Excerpt 1 from Chapter 9: Venue options and alternatives

Excerpt 2 from Chapter 9

Excerpt 3 from Chapter 15: 50 Promotional Tools

Excerpt 4 from Chapter 19: Advice from pros on the when, why, and how of going beyond DIY (interview with Mike Green of Fleming, Tamulevich & Associates

Excerpt 1 from Chapter 9
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.....

Excerpt 2 from Chapter 9
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

  • Play for twenty-five to forty minutes, stopping before students become restless or anxious that they're taking too big a break from studying.
  • Ask the RA to advertise your show by posting flyers in the halls and the bathrooms and by making announcements at dorm meetings. Give her flyers with time, place, and date, plus a great photo of your band. Better yet, flyer the dorm yourself. There is a huge difference between doing a show with advertising and a show without advertising. To get the best reception to your music, the students need to know you are coming.
  • To ensure student turn out, ask the RA to provide munchies in the lounge during or after your performance. Students will attend any event if food is provided.
  • A buzz will spread quickly throughout campus after a few performances, because students will play your CD for friends. Soon, you will receive calls offering you hundreds to play at BBQs, parties, and for specific student groups.
  • Leave a stack of CDs on consignment with the campus bookstore. When you play, announce that they are also for sale at the bookstore. That way, the people who wished they had bought your album the night you played, but didn't, will be able to buy it in the bookstore.

Excerpt 3 from Chapter 15
50 Promotional Tools

Present people (promoters, press, etc.) with your best, most flattering recordings.

A great recording of your music is the best way to promote your band. Mary Ahern, a concert producer who has worked on benefit shows featuring both local bands and famous acts (CSN, Jackson Brown, Eddie Vedder, etc.) told me, "A musician's top promotional priority should be the music. If the band is great live, then I want to hear live tracks. If the band is great in the studio, then they should send me canned tracks. The band should put forward the stuff that represents them best. And, I hate to harp on the obvious, but their guitars should be in tune. I get way too many tapes with glaring problems like that. The recording simply has to be good."

Develop your stage personality.

For most performers, a difference evolves between their on-stage personality and their "real life" personality. I advise you to behave naturally, staying true to yourself as a person and as a performer. For instance, if you are a natural born storyteller, tell stories. If you're always the life of the party, let that come across from the stage.

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.

Look for ways to tie-in your music with niche markets.

Niche markets are specific well-defined markets. If your music has healing qualities, you could try to sell your CDs in health food shops, vitamin stores, spas, etc. If your audience gets great spiritual satisfaction from listening to your music, you should sell your CDs at yoga classes, eastern philosophy retail stores, and gourmet soap shops. Go to the library and find newsletters, newspapers, and magazines that target this niche market. You may be able to do a roaring mail-order business, because small publications charge very small advertising fees. Get these publications to do a feature story on your music, putting your address, phone number, and web site in at the bottom of the article. etc.....

Excerpt 4 from Chapter 19
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?
In terms of momentum, the artist must be in some demand in at least a big chunk of the country. There needs to be a big buzz on the street. We should be hearing about the artist from people that we trust-promoters, festival people, other artists. If an artist contacts us with a great CD but we haven't heard their name from other people, that's not as credible.

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?
Usually they come to us. We won't steal someone off of another roster, although we will consider working with someone who is unhappy with their current booking agency. Before we closed off unsolicited submissions last year, we were getting 500 packages a year, which is a big waste because no one had the time to listen to them.

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.....