When I used to play drums in a band I wrongly assumed that to get gigs I have to send demos out – the better my music, the high the acceptance rate. It seems sensible right? My thinking was basically that if I send more demos and make better music then I will get more gigs, which is true, but a bad way of thinking (IMO).
The theory above does not take into account the two main criteria that promoters subconsciously take into account when booking bands; will they make me money? and should I make a personal effort to help them? (by this I really mean are they a friend, or have they been recommended by someone close, or do they just seem like really nice people).
So if I were to work on arranging gigs for a band now I would be thinking:
1. How can I offer more financial value to the promoter at gigs
2. How can I build a relationship between myself and promoters I’ve never met.
Here are ten ideas to think about.
Increasing your value to promoters
1. Make it clear that you promote your gigs on high traffic localised areas – if you’re approaching a promoter in Leeds he will like to see that you can let thousands of people in Leeds know about his venue. Let the promoter know that you run local PPC or Facebook advertising campaigns for your gigs if you do and tell them that you will manually reach out to people in the area on Twitter if that’s what you plan to do, essentially you’re cutting the venues marketing costs.
2. Be above drinking age – Okay, so it’s less easy to change this if you’re under 18 (or 21 for the US folks reading this!), but if you are over drinking age then make sure that is clear in your approach because most music venues earn the majority of their profit from selling alcohol, which means that if you can draw in an 18/21+ crowd, they will most likely earn more profit from your audience.
3. Offer Your Coolness – Another way of reducing their marketing costs is to offer a joint venture or sponsorship deal where they can ride the waves of ‘cool’ – what is cool? I don’t know, but bands are generally pretty cool and so music venues want to be associated with them, simply because cool = money. If you don’t believe me, read this.
In terms of what you can do, maybe offer to go 50:50 on a back of stage vinyl banner with both of your logos on, or get some band merchandise put together with a ‘sponsored by music venue’ on. I recommend reading this interview with David Huffman on some of his live gig tactics.
4. Retain the audience – Most promoters are probably aware that it’s not just how many visitors that turn up at 8pm that matters, it’s how many that turn up at 8pm, and stay until 4am. I recently went to see a band who did this brilliantly – they performed for 45 minutes at 9pm, and played their best songs except for one (their very best song) and had the whole crowd totally buzzing, they announced they’d be back on at midnight for another 45 minute set and because people were so desperate to carry on partying to them and to hear that last song they all waited around until midnight (getting lashed in the mean time!), which is very profitable for the music venue.
5. Offer Your Connections – Do you know a really decent band who you could help the music venue book? Offer to help take the workload off of the music promoters hands by offering your valuable contacts. Note: If you don’t have those connections, why not? Start going to their gigs, networking with them on Twitter – remember what they said “you get out what you put in”. If you want to build a strong relationship with other bands, then the easiest way is to help them promote their music or to attend their gigs, it means a lot.
Building Relationships with Promoters
6. Attend Other Bands Gigs – This has to be the easiest way to get gigs, build contacts, and have a good laugh all in one. If you attend local bands gigs and chat to the band after their set then you already will have built a good connection as you went to see them! But offer to keep in touch, and ask them how they got the gig and if they could help introduce you to the decision maker. I’ll be a very shocked man the day this one fails!
7. Forget about the music promoters – Sometimes trying to build a relationship with music promoter’s directly can be difficult, building a relationship with their friends (who can recommend you to them) is sometimes a better option. It’s quite likely that pretty much any music industry contact you meet could will be friends with a music venue promoter, so try and build relationships with any record labels, managers, producers, journalists etc who you could ask for some help being introduced to promoters they know.
8. Build relationships online – now that we have social networks like Twitter their really is no excuse to not be building relationships with these music promoters online to make them aware of who you are so that when you follow up offline with a phone call or demo they will already know of you and there will be less friction (it also helps to add a talking point to your conversation – “Hey that link you tweeted last night was awesome!” rather than “Hallo, can I has a gig plz?”).
9. Make your fans book gigs for you – Be interesting, be amazing, be awesome to your fans and they will spread word of mouth about your band and will pester any music promoters they know to book you. This is an amazing way to get gigs because it’s much more believable if you’re being recommended by someone impartial rather than saying yourself “we’re awesome”.
10. Send personalised emails – most people check emails, and a higher proportion reply compared to that of print demos. They also take less time and cost less to send than print demos making them preferable in almost every way. Although this is a kind of hit and miss approach, I have built some pretty good contacts in the past just by dropping them a short email to learn more about what they do (key point: don’t contact them blatantly promoting yourself). If you want to download a list of all UK music venues with their email addresses then you can grab one here for £8.99.
Extra final tip: Brand yourself to venue promoters. Leave posters up at venues with your name on (if it’s allowed) and hand out custom stickers to other bands you meet and at venues – most musicians tend to put stickers on their instrument flight cases, which will be seen by many music industry professionals, so it’s a great place to promote your band.