Hope I keep playing before I get old...
July 25, 2012 10:27 PM   Subscribe

Looking for general advice about finding my band gigs at small local venues.

I've been playing music publicly for most of my life, but have never had to cold call a club. It was either a friend's band asked us to play or someone threw a house party or we personally knew the booker. As life moves on and gets busier and people have children, I have less time for going out and socializing and working the network. Opportunities for playing are evaporating.

Some people might call this "getting old" but I think my current band isn't bad and I would like to keep it going but we're losing some momentum. I think regular gigging would help.

We have about 2 hours of original material, a few covers, six reasonable demo recordings, we have a band page and are on Facebook. We have about a dozen gigs under our belt at various dive bars. We typically draw about 30 of our friends to our shows.

We would like to play music venues and bars within the city limits of a major urban center with a vibrant music scene. I don't want to look like a doofus newbie when I approach the booking people for these places. Do we really need a press kit? Glossy photos? Bio? Our own website or a burned CD to hand off? Business card? Or is it just enough to say: here's our band name, check out our facebook page.

I'm prepared for rejection and having to hustle a bit, but I don't want to come off like some uptight asshole who thinks he's the next Bono.
posted by Slarty Bartfast to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Depends on the city, I imagine, but in Portland I usually just email the booking address on the club website when we need to cold-contact a venue to put something on (I'm in a sort of special-interest tribute band that mostly plays free or charity shows every 4-6 weeks; usually we try to claim a night at a place and fill the bill ourselves). We have no press kit or any of that for my current gig.

That said, if you know people in other bands that get shows, it's often pretty painless to try to just talk to some compatible band of your acquaintance and make an effort to glom onto their bill.
posted by treblemaker at 10:34 PM on July 25, 2012

Have you read The Indie Band Survival Guide?
posted by ZipRibbons at 4:01 AM on July 26, 2012

A friend that owns a small place books all his live music through a booking agent. So you might look into getting onto the roster of whatever booking agents are most active in your town.
posted by COD at 5:14 AM on July 26, 2012

I had success booking a show by e-mailing the bookers at the addresses listed on the Web sites of 10 or so of the top bars in town.
posted by troywestfield at 6:25 AM on July 26, 2012

If it's a smaller club, just call the bar NOT at a busy time and ask who to talk to about booking a band. That person will never be there at the time you call, but if you have a name and can leave a message you can keep trying. If you have trouble reaching someone, you can also try them through e-mail, their facebook or web page, etc. It's not a bad idea to drop off a packet with a copy of your CD or demo and a cover sheet (brief description, contact info, URLs), but then call them, don't wait for them to call you. I think the whole press kit and photos thing is more of a turnoff to bars, at least around here, because they make you look like you think too much of yourself, but it's reasonable that they want to hear what you're like to see whether you suck and whether you're a good fit.

/smaller town band wife
posted by Occula at 8:13 AM on July 26, 2012

Best answer: I booked a 150-seater in a vibrant urban music scene for a few years. Here's how an unsolicited band got on a bill:

- They emailed or mailed an online or easily-playable CD demo with their 2 best songs on it. Two songs, at most, was all I had time to listen to. And if I didn't quite like the first song I'd listen to some of the next one just to make sure I wasn't missing anything. If the tepid reaction stuck around I'd stop listening.

- They listed their previously played venues, especially the repeat venues. Because I want to know how many people you'll bring and the list of repeat venues will give me a good idea.

- There was some professionalism in the writing behind the email/bio/etc. Spell and capitalize words properly. Be to the point but congenial, never pushy, never passive-aggressive, and never self-deprecating. If you can infuse some personality into the communication, all the better (But don't force it, and don't insult anyone.)

- They followed up with a call and/or email asking if we'd gotten a chance to listen to their stuff and were there any shows coming up that they would fit on? You HAVE to follow up. Booking agents are reaching out to touring acts and regional headliners, not folks in the pile of unsolicited demos. However, when we get those headliners, our next step is to find local folks like you who's musical style will fit and who's fans will pad out the audience.

You don't need to nail all of these aspects to get a show. If your music was obviously amazing and you always brought a lot of people and could communicate like a human then I would definitely reach out to you. If your music stunk but you brought a lot of people and followed up with me... If your music was amazing but no one knew who you were but you followed up with me... And so on.

You definitely have to reach out to venues, though. (Although you don't need a huge fancy kit.) Bars are a smaller game and you probably have that down already. Don't be discouraged by tepid responses (or none at all) as you won't be proven in the agent's mind until you're actually bringing heads through the door and playing a great set.
posted by greenland at 9:57 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

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