So you want to book more shows?
There are lots of artists out there who really want to book more high quality shows. If this is you, then you are not alone. It can be hard. It can take a lot of work. I have some thoughts that I truly believe will help you stand out and earn more high quality gigs.
First point I want to make: In order to book shows you will likely have to come into contact with another human who must sign off on you or your band to play.
It’s super important to realize that this person likely receives dozens if not hundreds of similar requests every day, week, month…
Therefore I tell thee: Have empathy!!!!!
Whenever I go “King James Voice” you know I’m being serious!
Don’t be an a** to this person. Be kind. Be patient. Be humble. If you piss the booker off you’re done.
Word of the day: Positioning
Everything I write from here on out revolves around this idea of positioning.
Positioning is the strategy of placing yourself, relative to others, so that you may deliver a unique impression (hopefully positive) to the consumer or in our case the show booker.
In other words, place thine self hither because over thither is everyone else doing the same fracking thing!
AWESOME TACTIC #1:Update your entire online presence so that everything validates and supports your goal.
There are a multitude of other ways to position yourself well online, and hopefully these ideas are enough to get your creative wheels turning.
AWESOME TACTIC #2:Ask for referrals and testimonials from venues or other artists you’ve previously played great shows with.
Bookers talk, hangout, and share experiences with other bookers. If you have a glowing review from Booker A and can hand that to Booker B when you reach out for the first time, then that will earn you some points.
If you are playing in a new city but know a band there who has played with you before, then you can ask that band for a referral. Obviously don’t do this if the band is unpopular with bookers in their hometown.
If I was a touring artist I would try to get glowing five star reviews from anyone and everyone I could as it related to shows. You could ask the sound guy / gal, bartender, owner, booker, manager, etc… Post these reviews on your site.
AWESOME TACTIC #3:Write personal thank you notes and leave merch gifts for the people who work your shows.
This might be my favorite and maybe the best way any artist can stand out and be asked back to play.
People remember kindness. What if you were remembered as the band that left the sound guy an awesome T-Shirt or a mug that literally said “Best Sound Guy Ever”? What if you were remembered as the kind artist that wrote personal thank you notes to everyone who helped run the show?
The next time you email that booking agent will they even remember you?
AWESOME TACTIC #4:The recipe for winning in the gig economy:
Honestly, two out of three ain’t bad either. This applies to booking and playing shows as well.
Put on a good show. If your show sucks, then why would anyone want to book you?
Lots of venues have load in and load out rules. Follow those rules. Do whatever you can to expedite the process. Don’t take an hour to soundcheck when you were only supposed to have 15 mins. If you are a guitar player and you finish load out early, then help your drummer and everyone will get out faster.
Be a good hang. People remember kindness.
AWESOME TACTIC #5:Say “No” to bad shows.
This is tough. I understand that it can be hard to judge ahead of time whether a show will turn out to be a dud.
However, I do think you can trust your gut. What does your intuition say? Will this show move the needle at all? What’s the goal of the show? Were you asked to do it by a friend? You do not need to say yes to everything.
I bet 20% of the shows you play cause 80% of all the distress, anxiety, and discouragement you feel towards playing shows. Get rid of that 20%. Say No!
AWESOME TACTIC #6:Start a spreadsheet and start following up.
How exciting!!!!!! Don’t you love spreadsheets?
Somebody smart said one-time:
“If it doesn’t get measured, then it doesn’t get managed.” — somebody smart
Ed Catmull, president & co-founder of Pixar, expands on the point in his book Creative, Inc. that you do not need to measure everything. You can’t possible measure everything and a large portion of what we manage can’t be measured.
I would argue that you need to measure some important metrics from the shows you play.
If a certain venue or festival is super important to you, then I would encourage you to follow up with whoever manages the booking. Send them new music when you have a release. Let them know when you’re coming through town. Send them a happy birthday note after you creep and find their birthday on Facebook. This could be as little work as sending a nice email twice a year.
AWESOME TACTIC #7:Be a human and don’t treat people like a means to an end.
I caution you to not implement any of these tactics in a shmucky way. You have your goals. Everyone else has their goals. Try to be helpful. Add value to the people you come in contact with.
It might be worth interviewing a booker in your hometown to get a better sense of what it is
they do and are responsible for. Research and see if there are any podcast interviews out there with booking agents or even shows hosted by them. If you understand their job better, then you can come up with creative ways to make it easier.
Founder of @lostharbormusic