Booking Your Band

Posted on July 23, 2010


Are you ready to book a show? Have you perfected the sound that is going to knock the crowd dead on stage? Your gear is stage worthy and you’ve got all of your elements in place?

Here’s a few things you should consider when you are ready to get that gig. They might not seem completely necessary, but the people who got the gigs in the club you want to play more than likely did the work before you, and that’s why they got the gig.

First off, you have to have your performance, your music and your VOCALIST developed. You might be the next Yngwie J Malmsteen in your living room, but the guy up front is who the audience is going to connect with. He has to have HIS performance solid. No excuses, no sore throat that night, and if you didn’t read the first part of this sentence; NO EXCUSES. It’s the best, or it falls short. Period!

How is your demo CD? Is it pro-labeled? Does it include all of your contact info on the face of the disc? Bright silver with bold black lettering? Paper coated CD’s aren’t the way to go, make the effort by producing your CD worth looking at. I can guarantee you that each time I or anyone else received a TDK home made CD with a paper label, the first thought as it was tossed out was “This band isn’t ready”. Further proof has always been shown in the ones actually listened to. The music just wasn’t up to snuff.

My friend Bruce Bennet runs a disc manufacturing plant out of Salem, New Hampshire. Bruce is a musician that did the writing and recording, the shows and the promoting and he knows what makes a CD great. He should! He makes CD’s from everyone from Alice Cooper to ZZ top. One thing Bruce won’t let you do is produce a poorly printed CD. This means everything right down to the individual pixels of your package design and printing. It doesn’t just represent you; it represents his work and his company. During my years as CEO of Retrospect Records, I presented Bruce with artwork from dozens of bands. I can assure you that it wasn’t all perfect going in, but the sales after printing proved that doing it right the first time will pay off. You need to surround yourself with professionals to be that professional. No if’s and’s or but’s about it! Give the booking agent a pro presentation.

Now, the MySpace page. This is truly important, but not for the reasons most people talk about. Your numbers and friends list might seem like they are the most important thing, but aren’t there people, even without bands, that have thousands of friends on their pages? The reason behind a good MySpace page is that a booking agent has minutes of time to offer your band, sometimes while they have you on the phone. Those few minutes you have are crucial to the booking process.

My friend Julia Darling books for the famous Arlene’s Grocery in New York City. She can sniff out a band’s talent in a second by playing one track off the disc. Most times booking is a situation of submitting a good demo in a pro press kit, but when you have her on the phone, the first words she will ask include, “What’s your MySpace page?” On the off chance that you get do get that opportunity, she will see and hear all about you in a minute flat. If the page takes too long to load, the first image is a bloody mess, or the music starts off sounding terrible, you won’t have the gig. She’s looking for an act that has its business together and proof that people respond. (Yes, the numbers do count in that respect). Make your page easy to load, easy on the eyes and above all – give it your best four songs. If you don’t have a best four songs, go back into the development process and get it right. Booking one out of ten gigs today is nothing. You want a presentation that books ten out of ten gigs.

Some gigs are that big headlining show at a club where your long standing adoring public sells out the capacity of the room and you go on stage as heroes. Ahhhh, those were the days. The reality is; they take a long time to get there. Talk with the bands you know around town and book yourself with them as an opening act. Play for their audience and win over some new fans. Hell, blow them off stage and see their audience looking for your web page tomorrow! It is an opportunity to grow as artists and reach a new demographic. It might not bring you the glory of a headlining slot, but it gets you out there and on the stage!

It isn’t the first choice of working bands, but consider a booking agent too. This requires you having all your ducks in a row, because this guy will get paid on the gigs he books, but if you have that audience, it will most likely lead to shows that pay. I strongly urge you to have a well polished act before trying to get a booking agent. It’s a business to them, so it had better be a business to you. 

There is a whole host of other items you want to have in place, including promoting your show, targeting other media for name recognition and radio mention and press in the locality of your gigs, but at the very least, you need a clean business presentation to get the gig. Make sure you have that before you go out to take on the world.

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