I recently had the opportunity to do some booking for a venue and I must say, it was a very interesting experience. I’m usually booking for myself and fellow artists more often than not, but being on the other side allowed me to see booking from another perspective – the perspective of the venue. I placed an ad on Indie on the Move and on Craigslist and received a boatload of responses. I found some really good artists during the process, but I came across some common mistakes that I think a lot of us make when we’re reaching out to venues for booking. So here’s my list of top 10 Things Artists Can Improve On when booking, from the venues’ perspective.
- If you get snarky even in the least bit, you will never hear from me again and I will tell my friends in the industry not to work with you.
It’s a very thin line between having a genuine concern and making yourself look like you’re going to be difficult to work with. To be honest, that line gets blurred even for the smallest of offenses. I understand that bookers can be curt and may not always be forthcoming with information. But when you complain about it, you’re only making yourself look bad. The best thing to do is just move on. For example, one lady got snarky with me after I told her she wasn’t a good fit. She complained about my ad saying that I should have been more detailed about what I was looking for. She also explained what I can do better in the future. Although her points may have been valid, she rubbed me the wrong way. I’m never going to reach out to her again for any future opportunities that might come up and if anyone asks me about her, I won’t have good things to say.
Unfortunately for you, venues have the upper hand in this business if your business model involves playing in venues. They decide to let you in their place or not. Sometimes you need to bite your tongue if you want to get further along. There are other ways to blow off steam without shooting yourself in the foot. Try taking up racquetball or kickboxing. The plus side to this is that you get to burn calories while you do it.
- You lose a ton of credibility if you don’t follow directions and you come off looking irresponsible.
If you couldn’t manage to follow my simple instructions about booking, how can I expect you to follow more complex instructions when it comes to load-in, set-up, promotion requests, and load-out? I don’t know whether you just didn’t read the instructions out of being lazy or rushed or maybe you didn’t care. Either way it doesn’t look good for you. The booking instructions might seem tedious to you, but they help me organize your information in a way that I can read through it in a seamless manner. When I see that you are following my instructions, I add you to the top of my list and look over your information first. It pays to take the time to follow directions no matter how tedious they might be.
- In the off chance that you don’t follow directions acknowledge it and you’d better have a good reason.
If you can’t follow the directions for some reason, go ahead and acknowledge that and share why you’re not following the directions. Make sure it is for a good reason though. Don’t give a lame reason because it’s just going to make things worse.
- Don’t lie and say you’re a good fit when you’re really not. You’re wasting my time and yours.
If I look at your video and see that your music does not actually fit with the genre I requested or typically present at my venue, I’m not going to give you any further consideration. It’s a waste of your time and mine. In addition, I might not contact you for any future openings either. However, if you can’t resist the urge to send me your information, at least acknowledge that you’re not a fit and ask to be considered for any other events where you would be a good fit.
- It’s great to be brief, but if you send one liners, I’m not going to take you seriously.
A good booking pitch is concise and to the point. However, there is a balance between having too much information, or too little information. I don’t want to open your e-mail and read one liners like the following where that is all you have to say:
“My band would be great for this event.”
“Please consider us for your venue.”
Take the time to add a few more descriptors such as what you sound like on stage or what your band make up is and what city you’re based in. These tidbits are helpful for me when it comes to considering you for my stage/venue. On the flip side, don’t go overboard and include too much information because…
- Too many accolades can be a turn off.
Many of the responses included a long list of seriously awesome achievements and accolades. I got people who were candidates on TV singing competitions, people who once performed with grammy nominated artists, people who won a grammy themselves and the list goes on. The artists who included these lists of accolades did not fare any better than those who did not. In fact, their chances were a lot slimmer. The reason is that I was representing a small venue who didn’t have a big budget. My guess is that if you’ve made all of these great achievements in the music industry, then you’re going to be a lot more expensive than Plain Jane and Joe who also can provide good music but for significantly less. I’m probably going to contact Plain Jane and Joe first. I could be wrong, but I’m thinking most venues are in this boat. They have a limited budget for music and their main goal is to stay in the black. Having a grammy nominated artist (or whatever super great accolade you promote about yourself) play their venue would be great but it’s really not practical financially.
