​Booking & Setting Up a Show

A lot goes into booking a show for an artist or band from start to finish. From rehearsing and coordinating to online and grassroots promotion, and from negotiating and communicating about availability to confirming other acts for the bill (whether you or your band puts the bill together or booker does - someone does the work).

The terminology regarding shows can sometimes be confusing for someone just starting out (words like: hold, load in, line check, draw, room cap, cover etc.). Bookers will often ask questions like “what’s your market history?” and “what’s your draw?” or “how many people can you bring out to the show?”

Here’s a brief overview of some terms:

Hold - Sometimes artists or agents will put a “hold” on a date when their working on routing / booking a tour and waiting for other dates to confirm so in that case venues will put you on “hold” if they have other acts who have reached out before you for the specific date you reached out for. Sometimes the booker will tell you have a second or third hold, and if the other bands who have that date reserved end up cancelling it, the night will go to you or your band.

Load-in: The booker will give you a load-in time for the show, this will vary from venue to venue, but will generally be about an hour before doors open. This is the time you bring your gear in and set it near the stage or onstage before the show.

Line-check: This is another word for “soundcheck” but it’s more of a quicker one right before the band plays. Rather than doing a full 20 minute or hour long soundcheck before the crowd gets there, often for headliners, the opening bands will just do a line-check and check their levels minutes before their set.

Draw: A draw is how many people you can bring to a show. A booker or venue will ask this so they can figure how many people will likely be there buying drinks, cheering you on, and paying the cover to get in. This could also determine a guarantee you’ll be paid, bar % or door deal you’ll get. Bars and venues rely on this draw sometimes to cover their expenses for the night (security, sound people, door people, bar tenders). They want to know that hosting you is going to benefit them.

Room cap: “Room Capacity” This is how many people the room/venue holds according to fire safety laws.

Cover: Door price /  Ticket price / How much it costs to get in.

A lot of people are involved in a live show. In addition to your band and the audience, there is usually a few other people involved: The promoter &/or booker, a sound person, a door person, other acts (that a promoter, band or you will have added to the bill) and the people who work at the venue.

First, the booker is who you’ll have to reach out to for a potential gig. This e-mail is usually listed on a venue’s website contact form.

Helpful Tips:

- If there are two different booker contact e-mails: local & national - email the most appropriate one

- Address the booker by their name if you see there’s a particular person

- Introduce yourself, your act or bands name (if you are one)with a brief paragraph & include a short description of your band / comparisons and that you’re looking to book a show

- Pick a few dates to send as options for booker (prior if you’re in a band make sure all members could do these days as possible options, some people may need to get off work or change their schedules)

- Include a link to any CURRENT single or album & some live video if you have available.

- Include you or your bands career highlights (like if you have been featured on any blogs, news papers, magazines or on any radio, tv) & where you have played in the area (list a few venues & locals acts you have played with)

- Include your contact info & social media links

The booker will ideally get back to you (usually within a few days but sometimes a couple weeks, if not, try e-mailing again/follow up. Try following up a week-10 days later) and let you know if the date is available or sometimes they will recommend other venues that may be a better fit or other possible dates if the one requested is already taken. If the date is open and your band is given the gig, the booker may ask you to find other locals acts to support the night. Local bands will help bring in a bigger crowd especially if you’re not from the area. If you’re booking a show outside of your hometown, it’s integral to get local supporting bands. You can find other bands on sites such as http://reverberation.com, facebook music groups, local music blogs to the specific city, venue website’s show calendars, and fliers other artists have hung up at venues or coffeeshops nearby. Also google searches can be helpful by looking up city names, band & genres tags. Sometimes bookers will also have a recommendation band list, so always ask incase they do!

Reaching out to other bands is similar to reaching out to the booker: be specific, be respectful, and include all the info in a clear and concise way!

Sometimes and ideally, a promoter or venue of a show or venue will help push this newly booked show out to online outlets and upcoming show listings. There won’t always be a promoter, but even when there is, it’s important to do your own promotion. There are many simple ways of getting your friends, family, and soon-to-be fans to your gigs. Sometimes venues, bars, coffeeshops, or houses that host events will have a built-in crowd but you can’t rely on this. That’s where online promotion and grassroots promotion come in! Once your show is booked and you’ve found other fitting acts to join the bill, make a flier and an event page on facebook and push it out to everyone you can! Give yourself a good month to promote and remind people, in person, and on social media.

