How to book a great gig

Friday, 30 Aug 2013

In this edition of Tips of the Trade we chat to three booking agents – Emily Ulman (The Toff and The Boney in Melbourne), Adam Lewis (Sydney’s GoodGod Small Club and The Hollywood) and Mark Burchett (Caravan Music Club and Flying Saucer in Melbourne) – to find out what you should and shouldn’t do when it comes to putting on a show.  Read on to learn how to put your best foot forward next time you book a gig!

Key ingredients of a successful show

Emily: Having a clear picture of what you as a band or artist wants to achieve from a gig you’re booking can be really helpful. Are you launching something? Going away? Coming back? Throwing a party? Hoping to expand your audience? Once you establish your goal, it will make it easier to choose the right bill, the right venue and the right angle for promotion and publicity.

Adam: There’s so much involved in putting on a good show in terms of actually performing on the night, the logistics of getting everyone involved together and getting people interested. All of those things really rely on energy and a passion for what you’re doing. If you’re not excited about your own show it’s going to be hard to get other people excited.

Mark: From a promoter’s point of view, you’re looking for a great live act that has good songs that can draw a crowd.

Approaching a venue

Emily: One concise, clear email is all a venue booker needs to get an understanding of where a band is at and why they’d like to book a show. A short intro, brief bio, reason for writing and band link/s are ideal. Avoid attaching big sound files/mp3s to emails. This clogs the inbox and will most likely just be deleted. Make sure you have a sense of the venue you are approaching for your show. Know what dates they do/don’t have available for shows, how big the room is and whether it suits your playing experience; whether you are playing a gig too close in time and proximity to the one you are hoping to book…

Adam: Every band wants to be seen and heard and noticed. It’s important to have other people vouching for what you do because if other people are excited about what you do and you’re excited about what you do, it’s a bit of a snowball effect and more people will be drawn into it. In terms of finding bands for shows and support slots, it’s not so much that a band will send me a demo and it blows me away. It’s more so the case that I find bands because I’ve heard people talking about them and then I check them out myself.  Word of mouth goes a long way.

Mark: I get a lot of unsolicited emails – a lot bands just send broadcast emails to a whole bunch of promoters saying ‘hey give us a gig!’ It’s a bit of a waste. No-one’s going to respond to them – promoters and bookers are really busy and they’re not going to check out a band they’ve never heard of. You need to make contact with the booker or the promoter directly before you send them something. That can be hard to do but persistence will usually pay off.

Promotion

Emily: Promotion is crucial. The venue will have their own marketing in place, but it’s essential that the band contributes and complements this with their own promotion.  Making sure all acts on a bill are on board with publicity can also make a big difference.

Adam: Don’t solely rely on social media – it’s just one outlet. There’s so much going on there and so many people talking on there that you need to incorporate social media it into a broader campaign.  So write a press release and send it out to all street press and radio. Design a poster that looks good and put it up where people are going to see it.  Make the music of the bands on the bill available and easily accessible online.

Mark: The last thing a promoter wants is a band to just turn up and play without having done any legwork. We want to hear that the band is going to work the event through their social networks, design a poster that they’ll send around to all their friends and fans…construct a marketing plan that shows you’re going to do the work required to pull a crowd.

Community is key

Mark: Bands really need to get out and go see lots of gigs and get involved in the live scene and make connections that way. That’s the best way of getting a start. You’re not going to get anywhere sitting in your bedroom sending out emails and hoping something will happen. Be part of the scene or create a scene.

Adam: I find a lot of bands that do well are the bands that are really engaged in their local music community. They’re not just playing shows, they’re going to shows, they’re talking to other people and they’re working with other people. They don’t just swing in to play a show and then not really exist outside of that context. I think community is the most important thing in terms of putting together shows that people are going to vouch for and head along to. You need to have good relationships and work with other people to book strong lineups and compelling events. It’s really important creatively as well, to have people to bounce off, to be inspired by and to really throw yourself into a situation where you’re surrounded by creativity and opportunities.


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