I recently received an off the cuff tutorial from a booking agent at a Bay Area venue. They agreed to let me share thier typical sentiments with you. I decided to keep their sharing anonymous to protect their right to future rants without reprecussion. There are so many gems in here it is enough to make your head spin.
Bands take heed!
How to Query Club Booking Agents
Figure out how each club agents wants to be contacted.
Agents differ in the way they like to be queried and it’s up to you to figure out the right way to query each one. Some prefer, phone, some prefer email and some have specific call times. Remember it’s about the way they want to do business, not the way you want to do business. I personally do not like to be sold on the phone; I just want the facts in writing so I can easily reference them. Others are the exact opposite. Usually you can figure out the way an agent wishes to be queried by visiting the club web site or by simply asking her/him. Bear in mind that many agents have multiple roles and limited time and that you are likely to be one of hundreds the query them annually. Don’t take it personally if you don’t get a quick response. Just be persistent and a bit creative until you develop an effective working relationship. In my dual role as booking agent for musicians, I can name at least three CA club bookers that most people can never get a response from. I can get an answer in 15 minutes from each one simply because I figured out the right way to query them and they appreciate it.
Be Clear and Concise with your message.
If you are calling on the phone, start and end with your name and number. If querying by email, put your band name and available date in the subject line. This may seem like a no brainier but 90% don’t do it. This is the single biggest way to stand out and expedite a response. Vague email subjects and lengthy babbling messages followed by hastily left names and numbers are a clear red flag that you will be a pain in the ass to work with. Or worse yet, I may just bury your message until I have time for it and we all know what happens to buried messages. Remember, you are selling your band, not your personality, so get to the point.
Tell me what I want to know.
I want to know what your draw is, at what ticket price and what exactly you will do to help promote your show. If you have prior plays tell me about them and don’t bullshit me cause I probably know the booker at that venue. If the prior was part of a package or it was the venues grand opening, don’t act like your band sold it out. If you are just starting out, developing your fan base just be honest about it and the agent will be in a better position to help you.
Show me what you can do.
Send me exactly what you would send the press, speak to me the way you would a reporter, reference your successes, have a website with sound bites and tour history, and good photo’s and press releases. Impress me that you have a fan base and what it takes to get them to my venue. This is 2010, not 1973 and if you don’t have a grip on your own promotional efforts, and expect a club to do it all for you, you are in for a rude awakening.
Don’t waste my time:
Here is a typical phone message I get 20 times a day.
Hello – I am so and so and I am with the band such and such and we are a really great band, we play this and that and one of the guys used to play for so and so. I grew up in blah, blah, blah, and I really like your club, I used to go there to see so and so. We have played their several times and the old booking agent/Owner really liked us and the fans liked us too and we would like to play their again, or if we could be an opener in the big room. Anyhow, you can check us out on our My Space page (or some other social networking site I have to sign up to, to see). Call me back because I would like to talk to you about it. My name is garble and I am at 3817654647 (left as fast as possible, requiring three listens to make it out). And I am thinking “what kind of music? When did they play? What date are they available? Was it a package or did they headline? And what the hell is garbles name and did they say 47 or 07? Is that the impression you wish to make?
Spare me the guilt trip
I could care less how many times you have called or emailed, I get 30 calls and 100 emails a day and if I am not getting back to you there is probably a good reason (see above), or I just flat out don’t have the time. You whining about it may gain you sympathy from your mommy or therapist but all it does to me is let me know that you are a thin skinned little cry baby with limited initiative that will be difficult to work with. Do you want the gig or do you want to make me feel bad. It’s your choice.
Simple rule – do what you say. If an agent is asking for something, that request will serve as a test to see how capable you are. If you can’t follow up with the agent, how are you going to follow up with press or tech advancing or virtually anything? It’s your career so act like it.
If you come in and do a decent gig – don’t wait to re-book it, call me the next day. This lets me know that you want to grow with my venue and that you want to be part of my regular programming. Don’t wait till one month out or go play at three other local venues without the courtesy of even a phone call. Believe me, unless your name is Eric Clapton my club will do just fine without you, but having a regular gig in your back pocket is money in the bank and your fans will appreciate it too.
Don’t jerk me around
The us vs. them days are history. If you think you are gonna beat me up for gigs or squeeze me on fee’s, or denigrate my marketing team or staff or another venues team to somehow imply that you can do better than you have done, you will not be playing my venue. There are so many great bands out there looking for gigs that bookers like me can simply choose to work with people they like and people that are capable of growing in this climate. I literally have no real competition for 40 miles in my sized venue. You can get on board or not, it really does not matter to me. Attitude has no place in 2010, we either work together or I work with someone else. I am not in business to make you money, I am in business to bring great music to my community and put butts in seats. If we do that, the lion’s share of the money goes to you and your fan base grows. Its win win for both of us.