Also ask the booker if they have a press list. Often they do! This can be helpful as they may have good contacts at local radio stations, blogs, and news outlets who you can email/reach out to help promote your show. Invite them to your show or ask if they can feature you, do an interview or live in-studio performance (radio) before the show to help get people out :)

Once you’re at your show, it’s important to know the door person’s and the sound person’s role.

The door person will sometimes tally how many people come into the venue and take the cover from anyone entering the show. The sound person will do the soundcheck/line check for bands, and ask you what your set up is. *Sometimes when booking (depending on venue, a booker will request you send an input list & stage plot for production so they know what to expect as far as your setup ahead of time).  They will want to know what you need on stage as far as instruments, microphones, and necessary cables, etc. to get the best sound. You can tell this person how high you want the levels in your monitors, and if you’re singing - whether you want reverb added to your voice or not. Don’t expect them to read your mind! They’re there to make it sound the best it possibly can.

At whatever level you are at, it doesn’t matter, you have to start somewhere! If you are just starting out just know even bigger artists who have been playing for years also have their own booking or show / touring struggles. So regardless of the level, hopefully this post and some of these suggested steps and tips might help making booking easier!

Additional Tips:

- http://www.indieonthemove.com is a great database for bands and musicians starting out looking to book their next gig. There are listings on this site of music venues all over the country, and they will even tell you how many people fit in the room, what genres they host, and who to contact to book a show. We would highly recommend checking this site out and becoming a member! It will help you locally as well as country-wide once you’re ready to take your act on the road! The benefits of this site are great examples of what you need in order to book shows.

 Photo: Samuel Bendix  

Photo: Samuel Bendix  

Respectfully Approaching People & Pitching Music Industry Professionals

It is definitely and without doubt (now, and it has been for for years) a necessity for a band or artist to connect with people and industry in order to grow and be a part of the music community.

When reaching out to bookers, promoters, studio engineers, blogs, radio DJs, magazines or other bands, artists you want to connect with, or anyone else in the industry, or even future fans, it is important to be aware of how you’re approaching them.

Whether reaching out via social media (Facebook messenger, Facebook Pages, Instagram messenger, etc), e-mail, or in person, it is equally as important to be courteous and respectful.

Most likely the person you are trying to reach has a busy schedule - whether they are an artist, industry person or even a music fan, it’s important to take this into consideration. Think about how you would want to be approached or written to. Also be aware that without artists and music, labels would not exist, so it does go both ways, we are in this together and need each other for our industry to grow.

Online: Kindly introduce yourself, acknowledge their name, get to the point and be professional. If you want to send a video or music link to an engineer you want to work with, or a label rep, understand that Facebook messenger or any public social media platform isn’t always the best way to reach them directly. Sometimes you will not receive a response this way or right away. Instead, try going to the official website, find an e-mail on the contact page and address the person politely, tell them who you are, and why you’re reaching out. Or, if you do reach out on social media, ask them if this is the best place to send them your music or briefly explain why you’re reaching out and if there is a better place they’d prefer you write to (i.e: e-mail)

Too often people are bombarded by random people / artists spamming links to people with their music with no explanation or asking for demands without saying who they are and because of this people (industry & fans) are being turned off immediately and making it harder for the artists who work really hard and care. Please consider taking your time to consider who you’re approaching without wanting a quick fix/answer. Take your time to research the right people... making sure it relates (meaning “I saw you were a fan of _____, my band has a lot of similar influences  & has been compared to ______” or “I saw on your credits you recorded _______, and you work with a lot of metal. We’re a metal band who is in the same vein as ______ and think you’d understand our band’s sound and us so we’d love to talk about working with you.”)

Different labels, media outlets, industry people, and artists will vary in their means of contact. It’s important to think it out... why are you contacting this person? What is your goal in contacting them? What can they, in turn, benefit from you reaching out to them? What makes it worth it? Let them know! Use proper grammar, punctuation, spelling, and full sentences. Sign your name and let them know how they can get in touch with you.

In the end it is about respect. Respect this person’s time, don’t insist anything of them - Respect their space, don’t expect them to get back right away and if they don’t, don’t pester them. They likely have a lot on their plate and a lot of people reaching out. But also do not be afraid to contact people, ask and follow up. Just like performance is a risk of being open to an audience so is reaching out to people in a positive way.

