If you are just starting out as a performer or with a new band, the concept of booking shows may be intimidating. After all, you’d love to play the hottest clubs on Friday or Saturday night but how do you get there?

First of all, it’s best to understand that when you get booked for a show, you are being hired by the venue for at least two reasons: you are expected to entertain their patrons and you are (probably) expected to bring your own fans in the door to increase either ticket or food/drink sales. If you can’t do either of these well, it is unlikely you will get the gig.

Once you know what is expected of you in a general sense, you need to get your booking communication lined up. The most common way to book gigs these days is via email. If you read Squatchful, you know we’ve covered this before but make sure you have a professional-sounding email address. You need to present yourself as marketable and you want to be taken seriously. If you don’t have a decent artist email account, make sure and get one right away. You may want to use a mailing service like Sumo to send booking inquiries as well.

When you send an initial booking inquiry, use a professional and concise tone. Most bookers receive many inquiries and are unlikely to want to read a long email if they don’t know who you are. Make sure you do some research about the club you are emailing and only contact places where your music would make sense. Your inquiry should include:

  • A short and direct subject line
  • The name of your act
  • A short bio or description of your music or art
  • Potential dates you are interested in
  • Any requirements you have (hospitality/compensation)
  • Your contact information and links to your music or social media
  • Optional:
    • include press about your band to lend credibility
    • mention relevant sponsors
    • let them know if you are on tour to avoid schedule conflicts
    • add a picture or two
    • include a personal note about the venue and why you want to play there so your email doesn’t look like spam (it’s best to personalize your emails and not send the same template to too many places as it could get filtered into a spam folder)

Some bookers may want to know if you have played in the area before, if you are playing anywhere nearby around the date you are requesting, what your average draw is like, how long your sets are or how much [quality] time you can fill, and what your expectations are regarding compensation. Always be honest!

If you don’t have a big draw, you may be offered weeknights or opening slots. This is a good foot in the door and should not be taken as an insult. Remember, you have to pay your dues to get the big shows especially if you can’t pack people in the door right away.

Always be professional and if you get turned down, be sure and thank the booker for replying to you. Never nag someone and don’t keep hounding the same place if you don’t get a response or if you get turned down. This will not help you and may guarantee you never get hired.

So make a list of the places you want to play, draw up a concise and professional email, be cool in your responses, pay your dues, and get those great gigs! For more content like this, enter your email below to receive our free PDF guide to advancing your music career. Follow us for articles straight to your feed.


Squatch

Educated but self-effacing, opinionated but reticent, and unabashedly eccentric; Alex aka Squatch is the lead writer for Squatchful.com. A life-long musician, he founded the blog in the interest of helping independent artists gain exposure and to provide insight into navigating the creative arts industry.

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