Negotiating gigs like a pro booking agent

So you want to go and start playing gigs, taking your music on the road, touring the country, taking your sound to the masses and building a fan base of admirers who are going to help you to reach the heights of a music career….STOP! ….You have to get your first gig.

So you go into the club and ask if you can play there, the bar back tells you you need to speak to the manager who tells you that they make the decisions with a promoter and they want to know if you have a press kit? You tell him you are a new band and don’t have a press kit. So the manager informs you that there is a cost of his business to put on a live show, it involves having more staff, sound guy, maybe lighting, extra security on the door. He wants to know how many people will come and see you live? Well, I think we can bring 50 people, you tell him, he laughs and says his capacity is 250 so you are at best going to fill a fifth of the room? At this point you tell him you’ll be back after thinking things through.

Now, how to do this properly. First, define the geographical area you want to play, let’s say you are going to find venues within 1hr drive of your home. This way your early supporters can take a little road trip also. Secondly, research and find venues that already do live music and are small, a place where if you bring 20 people the owner loves you, especially if they are also drinkers. Also smaller venues who already do live music will be more willing to give you a chance without it costing them too much money. Third, put together a press kit with 3 songs on a CD that show your style or get the booking agent a link to check you out online. Make sure your contact info is clearly visible. Keep it simple.

Once they book you for a date start preparing right away.

The most important relationships in a musician’s career are these ones, the club owners and staff are so vital to you, never treat them like a doormat. You never know where they might end up down the road, bigger club, A&R rep, etc. Have an honest relationship with them.

Important Rules:
1. Never lie about your following or over promise.
2. Talk to the venue several times leading up to the show, asking if you can do anything extra to promote your performance with them? They may have a coop ad in the local paper a web site that needs a pic in the listing, flyers or other things.
3. Don’t do nothing or you will be sure to not be invited back.
4. Be professional. Practice, perform, entertain and then thank them, including the sound guy.
5. Treat the venue with respect, the owners love to help musicians, you will be stunned how many owners know other owners and promoters, they can be a great resource for you.
6. Never leave immediately after your show. Buy a drink for the owner or promoter even if you made nothing that night, it will lay a great groundwork for the future.
7. If you have a little money for promotion place a coop ad with the venue in local papers, so even if you have no crowd the venue will at least know you tried, and that goes a long way.
8. Ask the owners and staff for referrals of other venues you cold play and make sure you leave them your contact info so they can follow up with you.
9. Keep the sound level not too loud that the bar staff can’t hear customers and do their job. Be aware of being too loud.
10. Leave quietly so not to disturb neighbors.
11. Follow up to book more dates until your crowd is too big for the venue, then you move up to bigger venues and with that kind of crowd you can start naming your price!

Once you have this mastered, you will be booking gigs like a pro booking agent. You will have a network setup and a name and reputation that promoters will want to work with. Remember it just has to make sense, for the band and venue.