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How do you work club owners for gigs?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Max, May 15, 2006.

  1. Max

    Max Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2000
    Bakersfield, CA
    I'm in a debate with our lead singer on how to get more club gigs. His approach: call and call and call and call and call and call. Since I am currently "in charge" (not my choice), I am under pressure unless I call and call and call and call and call.

    My approach: take a flyer and a demo by, follow through in a couple of weeks by stopping by, saying hello, and offering to do a free night and if they like us, book us twice at regular pay. I also offer to fill in if another band cancels. In the meantime, I am pushing regular practices so that we improve. This is where we disagree. I think the band will sell itself if we're good. He thinks bar owners don't really pay attention and don't think about whether the band is good. So, call and call and call and call until your timing is right.

    I find the local club scene to be very competitive. Some clubs are booked through the end of the year. We are in the rotation starting in several months, but I think we have to be content with that.

    Any thoughts?
  2. Steve


    Aug 10, 2001
    I know how rediculous this sounds, and I would have never believed it if I hadn't seen this be enormously successful on more than one occaision but...

    Email them a song list, link to your website (you do have one right?) and a fee scale.

    It works like you wouldn't believe.
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Well the joke around here is that the reason it's called the 55 Bar is because that's how many times you have to call before you get a gig booked.
    If you have never worked a place before, pretty much the ONLY reason the booker is going to think of you is because you happen to be on the phone at the same time that he is thinking about the hole in his schedule. And the only reason you'll get called back is because you sold a lot of drinks and didn't annoy any of the staff. The owners/entertainment managers generally DON'T care if the band is good; your primary function is to put asses in seats and drinks in the hands of those asses. There are PLENTY of good bands that fill that bill and even more mediocre ones that do.

    ASIDE: there are even joints that will consistently book really bad bands simply because the band (which may be made up of dentists who used to play instruments in high school and now hav eno idea what to do with their miserable lives and so try to regain that feeling of Youthful Promise by playing like they did in high school) ALWAYS packs the house with their friends and co workers who spend like sailors on shore leave.

    There are plenty of alternatives to the following script:
    YOU: Can I have a gig?
    HIM: Not now, call me in two weeks.
    YOU: Can I have a gig?
    HIM: Not now, call me in two weeks.
    YOU: Can I have a gig?
    HIM: Not now, call me in two weeks.
    YOU: Can I have a gig?
    HIM: Not now, call me in two weeks.
    ad infinitum.
    If you haven't already, invest in a book by Hal Galper called THE TOURING MUSICIANS GUIDE TO THE ROAD. It's mostly for touring jazz musicians, but there are two sections worth their weight; one is the "conversation tree" for booking gigs (you say THIS, if he says THAT then you say THIS OTHER THING but if he says SOMETHING ELSE then you say THIS WHOLE OTHER THING). Second is a whole methodology for putting together a tour budget that may come in handy some day.

    Also of use is his concept of knowing the difference between a lead that can be followed up n later and when you are actually getting the "long No". read it, that will make sense.

    Build it and they will come sure sounds pretty, but it doesn't really fly out there in the real world. If you're waiting for a club owner to "figure out" that you're great and he should put you in his club, well best of luck. There are plenty of good musicians out there who ARE willing to put in the leg work (and phone and e-mail) to get the gig.
  4. Max

    Max Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2000
    Bakersfield, CA
    Well, I will take this to heart. Nagging the sh*t out of people just ain't my style.
  5. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    What you're doing is sales, and persistence is key. But maximizing your time is crucial to using your sales time effectively. You also don't want to wear out your sales pitch and become another telemarketer.

    Calling regularly helps, but it does have diminishing marginal returns. Calling once or twice a month is OK, but anything more than that can become bothersome. The club owner/manager deals with MANY sales calls from bands, vendors, distributors, etc. The only time to call more often is if the owner/manager asks you to.

    I suggest the 80/20 rule. 80% of your business will come from 20% of your customers, so spend 80% of your time on that 20%.

    Begin by doing some research. Find the venues that your band will fit and have owners/managers open to having your band. Then focus your attention on those. That will make up your 20%. Go to the venue and meet the people in person. Play them a sample of your music. Sit down and have a beer with them. You are selling yourself more than anything, so put forth your best image and prepare to communicate to the owner the benefits your band provides. Honestly, if you cannot provide value to the owner, you have no business playing there anyway. Develop relationships with the venue, staff and customers. It can be time consuming, therefore it's important to define your 20% so that you're not wasting your time.

    I'm not saying to drastically limit yourself. Get your stuff out to as many potential venues as you can, but focus your 80%attention on the 20%. Give the rest 20% of your effort. That 20% can be as simple as just making initial contact, dropping off a promo, and following up. The 80% effort you make to your core customers will include spending time at the club, developing relationships, partnering in promotional activities, showcasing your talent, etc.
  6. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    +1 (and add a million). There is no shortage of bands (good and bad) that will pack a place and make tons of money for the owner/manager. And that is the bottom line. The managers couldn't care less what you sound like. The only sound they are paying attention to is the sound of the cash register.

    Don't believe it? If you do manage to get a gig, ask the manager after the gig what he thought of the band (if he's even still around). If he is still around he'll probably reply by saying..."You guys are great" (and you'll be thinking he likes your music) "We made a killing on drinks tonight!"

