by Alex Cosper (11/18/12)
One of the biggest questions indie artists have is how to get gigs for shows. Many local bands get bookings either because they know venue owners or they have a manager who has relationships with clubs. Every local scene has its share of small networks that try to influence the local culture. While it's important to penetrate these networks, it's also important to build your own relationship with decision makers.
There are two different kinds of club owners when it comes to music: the kind who just want to make money and the kind willing to experiment. The kind who just want to make money will either settle for established acts with followings or cover bands who can deliver familiar music to audiences who may be at the venue for other reasons besides music. The experimental club owners want to help local artists but also want to learn what works with patrons. Economics usually dictates how much a business can afford to experiment.
Whether your band is represented by a manager or yourself, it's a good idea to have a press kit, which includes information about the artist such as press stories, a biography, discography and publicity photos. The electronic press kit has become favored by a lot of media professionals, but you may still need to give a venue's management a physical press kit, which includes a CD and publicity photos in a nice folder.
I was briefly in charge of booking bands at a night club and learned real quickly that there are plenty of new bands willing to play for cheap whereas all the established bands want thousands of dollars. I generally was approached by individuals who represented bands, not the bands themselves. From a club owner perspective, a band that gets paid should already have a following while a band without a following has to pay dues and play for free.
The best gigs, of course, are paying gigs, but sometimes free gigs can make things happen, such as selling CDs or getting requests for future gigs. There will always be more opportunities to play free gigs than paid gigs. Use a calendar to plan out a series of gigs. Maximize each gig by telling a story about it online, which will give owners something to read in their research of local indie music.
Checklist for Getting a Club Gig
1. Record a demo for digital or CD distribution.
2. Make videos of live performances. Upload the best ones on YouTube.
3. Create an electronic press kit and a physical press kit.
4. Research your local market and make a list of clubs and contacts for booking gigs.
5. Target the venues where you want to perform and send contacts press kits.
6. Making booking requests through sites like SonicBids and GigMasters.
7. Followup with club contacts to inquire about bookings. Build relationships in the process.
8. Get exposure on open mic nights and charity shows.
9. Build relationships with other local artists to try to play on their bills.
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