For many people, the worst part of being in a band is trying to find shows. Venues can be shady, fellow bands can be no-shows, and attendance can be…less that fantastic. These problems are compounded when playing in a strange city.
Luckily, there’s the Internet. Since sites like Myspace and Gigmasters have risen up to help bands meet each other and book shows, it’s become a lot easier to break into a new area. There are still a lot of lessons that can be learned before the inevitable trial-and-error process of mass contacting bands on Myspace or plugging emails at venues, however.
I’ve booked my band and my solo act for over four years, including 3 successful tours of Southern states. Here are some tips to help you get quality shows on your first trip on the road.
1. Find out about the venues. Before you call them blindly, find out the maximum attendance they can handle, bands they’ve booked in the past, who owns the bar, and what kind of a bar it is. That way, when you call to book a gig, you won’t sound like you’re telemarketing for your band.
2. Explain who you are and get to the point. They’re busy, so are you. Tell them how well you promote shows and how you’ll need another band to play with you to make sure people are there. If they ask for a demo, send it right away. If they ask you how much you want, tell them it depends on the venue and ask how much they pay.
3. Ask bands about the venues. See if they’ve had good or bad experiences there, and see what the normal draw of the venue is. Any information you get will help you develop a plan for promoting the show (i.e. a bar that’s always packed on Monday nights will need less promotion than the vacant lot you’re playing at on Tuesday).
4. Check out the bands you’re playing with, too. Ask them to be honest about what their draw is, and let them know that you don’t have a following there and will need as much help promoting as possible. Send them flyers to put up.
5. Book at least 2 months in advance. Venues need to time to promote, and so do you. Book as early as you can and get the show on your website immediately after it’s been booked.
6. Follow-up. Venues forget, people don’t mark down stuff in calendars, and bands double-book shows–it happens to the best of us. To avoid any embarrassing issues, contact both the venue and the bands you’re playing with a week or two after initially booking the gig to make sure everything is right in their calendars. It’s well worth the time.
7. Promote. Use Myspace (messaging individual users), flyers, and any contacts you have in the city to make sure that you’re not playing to an empty crowd. There’s nothing worse than showing up to a show and having nobody there, but this is never necessary if you work hard at promoting.
Booking out of town can be exhausting, but it’s a necessary step for any band that’s trying to make a mark. Keep your focus and follow these tips; after a couple of shows, you’ll have the hang of it.