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Thread: Booking gigs

  1. #1

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    Now that we are ready to hit street I need advice about booking gigs. I kind of took it on myself to do so with this project inadvertently. I have tried contacting venues through email and social media but plan to make some personal visits as well. All of us are experienced musicians and have audio/video on youtube and such. However being a new project we don't have anything with us together. I know it's going to take some work and a little luck to get going but would appreciate any advice y'all could give. Thanks !
    Dave


    Frank "Fiacovaz" Iacovazzi
    RIP my friend


    Proud member of "PHROGGES AQUARIAN ARMY"

  2. #2

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    Things may be different in your neck of the woods....but around here;
    No one EVER returns phone calls, emails or Facebook messages. Every new venue gig I book has been in person. I walk into the place around mid afternoon and ask to speak to whoever handles the entertainment. Very rarely do I ever leave with a booking. It usually takes multiple visits. They'll tell you "I'll keep you in mind", "I'll definitely be calling you" or "I'll check out your videos on Facebook", but they never do. Unless they pull out their schedule right in front of you and write your band in on a date, your not gonna get a booking. Also, bartenders will ask you questions and act all excited about your band and tell you they'll give your card to the owner/manager....but it ain't happening. Once you're out of sight, you're out of mind. It's just the way things go, so you can't take it personal. Be confident, polite and persistent. If you get the chance for a face-to-face with the owner/manager, order a beer. That makes you a customer. Listen to and address their concerns. Let them know your goal is to work WITH them. They make money, you get invited back! Money is the bottom line for them.

    I suggest having demo CDs of your band to hand out. They'll usually ask where you've played and where you're playing next (so they can come hear you and see what crowd you draw). Sometimes we leave a gig with a new booking to a new venue. If you're new, it makes it tough. You'll need to find out which venues in your area are the "entry level" ones. Also, which ones have the patrons that will be into your music.

    You need to know the market and appropriate fee to charge. You need to be cheap enough that they'll take a chance on you, but not so cheap that you come off as low quality or you undercut established bands by to much. That's important, because....

    The BEST thing you can do is network with established bands in the area. They can help get you in to places and vice-vesa.

    It's tough starting out. The first year or two, I couldn't BUY a gig. Once we got exposure and 10-12 gigs under our belt, everything fell into place. Places started calling me. When I walk into a new place, they've usually heard of us. Sometimes there's even patrons at the bar who say, "oh, I've seen you guys! You're awesome". I always ask what bands they regularly hire. That tells me what kind of place it is and what level of bands play there. It's great when I can say,"yeah, I know those guys. We both play at ______ on a regular basis". NEVER talk bad about another band. I try to not give the impression that I'm looking to get hired...I'm looking for the best places to extend the opportunity for my band to put on a show. I'm not looking for places that allow us to play; I'm looking for places fitting of opportunity to hire us. Just be patient and don't get discouraged.
    Last edited by N2Bluz; 04-04-2017 at 12:18 AM.
    -Brian

    "Too many crappy used drum stuff to list"

    Play the SONG......not the DRUMS!!!

    "I think that feeling is a lot more important than technique. It's all very well doing a triple paradiddle - but who's going to know you've done it? If you play technically you sound like everybody else. It's being original that counts." ~ John Bonham

  3. #3

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    Brian is, as usual, right on the money. The only thing I would add is to make sure that the 1st gig is as good as you can make it.

  4. #4

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    Great advice here (above)..................I'm currently in a band that plays fun and danceable covers -- and the clubs love us.
    We (as members of the band) protect our set list -- this may sound odd but it works. We make certain that any song to be added to the list must pass certain criteria............the biggest being that the song has to be FUN. If the crowd is dancing, they are staying in the club and buying more drinks...............the club is in the business to accomplish that.

    One extra thing I love to do is make sure that after a great gig, I tell the manager that it was nice to have a big crowd for the club and to see everyone make some money.................everyone meaning the bar staff, waitresses, the door cover, and the club in general.
    I know that when a club pays us a flat fee, we get paid the same regardless of the crowd that night..............the club is bearing all the risk.
    So when it pays off big, I like to let the people know we are happy for a great night and looking forward to doing it again.
    Making the bar success the first priority sometimes surprises the bar managers...............in a good way.
    Gretsch USA & Zildjian
    (What Else Would I Ever Need ?)


  5. #5

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    What they said.

