Best Impressions Last

What to think about when contacting venues or promoters

Darren Johns for DMS - 15 Oct 2019
Emerging Artist Series

Putting a band together is easy. Well, once you've spent a few years learning how to play an instrument. And once you've found a few like-minded people who have a grasp of how to play other instruments. And once you've found someone who can a) sing b) just about sing or c) carry themselves off as a singer due to a mixture of unfettered charisma and over-confidence despite being tone deaf. And once you've found an affordable rehearsal space. And once you've learned how to put an original song or five together. Oh, and once you've managed not to all fall out through endless bickering and musical friction. So, to recap, putting a band together isn't easy. Yet it keeps happening, at a frightening rate. Music tends to do that to people.

So, you managed to stay together long enough to make a decent demo, set up a Bandcamp page, get yourself established on social media, play a few shows in your local village hall or pub and maybe even support the biggest local band in your town. Good work! But now you're looking to book proper shows with proper promoters in proper venues. Assuming you haven't secured a booking agent (which can often take years of self-booking and fanbase-building) here are a few pointers to help you on your way.

SEND YOUR BEST THREE SONGS

As with approaching record labels, your goal is to impress a promoter or venue within the shortest time possible via the easiest route possible. Promoters are (apparently) very busy people who can't be arsed with opening separate MP3 downloads or reading through endless band biographies that amount to hot air. Send a streaming link (Soundcloud/Bandcamp) highlighting your best three songs to every promoter you can find, in every city you wish to play. They have to be decently recorded, and easily accessed, accompanied by a simple description of what you're about and what you've done so far. If not, your email will be in the eshredder before you have a chance to say, “But my mum, dad and little sister think we're the next big thing!”

SEND AN ELECTRONIC PRESS KIT

If a promoter/venue is interested, you could benefit from sending them an electronic press kit. An EPK is a professionally built CV for your band. Similar to a website, it should include band pics and logos, a biography, any press reviews, music and music videos, gig dates, contact details and links to all your bustling social media pages. There are websites that specialise in facilitating EPKs, for example: Reverbnation, Sonicbids and Freehand. However, if you're a DIY/punk style band, this kind of thing is frowned upon by punk promoters. They'll want to hear the music (and the attitude), but all the fluff around it is nothing but anathema to them.

OFFER TO SUPPORT YOUR FAVE BAND

If a band you love, or sound similar to, are playing your home town, or any town, ask the promoter if you can support them. If the promoter says that there's no budget left for the show, ask if you can support them for free (as long as they're not playing 300 miles away – having some goddamn self-respect!). Any pro-active enthusiasm will reflect well on your band. But don't play for free more than once. Never let a promoter or venue (or anyone in your life, for that matter) take advantage of your humility and drive.

Early photos of Arctic Monkeys practising. Credit: NME

REACH OUT TO TOURING BANDS

The vast majority of touring bands have booking agents. If you're on talking terms with a band who you like or share a common bond with, you can sidestep the promoter by trying to get your band on the tour (or some of it) as a chosen support. This means that your band is on the bill, and budgeted for, without any involvement from the promoters. If the promoter is impressed, they may ask you to come back. If not, another promoter, or venue owner, or band at the show may be impressed and ask you to play for/with them. The snowball effect can never be underestimated.

APPLY TO ALL THE FESTIVALS

Applying for festivals is like open season for small bands. Virtually every festival now has a new bands stage, a BBC Introducing stage, independent cafe stages, indie stages, etc that encourage unsigned bands to apply. The only caveat, get in there early! Start scouring every festival website from September and regularly revisit them until the band application forms are announced. Then do exactly what they ask of you, to the letter. You don't want to be that 'maverick' band who pisses off every festival curator by 'breaking the rules' or over-egging the pudding. No-one likes a smart-ass. And remember, festival organisers are often also gig promoters during non-festival season. Once you're on their radar, you open yourselves up to the possibility of shows in other city venues. And the cross-section of people who may be watching you play at festivals is vast: including other musicians, record label owners, other promoters, and more. So play all the festivals that you can jump on and revel in the potential!

DOS AND DON'TS

Do be persistent. Don't hassle. Godspeed!

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