This article originally appeared on Performingbiz.
Keeping your band on the road gigging is a constant challenge for any artist. As a self-managed, self-booking artist, you need to be even more diligent in your attempts to book tour dates. In your efforts to build a loyal following in specific markets, it's important to book return dates at venues you've already played. There's no better time to begin negotiating a return date as at the time you're settling the current date.
Before heading to the room where you'll settle the night with the club's manager, make sure you have your tour calendar with you along with your current contract. You want to have a copy of your contract to make sure the actual settlement matches the contract figures. This also gives you a chance to write all the pertinent information about that night's gig right on the contract, such as how many seats were sold, how many of your comps actually showed up, and if you have the information then, how you did in merchandise sales. Next, write the name of the person settling the show if it's not the person with whom you originally booked the date.
After you finalize the settlement, you now have current information available about this date to use as leverage to open a discussion about booking a return date. Hopefully everything went well and everyone's expectations were met or surpassed. If this was your first time in the venue and you did some business, then the club might be more enthusiastic about helping to build your following by bringing you back soon.
As you look at your calendar, begin making a few suggestions about convenient future dates. This is a great time to ask who they've got coming up that might work for you to open the show and get in front of a larger audience. The person just saw you perform, so he or she may be more eager to think about placing you in front of some main acts that have been booked. Even if the person settling the show isn't the person who books the talent, beginning this discussion captures his or her enthusiasm for the gig you just played. Mention that you'll be calling the booker in a day or two and it would be great if the person with whom you are settling could pass along comments about how well the show went that night.
While you have their attention, you might ask how they felt about the show. Now that you know the venue a little better having just played it, perhaps you have some additional ideas on how you can work together to boost some area publicity for your next time in. If you demonstrate your enthusiasm for returning, it's infectious. If you don't have these discussions about future gigs right then, everyone's excitement about the evening will dwindle as they are busied with the next night's gig and the next artist coming in. Capture the moment while your show's memories are still hot.
If the person who settles the date actually is the booker, then you have an even greater chance of at least getting a hold on a date or two. The booker would have a much keener sense of how the upcoming calendar is shaping up. They would know where you might fit in or who might be the perfect match for you to be the opener. They may not actually book the date right then, but there's a good chance you might be able to consider a few specific dates, get holds on them, and then when you call back, you're beginning your conversation in a much better place with some momentum behind the call. There's greater likelihood that you'll finalize a return date much sooner by initiating the discussions while at settlement.
What happens when you wait? Most artists get involved with their travel and current touring schedule. They may not call the venue for a return date until the tour is over and the band is home. This loses the impact and the immediacy of opening the discussions on the night of your last show at the club. Capture the excitement of a good gig. Wouldn't it be great to return from a tour and all the calls you have to make are simply ones confirming most of the next tour's dates? This would be fabulous in a perfect world. You will probably have to do some juggling of dates and a number of callbacks, but the essential question of whether or not they want you back will have already been answered. Now finalizing the right date is all that is left. The really hard part was taken care of the night of the gig. Give a try – good luck.
Jeri Goldstein is the author of How to Be Your Own Booking Agent: The Musician's & Performing Artist's Guide to Successful Touring. On performingbiz.com, you'll find helpful books, career development seminars, the Booking & Touring Success Strategies & Secrets online course, career coaching, and information on booking tours, the music business, and performing arts.