  6. #6

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    I agree, it's all about the venue making money. Just acknowledging that to the bar owner and showing that you understand their prospective can go a looooong way. There are a LOT of bands that don't understand it and conduct themselves contrary to it. You don't need a big crowd, you just need to keep them drinking & having fun. You keep the energy up and "read" the crowd. Talk to them and interact. The people have given you the valuable gift of their time & attention, so give back of yourselves. The synergy between the band and audience is key. If you're having fun, feeling the music & sending out vibes, the audience picks up on it. It's like a drug they become addicted to and it makes them want to stay (and/or follow your band). It also promotes a better performance from the band. You can be a great band musically, but If you're boring with no stage presence, the audience will respond accordingly. On the flip side, you don't have to be a great band to draw crowds...you just need to be solid musically and create a fun & addictive atmosphere that people are drawn to. Nothing catches the attention of a bar owner/manager faster than when a band engages their patrons and raises the energy level in the place. That translates into $$$ for the venue and repeat gigs! When the other venues hear about it from mutual patrons, then it gets much easier.
    -Brian

    "Too many crappy used drum stuff to list"

    Play the SONG......not the DRUMS!!!

    "I think that feeling is a lot more important than technique. It's all very well doing a triple paradiddle - but who's going to know you've done it? If you play technically you sound like everybody else. It's being original that counts." ~ John Bonham

  7. #7

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    This is all great advice. Never pass down an opening spot either. Some places have lists of bands that need openers on their websites, which is great.

    Since everyone in my band is about 14, we gig with a few other bands our age since it's easier, safer and more fun to play together.
    I don't put a face on God. So he would probably look like Jimi Hendrix.
    - Chad Smith
    Everyone's screwed up in their own special way.
    Joey Ramone

    Hunger makes me a modern girl
    -Sleater-Kinney

  8. #8

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    Brian is spot on. If you're a new band, your biggest ally will be established bands in the area. My current band is made up of seasoned musicians but we didn't start getting bookings till we went to see another local band and sat in with them. During the break the guitarist went over to the bar manager and told him to book our band. Once that venue booked us, other venues were willing to book us. Now we're in the rotation at all the best venues.

  9. #9

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    talking directly to the club owner is premium around here ; i don't know any other way than selling your band in a face to face conversation ; club owners have their preferences, and they know the core of their customers and will for sure tell you what they want to hear from your band, unless they make business via booking agencies which take care themself of matching the right band to the right venue.

    each club entertain a different customer core, so each bar has different needs. some are more dance oriented, others encourage originals and more static music. you want to aim at the right place for what your band is playing.
    Last edited by rollracer; 04-05-2017 at 06:23 PM.
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  10. #10

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    Around here, the owner is almost always available during afternoon business hours and week nights....usually cooking or tending bar. They can't afford to hire a staff to do everything. Many times they live above the bar if it's and old 2-story building. I could see where they may be hard to reach at the bigger clubs.

    I will say this, however; I've met some HOT bartenders working the afternoon or weeknight shifts! I'm guessing they help attract the "regulars" that stop in for 1 or 2 beers after work. Probably keeps them from getting harassed by the unsavory weekend crowd as well.
    -Brian

    "Too many crappy used drum stuff to list"

    Play the SONG......not the DRUMS!!!

    "I think that feeling is a lot more important than technique. It's all very well doing a triple paradiddle - but who's going to know you've done it? If you play technically you sound like everybody else. It's being original that counts." ~ John Bonham

  11. #11

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    Sometimes, letting things take care of themselves is good. This just happened to me. I had contacted one of the hottest music venues in Baltimore about 2 months ago. Went back and forth with the booking agent on email and I wasn't happy with the terms so I let it go. Didn't even respond to his last email. Today, out of the blue I get a message telling me that they want us as headlining act, 3 other bands on the undercard, terms are acceptable and they agree to promote on local radio stations............blah blah blah. I accepted. You never know.

  12. #12

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    Thanks for all the input guys. A lot of great information. I have heard from several people about visiting the establishment during "down time". That tends be a problem with my work schedule. However I am going to make it a priority to get into some of these places every chance I get. I'm gonna try and hit up one of the local breweries tomorrow evening. A band I auditioned for is playing there. Obviously I didn't get that job but I did strike up a friendship with the singer/guitarist. He said breweries around here are a great place for bands starting out. We shall see. Been hammering away for about 4 months now. Im itching to get in front of some folks. Thanks again folks !
    Dave


    Frank "Fiacovaz" Iacovazzi
    RIP my friend


    Proud member of "PHROGGES AQUARIAN ARMY"

  13. #13

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    No problem getting gig around here. Must be willing to play for pizza and beer!

