We’ve all been there. You’re a musician, you’re ready to perform, and you want to book a show. But… you don’t know where to start. While a foolproof step-by-step guide likely does not exist, there are certainly some key steps you can follow to achieve your booking goals. Here are some tips that have worked for us!
The Internet is a glorious thing if you are willing to do the work. Start by searching for venues in the area to determine the type of audience to which they cater. Keep a running list of venues you’d like to contact and assemble notes for easy reference later.
Social media is another useful tool for researching venue information. For example, in Boston, there are multiple Facebook groups dedicated to musician networking and providing helpful tools. These groups offer an online community you may tap for questions, and often, you’ll come across posts with gig opportunities.
While social media can be useful as noted above, in-person networking is a key activity, especially if you are still new to the music/arts community. Get to know people, get to know your music scene, and become a part of it. You can often end up on a great bill at a great venue by taking the time to go to OTHER people’s shows. In particular, if you’re local, go to the venue before you contact the booker. Check out the vibe and the audience and try to determine if your band would be a good fit. Tip: Meeting the booker in person is ideal!
If you are starting off as a relatively new and/or unknown musician in a new-to-you location, start with smaller venues that do not require a large draw. Open mics are a great way to network and get to know venues. Talk to the host and to get some tips as to how to contact the venue for a gig and what type of performers they prefer to book. Tip: Many open mics also book feature acts.
We happen to know a few local bookers and promoters personally and cannot tell you how often they complain about the emails they receive. If a venue or booker gives you specific contact instructions, follow them! There is a reason bookers ask for said details and you will set yourself up for a better chance at getting a response if you act accordingly.
Regardless of their instructions, use a little common sense: Introduce yourself (succinctly), include appropriate contact information, and send them the basic information about your act/band so they can determine if it’s a good fit for the venue:
Social media links
Make sure you sound good and didn’t film it in an empty room!
THE DATE YOU WANT
This should be a given, but apparently, it often isn’t. Give them a specific date (or a few alternatives) to make it easy for them to check a calendar and say, sure, that date is free. Don’t say ‘sometime in May’ – that is vague and annoying.
Get Your S*%t Together
If you don’t have the information listed above, then make sure you compile it before you contact a venue. These days, many musicians have a specific electronic press kit (EPK) page on their website that centralizes all key information so it’s easy to send to bookers. For example, we use this page: https://thisbliss.net/epk
In our experience, venues are booking further and further out. This means you shouldn’t expect to get a Friday or Saturday night (hint: everyone asks for these nights!!) a month from now. Plan ahead and make sure you give the venue some lead-time. We’d recommend booking at least two months out, but depending on the venue and the date, three to four months is reasonable. When booking album releases, we tend to book six months in advance.
Ask For Help
Chances are you have friends or peers who have had luck booking your target venue. If so, feel free to reach out to them and ask what worked best. Just keep in mind it takes time and dedication to develop a relationship with a specific venue (oftentimes, you need a track record of well-attended shows). So don’t ask them to book the venue for you (again, that’s annoying), but rather, inquire if they have any insider tips that may improve your chances.
Persistence Is Key
When in doubt, remember: Bookers and promoters receive hundreds, maybe thousands, of emails. Thus, it really is okay to follow up with them multiple times. Be reasonable: Give them a week or so before you reach out again. If you do have a prior relationship with the booker but are having a hard time getting through, you can also (politely) remind them of said track record (read: we sold out last show and this bill promises to be just as good!).
Good luck and invite us to your next show!