What Matters In Booking?
“Hello Mr. Venue Owner. I was calling to see if you’ve listened to our demo yet. We spent a lot of money at the best studio in town using the best producer in town. He really loved the songs. And our guitar player is a classically trained player from the University of Raleigh Music School. Our drummer has been playing since he was two years old. And I can promise you, we are as tight live as we are on the demo.”
Whoop-di-do! Nobody cares, and certainly not Mr. Venue Owner of fifteen years in the business.
Try this approach on for size and see if it doesn’t get you further:
“Hello Mr. Venue Owner. My band can put people in your venue. Lots of people. And more importantly, we will bring in drinkers. Our fans are over 21, they drink and we have a LOT of fans. We don’t over-play the market. If we played your venue we wouldn’t play another venue in town for 2 months and we’ll spend the six weeks leading up to the show marketing ONLY your show. I would expect realistically that we can put about 125 people in your room.”
Hell, if you said that, you would probably have a date before getting off the phone. You could even wrap up that conversation by saying, “By the way, we’re not even really that good. We’re okay, but we’re not great,” and you’d still get the gig.
Venue owners don’t care about the same things you do. They don’t care how good your drummer is or where you recorded your demo. They want to know the room will be filled with drinkers. That’s it.
So as you go into booking, keep that at the forefront of your mind.
Become a regular at the venue you want to play before you play the venue. Get to know the staff. They are the people who can help you market the show. Often they give the owner or booker tips on who they should be recruiting. Venues like to support musicians who support them. Support the venue where you want to play. Remember to speak to the owner or booker in their terms (bodies and drinkers) and, unless you’re just absolutely horrible (and possibly even if you are), you’ll almost certainly get the gig.
But once you do get the gig, you’d better follow through if you want to play there again. Continue to support the venue. Promote the show. Keep your promises of marketing and not overplaying the market. And most importantly, make sure you get people out to your show.