Tips:

- if you don’t hear back try following up about 10 days to 2 weeks later (this is not a set rule but a suggestion. Often 3-4 follow ups later you might hear from a booker saying “so sorry for late reply, we actually have that date, just have been so busy with the shows, my other 3 jobs and family life”. This is very common and people get lots of e-mails. Don’t lose hope and always think their uninterested)

- when approaching a fan consider comparing your songs to some other artists they may know or if you see they like and work with your genre tell them so they have an idea what they might be checking out.

- when emailing a blog, prospective label or management person, please definitely do your homework on them. Make sure they’re the right person to be reaching out to.

- try introducing yourself, be clear about what you’re asking / pitching, send a brief paragraph on yourself/your band, your career highlights (bigger bands who you have played with, bigger venues, radio stations, magazines or blogs who have featured you, and definitely tell them who you sound like.

- If you call an office of a music business professional or an individual when leaving a message always talk slow and when leaving your return # repeat it twice. Sometimes the first time people don’t catch it.

- absolutely always include a few online links.

The biggest risk you may take is not taking one, so take a chance and don’t be afraid to contact people but do it respectfully:)

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Setting up your social media sites

Being an artist in this day and age is surely not what it was decades ago or even just a few years ago. As we know, the internet is now where the main focus is. It’s a constant changing world of it’s own, spouting out new forms of social media platforms and new avenues of connection all the time. These doors are opening up avenues for artists and fans alike allowing us to grow our brand and art quickly, with a plethora of new ways every day to reach large groups of people everywhere all at once.

It’s pretty crazy how we can now find a venue’s name, address, and contact info within minutes. We can even research our dream producer, label, and sometimes find the right contact e-mail or Facebook profile to reach them. We can and should use these avenues to their fullest potential! All it takes is just a bit of understanding of the different platforms and methods to get the most out of them. Just like learning your instrument - social media and marketing today is an instrumental tool to help your music brand be successful.

Anyone reading this is probably already familiar (to an extent) with Youtube, Instagram, Spotify, Facebook Live, and Twitter. These are just a handful of the main sites that are constantly growing with the times and allowing artists to reach their fans, and fans to reach their favorite artists. These sites are all free and all have space for images, bios, content, and direct ways to connect with potential fans, bookers, industry people, and other bands and artists (of every level).

When setting up one’s Profile page for any of these sites it’s important to take time to provide good content for the core page. Posts aside, make sure the profile and cover photo are representative of the band. Consider branding your image across all platforms too so it becomes something signature and it’s how people recognize you. People see these first, so make them stand out. Having a good bio is important, and on Facebook it can be lengthier than Twitter or Instagram. Describe who you are and what you sound like. Add your contact info and links to your other sites to cross promote where it makes sense. When you’re first building, try connecting with other bands, people &/or brands online who you like by liking posts and interacting through your page. If you want to maximize your reach and effort then always post your shows and publish event pages through the music page to bring people there. Invite people and let them know you care about who you are and what you do! Take advantage of the apps within the page - you can set up your own merch store, you can import your upcoming shows, you can promote important posts for just $5 to reach more fans, etc. Make sure you invite all your friends to like the page so they can stay updated!

Twitter and Instagram are a bit simpler than facebook, focusing more on the postings rather than the core music page. So make sure your posts are relevant to what you’re doing and are strong. Keep people updated and keep them engaged - this is the main goal! Post often but don’t overdo it. If it helps, consider making a weekly schedule to plan out the time you spend doing posts and communicating online. If you have a lot going on in you or your bands schedules this is helpful as well as finding a natural rhythm to when people are engaging.

The use of hashtags on a post can reach people far and beyond. Users can now follow specific hashtags, so be specific with them in choosing them. Social media platforms work hand in hand as well. When you sponsor a post on facebook, and you link your instagram or twitter account, the sponsored post goes out to your followers who are within the demographics you set, and this can double, or triple its viewership.

That direct artist to fan contact is what helps us build a grassroots fan base to something far beyond that, when people are interested in the upcoming shows, new releases, live photos, and happenings.

