In the fourth of five excerpts from the book Reality Check - A Common Sense Guide to Breaking into the Music Industry, author Matthew Walt, a booking agent who has seen first hand why some bands succeed and others fail, looks at the right way to advance a show.
A common, but easily correctable, oversight is undervaluing the importance of properly advancing your performances. Sometimes an artist simply believes they are prepared, which would seem to render additional conversation redundant. Sometimes it’s a result of ignorance—it's possible that they just don’t know any better. Sometimes it’s the simple fact that dealing with the whole “business side” of the process can feel like a burden instead of an opportunity to an artist, and, as a result, some just don’t care. But the fact is, advance work is a hugely important part of properly representing oneself, and failure to understand something so fundamental can be a serious detriment to the cause.
An advance is just another form of introduction. It’s an icebreaker with venue representatives. It’s the primary contact between artist and venue prior to your arrival, and it can set the tone for an entire relationship if handled, or not handled, properly.
Not every venue handles the advance the same way. At times it gets done with the talent buyer responsible for booking the engagement. Other times it’s done with a manager, or general manager, of the concert facility itself. Then there are instances when it gets handled by a production manager or sound person who may or may not work directly for the venue. That all depends on the size of the venue and the way their business is structured. But regardless of the method employed by these venues, performing attractions should have their own system for gathering information as well.
Here are some basic suggestions which can help to facilitate the process:
- Make your initial outreach to the appropriate venue contact at least a week prior to the performance date, if not ten days or more. If the date is a part of a tour or extended number
- of shows, putting together a tour book which details each situation well in advance will ease the process on the road.But even if the event is a one-off situation, the further in advance you make your contact the greater the likelihood that any peculiarities or inconsistencies can be resolved prior to the performance date itself (which is often too late to fix any problems that might occur).
- Check out the venue Web site to get a feel for the space and see that the basic performance details listed match your notes.
- Create a checklist for yourself as a reminder of all the questions that need to be asked.
- Always be polite and courteous to the person with whom you are dealing, even if that person does not reciprocate.
- Do not hesitate to make several calls if you are not receiving a call back.
- Do not assume that you have done your duty after leaving your first message or two, as if the burden of ensuring a quality performance is now in the hands of the venue contact. While that may seem reasonable and be partially correct in theory, it will not be considered a viable excuse if the performance does not go smoothly and will not be remembered when it’s time to rebook.
- If after the third or fourth message you still don’t get a call back, do not hesitate to go back to the person who booked the show and ask him or her if you have the correct info, and/or whether they can help to facilitate the process.
- If there are other artists performing on the same bill as yours,consider calling them too, to introduce yourself, talk about stage setup and equipment, and discuss the possibility of sharing gear to save time in transition between sets.
The most important thing to remember when doing an advance is this: Knowing prior to arrival the situation and the various players you’ll encounter will minimize the surprises and allow you to focus on the performance itself. And an event without incident will be remembered—it may even be considered by some to be as important as the performance itself. This is especially true for an emerging artist who is trying to develop a good reputation and could use the support of as many people as will give it—including talent buyers, venue managers, production people, bartenders/wait staff, other performers, and fans alike.