Friday, July 5, 2013

Musicians Shouldn't Be Desperate For Booking Agents. There's An Easier Way

I've been booking gigs for bands since I opened my Talent Agency in 1998.  Every time I open my mouth about what I do, bands and musicians fall all over themselves in an attempt to get me to book them gigs.  But here's the problem the way I see it.  Most bands know themselves and their capabilities very well.  But they are not good at identifying and articulating themselves, they don't know how to build their own brand.  The successful bands do.

Musicians!  You shouldn't be desperate to find a booking agent.  There's an easier way!  All you need to do is identify yourself, to "create your brand", then package your brand by identifying a few easy to remember points about it.  Once you have done that, it's easy to sell yourself!

Let me give you an example:

Jim had a jazz trio consisting of bass, piano and drums.  They loved to get together on Friday nights and play tunes out of the Real Book: "Misty", "Autumn Leaves", "Donna Lee".  They built up quite a repertoire of tunes they knew and could play well together.  After a while, neighbors and friends started asking Jim if the trio could play for this or that function or party, maybe a wedding or two.  So they started building a word of mouth reputation.  Jim knew a guy who had a bar and he asked if the trio could play there on the slow days, and so, Tuesday nights became the Jazz night at Jim's buddy's bar.  This went on for about 7 years.  Eventually they thought they were good enough to hire a booking agent and get some real, paying, gigs. So they contacted me.

"I don't book jazz bands," I said.  "Please help us.  We don't know what we're doing," they said.

The first thing I asked for was a paragraph description of the band.  They had nothing put together.  They hadn't considered it.  "We're just a jazz trio," Jim said.  That's not good enough.  I told him he needed to write up a one paragraph bio about the band.  It took them forever, but they finally wrote something up.

Next I asked for 3 recordings in mp3 format for the demo.  He asked "What are they?"  I said they are recordings of the trio that you think best represents the range of material you are capable of.  Wow that was a broad statement.  It through them to a tizzy.  I didn't hear back from them for several weeks and thought they'd given up.  But about six weeks later, I got a CD in the mail with several tunes on it.  I emailed Jim back and asked him which 3 he wanted me to use.  He said - use them all!  It's our first album.  You'll love it.  I said it's for a DEMO.  Clients don't want to listen to an hour's worth of music.  They want at maximum 3 minutes - they'll listen to the first minute of each tune and judge from that.  I said, it's good you now have an album.  You'll be able to sell it at gigs, if you get them.  Because most bookers won't touch a new band that doesn't have a "local following".  That's right.  If nobody knows you, chances are they won't turn out to hear you unless they have some incentive.

Finally, I asked about how many people they could "draw" to a local gig.  "What does draw mean?" Jim asked.  It means how many people you can guarantee the club you'll bring in to either buy tickets or drinks or food.  "I have no idea," Jim said.  Well, then you have to start building up a mailing list.  I suggested he send out an email to all of his friends and bring a signup list to the Tuesday night Jazz concerts at the bar and get people to sign up there.  He'll need to be able to guarantee a minimum number of people who will turn out to see the band specifically.  Otherwise, he will need to be able to offer something unique to the club that will guarantee a draw - something really cool or special.  "What are some examples," Jim said.  A pianist that climbs on the piano and plays backwards?  A bassist that twirls his bass?  A drummer that sings in falsetto?  A belly dancer?  The band gives away free drinks during the show?  Something exciting and unique.  "But we're a jazz band, not a circus," Jim said.  If you don't have a draw, or if you can't guarantee a draw, then you'll need to give the club incentive to hire you.

That's it.  If you can put together a good description, 3 good tunes (in mp3 format), and guarantee a draw or have a unique offer/experience, you can start booking your own gigs.

And how you do that?  You get a list of clubs that play your kind of music (from the internet), you call them up, ask who the booker is, get their number or email address, email the description, tunes and guarantee offer; follow up with a phone call or email within 24-48 hours.  Keep on top of them.  And get the gig!

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