Melanie

5 Ways to Impress Venue Bookers and Get More Gigs

Dave Cool

This is a guest blog post by Dave Cool. Dave is perhaps best known for having directed and produced the documentary film "What is INDIE? A look into the World of Independent Musicians". He is also an author, and former program director of the Centre St-Ambroise in Montreal. And yes, that's his real name.

5 Ways to Impress Venue Bookers and Get More Gigs

I spent three years as program director for two venues here in my home city of Montreal, overseeing 500 shows during that time. Here are 5 ways that you can impress venue bookers and give yourself the best chance to get more gigs:

1. Think 3-4 months in advance

Many venues are booked at least 3 months in advance, and the more popular a venue, the further in advance you should contact them. This is especially true if you're looking to play on a Friday or Saturday night. So be sure to contact the booker at least 3-4 months in advance.

2. Be patient

Bookers are very busy people, so be patient. If you didn’t get a response right away, it doesn’t mean that they’re not interested in booking you. Chances are, they just haven't had time to evaluate your music yet. Follow-up politely to see if your e-mail/message has been received, but whatever you do, don’t try to rush them or sound annoyed that they haven’t gotten back to you. Be persistent, but always be polite.

3. Be honest

Whatever you do, don’t lie about your draw. You’re better off being honest with a booker about what your draw really is rather than stretching the truth and disappointing them. If you tell a booker that you can pack the place and only your mom shows up, chances are you won’t be booked at that venue again. But if you were honest about what your draw realistically is and you match or surpass it, then the booker will no doubt want to book you again.

4. Be respectful

No matter what venue you’re playing at, whether it’s a high-end club or a seedy bar, treat the staff like they’re your best friends. Some of the best ways to show respect to the staff:

  • Show up on time: If soundcheck is at 6:00, try to show up early, and never show up late.
  • Leave on time: Don’t make the staff stay longer than they normally would because you want to take your time having one last drink. Finish it up and get out of there on time.
  • Start on time: Even if there is nobody in the crowd, start playing on time like the room is packed.
  • Tip bar staff: Even on free drinks, and especially if it’s a slow night, be sure to tip the bar staff. The gesture will not go unnoticed.
  • Thank staff: Every chance you get, thank the staff and especially while on stage, which is always appreciated.
  • Be extra nice to the sound tech: They can be your hero or your worst enemy that night, depending if you treat them with respect or not.

5. Be thankful

Sending a nice thank you note to the booker the day after the show is always a nice gesture. There is so much competition out there, be sure to let the booker know that you're thankful for the opportunity to play their venue. This will go a long way to building a long-term relationship with them that will help get you many more gigs in the future.

