The live music scene is finally heating up again. Booking a show isn’t just a great way to connect with preexisting fans, it can also help you build your fanbase and connect with new potential listeners in the real world.
But how do you book your first show? And how can you build a positive reputation across your local scene? Below, we’ll share exactly how to book a venue and get invited back.
How To Book Your First Gig in 9 Steps
Booking your first venue show can be intimidating. Here’s exactly how to book a show in 9 simple steps.
1. Make Sure You Have Enough Material
To start, make sure you have enough songs to fill a whole set. All of your music doesn’t necessarily have to be released, but you should have some music released on streaming platforms to help you draw out fans and potential press to your show.
Don’t forget that there’s a lot that goes into booking a gig besides playing the music itself, so you shouldn’t book a show if you’re not ready to take on all that comes with throwing a show.
Most importantly, you’ll want to bring an accurate draw, or the number of people you promise to bring to the venue. Some other aspects that go into hosting a successful show:
- Booking press and photographers
- Building or curating a set
- Working with lighting and sound technicians
- Setting fair splits with band members
- Finding hair and makeup artists
- Street team promotion
- Online promotion and outreach
Granted, not every show involves the processes above, but some might. You only get so many chances to build a positive reputation with a venue, so hold off on live gigs until you’re ready to fully commit to the process.
2. Build Your Network First
Having an accurate draw is essential to a successful show. While venues exist to support artists, they still need to stay in business, and bringing in the agreed-upon guests helps the venue keep the lights on.
In order to build trust with your local scene and get booked, you need to have a network of fans and fellow artists that are happy to attend your set. You can start by building your online presence via social media, but don’t forget about IRL opportunities, too! Scope out local open mics and other indie shows and get to know who’s who.
Generally speaking, you should be able to bring out at least 10-15 people before booking a show at a small venue, though every venue is different.
3. Find A Strategic Gig Date and Opener
Before you contact the booking agent or promoter of a venue, you should have an exact date in mind of when you hope to play. One of the most effective strategies is to center your show around a single, album, or EP release date. This way, you can create anticipation leading up to the release and direct fans to grab their tickets leading up to the event while showcasing snippets of the unreleased songs.
Venues will sometimes book opening acts or the rest of the show bill for you, but make it easy for them to book you by having other musicians on deck for your proposed date. Try to find an opening act that aligns with your audience sonically, but still has enough of their own fanbase to bring in a draw of their own.
You should start compiling a list of venues that would accommodate your draw and sonic aesthetic. One of the best ways to get a sense of your scene’s bearing is to go out and see shows. Take notice of what types of bands are performing in each venue.
5. Pitch and Promote
It’s finally time to pitch the promoter! This is either done via phone or email. You’ll want to scour the venue’s website or Facebook for a booking contact. If you have a personal connection to someone who previously played a show, that’s even better– be sure to mention it in your pitch.
Once you have the contact information, it’s time to send a simple but effective email. This should be short and sweet including a link to your EPK, an accurate estimated draw, links to your music, and the proposed gig day. You can also share venues you’ve played in the past if applicable, including draw numbers. Videos of live performances are great, too!
Send out your email and wait a week or so before following up. If you don’t get any response thus far, don’t lose hope! Pitch to another venue in your area. You’ll eventually find a space that gives you feedback on how you can book a show in the future or will flat out book you for your requested date(s).
Once you’ve booked your gig, it’s time to start promoting! For one, this shows the venue that you’re serious about your set, and two, having a large draw will help you have an amazing performance!
Reach out to your friends directly and ask them to come out to your performance. You’ll also want to make periodic announcements via social media, and network with other local artists. Make sure your link in bio is up to date across all of your platforms so that you can funnel fans properly. Go to other people’s shows, and they are much more likely to turn up at yours.
6. Play A Professional And Powerful Show
Before you start your show, make sure you settle up with the door. Most venues take a cut of ticket sales for the first X amount of tickets to ensure that they’re receiving the cost of doing business.
Having the money upfront and organized will help foster a positive relationship with the venue and show that you’re serious about your career. Not all venues take a cut or percentage, but indie shows typically have some sort of arrangement to help protect the venue.
A little “Thank You” can go a long way. Hopefully, the venue already remembers you for your killer set and professionalism. An old-fashioned “thank you” email will help solidify your standing as an artist that venues will take seriously. Be sure to mention any front of house or staff who helped bring your show to life.
Congratulations! You’ve successfully booked and played your first gig. Before booking your next show, let a couple of weeks pass to increase your chance of bringing out a good crowd. Try to rotate material to keep things interesting for your frequent attendees.
As you play out more, you may come into contact with booking agents who may offer to represent your act. You can certainly opt to book shows yourself since agents take a cut of your earnings, but note that agents are especially helpful for booking larger shows and festivals. Keep your options open and align with the strategy that makes the most sense for you as an artist.
And if you aren’t ready to book a full set, don’t feel like you have to! Don’t forget that you can play anywhere whether that’s at a community event or the local coffee shop. Just get out there– it doesn’t
Hopefully, this guide makes it easier for you to book a gig and get invited back to the venue. If you can bring in or exceed your expected draw and give a killer performance regardless of who turns out, you’re sure to earn a spot in your local scene. Happy gigging!