Updated: Sep 19
In this article, we explain how to book gigs. We cover approaching the promoter, promotion, and planning for the night of the show.
Approaching a promoter
There is a temptation to tell the promoter everything about you or your band. This is a mistake. Keep your approach short and concise, the aim should be to intrigue them with key highlights so they reach back out to you to continue the conversation and ultimately book you a show. Nobody wants a long email, so make use of bullet points to highlight the most pertinent facts.
What promoters really want to know:
A simple description of your band / the music you play
When you want to play
Who has expressed interest in your band recently?
When is your next release scheduled?
Where are you based / where are your fans based?
Which recent shows were packed or sold out?
Why is it a good time to book you?
What’s new and next
Put yourself in the shoes of the promoter or booker. They want to see you are doing things now and next, if you only talk about the past, they will soon switch off. What’s new and exciting? If they book you why will you help fill their room?
Create a hook and a story
They will be much more likely to want to book you if you are planning to use the show to announce/promote something. EG
Single Launch Party
Album Launch Party
Music Video Launch
End of Tour Party
Home Coming Show
This is about creating a story around a show to make it sound more exciting than just another gig. You want to create a sense of urgency to help persuade the promoter to book you now or they will miss out to other, cooler promoters. This approach will immediately make you more attractive to promoters and bookers because you are talking their language.
The value of a promoter
If you can establish a good relationship with a promoter it’s likely you will be offered repeat shows, and they might also recommend you to other promoters and venues who are looking for reliable and exciting new artists to book.
How to get support slots with bigger artists
To increase your chances of being considered for a support act slot, it's essential to focus on networking and fostering relationships with fellow artists. The headliner's booking agent typically handles the final selection of support acts, but they often seek input from the manager, who, in turn, consults with the main artist to determine their preference. Additionally, promoters also suggest local support options to the agent for the shows they organize. So, apart from having strong connections with promoters, being on the radar of the headline band and being a suitable musical match significantly improve your likelihood of securing the support act opportunity.
Pick venues that match your fan base
If you think you have 25-50 fans that would pay to see you don’t approach the 300-capacity venues. Start small it’s better to have a small room full, than a big room empty. You could also speak to the promoter about customising the space to suit your show. For example, adding some tables and chairs to create a more intimate atmosphere.
Certain promoters may expect you to bring a specific number of attendees to the event. It's advisable to inquire about these expectations early on, and if the arrangement doesn't align with your preferences, you can politely decline the gig. Obviously, if you are playing a gig outside your hometown, it's understandable that guaranteeing an audience might be challenging, honestly and transparency is always the best way to avoid awkward conversations after the event.
It’s a good idea to start by speaking to the promoter to understand what they will be doing to promote the show, this ensures you have one connected plan, rather than repeating each other's work.
Make sure you give your friends, family, and fans the best possible chance of attending your show. There is nothing more frustrating than a message the morning after the show from a fan saying, I didn’t know you were playing! Think like an advertiser, as a crude rule of thumb aim to tell your fans about your show at least 6 times in a 4-week period.
If it’s a paid-for show, make it easy for them to buy and make it sound exciting, like a show they can’t miss. You want to build FOMO (fear of missing out) for every show you play. Remember nothing ever beats a personal invite, so pick up the phone and talk to friends and family, don’t just rely on social media.
How to win favor with the promoter
Promoters want advanced ticket sales, this helps their cash flow and mitigates their risk. If all you fans buy tickets on the night, who knows if anyone is going to show up! Think about ways as an artist you can encourage fans to buy in advance… Maybe you dedicate a song to the first 3 people to buy a ticket? Or maybe anyone who buys in advance gets a free pin badge, be creative. Not only is it good for your relationship with the promoter it’s also a great way to surprise and delight your fans.
One of the most crucial questions when considering gigs is about the payment arrangement. It's essential to know beforehand if you'll receive a fixed fee for your performance, a percentage of the ticket sales, or if only expenses like petrol costs will be reimbursed. Additionally, it's worth inquiring about the presence of a rider, especially if you're traveling from another city or planning a tour. Understanding if you'll be provided with meals before the gig can be helpful for budgeting and overall planning. Make sure you know when you will be paid, normally you will need to find the promoter after the show to collect your money.
Backline, soundcheck, and load-in / out times
Once you have confirmed the date and time for your show, you will also need to be clear on the plans and timings for the show itself. Here are some of the key questions you will want answers to before you arrive:
Will backline be provided?
(Backline essentially is the PA system, that you plug into) If you have booked a venue for your own launch show, don’t assume it will be.
Will there be a drum kit?
If not can another band on the bill supply one, often it’s easiest for the most local to the venue. If there is a drum kit, it’s normal that you will just be required to bring drum breakables (cymbals - the expensive part!)
When is the load-in time?
Your show might not be until 9 pm but the promoter may need you to arrive at 5 pm. It’s also worth understanding the parking situation, how close to the venue can you get to unload?
What time is sound-check / line-check?
Make sure you know if there will be a full sound-check and the time you are required. Remember if you are late it will impact the other artists on the bill, so be respectful and timely.
Is there a merch table?
Find out whether there are opportunities to sell merch on the night. Do you need to supply someone to run it, or will the venue handle that on your behalf? Does the venue take a commission on every sale?
Is there a guest list?
Some promoters will give you a guest list to invite a manager, label, or press. It’s always worth checking how many people can get in for free.
Now that is how to book gigs!