Venue options and alternatives: Playing more than bars, clubs, and cafés
In what seems like a paradox, I've found that bands sell more albums to small, special groups in unexpected places than in conventional venues. In addition, smaller, more intimate audiences tend to buy an extremely high percentage of merchandise-between 50% to 90% of the audience buys at least one CD-due, in large part, to the intimacy of the show. From an audience of fifty people I usually sell thirty to forty CDs. Whereas, in audiences of several hundred, I sell fifty to sixty CDs, which is a far lower overall percentage of the audience. Also, you will probably find that alternative venues pay significantly more money than bars or clubs ($1,000 vs. $50) in addition to footing the bill for your travel and lodging expenses.
For many alternative venues, you will work with a volunteer, committee-appointed party planner. Call the organization information number and ask for the name, address, phone number, and e-mail address of the person in charge of event planning. When speaking with her, explore improving the event with music and entertainment and offer to mail a brochure and CD. The brochure, in addition to your press kit, should simply explain what your band adds to private events, conventions, weddings, etc. One successful convention performance will lead to more bookings at regional and national conventions and parties. In many cases, you will be the only band they work with, simply because you took the initiative and called them.
Again, there are many alternative, specialized audiences for you to target. Get creative! Brainstorm any and everywhere your band can play. Almost anywhere can be turned into a great venue if you put some thought and effort into it. If there is a coffeehouse, community center, or empty meeting-room that you think can become a good venue, talk to the owner about your ideas. Compile a few great quotes from people that you have played for, put together a simple brochure, and you'll be off and running. There is a whole bunch of room in the world for musicians-you just have to know where to look!
Venue suggestions for Solo Artists and Duos: Cafés, Bars, Restaurants, Music Festivals, Art & Wine Festivals, Universities, Wineries, Busking/Street Performing, Corporate/Private Gigs, Weddings, House Concerts, Country Clubs, Tourist Destinations, Happy Hours, Hotel Lounges, College dormitories & BBQs, Schools, Conventions, Self-Help Groups, House Concerts, Church Groups, Community Groups, Opening Act etc.....
Booking shows at College Residences
Fee Range: $50-$100
Merchandise Sales: $50-$400
Gig availability: October-May
Contact lead time: 1 week-3 months
PA system not provided.
Dorm shows are great gigs, because you can count on quiet, attentive, large groups of listeners. Some dorms will pay, some won't. But, you will sell a lot of albums. My band always made significantly more money playing in dorms than during three-hour sets at "prestigious" San Francisco clubs.
Find information on Colleges and Universities in the phone book and on the Internet. If you live close by, walk around and visit the residence halls (dorms) on campus. Ask for a "Resident Assistant" (RA) or "Dorm-Leader." Give him or her a copy of your CD and press kit. Offer to play for students Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday night. RAs are usually trying to put together dorm events-especially ones that take place in their own lounge downstairs.
Booking Tips for College Residences
50 Promotional Tools
PROMO TOOL #1
PROMO TOOL #4
Mix up your patter from show to show. Don't tell the same stories about the same songs every night. Eventually, you will learn what feels right on stage. When audiences start to be extremely responsive both during and after your performances, you'll know you've hit the jackpot. Watch your favorite acts in concert and pay close attention to their on-stage personality. Then at your next show, try to incorporate the best elements of their show into your own.
PROMO TOOL #32
Advice from pros on the when, why, and how of going beyond DIY
Mike Green works as a booking agent at Fleming, Tamulevich & Associates. Mike represents the full roster of FTA artists including John Gorka, Greg Brown, and Ani DiFranco in the western US.
At what point does a musician have enough momentum to look for a booking agent?
All of the different management functions have to be taken care of. The artist needs someone to advance dates, to do publicity for shows, and to hopefully get them radio airplay. Some artists have people working for them, but some are successfully doing it all themselves.
Fleming, Tamulevich & Associates takes a different approach from a lot of bigger agencies. Ethical and artistic standards must come first, before we make the financial decisions. We make some decisions from the heart-when we have the sense that an artist is really going to explode, we will take a chance on them and invest in their career.
Basically, the musician must meet our artistic standards in addition to having financial potential.
Do you pursue artists that you want to sign, or do they come find you?
People who want to work with us have to believe in the way that we do business. We have a certain way of developing an artist's career. We try to build careers gradually, by booking shows in small rooms with enthusiastic promoters. For instance, if we know the artist can fill a 200 seat club, we won't book them into a beautiful 500 seat theater and have it be half empty. We would rather sell out the 200 seat club and have really high energy and maybe turn some people away. Then, the next time the artist plays in that town we can successfully book a bigger venue. We try not to overexpose an artist in a market. Instead, we follow the lead for what the audience is telling us. We also listen carefully to local promoters and radio people in that market.
We don't think it is all that effective to stick a new artist in as an opener for a major tour, because it is often difficult to follow up effectively. It's much more effective to have them go out with an artist at a similar level to get to know the promoters that will bring them back. Often the same promoter who books a 600 seat theater will also book a 150 seat club. If someone does well opening for a bigger act at a 600 seat theater, they could be brought back to headline the 150 seat club and fill the place. You have to be very sensitive to set-up and follow-up. For instance, if you book a festival in the summer, you need to get the artist back into town that fall to follow-up on it. etc.....