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Booking a Gig: Basics

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Playing live may be the most important thing a band can do. If your band is unsigned, playing live is a great way to build up a loyal fan base, get some media attention and attract record label interest. For signed bands, gigs are the means by which you can keep building your audience while promoting your new releases. Booking a gig can seem like an overwhelming process, however, especially when a band is doing all of the booking themselves. If you're in a cold sweat, wondering how to get some shows for your band, never fear. Take a deep breath, relax and follow these steps that are sure to get your band on stage.

The Basics - Let's go right back to the beginning. Before you even can think about booking a gig, there are a few things you will need to have in place:

  • A demo or a finished CD, or a website on which people can listen to your music
  • A press pack, including information about your band and clippings of any press coverage you may have had.
You should also have an idea of when you want to play a show - approaching a venue or promoter and asking for a gig "whenever" isn't very helpful. Come up with a window of preferred dates and make sure everyone in the band has their calendar clear for those days.

Find the Right People - So, you've got the promo package and demo ready to go - now, who should you send it to? There are two ways you can go about booking a gig:

  • Book directly with the venue, in which case you as a band take on the costs and responsibilities of promoting the show
  • Book with a promoter, who takes charge of promoting the show
Sometimes, venues work with a specific promoter, and sometimes they don't. Give your venue of choice a call to find out how they do things. If you don't know any promoters, ask the venue for advice, or ask around to find out with whom other bands in your area work. If possible, get the names of a few different promoters and venue booking agents and send them all promo packages - nothing wrong with people fighting to give you a chance to play, right?

Tired of booking gigs for yourself? Try getting a manager or agent on board who can help you get the shows you want.

The Deal - A good deal is part and parcel of a good gig. You should prepare yourself, however, for the fact that many shows lose money. If you're just getting started and don't have much of a following yet, you should think of your gigs as promotional opportunities for your band rather than money making opportunities. Your willingness to work with a promoter and/or a venue to try and minimize the financial risk involved in a show will only help you convince people to work with you.

Your deal should detail how any income for the show will be divided, as well as confirming information about things like accommodation for the band, riders, backline, and soundchecks. If there is something you're unsure about or you don't think is fair, speak up well in advance of the show.

Show Up and Play - Now all you have to do is show up and play a good show. Be professional, treat the promoter and the people at the venue with respect, and if you can't handle drinking all of the rider before going on stage, then for goodness sake, don't do it. If you happen to have an off night, but you have treated people well, most promoters will want to work with you again. If you've given everyone working to put on the show a night of utter chaos and stress, well, then, you'll probably be looking for a new place to play.

Make sure you take full advantage of the audience at the show and promote any releases, new websites, or any other news the band may have. Encourage everyone who enjoyed your set to sign your mailing list, so you can let them know when you're playing again.

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