Archive for the ‘Finding/Getting Bookings’ category

How Do You Know if a Show Will Be Worth It?

October 11, 2010

So you’ve been asked to do a few shows but you don’t which ones you should take. I think we’ve all run into this. DON’T take every gig because some really aren’t worth it and who has time to waste. Choose wisely. Weigh you options and base your show on how it will further you in your goals. Here are a few questions to ask yourself…

How far is it and will they be paying you?
If you have to drive a distance and you’re not sure if you’ll even be able to cover your gas, you should think twice about playing this show. Sometimes a show isnt worth your time+gas+tolls. Guestimate what those three will be and weigh it with the financial+fan+experiential return of the show.

Is it an easy show?
I really love those occasional “golden” shows where I don’t have to work for an audience because I can count on a built-in crowd. Sometimes you just need an “easy” show so you can take a break from the constant hustle.  Gigs like this are often worth it even if the monetary take home isn’t all that great.

What Kind of Experience Will You Have?
It’s often hard to gauge this. An experience can depend on a number of things – other artists on the bill, the space, and who decides to come. Don’t always equate experience with turnout. Some of my best shows personally have been for groups of 10 or 20.

Does this show have potential?
Potential to put you in front of a brand new fanbase? Potential to expose you to “important” decision makers. Potential to open new opportunities for you? Maybe the show will serve as a resume builder instead of a great paying opportunity. Shows like this are great.

Do You Want to Do it?
It’s a simple question that I sometimes forget to ask myself. Remember, if the emails are landing in your inbox, you have the power to decide if you want to play it or not. Don’t find yourself at a gig you don’t care for.  If you don’t care about it, you shouldn’t play it. That’s no fun for anyone.


Should I Avoid Shows that Require me to sell Advance Tickets?

September 29, 2010

THE ARTIST: Ben Rothermel (Lancaster, PA)
THE QUESTION: I recently played a show where the booking agent asked me to sell X amount of tickets. The amount was high on my fan draw but doable if I got almost every single fan to buy a ticket. I had an entire month to plan and promote for the show and started heavily doing so 2+ weeks out. I hung up posters with my info attached, created a facebook event and shared it daily in my newsfeed, and talked to everyone I knew in a friendly attempt to sell tickets to them. In the end though, I was left walking into the club with barely 1/3 of my quota filled. It was very embarrassing to hand them over to the booking agent and I’m quite sure we won’t be doing business together for some time.

Now, I did everything that I’ve learned works and still came out losing in this game of selling tickets. Do you have any insight into my situation? Should I avoid shows that require me to sell a minimum amount of tickets so as to avoid possible letdown? What has your experience with ticketed shows taught you?

THE ANSWER: Hey Ben, I think many people reading this can identify with your scenario and have probably found themselves in the same situation (myself included).   I’ve had a number of experiences with this and they’ve all been negative.  Here are my thoughts.

1. Don’t do it!
Just an opinione but  it seems like venues use musicians to make money off ticket sales…and the musician leaves with nothing. In most cases the number of tickets you sell isn’t fair for the amount of stage time you’ll be given. Personally i have a really really hard time selling tickets and if a venue asks me to sell them, I pass on the show. It’s never worth my time and all the hustling. In most cases, if a venue asks you to sell tickets, you only get to keep a small percentage of the sale. So lets say tix are $10 and you get $2 from every sale. Even if you sell 20 (and that’s alot), you’ve only made $40. That’s SHADY!

2. But if you do…
Realize that its a twisted trade-off. Musicians need venues just as much as they need musicians. And venues need to make their money too. It’s a business. Just read An Interview with Joe Squared – Things Every Venue Wishes You Knew. If you want to play at a venue but need to sell tickets, make sure the show is something you would regret missing out on. In other words, if you’ll hate yourself for passing up on the show, then do what you need to do to make it happen. Maybe you have a chance to open for a nationally touring artist you’ve always admired. That’s an good example of a show worth hustling for.

