Get In: Booking the Band


How many times have you called a venue, only to hear the person on the other end say, “The manager is not in.”? How many times have you gone to a venue and the hostess, or bartender, tells you that the manager is in a meeting? How many emails have been unanswered? 

Each week, my company receives upwards of one hundred email inquiries. This number can vary from week to week, but the daily average is very time consuming. So, before you hit “send”, or dial the last digit of the venue’s phone number, let’s perfect our elevator speech, and correct any typos that the email may have. 

When you are marketing towards new venues, what does your band do that is remarkable? What makes you different than the competition? Figuring out what makes you stand out will be a key selling point when approaching new clients.   

We live in a world where the average attention span lasts around… hey, look at the goldfish! Just kidding. Actually, around eight seconds. Even the goldfish I just mentioned may evaluate your request a little better. So, how do we get our email opened and read, and how do we get a venue to give your band a chance? We try and approach the email from the business side, and not from an artistic point of view. We reach the venue owner, or agent, on the same level. To do that, let’s put together a catchy subject line the will get our email opened. 

  •  On tour. 
  • Looking for dates. 
  • Booking inquiry. 
  • Interested in performing. 

These are the typical subject lines that we receive each week. When we see something different, it stands out drastically from the rest. Get creative with your subject line, and more importantly, keep track of what works. When I submit inquiries for festivals and other events, I keep track of everything. Subject line, date I sent the email and whether or not I received a response . If so, what day did they reply on? Finding out when the agent is in the office is key information, as well. Before I obtained a data base, I used a spreadsheet on Google Docs. Each and every time I made a call, or sent an email, I logged all of this information. 

Moving forward, let’s focus on the email, and take a look at the body of it. What are you trying to accomplish? When I first started, I included the band’s promo picture, video, bio and their social media sites. I soon realized that the email was way too lengthy, and wasn’t even getting looked at. So, I trimmed the fat off and shortened it to a simple, to the point email. 

Here is what I added:

A short introduction. 

– Hi, my name is John, and I represent the band. We will be in town on April 22nd and would love to perform at “The Flying Monkey Tavern “.

By trial and error, I found that adding dates into the email have a much higher response rate, as opposed to just a general inquiry. Just don’t add your entire season in the email. That many days are just too confusing. Before you add any dates, take the time to look at the venue’s website to see what days of the week they feature music. Requesting dates that the venue doesn’t showcase live music tells the owner/agent that you don’t even know what type of venue your soliciting. 

Besides keeping your email short and sweet, your main selling point should be a video highlighting your band’s music. This video should be captivating, and should entice the venue’s owner, or agent, into booking the band. The length of the demo should be no more than four minutes. In the past, I have done A and B testing on live video versus music videos that were scripted. The live video will do just as well as the music video as far as selling the new client, as long as the video has clear audio. If the live video has muffled audio, then the selling point diminishes. Take an hour to search through YouTube videos to generate some ideas.

Let’s also discuss what not to put in your email. A very long, drawn out bio. Let’s face it, no one really wants to read an hour long bio on the band. Save that much info for the fans that visit your website. Owners, and agents, want to know one thing… can you play? Show them with a crystal clear video that had excellent audio that you can, indeed play. If you would like some examples of what types of videos work for venue owners, I’d be happy to send you some. Just shoot me an email. 

Refrain from sending fan videos from the phone. The sound quality will not compliment the band. Leave the social media out. Every link known to the Web is overwhelming, and makes me lose interest in the band. I am interested in the music, not your political views or favorite cat video. 

A side note… If your social media site acts as the band’s website, make sure to keep it updated and informative. 

When we respond to bands by asking them to send a video of a live performance, and they reply with, “You can see videos on my Facebook page. “It makes me want to do one thing, and one thing only…DELETE! The reason being that I just don’t have time to scroll through someone’s news feed looking for a video. Remember that YOU are soliciting for work, not the other way around.  

Think about directing someone to your Facebook page like this. If you are in the market to purchase a new microphone, and you come across a company that only has a Facebook page, which you then have to scroll…and scroll down their news feed to view a demo video, how likely would you be to purchase their product? Would that company really seem professional? 

Downloads. Just don’t do it. Would you want to download something from a stranger onto your computer? When we receive downloaded videos, we simply trash the email. Add the link, and make it viewable without sometime having to leave the email. The only reason to leave the email, should be to visit your website. No one wants to bog down their computer with downloaded videos. 

Cold calling and showing up at venues. I spent over ten years as a bar manager and general manager, and this happened all the time. Here’s an example of the classic ego:

Musician: “Do you have a minute?”

Me: “Sure. What can I do for you?”

Musician: “Do you have live music?”

Me: “We feature live music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.”

Musician: “I have a band, and we play everything from Led Zeppelin to Sublime.    We are really good, and can rock your bar!”

Me: “Do you have a setlist I could look over?”

Musician: “Oh man, we play everything from “Brown Eyed Girl” to Bon Jovi’s, “It’s.   My Life.”

Me: “Sounds good. Would you mind auditioning?”

Musician: “We’ve been playing for years, and really don’t audition.”

Many venues like the musicians to audition. It’s not a personal attack against your musicianship, but simply a way for the venue owner to see if your band will be able to accommodate what the venue is looking for. Some musicians are cool with it, while others can’t seem to swallow their pride. If you want new work, sometimes you have to pay the price. Learning more about how small businesses work will help you realize that doing free engagements are just part of the game. Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that you should play for free. I am saying that sometimes to open a new door, you have to give a little. 

When you show up for a cold call, have something tangible to present to the owner, or agent. A business card, demo cd, or promotional material, such as a koozie or bottle opener. Try not to sound pushy, and most importantly, be respectful of their time. 

Now get jamming! 


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