​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  

Intro to Imaging (on stage & off)

In this day and age of music, things are constantly evolving and moving fast. It’s happening so quick that it can be hard to catch up with social media sites and all the new music avenues constantly popping up. It can be overwhelming to some artists, especially for those who are just comfortable being songwriters that would rather perform than brand and market themselves. Either way you can’t afford to just get up on stage and play your song. You have to give people an experience—you can’t afford to be shy about your music or your message - you have to get it out there and stick out of the crowd!

Artists today have to create their own path and have a very clear vision. One must re-invent themselves constantly in order to keep up. As hard and as challenging as the world of music can seem, it can also be looked at positively to those who adapt and move with it like a chameleon. It’s an opportunity to make your own career whatever direction you want and find your own nitch. 

Your perspective is important. It is helpful for one to look at his or her art as a “brand.” Although things are not how they were in the 60’s, 90’s, or even ten years ago, one thing has stayed the same: people still go to live shows. Live music will never go away! With the pressure of these new times, artists and bands should be creative because they have to be more than just a band or artist playing their instruments. Be conscious of how you’re presenting yourself on stage, off stage and online. Pictures, content and activity are important as they help with momentum. Keep the engagement with your crowd and audience as it is a necessity!

When it comes time to play live, make sure that your band looks like a band! Be yourself, but put some extra time and care into how you present yourself. Audiences want to connect with you so please show you care. If you’re performing later on in the night you want to make sure that the crowd sticks around to see you.

When it comes time to do photo shoots or posts, keep your goals in mind. Think about the moment someone hears your song… what might they envision you to look like? If they see you at a club at your merch table before your show, what might they imagine your music to sound like?

Live Show Tips

- Put thought into what you’re wearing and have fun with it! Don’t just wear your everyday clothes. Set yourself apart.

- Make eye contact and open up in an authentic way (this may take time).

- Acknowledge the audience, say hello! You don’t have to do it after every song but at least twice during your set - let them know that you see them.

Press Photos / Video Tips

- No matter what genre, in photoshoots try to do at least one photo where you make direct eye contact.

- Make sure the camera you are using takes good, clear photos! No one wants to see a blurry press shot!

- If you’re a new artist or band make sure you’re featured or present in the content so people can connect. Of course there’s exceptions... if you wear masks or if it’s an animation, etc.

- If you come up with a particular way you or your bandmates dress that is signature to you and your music, you may want make sure it’s always carried over to your videos & photos.

In conclusion: By putting care into how you present yourself and by wearing your art just as much as you sing it, people will want to stick around and experience it. When your music and your look go hand in hand it is easy for an audience to instantly connect with you. Think about the artists you’re inspired by… how do they look and present themselves? How does their sound match their look? Be yourself, be clear and simple, and the right people will resonate with you!

  (photo credit: Concretegrey & Carissa Johnson)     

(photo credit: Concretegrey & Carissa Johnson)