3. Ask Yourself these questions… (because they will affect ticket sales)

  • How close is this venue to the majority of my fanbase?
  • What day of the week does this event fall on?
  • Is this the type of venue/event my fans would come to?
  • How long is my set? Am I asking people to spend $10 on a ticket if I’m only playing for 15 minutes?

4. Also remember…

  • Venues are sometimes hesitant to give new artists a chance. If they don’t know your draw potential and you promise them 20 people, selling advance tickets is the best way for them to hold you to your word. If you honestly can’t bring out 20 people or 10 or 5 (or whatever their standard is), then be honest with them and wait till you can.
  • Give yourself enough time to sell tickets and hype the show. Sometimes people need to let an idea sink in before they buy into it. Ben, it sounds like you did this.
  • Try not to do ticketed shows too regularly.  The constant promoting will wear you down…and everybody else for that matter. Space out major shows by a few months

I’m interested in knowing what other Grassrootsy readers have to say about this topic. Leave your comments below.

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Do You Have Any Tips on Successfully Booking Shows?

August 23, 2010

Via Linota

THE ARTIST: Via Linota Lancaster, PA
THE QUESTION: My  CD release party is coming up and I’m going to need to start playing as many shows as possible to get the word out. I noticed you are booking a lot of stuff. Just thought I might write and ask if you had any suggestions for being successful on booking shows. If you have a minute to give me a few tips i would really appreciate it.

THE ANSWER: Congrats on the new CD! That question has so many answers.  I highly recommend checking out this former post: 5 Tips for a Booking a Successful Show. But here are some newer thoughts on that matter that are maybe a little easier to digest.

1. Get other artists opinions on a venue before booking to see if it will be a good fit for you.

2. Decide what type of environment your music best fits. Are you cool with being background music (i.e. a bar)? Or do you want to play for listening audiences (i.e. listening rooms)?  Or both? I’ve personally decided that I don’t want to do background music shows anymore. They’re a waste of my time and they don’t help me build my fanbase b/c no one is listening. Just a thought. However, background music-type shows often pay the bills…so i wouldn’t write them off.

3. Always have an email sign-up sheet at EVERY show. Pass it around and get new subscribers as often as possible. This will give you the opp to stay connected with the people who like your music. If you’ve missed the opportunity to connect with them, you’ve lost a potentially long-term fan. See Mailing Lists & Social Networking.

4. Read your local city paper and find out what events are taking place. See if they need local music. You’ll be surprised at what you find out by reading the local paper, visit other musicians websites, and subscribing to community calendars. See Stay Informed: Read, Watch, Listen, Go.

5. Play at local farmers market, gallery opening and anything that could benefit from music. Even if it’s not their original game plan to have music, ask them if they’d be open to the idea. Never underestimate the power of suggestion.

6. House shows are great…espec since Fall is around the corner. See House Shows – Small Crowd, Big Return.

This website also has tons of other posts on everything from booking tours to deciding what type of venues are best for you. Ch-ch-check it out 🙂

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Who Do You Need the Most: Publicist, Booking Agent, Manager?

July 5, 2010

Ok, the reality is that most artist don’t have the funds to hire help…let alone provide for yourself. At the same time, maybe if you had someone helping you, it would kick things up a notch and be a win-win situation for all.  So lets, break it down and figure out who you would benefit from if you did have the funds.

Publicists create demand. They create publicity.  In very plain english, they make you “public”.  So lets say you have little or no fanbase…or maybe you need help breaking into a new market. This is who you need. Before you can start making moves, you need to create demand. Make sure you and your music are seen as a valuable asset to an event, an establishment, a venue.

Publicists also receive media inquires…if a magazine wants to interview you or website asks to review your CD.

Booking Agent
A booking agent will come in handy at the very early stages of your career or at the much later stages. I would argue that you should book your own shows for as long as you can. Become familiar with your city and metro area, decide what type of venues best fit your personality and music, take it upon yourself to learn your music scene.

If you’d rather have someone book shows for you, you might want to give them a percentage of your incoming instead of a fixed amount. It guarantees that you always leave with something. And it will drive your agent to book quality shows for you instead of just anything. If you’d like to wait till later, booking agents really do come handy when you’ve built a name, begin touring, and need help finding the best venues in other cities.

