So you decided to start a band….. How is that going for you? Maybe a better question to ask yourself is why? Why did you start this band, and what is your goal? What is it that you want to accomplish?
Before you read anything else on this page, be HONEST with yourself. You are not going to find anything on here that will help you become a rockstar overnight. Although the fortune cookie you ate yesterday said to “expect fame and fortune”, and your mommy told you that she thinks “you are really super duper”, being in a band and booking gigs is hard work and takes commitment.
Fortune cookies are delicious, and your mom is really sweet, but the tips suggested on this page are really meant for serious musicians that are looking for ideas on how to get their bands noticed and book more gigs…
So, ask yourself now….. “Are you ready to do some work”?
TIP ONE: Make a Demo CD
Your band may be good…even great, but unfortunately most of the venues out there don’t know you yet. You have to have something tangible to present to talent buyers that represents the true style and sound of your band. Sound quality on that demo is going to be key. If possible, record your demo at a local studio or with a software where levels can be mixed and mastered to create crisp, clean versions of your songs. At least 5 songs are recommended, but if you have a catalog of songs that can illustrate diversity in your set list, feel free to add more. Make sure you clearly label your demo with the name of your band and how to get a hold of you before dropping it off at potential gig spots.
TIP TWO: Put together a Press Kit
A well recorded demo is key, but if you can put together a press pack that gives talent buyers a view into additional information about the band, you will open up more doors for yourself. Some larger venues will actually expect a press packet and will not consider booking your band without one. Don’t get discouraged. The more gigs you book, the more detailed your press packet will become. A good press packet should consist the following
- Cover letter: Explain why you are sending this press packet to the venue (personalize cover letter to the specific venue).
- Band bio: Who are you? Where did you meet? how long have you been together? What type of music do you play? What makes you unique?
- Band photos: Include a few Promo photos and Live shots.
- Song list: Are you a cover band? original band? Include the catalog of songs that you will be able to perform if the venue decides to book you.
- Press Reviews/Newspaper Clippings: Anything that has been published about your past shows, your music, or bigger venues you have played in the past.
- Band Business Card: Band Manager (or whoever is designated as point person), Phone number, Email Address, and Website.
TIP THREE: Social Media is your Best Friend
You have a great Demo CD, and you put together a professional Press Pack, but Promoters and Talent Buyers are still going to want to see more! If they google your Band Name and can’t find anything about you, you are probably going to have a hard time getting booked. You need to take advantage of the many social media avenues out there (most of them free and right at your fingertips). A central presence on the web where people can go to find out information and learn more about your band is absolutely crucial. Many bands will create their own websites, but it is becoming more common and acceptable to use sites like Facebook, Myspace, or Reverbnation as a band homepage. Venues that agree to book your band want to make sure that you have as many outlets as possible in order to promote the show. The music and performance that you bring to the table is extremely important, but always remember that the venues that you will play are businesses. They need to make $$$ in order to keep their doors open. If they see that you are a band with multiple ways to promote not only your music and shows, but also their business, they are going equate that with potential to make that $$$.
TIP FOUR: Do your Research
If your idea of trying to book a gig is to pick three places and hound them until they call you back and invite you to play, you better make yourself comfortable, because you are going to be waiting a long time. Chicago is a music city, and contrary to popular belief, so are the surrounding suburbs! You need to get your music and your name out to as many places as possible. Do your research and find out about all of the places that your band could possibly play. Drop off or email press packets to all of them. What do you have to lose? It is okay to target a few choice spots that you and your band can set as goals to book, but make sure to go across the street from those places. Chances are you will stumble across another venue and gig possibility for your band. Take your blinders off, and open as many doors as possible!
TIP FIVE: Expect to Pay your Dues!
You might be struggling to find gigs because you are aiming to high to soon. You have a great band with a great sound, but you have to start with smaller gigs and then work your way up to stadiums! And get ready for a shocker….you may have to do it for FREE!!! On any given night in Chicago, there are hundreds of open mic nights. Yes you will probably play for free, but it will also give you a chance to showcase your band and help you gain a more loyal following. Plus you never know who will be there. Talk to other performers, network, find out where else they play. Another idea would be to go to a local venue with your press pack and offer to be an opening act and for play for free with a guarantee that you will bring 50+ people on the night of your performance. Again, venues want to make $$$. If you show them you can bring in the people, they are very likely to bring you back…maybe as the headliner next time.
TIP SIX: Book a Show
Use the networking contacts you have made through things like open mic nights and social media sites to find bands that have similar styles and flavors of music. There is power in numbers and booking a gig with multiple bands is beneficial not only to you but also the venue you are trying to book. Think about it…and it sell this to the venue! Say you find three other bands that you match up well with. That means that you have your following along with the following of three other bands that will show up to see you play. To the venue this translates into four different bands that will all be promoting their establishment and the show. The potential for the venue to have a good night is four times more likely, and the potential for you to have a full house to play is almost guaranteed. If you plan to book a ticket gig, make sure that you book bands that will compliment your genre. Everyone likes a little variety, but the last thing you want is a night filled with music that clashes and makes the venue, audience, and musicians involved uncomfortable.
TIP SEVEN: Make Sure to be Rehearsed
Once you finally get that gig, you have to be prepared. If you think that booking the gig is the last step in your journey, then you are in for a really bad experience. Find out the exact amount of time you have been allotted and put together a set list accordingly. Make sure you give yourself enough time to set up and tear down your equipment (sometimes your band will be expected to do this with the time you are given). Also make sure you have 1-2 throw away songs in case your set is running long, and 1-2 extra songs in case you are flying through your set. Practice your set list until your band feels comfortable, and then practice some more. This gig is your opportunity to shine. You want to leave the venue wanting more, and the only way they are going to get more is by booking you again!
TIP EIGHT: Work on your Stage Presence
Stage Presence is often an area that bands seem to take for granted and forget about. It is not easy, takes practice, and some bands fail to spend enough time figuring it out. As a musician, your success depends on your ability to be remembered. Whether you like it or not, you are constantly setting the mood for your audience. They will hang on every word and pick up on every movement you make while you are performing. If you are uncomfortable onstage you need to understand that it will translate to the crowd. We are not suggesting that you have to have a whole pyro-technic show set up behind you to create excitement, but every member of your band needs to be engaging. Eye contact, smiling, dancing, interaction, participation….all of these things are necessary to put on a good show. If you plan on getting on stage and performing with your head down the whole time, expect that you will not be asked back to perform at that venue again.
TIP NINE: Always be Professional
Venues are looking for bands that are seamless to them. They want to know if they give you an opportunity that you are prepared, professional, and do your job. Your job is to bring in a good crowd and keep them entertained. Shout out to all of the Diva Lead Singers out there…Get over yourself! The last thing a venue is going to want to listen to are demands and requests for a backstage area that includes a white tiger, fresca, and a bowl full of only green M&M’s. If you are playing a venue that serves alcohol, go easy and stay sober for your set. There will be plenty of time to celebrate afterwards. Also, if you are using the house sound system and working with an engineer, be courteous and patient with him as he figures out your mix. Chances are he does not know your music, and it may take him a little while to get it right.
TIP TEN: Have Fun and Stay Positive
Remember why you joined your band! You joined the band because you love playing music, and you found a group of people that love playing the same music as much as you do. Have fun with it. Booking gigs can be challenging and sometimes frustrating. If you are serious about it, and are willing to put in the work, your band will find the right venues to showcase your music. Whether you book a gig in your friends basement or one of Chicago’s world famous live music clubs, remember to leave it all on stage. Play like you mean it and leave them wanting more!