Posted by Melanie on 04/15/2011 | 27 comments

Comments

CoreZero
Posted by CoreZero on May 5 2011 6:19 AM
You are completely right about cleaning up. We had a recent show where there were a bunch of no no's. First a band didn't get paid what they thought they were going to get. The issue was between them and the promoter not the establishment but a member of the band threw a fit in front of some of the employees of the establishment...not a good idea! It certainly created a lot of talk and definitely hurt the band's reputation. No matter how pissed you are (and we all are at sometime) remain cool and calm in appearance and people will start to talk about how professional you are instead of what an ass you appeared to be in that moment. Secondly, if you are in a band don't hit on the bar staff all night (unless you know it's welcome, even then be careful) as that tends to piss off the folks as they are working and you never know...that might be the owners cute daughter, neice, nephew etc. and suddenly you can't play there anymore. Real bummer! Lastly, don't get rip roaring wasted in the establishment. That is their job and they think you playing there is your job. So to get tanked and then make a fool of yourself will definitely effect your future at the establishment. Enough said! :laugh:
WWW.QUIETSTORMBEATZ.COM
Posted by WWW.QUIETSTORMBEATZ.COM on Apr 15 2011 5:37 PM
great info as usual guys. thanx:)
Si Connelly
Posted by Si Connelly on Apr 15 2011 6:58 PM
Thanks so much for this Dave, Really helpful for knowing 1. where people can go wrong and more importantly 2. where you are going right.
Abby Feferman Music
Posted by Abby Feferman Music on Apr 15 2011 8:08 PM
Great post! Very helpful information. Thank you! :)
Wilton Said...
Posted by Wilton Said... on Apr 15 2011 9:06 PM
Being polite goes a long way. For a while I was organizing shows on a Sun Night which started at 7:30pm and ended by 11pm. I knew under normal circumstances clubs and bars want bands playing to last call (2am here in Toronto), so I was very appreciative of the booker/owner allowing me to do this. Some nights did pretty well, other nights were slow, but nonetheless I always thanked the venue and apologized if the bands or myself weren't able to draw as much as we had hoped. The owner seemed to appreciate this and was always willing and ready to have me back. Wilton
taryn donath
Posted by taryn donath on Apr 16 2011 4:58 PM
yeah I've been doing this a long time and I am always very friendly with the staff and always tip the bartenders/waitresses.... I have noticed that makes a huge difference! you know they all sit around at the end of the night and discuss whether or not they think the band is friendly- if the staff likes you, it really goes a long way... they want to have a nice work environment too, not demanding jerks who play too loud AND want their drink delivered!
Fronz Arp
Posted by Fronz Arp on Apr 16 2011 11:25 PM
a simple list but hilarious that it doesn't happen all that often because every one on the list is the exact opposite of what it means to be a prancing "rockstar" :) great article
kenonbass
Posted by kenonbass on Apr 18 2011 5:40 PM
The first thing I learned in the Marines Corp was... never piss of the cooks! Same thing carries over in real life and band life. Any band that has been around a while already knows this.
Ockham's Razor
Posted by Ockham's Razor on Apr 18 2011 8:38 PM
And for godsakes... clean up after your band. We do it as a common courtesy (bringing empty glasses, picking up paperwork or broken strings or whatever) but you wouldn't believe HOW MANY bar staff say "You guys dont have to do that" and we respond "Naw, we clean up after ourselves" and they say "You wouldn't believe how many bands DONT!" And they are REALLY appreciative of it. New Years Eve we brought in hundreds of those confetti cannons and we told the staff and owner "We'll clean it all up" and sure enough, after last call, we AND a number of fans were sweeping up all the confetti and straightening up. The staff was blown away. Basically, treat the venue like a first date. Every time. And they'll love you and want you to come back. Treat the venue like a cheap hooker and you'll most likely not get a response from them in the future.
Mayan Fox
Posted by Mayan Fox on Apr 19 2011 6:27 AM
Great advice. What we don't do we'll take on board for sure. Except the tipping bar staff bit, haha - We don't tip in Australia (we have minimum wage over here). I'll remember that for when we tour the U.S. though!
jennifergrassman.com
Posted by jennifergrassman.com on Apr 19 2011 9:37 PM
Great advice! I always give the PA guy, and any staff who seemed to particularly enjoy the show, a free CD.
Revenant
Posted by Revenant on Apr 19 2011 9:49 PM
Regarding #1, if you are just getting started and just starting to get your foot in the door(or even if you are established), let the venues know that if they have any cancellations to put you on the call list. We've gotten gigs when we would have otherwise just been sitting at home instead because we got the call when another band cancelled at the last minute!
Dirty Rice
Posted by Dirty Rice on Apr 20 2011 3:21 AM
Always good advice to be polite. Politics baby!
Broken Alphas
Posted by Broken Alphas on Apr 21 2011 11:06 AM
We've started allowing people to use our backline and DW Kit, it goes down well, considering our set up is really good, plus saves promoters and venues that don't keep there own backline, forking out a few hundred quid per night:D
