Photo by Zan on Unsplash
“LUNCH AND LEARN”
I was pretty nervous walking into the Bella Vita Ristorante for the first time with my band’s promo pack. I was a new bandleader and didn’t really know how to book shows or even lead my band that well honestly.
But this particular day was my first official trip to try and pitch us. So, I remember they opened at 10:00am, so I thought going in around 12:00pm or so would give them time to “get open” and I could talk to the guy who booked the bands.
It was one of the few places in town that had a regular rotation of r&b/soul/dance bands so I at least knew we’d be a good fit musically. Unfortunately, being my very first attempt at booking my band — let’s just say, it didn’t go very well.
The main reason?
They were indeed a restaurant more so than a music venue, and 12 noon was the height of their lunch rush. It seems so obvious now, but basically that translates to the absolute worst possible time to sit down and talk business!
As a musician and bandleader, your professionalism will be judged off stage as much as your time onstage. And since I don’t want you to feel any more nervous than you might be already, here are some things to consider before you reach out to a venue…
5 THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU COLD-CALL A VENUE
1. Audit YOUR social media. You already know the first place they’re going to look once you do get in contact with them. They’re going to check your social media accounts. The first thing you should do — and be doing on an ongoing basis — is focusing on your engagement.
Are there things on social that should be taken down? Is there enough actually on your page to paint a good picture of the band? I’ve seen a ton of bands sending out links to their Facebook page asking for booking, only to visit the page and can’t find any music or video.
👉🏼 Put yourself in a booking agent or club’s shoes and ask: “would YOU hire YOU?”
2. Audit THEIR social media. Here, you’re looking for a few things. You’ll want to observe what other bands have played there and if you can see signs of the crowd. Almost as importantly too, you’ll want to observe how much they promote their current shows. If their promotional efforts are non-existent already, chances are that probably won’t change for you.
👉🏼 Check their events tab for any past music nights as well as the videos tab. These will be good indicators of their involvement.
3. Find the rules and follow them. Stalk the club’s website and find their preferred (or most engaged) method of submitting music or press kits. Does the venue have a website form? Can you tell if they accept inquiries through Facebook messenger? Maybe they’re old school and prefer you drop-off a cd or thumb drive?
👉🏼Anticipate it all. Meaning, when creating your press kit, make it available in all formats — a page on your website you can link to, a downloadable PDF, a flash drive, a print out, etc.
4. Attend a live show: Yes. Go there if it’s at all possible. Attend a show on a night you are anticipating playing there (i.e. weekend or weeknight). Observe the vibe, the crowd, the service, and spend some money on drinks and food. This will give you a chance and a reason to talk to the bar staff and find out what bands they like (and why).
It may not seem like it, but you’re actually “interviewing” the club as much as they are you!
👉🏼If you do make it out on a scouting trip, don’t try to talk business if they’re busy (see lunch and learn above).
5. Check their schedule. Assuming your research has provided some good info and you’re all set to book, one final tip. Check their schedule and already have at least one date that matches up with a whole in their calendar.
Of course, sometimes the booker or club owner is more up to date than the website, so do try to have a few dates available that would work for both of your schedules.
👉🏼 Be realistic about your pitch. It’s one thing to “feel confident” you could get people out, it’s another to have a track record you can rely on.
As far as the Bella Vita goes, the good news is that I eventually met with the club’s booker and our band eventually got in a regular monthly rotation.
In terms of booking, I found that the more prepared I was, the less nervous I was about my meetings with venues. That’s what I want for you!
So whether or not you found the venue on your own, or through opportunities with the 2000+ venues on Gigmor, just know that a little research and a well planned reconnaissance mission can go a long way. You got this.
Leonard Patterson is an avid fan of all things New Edition, an indie-focused booking agent, a frequent hi-fiver, and a certified digital marketer (yes, in that order). Since stepping off stage as a band manager/front man of a 6-figure party band, he launched Indie Band Coach with a mission to help indie bands reach more fans and book more gigs. When he’s not working, he’s most likely at a live music event, analyzing Marvel movies, or soaking up vitamin D at the beach with his wife and son.
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