Does anyone have any tips, pointers, warnings, etc. for booking and promotion of a local band?
January 28, 2004 12:37 PM   Subscribe

I'm taking over the booking, promotion and scheduling portion of a local band. Though I've been around people who have done this type of work before, I've never done it myself. Does anyone have any tips, pointers, warnings, etc.? For example, when's the best time to call venues? What are some things not to say? This is a relatively unknown band in this area (they recently relocated from a place where they were popular), so are there any hype techniques I should know about?
posted by Zosia Blue to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Zosia: check your email.
posted by COBRA! at 12:44 PM on January 28, 2004

You might want to pick up a copy of Book Your Own Fucking Life from the publishers of Maximum Rock N Roll. There are good ideas for DIY-style promotion in there.
posted by acornface at 1:16 PM on January 28, 2004

Book Your Own Fucking Life - Online
posted by cmonkey at 1:42 PM on January 28, 2004

Also, the style of promotion depends on the style of music. If they're a punk band, you'll only have to spend 20 minutes on the phone booking them some basement shows for the next week. Other scenes/genres are going to have other ways of doing it.
posted by cmonkey at 1:47 PM on January 28, 2004

You're trying to play local shows...? Identify the clubs that put on shows for the style of music your band plays- also, if the band is more of an underground style sound, keep an eye out for non-traditional venues (in my area, most all ages shows are in basements). Usually, the next thing I do is email the people who handle booking for the club or venue and see if they would be interested, many times, I've been able to get shows without sending out a demo. Or email, then send a demo, then email or phone a little later. Besides BYOFL check out the Musicians Atlas... Though there is a newer version available (check your local book store)...

Other suggestions, always be polite, always find out as much information as possible when you do get a show, and never, never make fun of any other band in a public forum. Never.
posted by drezdn at 1:48 PM on January 28, 2004

Response by poster: Oh, awesome, thanks for the resources, acornface and cmonkey. (Typing your screenames makes me feel like I just called you both playground-worthy insults.) I'm so new at this that I didn't even realize the genre mattered all that much. They're an experimental rock band, (I'm having trouble coming up with a good description/category, as well), influenced by Radiohead and Smashing Pumpkins.

I'd link to their site, but I'm not sure where that falls on the self-link line.

Also, thanks to COBRA!, who e-mailed me privately.
posted by Zosia Blue at 1:51 PM on January 28, 2004

Also, try contacting local bands you like, and asking them for advice, you'd be suprised how many might be willing to help...

If the band is trying to play Minn... These people book one of the clubs there, and if you ever need Milwaukee help, let me know.
posted by drezdn at 1:52 PM on January 28, 2004

Response by poster: (Thanks drezdn, too. Just caught your advice when I posted.)
posted by Zosia Blue at 1:52 PM on January 28, 2004

My roomie's band broke big locally simply by having one member of it working at a local restaurant that catered to college students. He asked if they could play a show there, a beer special was run, it was a great success, word of mouth ensued ... profit!! exposure!!

Of course the damn band broke up right after I designed a kick-ass site for them, but that's rock'n'roll, eh?
posted by WolfDaddy at 2:33 PM on January 28, 2004

It also wouldn't hurt to send the Calendar Editor at the Citypages info on upcoming shows. This is another good resource for venue contacts.
posted by cmonkey at 3:58 PM on January 28, 2004

(Disclaimer: I'm a promoter)

The first thing you need to do is identify your audience. If your act is an experimental rock band, what kind of scene is there in your city for that kind of music? Do people go to experimental/avant-garde shows? If not, why not? If they do, how old are they? How much do they pay? How many bands are usually on the bill?

Start going to live shows. Go to a punk show, a metal show, an industrial show, a rock show, etc. See how the audience is treated by the venue, and what the standard concert-goer-experience is. Figure out what you want to improve upon. As for the shows themselves, there are two ways you can go about getting your band gigs.

1: You can shop them out to other promoters/venues as an opening act/headliner. In this case, you'll (hopefully) get paid, get told what time load-in and soundcheck are, and you pretty much just have to show up and perform.

2: You can throw your own shows. You'll be responsible for booking the venue, hiring a sound tech, designing/printing flyers/posters, booking other bands, selling tickets, etc.

Both methods have their own pros and cons. The main problem with method 1 is finding good people to work with. A lot of promoters (at least where I live) just don't care about much aside from their bottom line, so you need to protect your interests, or preferably find someone who is passionate about what they do. Also, you really don't have any control over the event as such. If you throw your own event, you're going to have a lot more work to do, but you can make sure that everything is done right, and in the best interests of the band.

For your first few shows, don't expect to make money. In fact, don't expect to make money, period. Transportation costs and free beer is all you can really expect until your act starts building a name.

For promotion: Leave flyers at universities, hand them out at pubs, bars, etc. Get a few 3-5 track demos made up, hand them out to patrons (who seem to have a lot of friends) at other concerts. If you're giving demos to promoters/venues, make sure that there's information written on the CD/Tape itself. Name, date, genre, contact information.

Promoting/managing is a lot of work, and a fair chunk of that work is pretty unrewarding. How does your band feel about music? Do they want to just play shows? Do they want to 'make it'? Your job is to get them where they want to be, so you need to have a clear idea of where that is, and how to do it. Your band's job is to have faith in you, and trust your decisions, even if they don't agree with them. If you or your band can't do those things, then they need a new manager.

Feel free to ask any more questions you have, I'm more than happy to answer them.
posted by Jairus at 4:30 PM on January 28, 2004

Since i simply cannot top Jairus' comment, i humbly add, that when i was a music director at a small college station, i was invited to see Rancid (before they got, kinda, big) in a gymnasium in Madison, WI.

and i'm talking serious low tech here, the audience was illuminated, the band wasn't

i saw them again years later at a 'Big Venue" and i have to say, the Gym show was way better.

i have been a fan of them ever since.

All i'm saying is don't underestimate the value of playing a Gym. Oh, make the band walk around before the show, and talk to the people. Watching one of my best friends compare tattoos with the bassist from a band is something that i will never forget.
posted by quin at 2:04 AM on January 29, 2004

Ditto. Nothing beats a personal relationship with club owners. I'm a musician. I've played everything from the Toronto Harbourfront to chi-chi theaters in Belgium. I truly wish that somebody would have told us that one day we were going to play outdoors in the cold standing atop a frozen hill of horse manure on the Swiss-Austrian border while armed and mounted Swiss border guards galloped in amongst the vintage gibson mandolins...

This is why good managers are essential.
posted by zaelic at 5:48 AM on January 29, 2004

Here's a piece of advice I heard from someone who knew of what they spoke (which I only repeat since my experience with this sort of thing is as a member of the audience):

Make sure you send concert listings to your local alterna-weekly. Ensure they have a press kit and that it includes a good photo. Sometimes they're looking for something to pretty up the listings page, and if there's a picture of your band available, they might run it.

On an added note, make sure the picture is not of your band a) in front of a brick wall or b) near a rail road track.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:09 AM on January 29, 2004

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