How To Successfully Book A Music Show
Performing live is one of the best parts of being a musician. You get to connect with your existing fans. You get to win over new fans. And you get to make money because tour merch sales are no joke.
And you might have heard that booking shows is difficult, or not fun to do. But I can promise you that they are easier than you think and not painful in the least. Today, let’s talk about booking shows. I’ll even show you a quick template of what to tell people when you call them to book.
Performing First Shows
Your first shows will probably be a combination of open mics, playing out of your garage, and other small local venues. A coffee shop has an open mic? Go there. Bars have open mic nights? Go there. Smaller venues just opened up and are looking for bands? You get the drill by now. Anywhere is your venue for the night when you’re just getting started.
But don’t be so quick to brush these off as useless! These first shows are where you get to experiment and learn how you and the band performs on stage. Are you a singer who loves to do witty banter? Are you the band that has your dog on stage with you as the mascot?
Most open mics let you perform 3 songs or for 15 minutes. That gives you just enough time to get into the groove (pardon the pun) and test out a method of performing.
The audience at these first shows will be strangers who are there to listen to the other guy. If you’re lucky, you drag a friend who in turn brings a friend along.
At these first shows, always make sure to bring some CDs of your work if you have them, business cards so people can look you up later, and a scratch pad so people can write their names onto your mailing list. These first shows are where you start to build your audience.
Booking a Show
After you’ve done these for a season and feel comfortable being on stage as a group, it’s time to put together a showcase of your own. Call up a few of the other bands/singers who you met at these open mics who are at a similar level as you are. Tell them that you want to have a group of 3-4 musicians to book out night. Each group gets 30-45 minutes of their very own.
Since you’ve collected names all season long, it’s time to put that email list to good use! Email your followers and post on social media that you and your group are putting together a small show. Pre-Sell tickets to get a rough estimate of head count.
When you call up the venue, you now have three things to give them:
1. A show filled with 3 or 4 of their best performers at open mics
2. A rough estimate of your draw (aka the number of people you think you can make show up)
3. The draw of the other musicians
Venues like these because they know how you’ve performed over the past season and have gotten to know you. For them, it is less of a risk this way knowing the musicians and the total draw.
It’s also essential to know the possible dates for the show and how you are going to market this online and in person.
When you call up the venue, the phone call can go something like this:
This is Laura from then band Joni’s Ponies. I wanted to know if I could book on March 21 at 8. I’ve put the bill together for the night with me at a draw of 25 people, Danny at a draw of 30, and the Acoustic Wizards are down for 15. We’re expecting 50 or so people for sure.
We’ve got a team together at the local university for 100 posters to be put up and we’ve all got our social media platforms that reach a combined total of 10,000 people.
Can we have that date? Or if not, what other dates do you have that work?
And voila! You’ve just started to book a show.
How to Find a Booking Agent
When do you know the right time to hire someone to do all this for you? The old adage holds true here, don’t call me I’ll call you. An agent will usually reach out to you on their own when you’re ready to hire someone. A general rule of thumb, however, is when you can afford to pay them. Most promoters and agents will take 10-20% of a night’s revenue. So if you’ve got many nights of at least $1,000 by selling 100 tickets at $10 each, it is time to start looking for an agent.
For total in depth details of building up your EPK, how to book shows, and building out a tour, check out my mini program, “Booking for Musicians: A How-To Guide for Booking Your Shows and Going on Tour”.