A club usually wants to have bands perform just as much as you want to play. They have an interest in bands, because they can make money from your services. They are looking for the bands that are going to bring them the most business. Look at the situation from a booker's point of view. Why should they pick your act over anyone else? You need to convince the club that you are what they are looking for.
The first thing you should focus on, is your music. An act needs to have a sample of what their best music sounds like. Nowadays, a lot of bands have self-produced CDs, but this isn't completely necessary. A good demo tape can still be just as persuasive as a CD. What makes a good demo? First of all, only put three or four songs on the tape. These songs should be your best stuff, and if you have a variety of different styles, the tape should reflect that as well. The first song should be great right off the bat. Don't use any long, drawn-out intros. The music should hit the listener within five seconds. If it doesn't, the listener will lose interest quickly. Remember, these people probably hear a ton of tapes, and they don't feel tike listening to an hour's worth of music. Usually they make their decisions in the first few minutes, so make them count.
Also, bands need to have a "press kit" to go along with their demo tape. A "press kit" is a few things that you put together to help people learn more about you. An essential part of the kit is a biography. The bio shouldn't be longer than a page, and it should give a rundown of the group membership, what kind of music the band plays, where you have played in the past, and other basic facts. Try not to dwell on the negatives (like if the band hasn't played at many clubs). Instead, highlight the positives. It's OK to throw in one or two funny or interesting facts about the group, but keep it simple. Just like with the demo tape, it should be quick and to the point, while at the same time, eye-catching and memorable.
Another key part of the press kit is the photograph. Photos should always be in black & white. Color pictures may look better, but B&W can easily be transferred to newspaper, as well as flyers that you may want to make for your upcoming shows. Photographs should also look professional. It's best when they are on an 8 1/2" x 11" glossy. Usually, you can find someone that can do a good job for a decent price; either a friend or a college student. If not, it would probably be worth the money to hire a professional. In either case, at the photo shoot, bring a few different outfits and try some different locations. This gives you a variety of different pictures from the same session.
The final essentials in the press kit are the press clippings. If your band has gotten any positive coverage anywhere, clip it out and copy it. If it's from TV or radio, quote it yourself, but don't make anything up. These clippings are a good way to show people the kind of reactions that you've received in the past. Hopefully, the coverage will be good, and it is a useful card to play when trying to book new gigs.
Some other ideas for the kit include: making it look sharp, including your set lists (especially if you play cover songs), and using a folder to keep your kit together. If you have a logo or a color that you incorporate with your act, make it's a prominent part of the kit. Be creative when putting them together. If you can think of some sort of gimmick that will attract attention to your press kit, use it. People will remember you when your name is brought up in the future. And finally, PUT A NAME AND PHONE NUMBER SOMEWHERE ON THE PRESS KIT AND EQUALLY IMPORTANTLY ON THE DEMO TAPE ITSELF. The reader cannot see that enough. The more it appears, the easier it will be to get in touch with you when the person wants to book you!
If you are able to, one additional item to put in your package is a video tape. This is not a replacement for the demo tape as not everyone has a video immediately to hand, but is an extra that demonstrates that your band has a commitment to its career and an understanding of the importance of visuals. This video can either be a promo piece, or a recording of a previous show and should be limited to one song. If it is from a live show make sure you choose the most visually dynamic song that you do, that the sound quality is of a certain standard and if the video is of an event at a packed club, make sure the video shows that the club is packed and the crowd enthusiastic.
When you have your package together the next obvious step is to submit it to the club, but first you need to find out who is responsible for the booking of the bands, what the correct spelling of their name is and whether their office is at the club or at a different location. Send your package to the wrong person, or the wrong address, and you may as well throw your money down the proverbial drain. An even better approach is to hand deliver the package to the person at the club, but if you do this, do it at the end of the night so they have less chance of putting it down in the club and forgetting about it. Approximately a week after the package was sent follow up with a phone call to confirm it was received and to refresh the bookers memory.
If you're lucky, have a stunning package, or could sell ice to the Eskimos that phone call should land you the gig. More than likely however it will just be the start of a period of persuasion or maybe even a rejection. If it is a rejection, be polite and find out why the booker chose not to book your band. Listen to what they have to say and ask for any suggestions to improve the presentation of your package or more importantly whether the booker knows of another club that he thinks will be more appropriate for your band. With every rejection try and get a new lead. Let's think more positively though and say the booker gives you a gig. Now you must find out as much as possible about the club and the gig itself.
Questions you should ask.
- What will the payment be for the show and how does any such system work at the club?
- Will we be the only band that night? If not who are the other bands and do you have their telephone numbers so that I can talk to them before the show about joint advertising?
- What type of PA system does the club have, or do we need to bring a PA system with us? Also what is the situation with the in-house sound engineer?
- What time will we be playing and what time are we expected to be at the club to set up?
- Is there anything else happening at the club that night, such as beer promotions? If there is you should consider adding it to your advertising.
- How long a set are we expected to do and are you expecting more than one set?
- Lastly ask the booker if there is anything else he/she expects from you.
Once you get the gig, you aren't done. You need to let the public know that you are going to be performing. This includes hanging up flyers around town, and getting some coverage in the press. For the flyers, be sure to include the venue, time, and date of your gig. Putting your flyer on a colored piece of paper makes it more noticeable. Also, make sure you get permission from whomever owns the property on which you plan to plaster your band's flyers. If it is in a storefront, get the store's permission. If it is on a telephone pole, get the "OK" from the town or city. The last thing you want is the someone breathing down your neck before you even hit the stage. It makes both you, and the club where you're playing, look bad. To get press coverage, send those handy press kits that you just made to all the people who write music related articles in the venue's area. Once they are sent out, it doesn't hurt to call in and make sure the right person got your package, and asking if they have any questions. Most writers don't mind this at all, because it makes their job a whole lot easier. Again, the time, date, and location are critical. Don't forget to include that with the rest of the information.
When the day of the gig arrives, try and be as professional as you can. This means that you show up on time, you are ready to play when asked, and you don't go over your time limit unless your asked to. Also, if you break a string or something, have another guitar handy. No one wants to watch you re-string on stage, and you feel like an ass. Also, have some relationship with the crowd. Thank them for coming, and talk about your songs a little bit. You aren't giving a spoken word performance, so keep the talking short. Just let the people know that you realize they are out there watching. Most importantly, make sure your group has practiced. You want the people to come back and listen to you again. They aren't going to, if you don't put on a great show. As well as talking to the audience make sure you take the opportunity to talk with the booker and the other bands that you played with. See what suggestions they might have for both improving your show and forwarding your career.
No one says you have to follow every guideline. Just realize that there is a standard way of doing things. It's OK to go off the beaten path a little bit. Everyone likes some creativity. Remember that you're probably going to make some mistakes. Just try your best, and work hard. Eventually you'll get someone to listen.Back to magazine