Remember, a good booking agent can have connections with some of the best venues in any given city, but if there’s no demand (publicist), it won’t do you any good.

This person is an extension of you. They hold your name/image/presence in the palm of their hands. They represent you in every way. They can handle all incoming music-related emails, handle your gig fee, order T-shirts for your band, website maintenance, and do all the things you hate to do. A manager can take care of every last detail to the point where you just show up and play the gig (though I don’t recommend this). A manager can take care of the above responsibilities – booking and publicity.

Honestly, if you can’t afford to bring someone on, do your best to be all three.
If you’re in a band, assign a responsibility to each band member. Booking might require two band members. If you’re solo, then come up with some routine that helps you keep it all in order (i know that’s hard).

Remember that you have as much control as you want.  You can hire a manager, publicist, or booking agent, but you can also determine how much control they have. After all, they’re being contracted by YOU.

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Coffeeshop or Club? Pros and Cons of “Nightlife” Booking

June 7, 2010

Do you prefer to play clubs, lounges, official music venues? Here are some thoughts on the pros and cons of booking these types of venues (vs. coffeeshops and non-traditional spaces). If you are a new aspiring musician, you might pick up a few things below and make an informed decision on the the type of avenue you intend to pursue.

Read, and let me know if you agree or don’t agree with the following. Post your additional pros/cons. I’ll also be doing some followup posts on how to make the most of a show depending on the venue you choose.

PRO:  Quality sound.
There’s nothing worse than playing a venue with a crappy sound system. You won’t have to worry about this in clubs and most official spots. And as you know, good sound makes all the difference.  In many other spaces, chances are you’ll have to provide the sound and someone to run it…which actually isn’t a bad thing, if you know what to do.

PRO: A familiar name
When you hear the name “World Cafe”, most East Coast Musicians know that this is Philly’s most prestigious venue. To say you’re playing at World Cafe carries alot of weight.  You’ll probably even get more people out to your show because it’s a fimiliar venue, people know where it is, and you don’t have to sell the idea of having them come hear you in a venue they’ve never heard of.

PRO: No surprises
Its fairly easy to find a cities established venues and to know what to expect. But its  much harder to come across the best coffeeshops and alternative spaces in town.. And not just any coffeeshop/spaces, but ones that have the appropriate space/vibe for live music.

CON: Rules
You’re limited. Clubs have rules for everything – door policies, ticket sales,  drink minimums, and sometimes who you can spit a bill with. These things ultimately make a gig less fun for everyone involved. Chances are, if you had your own rules, you’d have an easier time playing by them. And this is exactly the reason why low maintenance venues are often the place to pitch your tent.

CON: Little Return for Lotta Work
Have you ever spent weeks promoting a show, packed out a house, and left the venue wondering why you only made $40? Venues aren’t trying to take advantage of you. Or are they? It sure feels like it.  Well they need to make money. But at the same time it seems like you did all the work. Ya, the venue might have a good name, and might be a great addition to your resume, but do you feel a bit cheated? Figure it out for yourself. Most artists go into a gig knowing they won’t make money. And sometimes (as stated above), simply having a great show, with a packed house and good sound, is better than making a profit. Read more:
An Interview with Joe Squared – Things Every Venue Wishes You Knew

CON: Harder to Book
You can spend weeks  booking and waiting for clubs to get back to you but coffeeshops are easy, accessible and usually much more laid back in their booking process. Not to mention that a coffeehouse will give you more control over the gig itself.

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5 Tips for a Booking a Successful Show

May 17, 2010

I’m knee deep in booking shows, and here are some more things I’m learning along the way about booking. If you’ve recently learned a thing or two, put it in the comments section.

1. Call Ahead
If you are  unsure about the venue you’re about to book, call the venue (as if you are a patron) and ask about the space. If storytelling is a big part of your set, ask them if the venue turns into a listening room at night or if live music takes more of an “elevator music” role and hides in the background. If you’re a cover band, you likely won’t have an attentive audience.  Make sure the space is that kind of space

2. Know the Room You’re Playing in
My personal pet-peeve when it comes to booking is not being able to find a full room image of a venue on its website. Before you book a space, make sure you can fill it. Something I do to get a feel for a space is look for YouTube videos of other artists playing in that space.

