For you, friend: here are my hairbrained ideas about booking. I wouldn’t give you anything that hadn’t worked for me. I’ve booked shows for my duo Willa Mamet + Paul Miller and myself for the better part of a decade. So far no one has thrown up on me or slammed a door in my face. Starting in the years that this was my “part time” thing, I played about forty shows a year - and it’s grown like wildflowers since then. So I feel pretty confident that these ideas might just work for you, too. As always, send me your feedback, tell me what’s working, and let’s share the tools so more and more music can be made and heard and shared and enjoyed.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN, MAKE SURE YOU’VE GOT
A clean, clear web presence, whatever that is.
FB works, just make sure it’s FULL of the info and content someone booking you needs.
It’s easy to make a website on sites like Squarespace and Wix. Even a simple one helps.
Videos of you playing. (Make sure these include at least some of what you’ll sound like at whatever venues you’re actually trying to book. IE: if you’re booking acoustic shows, have some acoustic videos.)
Cull other videos of you from the web for another playlist.
Good photos. (We see your eyes, get a sense of you, and see at least one of you performing.)
Updated info across all of your sites. (Contact info, upcoming gigs, recent photo…)
GET OUT THE MAP
Where do you want to play?
Start local and/or where you’ve got people.
Stick with the intersection of joyful and reasonable. (Don’t START with your a 3,000-seater if you can’t reasonably fill that, but don’t play in bars if you hate bars. Got it?)
Imagine booking four months out, at least.
AlsoBut: don’t be afraid to just ask. If a date is open on their calendar, you never know. Sending the email gets you in their eyes and ears.
I asked singer and songwriter, Terry Klein, and here’s what he had to say about booking: “Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Book rooms you can fill. Real venues want you to succeed; crappy venues don’t give a crap.” So there’s that.
WRITE YOUR STANDARD EMAIL (or ONLINE FORM)
Introduction, pleasantries, why you like the venue, why you and it are a good fit.
Short Blurb: Description of your music/act: Instruments, genre(s), originals/covers, well-fitting adjectives where applicable
Local press contacts
Thanks, I’ll circle back ______
Love, Me (and/or: on behalf of my band)
Official website (this may be your facebook site, esp. if you’re just starting)
Watch: (Youtube, FB videos, etc.)
Listen: Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Reverbnation…
Any other social media links
Long(er, but still short) bio/blub
Shorter = better
Send what they want and not what they don’t.
Make sure YOU are what they want, or you’re wasting everyone’s time.
Look at their website for genre, type of act, and what info they ask for.
IE: don’t send CDs if they don’t want them, do send CDs if they do want them.
How do you decide whom to send it to?
Check their website for booking contact. They may/not be explicit about this.
Call and ask!
Triangulate, if necessary.
Don’t write to people who’ve said they don’t want correspondence.
If you’re looking to be a co-bill: write to the artist, if possible, or their management
Same for opener, though probably more their management
F.O.L.L.O.W. U.P. (Say when you’ll follow up and then DO. Spreadsheets and reminders help you do this consistently and well.)
Do not be discouraged. It has taken me upwards of three years to get to particular gigs.
This is where the spreadsheets come in…..
SPREADSHEETS I use googlesheets and I organize mine by state, but you could organize by time of year, or when you played there, or who referred you, or….
VENUE - Contact - Email - Phone - Date Contacted - Response/Request - When to circle back
Address - CD sent? - Previous Gigs (with attendant info about $$, tix sales) - Notes
See sample sheet, below.
Same info, really. You can organize by radio/print, or radio+print.
When contacting press, be sure to invite them to your nearest gig.
If you’re asking them to help promote a gig, offer them a comp (if you can) to that show.
If you send CDs, make sure to include a copy of the email you sent them, as a reminder, as well as a flyer or poster if there is a particular gig. (Don’t expect them to keep track of you; help them remember.)
COPY THESE TOURS: I look at other musician’s mailings regularly. They have so much to teach...
What do they do well?
What do you like about their press? Design? Wording? Layout?
Where are they playing?
Will they need an opener/cobill? Should that be you?
Keep a file and go back to it in your scheduled time (See Scheduling Timing).
Add venue info to your spreadsheets (See Spreadsheets).
Delete the email once you’ve harvested from it.
Contact the venue and the artist (or her people) with your Standard Email.
Emphasize the press you can do and your local draw. (You’re willing to ADD to this show by pulling your weight and bringing your fans.)
Say when you’ll circle back and then do that.
Get referred. Do you know folks who know this act? If there is a courteous way to get yourself a good reference, or, better yet, introduced properly, go for it. Don’t be a weirdo, just be a community member.
IN YOUR SITES Great places to list your shows and to get ideas for further booking.
Local calendars (city, state, community groups - IE LGBTQI Wisconsin)
Amateur Music Network
Your heroes’ websites.
Your musician friends’ websites
_________ (What do YOU use? List it in the comments!)
ASK YOUR FRIENDS: “Hey Buddy, where do you love playing? Would that be a good fit for me, too? Whom should I talk to? Would you please introduce me? Oh, you just played in Antarctica? I’ve been dying to play there….” Capiche?
Decide however you work best in time (long chunks, short spurts, whatever).
PUT THE TIME IN YOUR CALENDAR → be honest with yourself and work hard.
See if you can get with it enough to enjoy it. This is a part of being a musician. Resistance will cause drag, so what can you do to drop the resistance and proceed? Bon bons? A carrot at the end of the day? Take yourself on a beautiful walk? Plan for this, take care of yourself, deep breath, smile, carry on.
My dad (a lifelong, working artist) once told me that at age twenty-two or so he promised himself he’d do one thing every day to further his career. You can do that, too.
Ask around. Ask your people. Ask the people whom you hope become your people. Ask your heroes. Be bold. Be brave. Be dogged. Be polite. Be gracious. Don’t be an ass and don’t stay too long at the party. Better to pop up twice than never have left. And as my Omi told me in every conversation we ever had, “Never, ever give up.”