Pro-Tips: 7 points to remember when trying to book your virtually unknown act in small venues.
As sole talent buyers for Kansas City’s coolest roots music venue, We see a metric shit ton of bands as they come through The Westport Saloon booking email. Sometimes we get more than we can process in one day, especially with tour season quickly approaching. We decided to sit down and write a list of the things you can do (or not do) that will give your booking pitch the attention it deserves and help you streamline the booking process.
1. Your Pitch:
Be friendly, but also be short and to the point. Be humble, yet personable because demeanor is not easily detected in text. So, Be fun and enticing without being too lengthy.
2. The Calendar:
Be precise with the dates you are looking for. Let them know when you are going to be in the neighborhood and give them several dates to choose from right off the bat. The early bird gets the worm. It’s now or never, as most venues book 3 to 4 months out, not 3 to 4 weeks.
Remember that when you contact a venue to book a show, most likely you are dealing with one of two people:
1. A manager, owner, or bartender tasked with the job of filling the calendar.
2. An in house talent buyer or outside promotions company.
If it’s Person 1 that you are dealing with, know that their time is limited They are over tasked and they probably aren’t getting paid any extra to book your band. Person 2 probably deals in high volumes of booking inquiries and has seen it all. Both don’t have a lot of extra time, so make your Bio short and to the point. Around 100 words should tell them everything they need to know about your style and where you are in your career. Nobody needs you to name drop past bands you’ve played in or producers you’ve worked with. Chances are your target venue hasn’t heard of either. We don’t really care who you’ve opened for or your position on the Reverb-nation charts.
4. Your Media:
Studio albums are great and we love listening to them in our off time. However, when it comes to booking, your high dollar recording can be very misleading. It’s great that you were able to land that bad ass pedal steel player for the album, but what talent are we actually buying? Always include a link to a live performance of the actual line up you will be bringing to the club. There is nothing worse than booking a full band sound based off of a recording and getting a duo with a stomp box and no bass player.
An Electronic Press Kit (EPK) is always nice as well. Give them a one stop shop where they can see everything they need in one click. Here’s a good example of an EPK
5. Your Presentation:
Now this is probably going to ruffle some feathers, but it has to be said.
Mike would have just been Mike with out The Mechanics.
Come up with a band name. Please? The market is flooded with acts that just want to add the word “Band” to their last name and call it a day. The market is double flooded with solo guitar players trying to work the circuit with a generic first and last name. I’ll be the first to tell you that there are some incredibly gifted talents out there KILLING it under their given name. Chances are, you aren’t one of them or you wouldn’t be having trouble hustling gigs. Unless you have natural born star power with an ability that dwarfs all others, you’re going to have to give someone more than David Stevenson or Steven Davidson to work with. It’s REALLY hard to put a name like that it lights… or even on a gig poster. Some of the best one man acts out there right now have something to work with in their name. It can be as simple as adding OMB to the end of your name or disguising yourself as a band like Bloody Ol’ Mule or The Hollow Ends do. Either way, give the reader of the message a reason to click and listen. Be more than just the guy with a guitar. Be more than The John Smith Band. Brand yourself and your music. You both deserve it.
First and foremost, never pitch your act with your ideal payday and hotel requirements in the first email. This speaks of arrogance and entitlement. Chances are the person receiving your email has had enough of both dealing in the entertainment industry. Attract the interest with your product and THEN talk money.
Quite often, we find bands we love, but we can’t book them because we can’t afford the pre-established guarantee they’ve came up with. When trying to grow your name in a new market, you’re not going to make a killing at first. Find venues that are going to give you a fair shake and then be flexible. Negotiate, but be flexible. Don’t let yourself get screwed, but remain fair and reasonable. You’re going to get a lot of door splits and if you’re lucky, some small guarantees. Remember that your first time out is tough. Even though you have a 5 piece band, you’re not going to make $500 a night until you are well established in your routing and have proven your $500 value. Try to cut some costs by making sure your food and drink get’s comped. Try to hustle a place to crash for the night instead of a hotel. Besides, that’s how friends are made. That’s how you double the attendance at your next show.
7. The Wait:
Some people only attack their booking one or two days a week because they also have to do inventory and payroll. Some people get hundreds of incoming emails a day. Be patient, but be persistent also. If it’s been 4 or 5 days and you’re email hasn’t been returned, chances are they haven’t gotten to it yet. Send a follow up email a few days later. If you still don’t get a response then they probably aren’t interested. Not every talent buyer has the time or heart to respond to an act they have no intention of ever doing business with. Tweak your pitch, your product and your marketing kit and try again in a few months.
Oh! … If you don’t personally know someone, do not message them on Facebook. Use email.
Ultimately the formula for a “successful” music career is a simple one. Be nice to people, make good music and have a smart work ethic. These booking tips are only part of that formula. We hope some of you find some wisdom in these words. Now get to work!! Happy booking!