3. Make Sure the Venue Knows What You Do
Lets say the music on your website features a band, but you travel solo. Make sure the venue knows this.  It might determine
if they book you, what night they book, and in which space they book you (if they have multiple spaces).  Expectations that aren’t meant can often end in bad relationships.

4. Be Aware of Other Artists Who Have Played There
If you’re a jazz artist, don’t play a venue that primarily books garage rock bands. It won’t appeal to the venue’s built-in crowd, and the venues reputation will affect your fanbase’s decision to attend.

5. Don’t be Careless in the Booking Process
If you don’t hash out details with the venue ahead of time, it could really hurt you. Don’t forget to discuss:

  • payment: Can you charge a cover?  If not, do they give artists a percentage of sales? If not, can you put out a tip jar, “pass the hat”, and sell merch?
  • sound: Should you bring sound? Is there a backline? Are they prepared for a band or just solo acts. If it’s a chill atmosphere, your drummer might only be allowed to uses brushes instead of sticks.Stuff like that.
  • location: Is this venue in a central spot. That will make all the difference in determining how heavily you need to promote.
  • set: How long are you expected to play? Do you need to have another artists on the bill? Many venues like having at least two artist for the sake of variety and a crowd composed of each performers’ fanbase.

Check out “The Best Way to Book a Tour”  for more. If you have additional tips, put them in the comments.

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The Best Way to Book a Tour

May 10, 2010

Booking is hard. Here are some valuable tips on how to hopefully make things a bit less stressful. If you have other tips, post them in the comments section.

1. Start with the Weekend
Where do you want to spend your weekend? Book your Friday and Saturday gigs first? Its likely that these will be your money-making gigs since you’ll probably get more folks out. Book the weekend gigs in cities with your biggest following.

2. Have One Anchor Gig
This is the gig that pays the bills and funds your trip. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a weekend gig. Maybe a college is bringing you in to do something on a Wednesday night. Or maybe you’re doing a wedding in one of the cities and they are paying you upfront. Knowing you have some financial backing will give you confidence to book other gigs even if there is no guarantee in how much you’ll make at the others.

3. Fill in the blanks
After you’ve booked your weekend gigs and your anchor gig, focus on your weeknights.  Thursday nights are probably the next most important day for a musician. There’s alot happening on Thursdays- not as busy as a Friday or Saturday, but usually busier than other weeknights.

4. Save the Big Venues for an Off-night
Getting into a  major venue like Philly’s World Cafe, can be hard…especially on a Friday or Saturday.  Shoot for a weeknight.  You’ll have a better chance…especially if you contact them with advance notice.  BUT, if you can land a major venue on a weekend, then go for it!

5. Sunday House Show
House Shows are laid back and perfect for a Sunday evening (or afternoon) potluck. It’s the perfect type of show when you can’t seem to fill in that last date. Sunday’s (and weekends in general) are especially good for this.  But it doesn’t have to be. See: House Shows – Small Crowd, Big Return

6. Be part of something that already exists
Maybe you’ve missed the boat. Your trip is 6 weeks away and you only have 2 gigs booked on your 5-day tour.  Look into local happenings. Maybe there’s a community day you can be a part off. There’s less stress of trying to create a gig from scratch, and you don’t have to promote. See: Why Won’t People Come to My Shows?

7. Check the venues online calendar before emailing them about a date that could already be taken
Don’t go asking a venue if you can play on June 5th if June 5th is already booked with two other bands. That shows them you didn’t care enough to stop by their website. It also means you haven’t read their booking policy or any other need-to-know facts.

8. Don’t be afriad to do an Open Mic
For some reason, it always seems like Tuesday’s are the night when nothing is going on. Not as many venues booking shows. Not as many events going on in a city.  How about doing an Open Mic? Contact the host and ask if they have featured performers. You’ll find that some open mics give guest artists a longer set.

Also check out

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