Musicians at Work Forum: Booking your band

This month’s Chicago Artists Resource Musicians at Work Forum focused on booking your band, and featured some good, practical advice from local experts:

Here are some highlights from the forum, and be sure to follow Chicago Artists Resource on Facebook and Twitter to hear about future events.

The panelists: Mary Jones, Ben Gray, Brian Keigher, Angie Mead, Charles Rumback

How to research venues & where to go on tour:

  • Become friends with other musicians and learn where the best/worst places to book are. (Ben)
  • If you’re looking to tour regionally, call the local college radio station to get the inside scoop on local venues. Then, they’re likely to help promote your event, too. (Ben)
  • Know your audience and know your audience – and choose a venue accordingly. (Charles)
  • Check out resources like Pollstar – there’s an annual fee, so gauge whether it will be a worthwhile investment for you at this point in your career, but it’s a great place to research venues online. (Angie)
  • Use big Chicago-based booking companies like Billions and Windish as resources – check out their sites for potential venues to contact. (Brian)
  • Along those lines, look at record labels’ websites to see where their artists are playing – especially musicians similar in style to you. (Angie)

Contacting the venue:

  • Email etiquette: be as specific as possible in your subject line – include the location where you’d like to play, the possible dates you’re requesting and the name of your band. Keep the body of your email short & sweet; no background BS, just your availability, your draw and how you’d help promote the show. (Angie)
  • Don’t attach EPKs. Actually, don’t attach anything. Instead, include a link to your website or to a central location where the booker can easily find out more info about your band.
  • Timing: know venues’ policies regarding how far in advance they book bands, since each one’s is different. If you’re booking a tour, give yourself at least three months to book it.
  • Ask the venue for specific dates you’d like to play. That way they have something specific to respond to, so even if the answer is no for those dates, you can start a dialogue with the booker for alternate dates. Don’t leave your request too open & vague.

Information to know & to communicate to the venue

  • Sound requirements: a couple days prior to your show, contact the venue and confirm sound specs
  • Money: find out the venue’s expenses and the ticket price for your show. That way you can determine how many tickets need to be sold in order for you to make a profit. It is not wrong to ask the venue for a list of expenses, so do it! The split point is the amount of money the venue takes first to cover its expenses. If cover doesn’t cover the split point, your band makes no money. (Angie)
  • “Advancing the show”: this means that the venue has booked you and is starting to coordinate the details of your show, including door time, show time, sounds specs, sound check time and numerous other details. (Brian)

Promoting the show

  • PR and promotion of the show should happen in tandem with all partners: the band, the publicist & the venue. (Brian)
  • Do your part in promoting your own show! And tell the venue how you’ll do it so they see you as a more valuable partner.
  • Don’t compete against yourself by playing too often, over-saturating the market and over-extending your fans. Make each show special. (Angie)
  • If you want to play lots of gigs within a shorter amount of time, go on tour. This will help prevent over-playing your home town.

Taking advantage of open mics:
Open mics are a good place to start performing, but take advantage of these opportunities. Start a mailing list with attendees, pass out fliers to promote future shows, get photos & videos of your performances and network with like-minded musicians.

If you’re a musician, booker or promoter, what other tips can you offer for booking your band?

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