The music is ready. You’ve planned and prepped and you’re confident in your killer show. Spread the word! It’s time for your awesomeness to go live. In other words, book the show.
And this is the cold, hard truth: in most cases the venue isn’t really interested how artistic you are. They might like music, but they’re in it for the money. Most venues earn money from two sources: ticket sales and the bar.
Check Out the Scene
The bottom line is, build a better following and you’ll get booked for bigger shows. Start with an in-depth analysis of the scene:
- Venues: What type of music do they feature, which genres? Are there any house acts?
- Promoters: Who’s the promoter, and what is this promoter’s niche (i.e. type of music). Promoters are a powerful force these days. Your best bet is to get on a few strong lineups and befriend promoters who are professional about their business. This can become a huge push for your career and you will be able to build important music industry relationships—we’ve all heard just how important these are.
- Artists: Team up with a few budding artists. They can help you get more shows. More people means you can bring bigger crowd and that’s just what you want.
- Specific weekly or monthly nights: These usually appeal to a certain clique, so check around your city if there’s a group of people vibing on the same frequency as you do. Try this: show the venues the potential of an underserved niche and sell them on a dedicated off-night. You’ll be building your own following at the same time.
Promote your own night: This can give you more control over the vibe, but be careful about trying to promote your own night. Let’s say that you decide to rent a venue. In most cases the venue will ask for a deposit, and you’ll be responsible for putting together the lineup. Let’s face it: 99% of artists aren’t really serious about their craft and you will have plenty of headaches, last minute cancellations and similar issues.
Now you play the role of a promoter, marketer… Look back at all the rehearsals and planning you have done. Do you really need to take on those other roles too? Your job is to write music and put on an outstanding show. If you decide to go this route, be wise: find competent team players and let them do their jobs by taking care of the rest.
When we think about performing live, we think about connecting with the audience. But that connection begins long before the show—especially if we want it to continue long after! Connection includes the web of music, business, and fan relationships that make it all possible. Today, the main ways to connect are in person and online.
Even in our modern “social media” world, the best way to approach anyone regarding your performance is in person:
- by meeting people directly, or
- (even better) by being introduced by a common acquaintance—especially if this acquaintance is an industry professional with decent leverage.
The more and “smarter” you socialize, the more opportunities you create for meeting such people. Be smart, be confident, but be real: industry folks can smell a desperate cloying fake three bars over!
Emailing, Facebook messaging, tweeting can all work too, depending on how big your online following is. The bigger it is, the more chances the recipient will bother to reply to you. Emails are more professional and social media platforms are more casual in nature. Both can work depending on the situation and on how well your messaging is put together.
For social media, remember this: the more somebody sees your artist name popping up the more chances you have to be noticed, especially if the sources are reposts by famous artists or an article on a big blog or publication. This used to be called the “rule of three impressions”, but in these days of media bombardment, the count increases. We’ll look more into this in Performing Live, Part 4.
Now that you’ve got the buzz covered, let’s look at a few more suggestions about booking your show:
What day of the week are you playing on? Friday and Saturday are the best, but sometimes other nights of the week can be packed.
Some nights have an established following, working off the promoter, the scene and the human relationships. In this case your chances of being booked increase, and directly correlate to how well you’re able to make friends.
- Are there any festivals or huge artists performing on the date you’re offered? Imagine that you booked a night at a huge club just to find out that everyone is leaving town for this hyped up festival or to see a major star performing.
- Who’s in the lineup? Check out the other artists online. Do you want to be on this lineup? Are they good enough? Are you genre-compatible? It’s usually the venue’s job to pick the right acts for the night, but better be safe than sorry.
- Have you seen the technical rider? Always ask for this and make sure to check what kind of equipment the venues have. Can they accommodate your act’s needs, both sound and visuals?
The live show world can be so exciting and overwhelming, especially for newbies. Take these suggestions and keep your head on straight. Enjoy, but look out for yourself as well.
Working Together with Venues and Promoters
Remember, in the majority of cases, the venue or the promoter will evaluate you as a money making tool. While that might not be everything that you’re about, it’s not “selling out” to show them those aspects of your act and your audience that will make their mouths water!
Today, everything depends social media following and buzz. Considering you have that ready, take booking your show seriously. This is your chance to show what you’re really made of, and maybe invite some industry A&R to propel your career further.
In Performing Live, Part 4 we’ll discuss the kind of social media activity you need to get the most out of your show. It’s time to start creating hype for your upcoming gig!
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