    Wow... that rhymes! LOL

    all the best...

  14. #14

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    Some really good advice, my guitar player is our band leader but we all contribute. Due to his profession he's works at a lot of piers along the California coast. He will go into a bar/restaurant/club talk to the owner. Most of the beach places have a certain night for new or ametuer bands which is usually a free gig. I guess they feel that they are doing you a favor playing at their establishment. But I give it to him he must have the gift of gab I remember one night he had 4 venues wanting us to play. I'm not sure about were you live, but in southern California plenty of places to play for free usually weeknights. The ultimate goal is to make money, but we have done some free shows that lead to other greater things. I still believe in the old school way networking and word of mouth. For instance I played a free gig for some visitors from England. After the gig I'm networking shaking hands I booked a wedding gig and a gig at the end of this month both paid.

  15. #15

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    Never do free gigs unless it's a charitable event.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by inthpktplayer View Post
    Never do free gigs unless it's a charitable event.
    I totally agree with this statement. In my town, bands that play for free are not doing the rest of us who charge a flat rate any favors. I completely understand why a band would "give" away their services as Goro has mentioned in his post but due to so many bands that play for free here, the base rate for a band that plays 4 one hour sets has dropped down to barely cover the gas to get to the gig. The casinos aren't the problem but it's the smaller bars and clubs that balk at anything over $400 a night. As SunDog mentioned in his post in a related topic, he charges $1,250 for 4 one hour sets.

    My last cover band charged $400 a night and spilt between 4 people, that's $100 each. I live in Cali where it takes $50 to fill up my tank if I'm on "E" (16.5 gallon tank) @ $3.00 a gallon for regular gas. After playing with this band for nearly two years I took home only $900 which fell below any IRS requirements to claim as income. I never got 1090'd by anybody.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by inthpktplayer View Post
    Never do free gigs unless it's a charitable event.
    I've ALWAYS been payed for a charity gig . I have never knowingly played for free . There have been a few times where the check I received bounced and I had to take them to court , won the judgment and still was not able to collect . But I did the gig with the promise to be payed . ....that's show biz .

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by jedi View Post
    I've ALWAYS been payed for a charity gig . I have never knowingly played for free.
    I played two legit charity events a few years ago and we garnered paid gigs out of them. The Red Ribbon event pictured below had a local radio station as a sponsor and during the morning show, our band was mentioned several times during the live "cut-ins". That was well worth the 6:00am set-up time and we played on the steps of the State Capitol building.


  19. #19

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    The going rate for a 4hr gig around here is $350-$400. We drive over 100 miles to play for $350....then split it 6 ways. It's not uncommon for the bar owner to pay us an extra $50-$100 at the end of the night and cover our bar tab if the crowd was good. Some of the bigger outdoor festivals we can get $600. There are local bands that charge $1500-$1800, but they only play a few big events per year and rarely play in the bars. Honestly, they're pretty good, but not that much (if any) better than us. BUT, they draw a large crowd everywhere they play, which justifies their price.

    I have no problem playing for free IF it's a charity I'm on board with and no one (like a bar) is making a profit off of us.
    In this area, If you want to play in the bars on a regular basis, you need to be in the $400 or less range. The local crowds refuse pay cover charges and they can't fit enough people in a small town bar to pay much more than $400.
    -Brian

    "Too many crappy used drum stuff to list"

    Play the SONG......not the DRUMS!!!

    "I think that feeling is a lot more important than technique. It's all very well doing a triple paradiddle - but who's going to know you've done it? If you play technically you sound like everybody else. It's being original that counts." ~ John Bonham

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by N2Bluz View Post
    The going rate for a 4hr gig around here is $350-$400. We drive over 100 miles to play for $350....then split it 6 ways.
    Not for nothing, but, I think I'd hang 'em up.

