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Live Music Gig Guide: Landing a Local Show

by Molly Kodros
music & audio

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No matter where you live in the world, booking shows can be a challenge. Once you establish yourself and develop the right relationships with venues, it gets easier to play and build your audience. But how do you get your foot in the door? The first impression is key – here are some of the best ways to perk up a concert promoter’s ear:

1) Link to your music Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 5.13.38 PM

Far too many bands fail to include links to their music. No promoter has the time to track down an unknown act’s music in the wilds of the internet. When you email a venue’s booker, always include links to your website, Facebook, any relevant press, and most importantly, a link to music they can stream instead of a download. Streaming music is always preferred to downloading – Soundcloud and Bandcamp are two of the best sites. If you don’t want your music public yet, create a “private” Soundcloud link.

Before every email you send, just remember the following: Bookers get hundreds of emails a day from bands trying to play shows. They aren’t going to waste their time on an email that lacks helpful information or seems amateurish.

2) Tell them what you’ve done as a band

When venues book shows, they want acts that make sense playing together. So tell them about yourself: Where have you played before? What genre are you, and what popular acts does your music sound like? What other local bands are you friends with? Where else in the city have you played?

It’s OK if you’re just starting out and don’t have much of a history, but venues still need to have some context before they can can put your on a bill. Even something as simple as “We sound like Whitesnake-meets-Richard Marx” or “we’re friends with The Ska-bominable Snowmen who played your club last month” and “we’ve already played shows at The Greasetrap and The Drunk Uncle,” will go a long way.

3) Have ideas for shows

Take a good look at a venue’s calendar. Offer suggestions for nights that your band would make a great fit. It’s much easier to book a band when there are specific dates that we know they are interested in and available for. If you’re a local band, you’re not likely ready to headline the venue, so make suggestions for bands on the calendar that you would like to open for. Or even better: call your friends in bands, and come up with a whole lineup that includes a popular local headliner. Playing with your friends isn’t just fun- it makes our job easier, and we’ll definitely appreciate the help.

The more specific you can be about dates you’re available and bands you would fit with, the easier it is to book your band.

4) Be honest

If a booker asks for your draw, don’t lie. Don’t be embarrassed if the answer is “Twenty people, which includes my parents.” You have to start somewhere! And that’s better than fudging your draw and disappointing them later. Also, always adhere to the venue’s radius clause (which usually means you can’t play another show close by within a few weeks time). If you have something else booked, tell us. Venues usually are flexible with locals who try their best. But being transparent creates trust between the venue and the band.

5) Do your research

A little research about a venue goes a long way. Most bands don’t see the potential in taking simple, small steps to set you apart. Make sure you’ve found the booker’s name and spelled it correctly. Be sure to spell the name of the venue correctly. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen bands try to book a show with a venue and call that venue by the wrong name. We’re just like that cute guy or girl you just met at the bar – if you can’t be bothered to learn our name, we’re not going to have you over.

6) Hang out at the venue

This is the easy and fun part. Come by the club and have a drink on a weeknight. Become friendly with the staff and bartenders. Befriend the other local bands that play there frequently – they might suggest you as support for one of their own shows. And bring your bandmates along – having the whole band hang out together at the venue creates a presence and identity for you. You’re in a band, for goodness sakes: it’s your job to go out at night and get drinks and talk about music.

7) Follow up

Like any job inquiry, following up is important. If you haven’t heard back in a week, feel free to send another email. However you don’t want to harass the booker: sometimes it’s just not going to happen based on the existing schedule, and that’s OK. The best thing any local band can do is keep working at it – working on your draw, getting local press and spins on local radio. If you do these things, the booker will notice.

Remember, this is rock and roll. Even this “work” is supposed to be fun. Do all this and soon you’ll get to the good part – playing on stage.

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Molly Kodros

Molly Kodros is the jack of all trades at The Satellite, an indie venue in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. When she's not ushering bands into stardom, you can find her creeping on other people's dogs at the Silver Lake Reservoir or perfecting her Yogurtland mixology strategy