One of the most effective marketing tools in the music business is to play live. Live performances allow people to get to know and like your music. They also offer the perfect forum for selling tapes and CDs, adding new fans to your mailing list and experience to your publicity packet, not to mention improving your bottom line.
Approaching clubs and venues is not a difficult task but how do you get selected to perform? Clubs and venues are concerned with the bottom line and getting booked is a process of convincing the owners and operators that you can help them in this arena. Selling yourself often involves demonstrating your "ticket-worthiness." Keep track of your previous performances, the date, time, venue, ticket sales, feedback from club owners, contact information, etc. Have statistics available on local/national sales of your CD (if known). Put this information together into a professional looking package that you may present to club owners who may not be familiar with you. Also have your promo package ready complete with your demo tapes and/or CDs. I suggest calling and contacting the venue of choice and find out their requirements. Always ask if it's a good time to call and if not call back when they tell you they can speak with you. If they are local, ask if you can stop by with your promotional materials. A face to face meeting can often help seal the deal.
If you are new to the live performance game, you may have to get creative to develop a performance resume. Venues and clubs do not just open their doors to artists without a following or a performance history. So how do you build an impressive resume of live performances? Look outside the normal venue and club circuit. Try book stores, coffee houses, hotels, restaurants, malls, festivals, colleges, and bars. Check with convention and banquet halls. Remember that getting your foot in the door may mean taking low or non-paying gigs to develop a following and/or a performance resume.
Brainstorm about all places that might require a band.
Some ideas are to contact local organizations and volunteer to play for some of their events. I know a band that played at the finish line of a 10k run for both the experience and the exposure. It actually turned out well since friends and families had someone to entertain them until they spotted their runner. I even know bands that have performed for fire fighter cookouts and charity bazaars. Another idea is to get together with other local up-and-coming bands and see about renting a venue, getting the proper permits and putting together and promoting your own show. You might try this on your own, in my experience it is easier to swell the audience size and defer the costs by splitting between a number of bands. You can also pick up some new fans along the way. Look for contests. Try out for a Battle of Bands type night at local clubs or venues. If you are accepted then make sure you beg or coerce all your friends, fans and family into turning out. Rent a bus or van to ferry them to the club if necessary. Venues usually track which band the audience is there to see and your turnout could help you secure another booking.
Check with your local radio and television stations.
They often sponsor activities and/or events and may be open to local bands. Don't forget about the college radio and television stations as they can be a good source of information.
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Deborah Miller is the owner of Jet Star Promotions, a booking and promoting agency for local and national talent.
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