Challenges of booking shows in today's live music scene

The challenges of booking shows in today's live music scene

October 05, 2015

Challenges of booking shows in today's live music sceneWhen you first go into music, you think that your main job is just playing your music. Quickly, you learn that you have many other jobs when it comes to fulfilling your dream of becoming a musician. Booking a show can be a tough task. In fact, it can be a lot of work if you have no experience handling the management part of the business. This is one of the largest aspects of growing your brand and career. There are many challenges you may face when booking shows in today’s live music scene. Here are some things you should be aware of when booking gigs for your band.

Finding a Great Space
One of the hardest parts of booking a gig is finding the right place. Not all bars and clubs are the best place for your band. Because every space is different, you want to make sure you tour the space before you even think about booking the gig. Understand what type of constraints the place may pose. Not all clubs have an ASCAP license that allow bands to play cover songs. You need to speak with the club manager to determine what is allowed and what is not allowed. This could help you narrow down your options when choosing where to perform. You also want to make sure you have plenty of space. Figure out how much equipment you will need to bring along and then check that it can fit in the allotted space.

Blowing Away the Competition
Booking a gig can be made more difficult when you have other bands competing for the same places. It is important that you set yourself apart from the competition. As a band, you are going to wear many hats. Some of those include social media manager, booking manager, and more. In an effort to get the right spaces to perform, you need to be on top of your game. Network with all types of people so you have more opportunities available to you. Even if you aren’t ecstatic about taking on corporate gigs, it could open the doors for better gigs in the future. Communication is key if you want to be successful. When meeting with the representatives of different spaces, it is crucial that you remain professional at all times. Be willing to give straightforward answers and ask any questions that are of concern to you.

Stay Motivated
It could be a tough venture to make your band a common household name. Nothing great comes without a lot of work. In an effort to avoid losing motivation, you want to make sure you surround yourself with positive people. At times, you can expect to lose a little motivation, but it is important to set goals and work towards those goals. To remain motivated, you should set large and small goals and work through each one. When you are in a band, you need to keep each other motivated in order to continue pushing ahead. When you see that someone in the band is struggling, it is important to help guide them through that stage. In return, they will be more likely to help you when you are down.

Many places are asking bands to pay for tickets in advance and the band must sell them to break even for that night and if they’re lucky, sell all the tickets plus get a small percentage of walk-ins to actually take home a little money. The other form of pay-to-play is venues telling bands that they will owe at the end of the night if they don’t draw enough people. If you agree to play under these rules, you need to be very vocal and ask all your fans to go out of their way to say they came to see you when they pay at the door. Yes, there are dishonest venues that will look to exploit a band at every turn.

Many venues won’t book a new band on a weekend. They’ll ask you to play a weeknight and also demand that you have a minimum draw. 30 people seems to be the minimum most bars are asking a band to draw. If it is a well known and quality venue, it may be worth booking and rallying your fans, friends and family to come out. Understand that both parties are “using” each other. The venue is using your band to fill their establishment on a night that is usually slow. Encourage your guests to buy drinks and food. This will make the venue happy. Your band is using the venue as well. If it is an established venue, then you are able to state that you’ve played there when providing past gig information when booking other venues.

Don’t be afraid to ask if the venue has any of the above conditions and don’t be afraid to get it in writing especially if money is involved. Be prepared with a boilerplate performance contract that has blank spaces for you to quickly fill in the name of the venue, date of performance, duration of performance, primary contact person(s) at the venue, amount your band is to be paid if any, drink tickets or meals to be provided if any, if the band is to provide a sound system or if the venue provides this, and if the venue provides a person to set-up and run the sound system. Parking in some cities can be a nightmare, so ask if the venue has reserved parking for performers.

Once you have booked one or more gigs, make sure the band arrives early and sober at each venue. A sure way to get banned from a venue is to arrive late or intoxicated so that the band does not start on-time or present themselves in a professional manor. If there is a band that plays before you, have the courtesy to wait until they have completely torn down their gear and removed it from the stage. If you want to get on stage quicker, give the other band a hand in lifting the heavy gear off the stage. Compliment them on their set and treat them as friends instead of competitors, they may stick around for your show and become fans.


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