It’s common to hear, “There’s no blueprint in today’s music industry.” While that can be frightening for most, you should be excited by the fact that you can invent new ways to achieve your desired results. After all, you picked this industry because you like being creative, right?
Booking shows isn’t a pain point for many musicians. Booking shows at the venues they want, however, is. All too often, musicians spend their time cold-calling booking agents and venue owners hoping for a spot in their line-up, because how we're led to believe it's done. When they don’t hear back, or get that dreaded rejection, many give up and try again elsewhere.
If you’ve found yourself dealing with this all-too-common position, fear not. Just because booking a show through a booking agent is the way it's usually done doesn’t mean it’s the only way. When you’re stuck with where to look next, try reverse-engineering the situation.
1. Work your connections
First, put yourself in the shoes of that booking agent or venue owner for a moment. He or she is often bombarded with emails from musicians just like yourself waiting for a spot onstage. He or she looks in his or her inbox filled with links to music and videos awaiting their approval, flooded with options and a lot of unknowns.
These people don’t know you, and they don’t know your music. They don’t know whether or not you’ll draw a crowd, and they don’t know when they’ll have the time to find that out. What they do know is the music that’s already worked on their stage. People like what they know, and they like when their decisions are made for them.
You also know the music that’s worked on their stage. By going to shows, reading reviews, and even following venues on social media, you’re able to see the bands that have had success at recent shows. The key is to leverage the connection that has already been made: the one between the venue and the band that has already played there.
2. Do a little research
If you don’t know any of the bands that have played at the venue, you certainly have the ability to get to know them thanks to the accessibility of social media.
Whether it’s checking out the venue’s calendar on their website, or searching for bands in your genre and checking out their past shows listed on various sites, a little bit of research can go a long way in finding the “in” you need to book the shows you want.
3. Swap services with other bands
Next, grow connections with the artists who have already played the venues you wish to play. Being an artist yourself, it should be easy to consider what you could offer to persuade them to help you out with an introduction to the person who booked them at the venue you’re looking to play.
Whether it’s swapping introductions, or offering to promote their latest project online, offer something else in exchange for their time spent in not only making the introduction, but also the time they spent in building that connection you wish to have.
Having someone vouch for you will go a long way to making the job easier for the person booking the show. Just make sure you don’t disappoint. This method won’t work for long if you fail to deliver with a professional demeanor and an enviable performance.
If your draw is questionable, rather than an introduction to a venue, approach other bands with an offer to be an opening act once you’ve figured out where they're playing on an upcoming tour. Artists are flagged down far less often with pitches than booking agents.
When you hit a wall don’t keep trying to knock it down with the same hammer; find a different tool and try again. Remember that it’s a who-you-know business, so figure out who you know and put your focus into fostering those relationships.
Next up: How to Book Gigs
Suzanne Paulinski is a mindset coach and founder of The Rock/Star Advocate. She helps music industry professionals gain confidence and clarity in their goals with a healthy work/life balance. Her book,The Rock/Star Life Planner is now available on Amazon.