So, you've joined a band, practiced your heart out, ironed out a solid set, and now you're ready to jump onstage and play some live shows. Unfortunately, it's not always as easy as simply signing up on a piece of paper at any venue. It takes work and a lot of persistence, especially if you want a steady stream of gigs. Whether you're looking to book your first show or have some experience but are having trouble finding more, take the following tips into consideration:
Record A Demo
Whether you’re a solo artist with original material or part of a band that mainly plays covers, recording a demo is crucial. Not only do booking agents and clubs prefer to hear your stuff before they offer you a gig, but a demo will also help you gain a proper perspective on the strong and weak points of your set. Your demo doesn’t have to be a professionally mastered cut, but it should be clear and give anyone who listens to a good idea of your sound and skills. A demo will also help you introduce your music to perspective fans and – if you have pretty good luck – someone from the music industry if they happen to approach you after a show.
Make A Video
While not every club requires seeing a video performance, some might. And even for those that don’t, it will definitely help. A video recording of one of your better performances is ideal, but if you’ve never played a show before, you still have plenty of options. Just make sure whatever you record showcases your band in a good light. For example, instead of filming a practice session in your garage, try renting out a rehearsal studio and doing it there. Or if you do have a video of a live performance, choose one that features a packed house with excited fans instead of one with a small and uninterested crowd. As with a demo, it doesn’t have to be pro-grade quality. Most smartphone cameras should be able to get the job done.
Have A Website
As a band in the 21st century, you should have a presence online. Aside from being a great way for fans to discover your music or find out about upcoming shows, band websites are also great for booking gigs. Instead of handing a booking agent a copy of your demo or video, you can just give them the info to your site. Aside from music and videos, make sure to include photos, a bio and a listing of upcoming shows on your site if that applies. If you don’t have a website, Facebook is a decent alternative and pretty much the standard these days when it comes to social media.
Find The Right Venue
Instead of wasting your time trying to get a gig at just any random venue, it’s a better idea to focus on clubs that would be a good fit for your music. Most venues should give you plenty of clues on the type of audience they attract by just walking in and inspecting the surroundings. You can also try looking for venues online and seeing if they’d be a good fit by checking out the type of bands they tend to book. Beyond that, there are a few other things you should think about. If you can draw 30 people, don’t try to book a gig in a club with a 200 person capacity. If your band doesn’t have a PA, make sure the clubs you’re aiming for have their own sound system. And make sure to take your fans into consideration. If your fan base is older and tends to enjoy sitting down during shows, look for venues that offer plenty of tables. In essence, always keep in mind what will be required to create the best experience for your audience and yourself/your band.
Find The Right Contact Information
Unfortunately, you can’t walk into just any club and expect to book a gig. Clubs where you'll have the best chance of getting a gig will usually have booking information on their website or even provide a specific person to contact. If a name is given, make sure you use it in every approach. If they list an email, use that first and only call if you don’t hear back after a few weeks. Venues list their preferred contact method for a reason as it is the best way to set things up. If you cannot find any information on booking, you can try and ask in person but don’t be surprised if some turn you down. Certain venues are not open to new talent unless it is through a booking agent. Others simply use a stable of artists who have ties to the club and are exclusively featured. If you’re having trouble finding any information on booking at a certain venue after asking in person or checking out their website – don’t waste your time, at least not for too long. Most artist friendly clubs will not make you jump through hoops to get booking information.
Take Initiative But Be Polite
If you haven’t heard back from a club or booking agent within a few days, keep waiting. You shouldn’t have to call or send more than one email once per week. You want to be proactive – don’t give up after one email or call but don’t endlessly spam them either. If you don’t hear back after a month or so, don’t waste your time. Chances are the agent is too busy or doesn’t care. If you do get a response, be polite, tell them who you are, the style and name or your band along with a reason why you think you should get a gig. Letting them know why you would be a good fit for their venue can be a selling point. Maybe your band is the perfect fit for their preferred style or have a good following of fans and friends that will show up. Regardless of the reason, sell yourself but make sure you do it politely.
Promote Your Show
Once you have secured a gig, the work is far from over. Now you have to promote your show. Aside from reaching out to fans through social media or your website, try making flyers or posters and placing them in strategic locations. The venue of your gig is a must but also try other similar clubs or at shows with fans that would be receptive to your band's style. If your local newspaper allows listings for gigs, take advantage. If you don’t know, find out. Promoting your show can be the difference between playing to a packed house or an empty room.
Don't forget -- once you have the show secured and properly promoted it, you still have to deliver the goods! Make sure to always iron out any last minute kinks in your set and be prepared. Delivering a great performance will go a long way in building your band's reputation with fans and the venue, making it a lot easier get more gigs in the future!
Your Turn to Sound Off!
Have your own tips on booking more shows?