    If you are competing with bands that always bring cash into the bar, best of luck. You'll just need to constantly keep your name in front of the guy (or girl) that does the booking and hope they think of your band's name (amongst a long list of others) when they happen to have an opening.

    It also helps to patronize the place you want to play at. Develop a rapport with the person who does the booking. Anything that keeps your band in their mind.
  7. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Well, like I said, you don[t have to repeat the same script over and over. After you've
    1. established contact - hi this is us we play music that would go over great in your club I'd like to drop of our CD and publicity crap. you get to

    2.follow up - hope you've had a chance to listen to everything and read our reviews, would love to have a chance to work together.

    3. more follow up - hi it's us, we sent in a CD and pub packet sometime back, I understand it's hard to fit a new group into your rotation, if you'd like to hear us in your environment we'd be happy to do an audition set (NOT a whole night) on one of your slow nights OR BETTER if you'd like to hear us live we'll be at SUCH AND SUCH VENUE on THIS DATE HERE.

    And, for Mithra's sake, LISTEN. If he's saying No Deal, it's No Deal and you're better off concentrating elsewhere. If he keeps saying Not Now, you need to be able to understand if you're just getting a Long NO and just cut your losses.

    But half the job (like I said) is just the coincidence of getting them on the phone AT THE SAME TIME that they have a hole to fill. If you have confidence in WHAT you are selling (your band) and WHO is doing the selling (that would be YOU) it ain't nagging. Your perception of it as bothersome IS gonna come across to the people you are talking to, so you need to have an attitude adjustment PDQ.
  8. NJL


    Apr 12, 2002
    San Antonio
    Yeah, no kidding!

  9. Max

    Max Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2000
    Bakersfield, CA
    Naw, Ed. I really appreciate the advice. I have sensed "not now" means no with a couple of these owners. I agree being at the right place at the right time is a factor (with just about anything in life) Some owners are more organized. I met with one and she pulled out her calendar and we booked for a weekend in October, November, December and New Year's in one swoop.
  10. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    You've gotten some excellent advice here. Especially the things Jive1 had to say...

    I will just add that you should be focused, professional & persistent. It's a long-term, ongoing thing. I agree with you that indiscriminate phone-calling is ridiculous. Indiscriminate anything is ridiculous...

    You do need to get your foot into some doors, but don't be too eager to just give it away: you need the club owners to respect you and to take you seriously...

    Once you do start landing some gigs, then I think your band's reputation will begin to determine more of your opportunities. If you guys are really good, word will begin to spread via the buzz network. The very best buzz you can ever get is when the customers ask the club owners to book you.

    So yes, do all those necessary things such as making the calls, dropping off the CDs, following up, etc. But make sure that when you get the gig, it's really something special. There's no substitute for that...

  11. MakiSupaStar

    MakiSupaStar The Lowdown Diggler

    Apr 12, 2006
    Huntington Beach, CA
    Call vs. Email. Email has given us 90% of our gigs. Include a PDF press-kit and links to your MP3's on your website. Also take the effort to find the venue on MySpace if it's there. Add them and drop them a line there.

    Another thing you need to notice is the type of bands booking at the venue. If you're a sunday-morning brunch jazz band, and the venue is booking hair bands or emo bands, then that venue is not necessarily a good fit for you. Research first and pick calculated targets. No one wants to hire someone that looks desperate, and is blanketing the town with demo CD's. Send them a CD if they ask for it. Follow through is also key.

    Another thing is talking to other bands like you guys. Where do they gig, what do they suggest? Be humble. Ask if you could open for them.
  12. Jehos


    Mar 22, 2006
    DFW, TX
    If your band is good, and fits the club, this is an excellent way to get your foot in the door. You've got to understand where the owner is coming from:

    1. Sucky bands make people leave the club/bar. This is a BAD THING
    2. Good bands are the ones that bring people in the door
    3. The owner doesn't know which you are

    Basically if you can get the owner to one of your shows somewhere else, that helps. If you can get a band that's already booked to get you ok'd as an opener, that helps. MP3s don't help as much--they just tell the owner what type of music you play. What the owner REALLY wants is to SEE the crowd's reaction to you--it's the crowd the owner cares about. If they're dancing, cheering, and having a good time, those are people who will stay the whole set and drink more. If they look bored or worse annoyed, they're likely to leave.

    Edit: When I first started playing live, the first place my band booked gave us an open invitation to come back any time we wanted. It was a little dive bar that basically just sold cheap beer. My band consisted of 5 guys who were in 3 different frats. Our first show, they had to close the doors because they were already like 40% above their max number of people for fire code. People still stood outside and watched us play. That was probably a record sales night for that bar, so at the end of the night the owner told us we could come back and play any time we wanted. It had nothing to do with the music--we were good, but I wouldn't call us great by any stretch. It had to do with the fact that we were playing college rock at a bar with lots of cheap beer (a college bar) and brought about 150 college students to drink all that beer and watch us play.
  13. This is how we book venues. Once you get your claws into them, get them to open the calendar and commit to dates reaching as far out as possible. If you don't, someone else will.
  14. Diggler


    Mar 3, 2005
    Western PA
    We actually had this conversation with a bar owner after closing one night:

    Us: So, what did you think?
    Him: Went great!
    Us: Did you like the music selection?
    Him (cleaning out the register): Actually, I was up in my apartment most of the night. As long as you guys keep filling up the cash register like this, I don't care if you guys set yourself on fire on stage.

    And that's the real world.

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