  21. #21

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    Wow..they still make you guys play four hours ?! Things have somewhat changed out here . The only place we play now that makes you do the 9-1 set is the casino . All the other places have gone from that to a 3 hour gig . Some places you play from 10-1 or 8-11 . Sundays i do a brunch gig at a resort that's from 11-3 pm , four hours but you can eat all you want and it's real easy going . Then sometimes an evening gig on Sunday that's from 6-9 pm . The pay is still $400 for the 3 hours . But in our case we get paid $600 for the same gigs because we've been around for a long time and the musicianship is a level above the part time bands . Then there are the charity balls that pay big money and those are scheduled for three hours but most of the time we only play for an hour and a half because of all the speeches and awards that always run long . Weddings and private parties are also 3 hour gigs . And if it's held outside you can't play past 10 pm so those start and end early , and we still get the full pay .
    As I've said before .. I do this for a living so I HAVE to get paid . What I mentioned above is just for the GH Band I play with . Then there are the other gigs I pick up to fill the week . Happy hour gigs at the resorts playing with a jazz trio for two hours which pays me $75 . Sunday mornings at my church for an hour and I get a monthly check from them for $400 , I also have my health insurance through the church . So you can see my situation is much different than most of you .

  22. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by inthpktplayer View Post
    Not for nothing, but, I think I'd hang 'em up.
    I have to agree with Marc on this 1.

    Social Media, back in the early '70's was word of mouth, and you would have flyers made up and have them nailed to telephone poles and put in store windows of people you knew.

    U-Tube was what you had left over after you ran out of paper towels or TP. When I was in the husband-wife band, I was making $100 a night (that was '71 into '72), and when we formed our own band and got those 1st gigs out of the way and built a rep by rockin' the bars/clubs in Jersey, we were making over $400 a night by '74.

    I remember a club owner who balked at paying us our price and tried to get us to play for $275 a night. Needless to say we didn't do the gig. I did walk into his office and he said to me "Don't waste your time Rick, it's $275 or nothing". I told him (in my usual subtle way) "Behold a pale horse" and walked out. (I think he got that a little too late) He would get some 1/2 a$$ed bands, and in some cases, 1/4 a$$ed bands that would play for $200 a night. He learned his lesson too late and was closed within about 2 years.

    I know that the number of bars/clubs has gone down a lot in the last 15-20 years so getting gigs is harder than it was in the '70's, so, bottom line, be better than your competition. make the owners come after you and not the other way around.

    I won't say what we were making, on average, for the last 20-25 years. From my viewpoint, the bands are playing for peanuts these days.
    Last edited by rickthedrummer; 04-07-2017 at 04:40 PM. Reason: =======

  23. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by inthpktplayer View Post
    Not for nothing, but, I think I'd hang 'em up.
    Yeah, it pays for the gas, a pack of smokes and a truck stop meal on the way home at 3AM. That's about it.

    We don't have to drive that far to get a gig, but we really enjoy playing the place. They don't care how many people you have or how far away, 'cause they have local bands lining up to play there. It all pays the same.

    Just tonight, I was at the local bar drinking a couple cold ones with the owner. He told me he loses money on 90% of the bands that play there. In order for him to make money on s $400 band, he needs to have a $1000 in sales. Beer is $2 per bottle and he makes about 50% (or $1 per beer) in profit. That's 500 beers he needs to sell in 4hrs. The average crowd for a good band is 60-80 people at any given time....which is pretty much full capacity per fire code.
    -Brian

    "Too many crappy used drum stuff to list"

    Play the SONG......not the DRUMS!!!

    "I think that feeling is a lot more important than technique. It's all very well doing a triple paradiddle - but who's going to know you've done it? If you play technically you sound like everybody else. It's being original that counts." ~ John Bonham

  24. #24

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    Finally got a gig booked. Playing a small local neighborhood bar. 8:30 - 12am. Probably do 2 long sets with a break in the middle. Wife of the year goes to my bride of (soon to be) 27 years for letting me play music on our anniversary. Thanks again for all the input folks !
    Dave


    Frank "Fiacovaz" Iacovazzi
    RIP my friend


    Proud member of "PHROGGES AQUARIAN ARMY"

  25. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dawgkikker View Post
    Finally got a gig booked. Playing a small local neighborhood bar. 8:30 - 12am. Probably do 2 long sets with a break in the middle. Wife of the year goes to my bride of (soon to be) 27 years for letting me play music on our anniversary. Thanks again for all the input folks !
    Good luck with the gig!! 27 years, WOW. Going by the length of my previous marriages, I would need 5 1/2 wives to make 27 years.

    Congrats Dave! You got a keeper, I got throwbacks.

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