Posted tagged ‘venue’

Starting a Music Series

October 25, 2010

Have you ever wanted to start a music series – a Coffeehouse series up the street from your house, a regular singer-songwriter night residency with your favorite venue, or maybe a ticketed house show that’s known for quality music, good food and company? Fall is a really good time to do this. I recently had a friend email me for suggestions about starting a series and here are some things that came to mind…

It’s a good change of pace
Picking one thing and doing it well is a really great idea. Maybe the idea of booking X number of shows in X number of places exhausts you. If you think about it, doing one show at the same place is much easier and will definitely help you build a solid fanbase. It might limit you to a geographical area, but it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to focus on this approach and take the occasional show elsewhere whenever its offered.

Don’t do it too often
Once a month. If you want to do a show well, give yourself time to promote, host, rest, and then do it all over again. A monthly series will stick in people’s minds. Every 2 months is a bit too infrequent and every week will wear you out. Some things don’t take much preparation (i.e. weekly open mic…etc) but to do a show and really do it well, you need time, strategy, and rest so you don’t burnout. note: also remember that location has alot to do with how heavily you’ll have to promote. Maybe you could get away with a show ever two weeks if you’re at a central location with alot of walk-ins.

First time is a charm
Promote that first show like your life depends on it. Do it up so big and get the biggest turnout you can. If the first one is a success it will do all the work for all shows to follow. A good first show means people will come back. It means people will tell others. It means people will make Facebook comments about how much they enjoyed the first one and can’t wait for the next one.  I’m convinced that the key to the success of a music series is the very first installment and the maintenance of that vibe…which leads us to the next point.

Establish the vibe and stick with it
Pick a good name for the music series.  Make sure the space you’re hosting the show matches the type of vibe you want your event to give off.  Pick the most important aspect of your series and never change it. This is what will keep your core audience coming back.

The wonderful thing about hosting a music series is that you can bring in so many different artists over the life of the series, you can make yourself the resident musician (if you wish), and you can build a fanbase for the series and for yourself. Its like killing two birds with one stone.


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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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Making the Most of Your Coffeeshop Gig

June 23, 2010

Chloe's Coffee in Gaithersburg, MD

Here’s a follow-up to last week’s post: Making the Most of Your Club Gig.
So, coffeeshops are great, but you probably won’t make a whole lotta mula.  Well, it all really depends. Even if you don’t, playing coffeeshops has huge perks that you won’t get from a club.  Here are some thoughts on the matter.

Learn the Community.
Coffeeshops are known for their presence in the community. Take advantage of this. Make the most of the location by reaching out to be people who live around the corner instead of your whole fanbase. It’s a little less work and you’ll probably get more of a response from the locals. And hopefully the coffeeshop will buy into your approach since they exists for their locals.

Have Fun!
Community is almost synonymous with coffeeeshops these days.  The great things about these types of shows is that pressure is usually low. People are there to spend time with each other and exist in a place when others are…even if they’re not talking to anyone. All this to say, don’t take yourself too seriously. Talk with your audience and have fun. Keep it laid back. If you can, make it feel like your living room.

The More the Merrier
Considering that most coffeehouse gigs don’t pay, go ahead and put more people on the bill. Invite 7 songwriters out and do an in-the-round event. You’ll get a great turnout if everyone tells a few people and you don’t have the stress of splitting $10 between 7 people. hehe.

Don’t forget to have a Tip Jar
Be nice and remind people that you are a working artist and that you would appreciate their support. You can pass the hat as well. You’d be surprised at how some people make a decent killing off tips (sometimes that depends on the neighborhood).

Just Because You’re A Band…
Doesn’t mean you can’t play in coffeeshops. Some of them are fine with full bands.  You can do an unplugged set, a setup with 1/2 of your band, or just tone things down a bit.

The Ugly Side of Coffeeshops
A few things that make coffeeshops hard…

  • That grinder. There’s nothing worse than trying to compete with that blendy thing. Make sure the stage you’re playing on in’t right beside the front counter. I just had this experience and it was miserable.
  • All ages venues can sometimes mean young kids with nothing better to do and nowhere else to be. Ask them questions to make them part of your show. This will keep them engaged.
  • Everyone isn’t there for music. Some people are there to study…so don’t always expect everyone to close the laptop or stop your conversations and give you their full attention. Its the nature of the beast.

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What if a Band Member Can’t Make it to a Show?

June 16, 2010

The Beggar Folk. Lancaster, PA.
THE QUESTION: So we have a gig in a few weeks and we promised them we’d bring out our whole band, but it turns out our string player can’t make it. Should we just show up with a smaller version of the band, or should we contact the booker ahead of time and risk having to forfeit the gig…especially if they’re expecting strings.

THE ANSWER: If you’re in a band, or if you sometimes play with a band, this has probably happened to you at one time or another. Here are a few things to consider.

1. Are you being paid. If you’re being paid for a gig, you’re basically being contracted for a project. It’s a way for a booker to use you on their terms. If they hire you as a band, then you need to arrive at the show with a full band. If they hire you as a solo artist, then come as a solo artist.  If they hire you as a band but you come with just two people, that might not go over too well.

