Booking yourself as a band. What’s the story?

Following on from the thread of thought from last week’s blog and following the independent musician/band (and in this context, I mean bands booking themselves without a booking agent), I have come to the topic of booking one’s selves.

I read a tweet the other day about an artist finding it very difficult to book his band in Brisbane.  Being part of a band myself and having booked numerous bands in numerous venues (and rarely had major dramas), I was puzzled – and again, I had one of those moments where I realised not everyone has heaps of industry contacts.  But therein lies the secret.  Make the contacts!!  There is no secret “club” you have to be in to get a gig and here’s a piece of advice to take away. DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY if you don’t get the date in the venue you want.  Perservere without being annoying – you will get something one day, hard work pays off.

The more I talk to other industry people and other band people, the secret is this.

Go to Shows.

Go to shows and lots of them. Meet the people in other bands and staff at those venues.  Go out of your way to meet the booker or the promoter of that show you are at. If nothing else, it means that you will make friends. When you finally do nail a venue and a great gig, it means lots of people will come.

A fantastic bass player from a fantastic Brisbane band said to me on Saturday night just gone – “I think if everyone in a band in Brisbane went to one band show a week, we’d all be better off and the scene would be more healthy!” Now, obviously, the music scene cannot rely on just musos going to see each other play, (it will end up just like MySpace, bands marketing to other bands), but musicians are tastemakers and are often the people spreading the word about great new bands to their non-music playing pals.

At its very base level, the statement is kind of about karma, good karma comes back to you.

But back to the point of the blog – booking your own shows.  If you are finding it difficult, what is it that you are finding difficult?

If you aren’t getting phonecalls back from the manager or booker of a venue, or their emails aren’t being replied to, make an effort and go in to the venue during the week or on a weeknight.  If they still aren’t in, leave a message with the staff about getting them to get back to you.  If they still aren’t getting back to you, it’s possible your music won’t fit in that venue and perhaps move on to another venue.

The most important thing to remember when booking shows is though you love your music and you think it is worthwhile putting in that venue, for that venue, putting on music is all about bums on seats.  They have to keep the lights on and the beer stocked.  If no-one is there buying beer and putting coins in the slots or paying cover charge, chances are, venue will not last long.

An even bigger secret is this: organise your own lineups and pitch the idea to a promoter or booker: don’t just pitch yourself.  Find other like bands to play with (preferably with a solid headline act who will pull numbers even if you don’t!) and take the hassle out of booking a whole night’s music and making numerous phonecalls.  This goes hand in hand with the bums on seats idea.  If you have a great lineup that will pull loads of people, chances are, you will get another slot to fill (which you can put your band on!!!).  Be prepared to be responsible for the night and ensure all the bands get paid.

Oh. Another secret – Do your research.  Make sure that venue is after your style of music before you hassle a booker for a show. 😉

Moral of the story – network!!!  Be great to deal with. Underpromise and overdeliver!


3 thoughts on “Booking yourself as a band. What’s the story?

  1. Do your research on the venue too.

    Make sure your pitch is realistic re numbers.
    There is no point chasing a Zoo gig ( 450ppl) if your line up is only good for 100 people. This will hurt you and your chances for next time.

    And always remember it is better to play a packed small room than a sparse bigger one. More vibe more vibe!

    If you are up and coming, play venues that support those sort of bands or have a crowd that goes to a venue rather than a billed night and build a crowd. In the end this is a bands best currency and is hard to ignore.

    Finally as tim said network and get on pre existing bills from similar bands.


  2. Fantastic advice, Paulie. Love what you are saying there about playing a full, small room rather than thinking you can fill the zoo and only getting 50 to the room and disappointing. Preceisely what I mean about underpromising and overdelivering!!!


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