The key to getting more and better gigs is positioning your act as a partnership with the venue, and then communicating the benefits your act will provide it. Your job is to convince the booker that it would be to the club’s advantage to have you play there. How do you do this?
First, emphasize the crowd you will draw. Even if it’s just fifteen people, let them know.
Second, stress the uniqueness of your music – what makes it stand out from the rest? If you can’t answer this question, then you’re not ready to play live.
Third, let the booker know about your promotional plan for the show and all the free publicity the club will receive from your messaging, flyers, radio announcements and newspaper calendar listings. Show them you are organized, professional and thinking ahead. This alone will set you apart from other, less organized bands.
Remember, a club is a business. It has to make financial sense for them to give you a gig. Bands that haven’t got any notoriety yet should get some college airplay in the vicinity of the clubs they want to play first. You have to respect the club’s position; if no one’s ever heard of you, how can they make money off the show?
Here are a few ideas for how you can work together with clubs to bring in larger crowds.
- Hook up with local promoters; there are dozens of promoters that would love to promote a club once a month. Put your heads together to create an anticipated event.
- Call local record labels, record stores (there are still a few left!), magazines, newspapers, radio and TV stations and see if they want to have a night at the club. Lots of radio stations promote clubs to their listeners and are always looking for new venue to affiliate with. Labels are always renting clubs to showcase their bands to the local media. Make sure all of these people have a copy of your latest recording.
- Call all the above people and talk to the promotion departments, especially at radio stations. See if you can send them tickets to your show. Make it a habit of mailing them tickets. Seeing your name again and again lets them know you’re serious and enduring.
- Bundle your show into a package. Team up with two other acts, come up with a theme, and then approach the booker with your ideas. The club gets a fully packaged night, along with the followings of each act and the revenue this brings. Done creatively, you can probably get your pick of the night if done enough in advance.
- Set up a contest with the club, like a Legs contest (girls or guys), or during intermission announce, “The first person to the bar with red underwear gets a free CD.” Bands can donate CDs and vinyl; clubs can donate free drinks. The point is to give everyone a good feeling about that club and that band.
- Run co-op ads in local magazines and newspapers advertising the show and the contest. Give the ads some pizzazz. Include coupons for free admission or a free drink with admission. This will make your ad a hundred times more effective and bring in a lot more people. Also, put up fliers advertising the gig near the venue.
The lesson is: Don’t start until you’re ready. Make sure your vocals are strong, your arrangements tight, your equipment adequate and your promotion happening. Jumping the gun and taking gigs for which you’re not ready can take months – even years – to repair.
The saying is true: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Prepare and come out strong.
Check out the latest edition of Indie Marketing Power for a lot more ideas on increasing your band’s bookings.