I wouldn’t say to completely delete all of your accolades from your pitch, but just minimize them to around 3-5 quick points and don’t over qualify yourself. Have you ever applied for a job and you learned that you didn’t get it because the employer thought you were over-qualified? The same goes for the venue. Look at the size of the venue and the quality of past performers they’ve presented and you should be able to determine what value points to add to your pitch for that particular venue.
Put accolades at the bottom of your pitch. Ultimately, I only read them if I wanted to learn more about the artist. The performance video was more important. Which brings me to my next few points…
- Your video is the first thing I’m going to look at.
Include a link to a live performance video as soon as you possibly can in your pitch. I received tons of e-mails and it was a pain having to read through long e-mails only to find a video link buried in the bottom of the pitch. I don’t have a lot of time, so just cut to the chase and show me what you’re working with. Also, please make sure it is a LIVE PERFORMANCE video. I’d rather not see a music video that’s been pre-filmed where you’re lip syncing and you’ve filmed each shot 10x to get the best one. That is great and all, but that kind of stuff is for your fans. Not for me. I need to see how you will look on my stage. I need to get a taste of your live stage presence, your energy, and your vocal quality in a live situation. A music video or promotional footage of you in a studio is not going to cut it.
- Speaking of videos, if you don’t have any live performance videos to show me you will go to the bottom of my list.
Yes, videos are that important. I’m not going to hire you sight unseen.
- Send me your best stuff. Don’t make me have to search for it.
It’s in your best interest to send your best material. Don’t be in such a hurry that you send me videos that don’t shed you in the best light. If you have to wait a day or so before reaching out to me so that you can create a video, do it. It could mean the difference between getting the gig or not. If you don’t send a good quality video, I may search for one of yours on my own from YouTube for example, but that’s ONLY after I’ve considered all the other acts who did send good videos.
- If I go through the trouble of reaching out or responding to you, don’t disappear on me.
I’m sure by now you can tell that your booking contacts select acts by a process of elimination. We start off with many many submissions and drill down to about 3-5 potentials. So if we go through the trouble of reaching out to you for booking, that means we’ve waded through tons of other artists and selected you. That’s a big deal. If for some reason you are not (or no longer) interested in the opportunity or you had a change on your schedule at least send a response. Because if you don’t respond, not only will you lose that particular opportunity, but you might lose future
opportunities with that contact as well because you might be labeled as unresponsive or worse, flaky. I know that seems a bit hypocritical given that venues rarely respond to your booking pitches. But like I mentioned earlier, you’re sort of at the mercy of the venues. Do what you can to foster good communication even if it’s not reciprocated. This business is not fair. But your job is to get shows for yourself in spite of fairness or lack thereof.
Here are a couple venue friends to add some thoughts to help you be more effective with your booking pitches.
If a band sends a mass email to several venues then I quickly disregard it. Also, bands are aware of my place mostly from Indie on the Move, I believe. In my registration it says the types of music that I have and the days of the week. Many bands don’t pay attention to this and still ask for several different dates.
Skip | Chilly Water Brewing
It would be nice if artists would post dates on their website as they fill. It helps me see routing, thus see dates available. I’d also like to see past venues played and their show experience.
Joe | The Player’s Club
Another point worth mentioning is that if you have someone representing you, keep an eye on their correspondence with potential contacts. Maybe ask them to blind copy you on their e-mails??? The reason I mention this is because I got a number of inquiries from business managers and booking representatives and I was floored by the lack of professionalism. They did not follow instructions and some were extremely long winded in their communications. So much to the point that it took away credibility from the artist they were trying to pitch. They also reached out without even looking at their artists’ calendars to confirm that they were available for the gig. I couldn’t imagine that the artists they represented were actually paying them to do this. Be very particular about who you hire to represent you. You don’t want someone representing you who could be doing more damage than good.
I would recommend that everyone take some time and try booking from the other side. You’ll get to see what it’s like to tell people ‘no’ and I guarantee you’ll learn so much more about booking best practices.
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