First impressions are always important, and never more so than when working to secure a gig. Maintaining professionalism is hugely important at this stage, and in order to do so it is critical to avoid these six mistakes.
Guest Post by Jhoni Jackson on the Sonicbids Blog
Any time you talk with a promoter, booking agent, or venue, you should strive for professionalism. You can, of course, get a little more casual with your conversations. But your initial attempt at securing a date for a show is an indelible first impression that should be carefully thought out. If the people in charge think you're unprofessional from the get go, they may hesitate to book you – like, ever.
It's not that hard to avoid these mistakes, though. Read on to ensure you never hinder your chances by committing any of these blunders.
1. You message on Facebook instead of emailing
A lot of venues will answer booking inquiries sent through social media, but it's very unlikely that it's anybody's preferred method of contact. Why? Because Facebook messages aren't as organized as, say, Gmail, and these folks are also inundated with other messages from people who've lost items, have questions about a particular event, etc.
Before choosing a means of messaging, check the venue's contact info on their website, Facebook, or Twitter. Not only will you likely find that email is recommended over social media, but also you might find they've listed some specific requirements for bands and artists interested in booking.
2. Your inquiry is incomplete
In case you missed the tail end of the previous error: look for a list of submission requirements before preparing your email. It's a standard checklist, really:
- social media links
- YouTube videos
- songs on SoundCloud
- succinct description of the band
- proposed dates
- an idea of the lineup
- a suggested cover charge
Some venues, though, want to know more – like where else you've played locally, other bands you've played with, what the turnouts were like – right off the bat, and will view your proposal as incomplete and unprofessional if you fail to address everything they ask for.
3. You have no materials to offer
Honestly, there's no excuse for not having a few key items in the lot. A Facebook page, short bio, and at least one example of music are the bare-bones elements of an electronic press kit (EPK), and any band or artist who can't manage to put all three together will look incredibly lazy. The third is probably the most commonly skipped, particularly by newer bands. If you're just starting out, mention that – but consider including something as basic as a YouTube video of a live set or a laptop-recorded demo on SoundCloud anyway.
4. You suggest a lineup you can't deliver
Don't suggest to promoters and venues a dream lineup you can't make happen. Keep it practical, and be realistic about whether or not the bands you pick will want to play. (Really, you should hit them up ahead of time to feel out interest.) In general, don't expect anyone else to do the work for you. You should be able to make the bill you're proposing to happen completely on your own.
5. You ask for a day you're not ready for
How strong is your draw? If you're only pulling 20 people and asking for a headlining spot on a Saturday night, you're either really arrogant or totally oblivious to how venues work. (Or both.) It's almost offensive, to be honest, when a band so early in the fanbase-building stage thinks they deserve a Friday or Saturday booking. When it comes down to it, the venue needs to make money, and they can't do that if your band's not able to draw a crowd.
6. You cancel
Obviously, there are circumstances in which canceling is understandable, but if your reasons aren't actual emergencies, you're going to seem unprofessional for bailing. Whether there was an argument within the band a week before a gig or someone's got a scheduling conflict, figure it out. If you abandon a promoter, booking agent, or venue at the last minute, they won't forget it.
Jhoni Jackson is an Atlanta-bred music journalist currently based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she juggles owning a venue called Club 77, freelance writing and, of course, going to the beach as often as possible.