When it comes to booking your perfect show, there’s a lot that goes into it. I don’t need to tell you how difficult it can be to coordinate all the details of finding your perfect venue or getting a crowd to actually come hang out—that’s why you’re here!
So without further ado let’s dive straight into it—5 quick “how to” venue tips on everything from finding the venue to getting fans to come out (and come back.)
Finding the right venue
There’s a lot that goes into finding the right venue, but two of the first things to really ask yourself is 1) is this appropriate for my genre and 2) is this appropriate for my size?
Then, you can get to some of the more nitty-gritty stuff. Is the location ideal? It might be really cheap or easy to get a show there, but if it’s in a spot that you know your fans just aren’t going to make the drive to or travel an hour on the subway to reach, then it’s probably not going to be a good fit. It can be easy to make these compromises especially in the early days when you just want to get something, anything on the books, but don’t compromise just to play a show if you know in your gut it’s not going to be a fit. You’ll end up burning out on events that simply don’t make sense for your brand.
That said, try not to be too idealistic in the early days. You’re going to have to take shows at venues you don’t love, simply because the price, audience, or location is right. And look, if there’s any one thing I’ve learned from binge-watching HGTV it’s that you can never have it all—the perfect location, cover charge, fan base, aren’t all going to come together from the start. These things take time.
Check out what other local bands in your genre have played there successfully, and maybe even go out to a couple shows to get a sense of the overall vibe. Do your research, and then plan accordingly.
Perfecting your pitch
Keeping it simple is kind of the name of the game here. When you’re inquiring about an open spot at a venue, you want to include the dates you’re looking at in the subject line and the body of the email, and then some quick information on who you are (band name, genre, city) and a link to your EPK, which hopefully includes your bio, promo photos, and 1-2 live videos of your performance.
Oh, and don’t forget to include your anticipated draw size. It’s ok if this is small—but be honest. It’s not going to work out for you if you lie and say you can bring in 200 people when the most you’ve ever brought out is 25.
Jumping on other shows
Sometimes one of the best ways to get your career going is to jump on the shows of more established bands, preferably those you’ve forged a relationship with, but also those you want to develop a relationship with. It offers a guaranteed show with an audience you probably don’t yet have access to, and tons of opportunities to hone in on and perfect your craft.
Honestly, even after you’re well established, continuing to take part in other band’s shows, and in turn, host other bands on yours, is a great way to build relationships within the industry, while opening yourself up to new fans.
Promoting your show
When it comes to getting the word out about your show, I recommend a strong mix of good ol’ fashioned grassroots campaigning, with savvy digital marketing. If you’re a fairly known band in your area (or even if not, but I think this works best when you have a bit of a following), then using Facebook Ads to target potential fans to come out is a great start to the digital side. Of course, there’s also trying to garner a little press for your shows (this is much more difficult than press for an album or single, but, it’s do-able with the right strategy) and list your event on as many event listing sites as possible.
There’s also the always uncomfortable but very productive act of reaching out to people personally to tell them about your show and send them an invite. Please remember that simply copy and pasting the same text into 15 Facebook messages does not qualify as a personal invite. When I say personal, I mean personal. You ask how the dog is, you tell them you loved their most recent song/article/salad photo and you make sure they know they’re more to you than just another body at the show.
Then, there’s the part where you get out and actually interact with people face to face. You go out to post flyers, host acoustic gigs in your coffee shop in the days leading up to promote the big show, or (my favorite) stand outside a big concert with a similar sounding artist and start talking to the people in line. “Hey I’m so and so! I love this band. What’s your favorite song? Yeah?! Mine is XYZ. I’m actually in Band X and we’re playing a show this weekend (details details details) can I give you a flyer and I sign you up for our mailing list and you’ll get a free song and a reminder of the show date?”
Leave them wanting more
Finally, once you have your fans in front of you, ready to soak up all the live music action you’re about to deliver, you want to make sure it’s memorable. Remember that every show you put on should be the greatest show you’ve ever performed. That means keeping the energy high, interacting with the audience, putting your best foot forward, and hanging around at the merch table to talk to people after the show. Give them a true experience, and they’ll keep coming back.
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR, where her artists have seen placement on Alternative Press, Noisey, Substream, and more, as well as the Director of Community and Events for Music Launch Co. She’s also the owner of music blog Infectious Magazine. She loves baked goods, a good book, and hanging with her dog Sawyer.