Most bands are having major issues finding shows in and especially outside their hometown.
We have experienced these problems as well, solved them to a certain degree and we would like to share some tips and thoughts about this topic. Be aware that this is only one possible way of doing it and you always need to adjust according to the situation.
This is what you could do:
1) Go online and look up the phone number of the venue you would like to play at.
I am not talking about the O2 arena or a stadium but a venue that you could imagine your band playing at in front of a realistic number of people. A venue that fits your band’s status.
Call the person who is in charge of booking for that exact venue.
2) Introduce yourself as the booker for a band that is going to be on tour for their upcoming release.
Explain you are looking for a good venue to put on a show in the town the venue is located at. You further point you have already done a lot of booking for your band and other acts in your own town. Out of state or abroad. You are not doing this for the first time and you know they don’t want to have shitty shows in their venue of course. If asked tell her about your band’s achievements so far. Don’t show off or try to impress too hard.
3) Present yourself and the band in the best way possible.
It takes some practice and some people will be better at it than others. I suggest choosing the person of your band who can talk. The one who is quick and able to react to unexpected questions or answers. You don’t have to lie if you call the booker of a venue. But be flexible without going to far. These people get hundreds of E-Mails and calls every day so they know what the deal is and they can tell if someone is trying to punk them.
You tell her how you have been structuring your gigs in the past, how and why it worked out well for you thus far:
4) Organize a line-up with up to five bands per night, have the local acts sell the tickets.
If you put on a show outside your hometown you set up a line-up of four local acts and the band you are booking the gig for. All local bands agreed with you to draw a minimum of 25 people per band. What in fact means each band guarantees selling 25 tickets. You can either do this orally or by contract if you like to be on the save side. Makes at least a 100 people who will show up the night of the gig if none of the local bands draw more than 25 persons.
5) Make bands and club profit.
That’s the goal. Give the venue’s booker enough space to explain all the details, the pros and cons of doing a show at their place. But let her know you have already figured everything out and that there is no risk for no one that night. You have to make sure there is no reason for her to reject your request. Every band will sell their 25 tickets what then adds up to a 1000€ in ticket money(10€ per ticket). The venue is going to be packed and per usual guests consume a decent amount of drinks at a concert which will certainly be to the venue’s liking
6) Let the big local band have a good slot in the line-up.
Make your band play either right before or after them. Get a good slot for your band while assuring the concert will be a good experience for the local bands too. Remember you are playing in their town and even though they profit because you are organizing the whole concert they still draw the majority of the guests.
Most venues do door deals. 70/30 for example. You and the other bands would be paid 700€ with a 70/30 deal. 100 Tickets à 10€ sold = 1000€ – 30% for the venue. Some venues will charge more than the 30% to cover their costs for light and soundtechs as well as catering. The 700€ though should still be enough to cover everything and prevent you and the other bands from losing money. If you are playing a decent local club it is likely more than a 100 guests show up and my 700€ example is just a minimum possible income for the bands that night.
7) You are the person in charge.
It is your gig and you have to assure every band stands up to what they have agreed on prior to the show. That’s why I suggest using contracts even though a lot of bands especially on the newcomer level are scared of paperwork and written agreements. Be nice, have empathy and don’t be too aggressive.
Break even for you and the other bands at worst. A lot of profit and a good night for the venue itself and the bands at best. You have to be prepared and know about every single detail of your plan and the way you want to execute a show and handle problems.
Without doubt this approach is a very hard one for bands without any reputation, gig history or experience. You can try nevertheless but position your band in a way you are able to point to past successes and milestones when you are talking to someone important or someone you need help from.
But isn’t this just pay to play?
I can already tell a lot of people will yell “PAY TO PLAY BULLSHIT” and all that good stuff. You will make other people sell tickets for their own show and have them guarantee it on paper, yes.
And not everyone who paid for a ticket that night will be around for the whole evening. That’s what it is. People drink, people go home and some people only show up to support their favorite band. Nothing uncommon about that. Think about it for a second.
Why would you even consider playing with bands that aren’t able to draw at least 25 people to a show in their hometown?
What happens if you fail?
You call another venue.
Keep in mind you can still ask whatever while you are on the phone with that person as long as she is willing to talk to you. You can find out about booker’s preferences. What they are looking for when putting on shows. Why some bands will never play at their venue. You can even ask about costs and more important details that you are then able to use when doing your next show or phonecall. So even if you know you won’t get to play at a certain venue all to soon, use your chance and ask as much as possible to gather more knowledge.
Be nice and stay friendly until the phone call is over. You can still insult and complain about these people after you hung up.
And if you fail again? Call another venue. And another venue. And another venue.
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