How to Approach Music Venues & Get More Bookings
This is a guest blog from The Unsigned Guide, a UK music industry directory aimed at emerging, independent bands & artists who are keen to progress their music careers. Search contacts covering 50 areas of the music business; from record labels, radio stations, booking agents, festivals to gig venues & promoters, new music blogs, studios, producers & more.
How to approach venues for gigs
There's no one-size-fits-all formula for securing gigs, but these top tips are sure to set you off on the right track.
Tapping into your local resources by contacting gig venues in your area is a good starting point. Hopefully, if you’re going out to gigs regularly yourself, you should be familiar with the venues on your doorstep and will have an idea of whether your music is suited to the space, and if it’s the kind of place you’d like to play at. Another advantage of starting on your home turf is that there will always be plenty of opportunities for local artists to play.
If you need a helping hand with identifying the best local venues to reach out to, then you should have some decent, reliable contacts where you’re based - other bands, staff at rehearsal/recording studios etc. - who can provide some guidance. Ask if they can give you their insider knowledge on where to focus your search.
Firstly, you’ll need to find out who the booking or programming contact at a venue is. If you don’t know this through word of mouth, then you may be able to find details on the venue’s website. Failing that, you could reach out on social media, or even drop into the venue for a chat if it’s convenient.
Getting regular gigs on your local circuit will give you an advantage when it comes to booking shows in other towns and cities, and reaching out to venues and gig promoters elsewhere.
Think about the specifics
Live music venues can range from an intimate 50-capacity room at the back of a pub to huge arenas and stadiums hosting tens of thousands. Of course, if you’re just starting out then you want to keep things realistic, so a capacity range of 50-300 is what you will be looking for, so you can narrow down your search based on this.
You will also need to bear in mind if a venue specialises in any particular genre. Is it a jazz club? Or a rock and metal bar? If your music doesn’t fit into either of those genres then there’s little point getting in touch with them. Some venues host a wide range of styles of music and events, so do a little research or reach out to see if any of their nights would be suitable for your sound.
What should I send to a gig venue?
Emailing a venue to enquire about getting a gig follows roughly the same procedure as reaching out to anyone in the music industry; you’ll need to be polite, professional and sell yourself, to a certain extent.
Try to keep your email brief and relevant. Introduce your music, where you’re based, and include details of gig dates that you’re looking for. You want to demonstrate that you can draw a crowd, so mention details of any noteworthy gigs you’ve played in the past. It could also be useful to outline how you can help promote your gig to your fans, so the venue knows that you will also put effort into advertising the show.
It’s always a good idea to link to an EPK (Electronic Press Kit) so the venue booker can find out more about you, and take a look at your website and social media in one easy click.
Finding gig venues further afield
Once you’ve got a few local gigs under your belt, you may want to start looking beyond your immediate vicinity to book shows in surrounding towns or cities. Speak to other bands you know who have done out-of-town gigs to ask for their recommendations of suitable live music venues or music festivals.
Don’t forget that the contacts you’ve made at your hometown venues may have their own booking contacts in other cities that you can tap into. Social media can also be a useful tool to check out which venues other bands and artists are performing at.
You can also take a look at the Venues and Promoters sections of The Unsigned Guide UK music industry directory to broaden your search. Our Venues section lists hundreds of grassroots gig venues that welcome emerging acts, along with capacity details, any particular genres they specialise in, plus how you can send your music for consideration and who to direct it to. Our Promoters section details how regularly each gig promoter puts on events, the venues they work with, and again, how you can best submit your music to them.
As time goes on, and your following expands, you can aim to start booking venues with a slightly bigger capacity.
Questions to ask when booking a gig venue
There are a few considerations you should take into account when you start the ball rolling to book a specific gig date with a venue.
Make sure you’re clear on the set-up of the gig so you know what to expect when it comes to payment. i.e. will you be given a set fee, or will it be a cut of tickets sold, and what will that cut be?
If you have CDs or merch, it’s a good idea to check in advance if you’ll be able to sell these on the night. Unfortunately, some venues do take a cut of an artist’s merchandise sales, so it’s best to know this beforehand. The Musicians’ Union have a useful list of Fair Play Music Venues who agree never to take a cut of merch sales.
If you like what you've read here, then make sure to check out more of The Unsigned Guide's blog articles - packed full of guest interviews, industry tips, and advice for up-and-coming musicians.
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