE TIME. Cutting into the fee of ONE gig, for good photos and video to help get more gigs, wont’ kill you. It’s called investing in yourself. There are too many band photos that look like they were all sitting around drinking and someone said “hey we need a cover pic”, they grab their phone, and snap a shot in their grandmother’s living room, wearing whatever they went to work in. It looks unprofessional. If you only use a logo, have it done by someone that knows what they are doing.
Be flexible. If you want $400, ask for $500. It makes me think I won since I ‘talked you down’. And be reasonable. If a room is small and serves inexpensive beverages, it takes more to make money back than the 300 capacity venue with the $10 drinks. Know the room you are playing and be reasonable with your desired fee.
Advertise! Whatever you use to promote, nothing beats social media… it’s FREE! Better yet, throw $10 down on a Facebook “boost”. And, yes, I want posters in my venue, preferably above the urinal (the 2nd biggest advertising spot in the joint). When I have a show/event and I post it, I shouldn’t have to say “Everyone tagged (who are the band members) should be sharing this.” This drives me insane. I saw you post in the music group 3 times today, did you want to mention you have a gig in two days? This is an embarrassing amount of apathy, you have to promote nearly everyday the week before, people forget, trust me. It’s your show and you’d like to get booked again right?
You know the main thing that will make me book you? The crowd. So you need one! Guilt your family and co-workers to show up. I also see this way to much… “we’re playing tonight!”…and it is the first mention the band has done, posted at 7pm. It’s a no-no here and I guarantee you won’t be asked back.
Here are a few things to consider while AT the gig…
Get to your gig on time and set up in a timely fashion. Please do not take two hours with your gear spread out all over the back of the room. Load in, set up and get unnecessary obstructions out of the way. I need the space for my patrons. You’ll have plenty of time to socialize after you set up.
Play on time unless told to hold off. None of this “wait until its busier crap, bar’s half full”. I want people coming in to hear the band I hired. Play for that half that is there already.
This leads leads to…. have a setlist! You know what burns time and my patience after a great song? DEAD AIR. It’s rare to have the voice projection and personality to get people to pay attention to you between songs, few can get away with it. Too much ‘play a song, huddle up, argue, set up, from song to song’ bands out there. Be prepared. MAX, 10 seconds between songs. I don’t know if that’s difficult, it sounds like it is, but I’m not getting paid to play, you are.
Don’t take advantage of any drink I MAY offer you. In fact, don’t expect free booze at all. If the band DOES have a tab because I am feeling generous, do not slip a few drinks on there for your girlfriends, boyfriends and friends. I’ll know and I’ll feel taken advantage of. Better yet, don’t drink on my tab… get the crowd to buy you drinks. My job and YOUR job for the night is to sell alcohol. Guess what? If we kill it on the bar and people are happy, there’s a good chance you are coming back. For the 3 hours you are performing at my venue, you are working for the bar. Encourage the sale of alcohol, get your crowd to by a round for the band, promote who is going to be here tomorrow night (never, ever promote where you will be next unless it’s back here). And PLEASE take care of my bartenders. They are the ones who report back to me at the end of the night. In some cases they are the deciding factor as to whether I call you back or not.
It comes down to this… all I care about it making money. Can we be friends? I hope so. If you take care of me, I will take care of you. Bottom line. Let’s do something great TOGETHER.
Now, before I leave you let’s answer a few FAQ and address some common comments…
“Do you want to book our band?”
No… I have no idea who or what you are. You provided me no information regarding your band.
“What do you pay?”
What do you want? Know your worth and know the venue you are inquiring about.
“We have a strong local following!”
Explain “strong local following”. Chances are, if I don’t know you, the locals don’t.
“We do 2 45 min sets”
Not here… you play my hours.
“How do I get a gig there?”
Best answer? Get involved. Come by for lunch or a drink, attend other shows here. Get yourself known. The regulars are very good to the bands and musicians they know.
Follow all this advice and we’ll all get along just fine.