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At the Show #2 - November 2016 Part One

Instead of grouping the highlights of the Month and the advice part. I broke them into two blogs. I think this might be the best way to go in the future. 


One of the most common question I get from both seasoned vets and those just starting out, How do I get my band a show? As a talent buyer there are a lot of factors that go into me adding a band to a bill or giving them a headlining slot. However, the biggest one and often the most over looked one is, Ask. Yup that simple, contact the venue, talent buyer or promoter and simply ask if they can get you on the bill. You would be surprised how many bands have complained that they weren't getting gigs and even telling people that they were banned from shows but hadn't even bothered to contact me once about getting a show. Like a lot of things in life kids, no one is going to do it for you, so do it yourself. Now that we have covered that, here's some suggestion on how to go about setting it up.


Hang Out - As I stated in my last blog, I greatly value musicians that support other musicians. I'm more likely to give someone a break if I see them at the venue going to shows and even hanging out when there isn't one. One of the main reason my old band got shows before I started promoting them is that majority of the members of the band hung out at the venue 3 to 4 nights a week. We all got to know the staff well, some of them were friends of ours before hand which helped but we were on a first name bases with everyone from the djoorman to the owner to the guy that cleaned up the place. So when we asked for a show, they put us on the bill without even hearing us. Yes, it was a different scene and a different time but I know that since the club was our third place, we  got on that bill.


Give the Them What They Need - On average I get between 50 to 200 e-mails a day from bands asking for gigs. I try to get through as many as I can each day but I have a limited amount of time. So, I don't have time to go searching for your band's information. Also just because I may have talked to you in the past or even had you on a show, doesn't me that your first name is going to automatically make me remember your band. I meet a lot of people and see a lot of bands and from time to time, I need a hint as to who you are and what band you are in. 


Everyone is different but if you are dealing with a talent buyer or promoter that does 20 shows a month, e-mail is the best way to contact someone. I personally like it because if for some reason I have forgotten the details of a band or date, with a few clicks I can find the information quickly, Even if you contact me by phone, in person, by text or through the cursed Facebook message service, I'm going to make you e-mail me. It is the central place where I store information. Now that said here's what you should have in that first e-mail. It seems simple but you would be surprised how many times I end up send e-mails back and forth just to get this basic information.

  1. The name of the band
  2. A brief bio or description of the band. It should be no more than a few important facts like, style of music, years together, who you've played with and other highlights.
  3. Links to music. I don't mean send me a link to your Facebook page, EPK or website that after strolling and/or searching for 10 minutes I'm going to find it but direct links to songs. Bandcamp, Reverbnation, Youtube and other streaming services are best. It should be a complete song and not a 20 second promo or a montage of 8 songs. 
  4. The date you are seeking.  I know a lot of times this one is hard. Maybe you are just starting out and need a support slot and if that is the case, then state that you are looking for support. I have a newsletter that I send out that in fact lists all the current support needs and empty dates. Not all venues do that but be forthcoming from the start what you are looking for.
  5. Will you have built in support or will you need the talent buyer or promoter to set up support.

Be Realistic - If you have never played a date in that venue or that city and especially if you are a new local band, don't ask for a Friday headlining slot or a guarantee.right off the bat. Also don't ask to open for some huge national act. Setting a bill involves a number of factors including draw, structure and risk. There is just a limited amount of capitol that any venue or promoter is able to risk. Every show regardless of who is play cost money to run. There is sound, lights, security, staff, overhead, etc... and to make money or at the least break even, so you may think your band playing to 10 people on a Friday night is fine cause it's your first show, it isn't fine for the promoter or the venue.


I used to work with a talent buyer that you say "Door Deal" over and over until the agent/band either agreed or passed. In the couple of years I worked with him off and on, I think he paid out maybe 3 guarantees. Yet, he got a lot of up and coming national acts. The reason was that they understood that ticket sales were not their main income. It was the merch. Also they needed to gain a foot hold in the market and build a draw. Door deals are a bitch but they are often the only way that a venue can operate on volume. A lot of people see it as an insult but the reality is that what the venue is really saying is, "I don't think you are worth that but here as chance to prove me wrong." Just like it wouldn't be far to require bands to cover the nightly operations of a venue, it wouldn't be fair to make a venue cover the nightly operations of a band. At the base a band is only worth the number of butts they can put in seats. Not the amount of gas it will take, the salary loss of the members, the cost of the hotel, the cost of eating out, etc.. As a music fan, I may value it differently but as a talent buyer or promoter, if I want to continue to work, I have to count ticket sales and cost.


When it comes to supporting national acts, there is a few key factors I consider when it comes to support bands. Do they fit? Do they draw? Does the band have a track record of Promoting shows? Are they easy to work with? Are they team players? The reality of the situation is I'm more willing to put bands I know on larger shows than I would someone I've never worked with. I"m not saying don't ask but maybe consider playing one of the other 18 shows I need support on before hitting me up for the big one.


It's My First Gig - There is two types of first gigs. The one where a band has key members that have been in bands with a solid draw and often they retain the fans. Then there is first gigs that the band and members have never play out or only a few times. With established members a headlining gig on a weekend with strong support might be the right first gig but without established members a showcase or smaller support slot is a better option. Most venues in larger cities and Lefty's have a showcase series called New Music Mondays that features new bands and often touring acts that just need a Monday night gig. It's kind of like an addition or open mic. They are usually free entry and do not involve any payment. However, as a new band they are the best way to get on a stage, play through a real FOH sound system and gain live real time experience. Even an established band with new material or new members can find it help. Think of it like a soft opening at a business. It gives those involved a way to test out what they're strength and weakness are in an often friendly setting without the pressure of a paying gig on a weekend night. If you are interested please contact me at


Network - This comes back to going to shows. If you see a band you like or you think would be a good fit with yours, introduce yourself, trade music, offer to trade shows or support on one of their shows. We are all music fans at the core. You would be surprised how much can be gained by just offering a guy that just poured out his heart and soul on the stage a beer and some good old fashion music based conversation. Who knows you might make a life long friend and without even considering it, a life long fan and support of your music.  


Be a Team Player - This is a huge one. Go that extra mile, offer to help promote shows that you aren't even on because you know it will make the promoter or venue do well, If the show didn't break even, take one for the team cause I can guarantee you the venue or the promoter has taken a finical loss for the team. Support a show with a band that you have never heard of and offer to play last to make sure people stick around to see the touring band. Don't tell your fans that you're set times so they only show up when you play and then leave as soon as your done. Stop focusing on what you can get out of the situation like free drinks, friends on the guest list and remember why you are there in the first place, the music.


For a run down of the highlights of November 2016 click here