If you’re reading this then I probably don’t need to give you a pre-amble about the importance of live music and why you – as a musician – should include it in your global domination plans. So I won’t.
What I will say is that not everyone knows how to go about getting good shows. So to help you out, I’ve put together a few pointers that should help you get better gig offers and more of them. In the last few years I’ve put on over 400 artists, so I’ve seen many good and bad examples of bands trying to get shows. For this article I’ve tried to think why I booked some acts, why I didn’t book others and what I look for when I’m giving out slots for bigger shows.
A lot of these tips are quite obvious, but even more experienced small bands are still making simple mistakes. Most of it boils down to manners, common sense and effort. But even if you’re not lacking in any of these three traits then you may still find something useful here. Read on:
Make Your Music Easy To Find & Hear
While you don’t have to make all your music free, it helps to have at least a couple of tracks up on streaming sites. If I don’t know what you sound like I won’t book you, simple as that. If you’re sending an email, you should have a link in there which gives me access to your music in two clicks MAXIMUM. One to take me to the page and one to press play, here’s an example. Services such as Soundcloud and Bandcamp are easy to set up and simple to use for both artist, fans and potential promoters. You don’t have to put whole albums out there, but three or four tracks will help the promoter judge what you’re like and whether you’re right for the show.
Be Easy To Contact
Most of my bookings are done by email, especially the first one. Until you’re playing Brixton Academy on a regular basis there is no excuse not to have your bookings email easily available to the public. Have it on your Facebook page, have it in your Twitter bio and any other hub that you might have. Again, the easier it is for someone to get in contact the more likely it is that they will.
Have At Least One Good Video
A good video is a helpful tool for both you and the promoter. Many upcoming artists don’t spend any time or money on videos and it often shows. If you’re broke and don’t know what you’re doing then write to local film/media schools or universities. Their students often have to make music videos as part of their course and you could help each other out here. While the video doesn’t have to be professional quality (although it helps), it has to be good enough so that the promoter feels comfortable including it in any promotional material.
Keep Your Social Media Active
There are so many benefits to this, I could do another whole article on Social Media (in fact, I already have). If a promoter goes to your page and sees no recent updates then they may just assume that you’re not interested, committed or even active. A few months back I had a very good last minute slot going for one of my larger shows after an artist had to pull out and go to hospital. One of the bands I had thought of contacting about the slot got passed over, largely because their on-line pages had shown no signs of activity in the last 4 months. They lost out to an equally good band who keep a good continuous on-line presence. Now I know some musicians who would be upset by this and may say they weren’t being judged on musical merit, which is a fair comment. But if they had shown no signs of life on-line, how do I know they will reply in time?
Also, when a promoter books a band they want to know that the band will care about the show and at the very minimum put out a few tweets/posts about it to help get some of their fans to come along. It also encourages a bit of interaction with the fans, which shows the promoters that there is an audience for your music already.
By keeping it active you are more likely to have more fans. While this isn’t the be-all and end-all for getting a show, if you’ve got a healthy number of people following/liking you then it certainly makes you a more attractive prospect. That’s a no-brainer.
Get A Bit Of Press
One of the things that a promoter likes having is a hook to give the audience. Something that will make them realise that this act is one worth seeing. If you’ve got a decent little collection of press clippings, features or respectable quotes about you then you can offer the promoter a little something to help market the show with. It also reassures them that you are worth listening to and considering for a slot. I have already covered how to get your music onto radio, once you’ve achieved that make a note of what the DJ said and it can be used as a quote.
Have A Marketing Kit
To promote a show well, a promoter needs a number of things from a band. To make their job easier, put it all in one place. It can be in a private place on your site, in a ZIP file to email or anywhere else that easily be sent to a promoter/venue. This should include some or all of the following: a selection of high quality images in a variety of formats, some banners, poster drafts, all necessary contact details, a bio, some good quotes, tech specs, preferred stage layouts, some videos, your social media links and maybe an MP3 or two. *Deep breath* It’s a lot, but having it all in one place saves both you and the promoter a lot of time. They will appreciate this, it will help the show run smoothly and will encourage them to work with you again in the future.
Be Flexible With Your Needs
After you’ve reached a certain point you can pick and choose your gigs. But until you’ve reached that I always encourage artists to try and be flexible with what shows they play. Never let yourself get totally ripped off, but sometimes accept that you may have to play some free or low-paid show in order to build up a following in an area. Don’t do it too much or people will take advantage of you, but it can be worth it to get yourself on the map. At the acoustic night I used to run we had a very small budget and usually only paid the headline act. The support artists only got a couple of drinks, but if they were good enough I would often bump them up to being a paid headliner another time & recommend them to other venues/promoters in the area.
Want to know if you would suit a night or a venue? Wild thought, go there if you can! When you are there, ask the staff who to talk to about playing there. Face to face communication can be very effective, it’s much more memorable than an email and far harder to ignore. On the other hand, you may find that what is on offer doesn’t suit you. If you can’t get there then I always recommend doing a quick bit of research before you get in contact.
Keep Your Pages Presentable
If I’m being honest, I have usually made up my mind on an artist within 30 seconds. That sounds shallow, but it may be a lot longer than some crowd members will give you. First impressions can be very powerful. If you have a good design on your website or your Facebook page has things laid out nicely (which isn’t hard) then you will pick up a few good first impression points before your music has even started playing. If you look like a professional band then you are more likely to be treated like one.
This is a word that gets thrown around a lot, with good reason. Your contact book is a potential gold-mine, the more you expand it the more opportunities you can make. There’s an old saying of “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know…” Well, if you want to be an entertainer then why should meeting a few people be a problem? Speak to venues, promoters and other artists, then ask them to recommend others to you as well, then contact them too. It’s no good moaning that you have no contacts if you have never gone out and tried to find some. I wrote an article about this recently, it focusses on radio but a lot of the lessons can be transferred to music.
Let People Know You’re Looking For Gigs
Sounds simple, but it costs nothing to post up an occasional status/tweet saying that you’re looking for shows and asking your fans where they want to see you. Who knows where it might lead?
Add A Personal Touch
It’s good to have a pre-prepared paragraph (NO MORE) that quickly and effectively sells you when you first contact someone about a show. But make sure you top and tail it with a more unique message to show that you are actually interested in the specific show you are asking for. Personal touches can go a long way. Tell them you went to a previous show they ran, who recommended them, what you’re doing around that time or why you’d like the show. Anything to differentiate you from the many other artists who may have contacted them that day.
This should be obvious, it’s also easier to say than do. The reason that some artists get more gigs, better slots and more fans is simply because there is something special about them. Think what it is about you, why would someone book you over another similar artist? What do you have that they don’t? Remember, a promoter likes having someone/thing that makes their job easy. Case in point, I have put on the band Subsource a couple of times. They have a strong image, a relatively unique dub/metal sound and deliver an exciting live show. Promoting them is a dream as there’s so many things I can use to lure the audience away from other venues, clubs or the TV. In short, give people a reason to leave the house and come to your show instead of sitting around at home.
I hope this helps. As I said, most of these just boil down to being smart with what you’re doing and getting yourself organised. The easier you can make it for a promoter to do their job then the more likely they are to want you to play. Also, keep an eye on MusicBud as I’ll soon be writing an article telling you how to make the most out of the gigs when you get them.
Feel free to share any tips or thoughts in the comments section below.