The Honky Tonkers
Posted by The Honky Tonkers on Apr 25 2011 10:35 PM
THANKS GREAT ADVICE.
Eric H Lazar
Posted by Eric H Lazar on Apr 26 2011 1:46 AM
Simple and to the point--well said Dave. Would also add take your trash off the stage at the end of the night. Also don't cuss in the microphone at a public venue. Most the audience won't care, but the owners/managers/bartenders will report back to the man in charge. Been scolded for both over the years(even though it wasn't me, but I was the "bandleader")--Eric H Lazar
The Craig Redman Band
Posted by The Craig Redman Band on Apr 26 2011 11:16 AM
Hey Dave, I just started a new project," The Craig Redman Band" and I can use any tips I can get my hands on. Thanks for the advice! I will def use some of te tips you gave.
Bret Cohen
Posted by Bret Cohen on May 4 2011 9:40 PM
Good stuff. Thanks!
Core Zero
Posted by Core Zero on May 5 2011 6:19 AM
You are completely right about cleaning up. We had a recent show where there were a bunch of no no's. First a band didn't get paid what they thought they were going to get. The issue was between them and the promoter not the establishment but a member of the band threw a fit in front of some of the employees of the establishment...not a good idea! It certainly created a lot of talk and definitely hurt the band's reputation. No matter how pissed you are (and we all are at sometime) remain cool and calm in appearance and people will start to talk about how professional you are instead of what an ass you appeared to be in that moment. Secondly, if you are in a band don't hit on the bar staff all night (unless you know it's welcome, even then be careful) as that tends to piss off the folks as they are working and you never know...that might be the owners cute daughter, neice, nephew etc. and suddenly you can't play there anymore. Real bummer! Lastly, don't get rip roaring wasted in the establishment. That is their job and they think you playing there is your job. So to get tanked and then make a fool of yourself will definitely effect your future at the establishment. Enough said! :laugh:
Skyworks Productions
Posted by Skyworks Productions on May 17 2011 1:56 AM
Very good, sound advice. I can't stress enough how important it is to thank the booker. We booking agents/promoters work so hard for many months trying to get bands into clubs, promoting the show once it's booked, and finally working at the venue the night of the show. A thank you from the band the next day goes a long way. As a booking agent and promoter, I won't book another show with a band if they don't thank me. I had this one band that not only failed to thank me for the booking, but didn't even offer thanks for the complimentary professional photographs and videos that we had taken of them during their performance and later sent to them. Not one word from the band after the show. Needless-to-say, when they contacted us months later to get in to the same venue for another show, we brushed them off.
FAIYA
Posted by FAIYA on May 18 2011 12:33 AM
All advice that i'll be taking with me, as im looking to book shows over the next few months. Thanks guys -FAIYA
Corduroy Jim
Posted by Corduroy Jim on May 19 2011 11:08 PM
[quote="quietstormbeatz"]great info as usual guys. thanx:)[/quote] I have used these methods for the last several years and they do indeed work....also, when emailing a venue, making sure that you use correct grammar and punctuation is a plus. If you spell and present yourself like a 5 year old, that's the way you will be treated. At the end of every email I send, I always end it with either "Kindest regards" or "Thank you for your time and consideration". Thanks for sharing this topic with everyone, Dave. Cheers! Marty Rodriguez Corduroy Jim San Jose, CA. www.corduroyjim.com
RA-SOOL
Posted by RA-SOOL on May 21 2011 4:29 AM
WWW.RA-SOOL.com
Mac Macdonald
Posted by Mac Macdonald on May 26 2011 10:01 PM
:)All great advice here...better yet, you can always book smaller venues yourself and create working relationships that may outlast the careers of many local booking agents . Remember: booking agents rarely wake up in the morning thinking about what they can do for YOUR act alone. Make those calls yourself and become pro-active.
Dave Cool
Posted by Dave Cool on May 27 2011 2:13 PM
Amazing feedback, thanks everyone! Some great stories in the comments too, thanks for sharing. I'll try to do more in-depth posts about booking in the future as well... Cheers! DC
Chris Simeone
Posted by Chris Simeone on Nov 18 2013 11:59 AM
Great info. We always go to a gig with an attitude of kindness, humility and thankfulness towards each person that works the venue or event. Then we play like our lives depend on it! And this is key... If there is a bar at the venue hand the bartender a generous tip at the end of the gig. Whether you had one coke or 10 brews, tip well! They usually put in a good word with the owner and will make sure you're asked back! Chris of U2 Tribute Band UZoo u2act.com
Marion Fiedler
Posted by Marion Fiedler on Mar 31 2014 3:20 AM
Hey guys, this is all very true. I wanted to add on to that. In my experience a booker firstly looks if the band can fill the venue, and also checks the quality of the music you send in. If your music speaks for itself you might as well just land the gig. That´s my experience. Hugs! www.marionfiedler.com