Having a place to go to see all the news and upcoming events from an artist one follows is extremely important. Having multiple places to go and see different, new, exciting things will keep people engaged. It’s important to keep these sites current, relevant, and cohesive. Contact with your fans can build tenfold when you maximize an incredible live show and quality music with your image and activity online.

Having all the pieces is a lot of work, but your activity online can really boost your career as an artist!

Tips:

-Be present on all main social media sites, and post differing content, (videos, live videos, pictures, press shots, event pages, posters, etc.)

-Keep all sites current - When something isn’t up to date, the fans will know

-Be conscious of the time of of day you’re posting and what time gets the most reactions

-Keep your pictures clear and high quality, don’t just post for the sake of posting

-Connect with other bands and artists as much as you can through your music pages

-Respond if you can to your fans if they reach out to you on these sites!

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Pre-Production and preparing for recording

You and/or your band are sounding like a solid unit, you’ve practiced multiple times on a regular basis, and you’ve possibly even played your music out in some venues. The songs are sounding good and you’re really happy with how they’ve come together - the next step could very well be stepping into the studio to record!

The first step for preparing for recording your songs is pre-production. Pre-production is one of the most important things an artist or band can do and have an understanding of, especially in this day and age when both money and time are such factors. Just like first promoting your show and then playing the show happens in two steps, so should pre-production & recording.

Pre-production is the time you spend to prepare your songs, practicing your parts as a band or artist, checking arrangements, breaking the songs down so you make sure everyone is playing the same notes, checking all the musical parts, practicing harmonies, refining lyrics, making sure the key is right, finding the tempos (whether you’ll play to a click or not, depending on your music) before entering the studio.

*A lot of us artists have some sort of home studio or computer recording setup available to us, and even with technology at our fingertips (which is a great luxury we have these days!) it can be overlooked. There are many opportunities to take your time to figure things out on your own for finding the best result - so take advantage of these things so when you spend your time and money on a great studio or great producer you are prepared!

When practicing your songs, you could even time yourself and see how long it takes you to set up all the instruments, play through the song(s) you want to record, *plus factor in the engineer mic’ing instruments and testing sounds (that will give you an idea of how long it might take in the studio to set up even before tracking). Find the BPM (beats per minute) of the song and try practicing to a click track, this will further tighten up the band and the song, speed up time in the studio, and when it comes to tracking it (especially via the computer), will give everyone a guide, allow the producer and everyone involved some more flexibility and creativity to build the song into something really cohesive and wonderful!

Tips:

- There are multiple tempo / click apps (try TEMPO) available for free or for a couple dollars online for iPhones or Smartphones that you can tap tempos out to.

- When you find a tempo for your song try it a couple beats slower and faster to see which sounds best!

- Try using a Phone or Computer mic to record your band or your songs to see how songs are sounding! This is a great way even if it’s rough to hear your songs.

- Typically full production indie band songs can usually be fully tracked in 1-2 days (of course depending on a lot of factors: if a band or artist is well rehearsed, instrumentation, style of music, budget)

- Typical studio rates can vary from $250-up (maybe cheaper depending on the place/location)

- Most average studios run $350-700 and up a day in major cities. Sometimes the rate includes the engineer if he or she owns the studio.

- Engineer rates average w/o a studio usually run $150/$250 a day and upward -or- $35 and up an hour

- Assistant rates run usually $100/150 a day

- Typical tracking hours in professional studios run 8-12 hours varying on the studio and engineer rates

Your friends, family, and fans are all going to want to be able to take something home that you created and that they can listen to over and over again. (Plus as a touring artist, CDs are a must have and merch sales help to pay for lodging, gas, and food. Recordings are also important for any band or artist who is serious about wanting to be a professional musician as it is an opportunity for online sales and a way for fans and industry folks who don’t live in the same city or country to hear you.

This is just a small glimpse into preparing for recording but above all, have fun and enjoy the process, learn who you are and what you like as you go - make sure to communicate how you want things to sound when you work with people; the more direction as a band or artist the better. Also, being flexible during the recording process will make things easier and less stressful. In pre-production, if it’s not sounding the way you want, experiment with some different pedals, amps, instruments, or even better - try different things out (second guitar parts, solos, arrangements, drums fills). Have a few great options and a couple ideas you can bring into the studio or to the producer so you can try things until you find your desired sound.

