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Pt. 2, Booking 101

B.D. Lenz By

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"Hi, [insert club name] my name is [insert your name] and my band is amazing. Please book us on [insert date] and pay us [mucho $$]."

If it were only that easy. Throughout the years, I've learned that booking gigs is often as exasperating an endeavor as listening to the Kenny G Christmas album. It requires specific strategies depending on the type of gig you're booking (i.e. club vs. festival vs. private event). Previously, I talked about booking private and corporate events, but booking clubs is different altogether.

When booking a club or restaurant, it's best to check their website first for instructions on who to contact and how to reach them. If there are no such instructions, call the venue and try to speak to them directly—I've found that sending emails rarely gets a reply. If the venue is nearby, it's always best to speak in person, but if you're calling a restaurant make sure you avoid lunch/dinner, or you may find yourself speaking to a displeased and flustered manager. I've found calling before 11am or between 2-5pm is usually best. Find out the name of the person who does the booking and, if that person is not available, I recommend you do not leave a message (manager "annoyer" #2 is annoying messages left by annoying musicians).

When trying to reach the booking person, I like to introduce myself as a "musician trying to book a gig," as opposed to giving them my name. Again, if they keep hearing your name around as the guy who keeps calling, you may be doing more harm than good when it comes to getting the gig. But, be persistent and when (or if) you finally get that elusive booking person on the phone, keep it brief. Just find out if you need to mail a press kit or if you can email one. If they ask for info on your band than you can elaborate, but otherwise just get the info so you can send them your dazzling press kit [we'll talk about press kits in a future column].

Ok, so you've sent that dazzling press kit and now it's time to follow up. When you speak to the booking person let them know you'll do your very best to publicize the gig, including email blasts, social media and possibly a press release and posters (if appropriate for the venue). I advise never making promises you can't keep. In other words, don't promise you'll get "x" number of people, just to book the gig. If you promise thirty people and only your grandmother shows up, you'll never be playing that place again. I'll always be honest and say something to the effect of "I can't predict how many people I can bring, but I will do my best to put the word out" and then elaborate on how I will accomplish that.

Congrats! You've booked the gig. Obviously, your musicianship is going to be awe-inspiring, but here are a couple of tips to help make sure you get asked back. It goes without saying that you're on time. I like to be there at least a half hour early. As the expression goes, "if you're not early, you're late." Also, make sure you're dressed appropriately for the venue (your cool Miles Davis T-shirt may not work at an upscale restaurant), and don't perpetrate one of the biggest offenses: if you're fortunate enough to play a venue that feeds you, don't order the Surf & Turf along with a bottle of your favorite 1967 California Merlot. In other words, don't take advantage of their generous hospitality or you may be ruining it for yourself and all the bands that follow you.

If you've managed to pull off an amazing gig and not piss off the owner, then give it a couple days and follow up. Tell them that you really enjoyed playing their venue and would love another opportunity to play there the next time something opens up. You'll find that the more gigs you can keep, the more that will come your way, and being active is important in helping you get more prestigious gigs. I believe it was the great Horace Silver who said: "If I'm not appearin,' I'm disappearin..."
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