If you’re not being paid, then you might have more flexibility…because if you think of it, you’re basically volunteering your time. Feel it out and get an idea of how serious the gig is and how serious your contact might take the change in band size. Just make sure that whatever you do doesn’t negatively affect your relationship with the booker/venue/event for the future.

2. Try a replacement. Sometimes this is annoying – having to teach a new person your tunes just for one gig. But it might not be a bad idea to have a backup plan and to bring this substitute musician into the mix anytime you have a missing member. Substitutes will always come in handy.  It would suck to have to miss a big opportunity simply because one member can’t make it.  It would also suck for your set to sound significantly different because a particular instrument is missing.

3. Just talk to the booker. Be upfront and let the booker know that one of your bandmates has had a conflict in his schedule and can’t make it.  It actually might not be a big deal. I’ve personally had a few instances where this happened to me. Here are a few different ways to handle it.

  • “Hi Ryan, One of our bandmates has had a conflict in his schedule and can’t be part of our gig next week.  I just want to make sure you know this since you are expecting the full band to show up. Please let me know if this will affect your interest in having us perform at the Arts Festival. I apologize for the changeup.”
  • “Hi Ryan, It turns out that my drummer and bassist are both tied up the evening of the event.  Would you mind if I did this show as an acoustic set?   If that will affect pay, I will understand. Please let me know your thoughts.  Sorry for the changeup.

4. What does Your Default Picture Look Like? When people see pictures on your website, myspace and facebook, do they see a picture of your band or of you as a singer/songwriter? You’ll probably get more requests for whatever “face” you show people. And if you show yourself as a singer/songwriter you’ll have much more flexibility and be able to present yourself in solo, duo, trio, and band form.  Just keep that in mind.

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Making the Most of Your Club Gig

June 10, 2010

On Monday’s post, we talked about the pros/cons of booking nightclubs: Coffeeshop or Club? Pros and Cons of “Nightlife” Booking. Here are a few tips on how to make the most of your show.

Who’s on the Bill?
Don’t just play with any artist, play with artists who will willingly help you promote the gig. You can get a big name to headline your event, but if they don’t tell their fans, it wont get the turnout you’re shooting for. We talked about this extensively in a post a few months back in a post worth reading: “So What Did I Do Wrong?”

Also, make sure you’re billing with bands that are communicative.  Don’t book bands that don’t respond to your emails or any of your communication. How can you expect them to be on the same page with you when you’re not corresponding.

Also check out this post: Be The Artist You’d Want to Play With

Space Your Shows
Since your draw is such an important factor, don’t try to book another big show in the same time frame. This might be a no-brainer But maybe consider doing 1 big show a month. Doing shows close together is possible (especially if you plan to target very different audiences) but in most cases, both shows will detract from each other.
Also make sure that the other band(s) you’re playing with don’t have any competing shows.
Since it sometimes feels harder to draw people out, give people a reason to come. Consider talking with the venue and ask if they can have a drink special or a discounted menu for patrons.

You can’t set up a show today for next week. You need to set aside a solid 1-2 months to do it right. You probably won’t have a successful show if you don’t give yourself time to promote. Read
Planning Ahead – The Key to a Successful Show for a 4-week plan to a successful show.

Also check out 5 Tips for a Booking a Successful Show for more useful details.

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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 Venue & The Artist – The Ultimate Partnership

March 1, 2010

"I've emailed 15 times! Why aren't you returning my messages? Your venue sucks and my band is cancelling our show!

On Wednesday, I’ll be interviewing Daren, booker and promoter for Joe Squared, a pretty cool, hipster venue in Baltimore, MD. Joe Squared is a venue (one of the few) that puts as much energy into promoting its events as the artists it books. They’re cool people and they’ve got great tips on how artists can make the best of their event.  Today’s post shares tips on how to get the best out of your relationship with a venue…from the artists perspective.

Its happened to all of us – you’ve got a really great show coming up at ABC venue, but ABC venue is terrible in keeping up with communication and isn’t as excited about your show as you are. How do you both get on the same page?

1.  Offer Your Commitment. Once the date is confirmed, prove that you are committed to making this event as successful as possible.

  • example: “Hi Jay. Thanks for the confirmation. I plan to have  the artist lineup completed by next week. I’ll get back to you with the name of the other bands. I should also have artwork completed by the 1st of the month and will follow that with getting the word out.  Can I drop posters by your office in the near future? Please let me know how many you’ll need.”

2. Don’t hassle. Remind. What? They haven’t put your event up on their website yet? Assuming you booked the show 1-3 months in advance, give it a few weeks or so, after the booking, and then contact them.

  • example:   “Hi Jay, I noticed our show isn’t up on the calendar. Just wanna make sure we’re still confirmed for the 25th”

3.  Put a Face to Your Name. If you can go by the store, do so.  If the venue owner or booker meets you, they’re more likely to respond to your emails in a timely fashion. Also, remember that some people still prefer phone to email. If you’re not getting any responses back via cyber space, try a friendly nudge via the phone.

4.  Don’t do it if you’re not excited about it. There are a number of legitimate reasons you might not be excited for a show. Perhaps the venue doesn’t value its artists. Or perhaps there’s too much work for little or no return. If you’re not pumped to play, DONT DO THE SHOW! your lack of excitement will most likely reflect itself in your promotion (or lack thereof). It won’t do you or the venue any good.

These posts will help you too:

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