Recording can be a really great process and experience. Like anything though, it can become frustrating or present challenges when you least expect it - especially if you’re not prepared - so doing so will really help! Be patient, and understand that the recording process may take longer at first, but once you get familiar with how it all works, and familiar with a studio, it’ll get faster and become even more fun. Be respectful to the equipment, the people you’re hiring on the songs, whether it’s the engineer, assistant engineer, producer, mixer, etc. or hired players if there are any. They are all working with you to carry out your vision, and it can be a really rewarding experience for everyone when everyone’s on the same page!

   (Photo by Greg Jacobs)

 (Photo by Greg Jacobs)

   (Photo by Doug Batchelder)

 (Photo by Doug Batchelder)

Writing & preparing songs

Whether you have just started playing or you have been in bands for years and you’re starting a fresh project, writing strong and thoughtful material will always rise above all else.

Creativity comes in so many ways and at so many different times - lyric ideas can come while walking outside, while in the shower, while talking to people, while seeing live music, melodies can come while sitting in traffic, or doing things free-flowing. Great parts of songs can come to life from 20 minute jams with different players (Tip* be sure to record it and listen back later!), from poetry notebooks, after seeing an amazing inspiring movie or even after reading books & local news! Concepts, music and lyrics have endless possibilities and there are no rules regarding how they come to be. Most of the time ideas will likely come at very inconvenient times! Be sure to mark it down wherever you can, sing it to yourself in a voice memo or voicemail, use a notepad or text yourself. The idea might leave or be quickly be forgotten (we live in a very busy age!) so whatever it is write it down right away! It doesn’t matter if you’re punk, pop or a heavy metal band... Song material can come from literally anywhere. When you’re building your band or self as a solo artist, whether to prepare for playing shows or to record your first CD, you’re going to need some songs! And some great ones for that matter!

Writing Tips:

- What genre are you? Who are the successful bands or artists in your genre that inspire you? What makes their songs great? Try studying & taking note of their arrangement (i.e intro, verse, chorus etc) to get ideas as well as their approach lyrically (are they clear, do they tell a story, are the words simple or is more poetic or cryptic)

- It can be easier sometimes to start with a song title or even a message you’re trying to convey and branch off from there.

- What inspires you? Are there certain places around you that you know bring creativity or inspiration? Are there certain activities that you do that get that creative energy going or put your mind in a close-to meditative state? Be open to these places and actions and write down what you’re thinking about.

- When you’re first starting out you may want to consider writing some goals for yourself or together as a band so you have at least 6-10 songs to pick from to play your first show.

(Typically most live acts will get a time slot of 25 mins-45 mins to fill, so your material will need to cover this time. Also for acts that play loud full band shows you may want to consider having the ability & flexibility to play your songs acoustic / at lower volumes for particular shows or even for recordings - one acoustic for your record to show diversity or have a couple extra for marketing- like a free download or Alt version of a song *of course there are exceptions, for example - if you’re a metal band & that is not your direction). Additionally, you’ll want to include and prepare the time in between songs on stage for conversation and banter.

So how do you know which songs should stick? It’s hard to know sometimes before playing them out and before a crowd reacts.

Asking yourself these questions about each song might help start you in the right direction when making a set list:

Is this particular song one you always look forward to playing? The audience wants to hear songs that you enjoy yourself!

How relatable is the song? Does the melody of the song match it’s mood/lyrics? If it’s a sad song & a quiet moment in a bridge will people feel that? People will pay attention if it’s something they can relate to.

Will people be able to sing along, dance, or bob their head to the song?  Either way, whatever it’s about, mean it when you sing it! Play it 100% because people will feel it!

If the melody is catchy enough, most likely in a live setting the words won’t even matter and people will connect and move their head to the beat anyway!

Ultimately it’s not about pleasing your audience, but it’s about giving your audience an experience and music they’ll remember - We are all humans with feelings and that is how we relate. It’s about opening up, sharing your honest emotions, yourself and creations that you’re proud of with people who have opened their ears to it. For the Every crowd will react differently, and every room will have a different vibe. It is important to believe in each one of your songs genuinely so it’s not up to anyone else if it’s a hit or not. If you don’t believe in it, leave it out, more songs will come to you. Focus on the songs you believe in and make them really great. That way others will start to believe in them too.

 (Photo by CJ Lucero) 

(Photo by CJ Lucero) 

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