DISCLAIMER: This may not be the advice you were looking for when you searched “how to book my band”, but know that this approach is going to make you an even bigger rockstar than you already are. You need to hear this to make the age old desire “I want to book my band” an easier and more enjoyable process for both you and the venue.

Time to book some gigs.

It’s natural that as you sharpen your songwriting and musical skills that you will want to perform your creations for a live audience at gigs.

Be sure you understand that when you’re booking such gigs you’re keeping the venue’s business in mind. Be “venue first” in your approach to working with the places you book gigs. Think through how you/your music performance can enhance the venue’s business. In other words, how can you help the venue sell more food and drinks while you’re there performing? By keeping this question in mind you will likely gain great business partnerships with venues that will want to have you back again in the future.

With the following approach you will be able to keep your live show schedule booked for the foreseeable future.

What Do You Mean “I Am There For The Venue”?

You read that correctly. 

Your show is not about you. As an act, you are promo for the venue. Your show is always first about your audience, and one of your audiences is the venue itself – those who run and staff the place you’re going to have your live show at.

What I mean is this: most musicians will immediately put their own needs first, thinking that they need to find a venue who will allow them to showcase their new tunes. “Venues need entertainment right? They can’t say no to me! They need entertainers like me!”

Don’t treat a venue as a place that you can take advantage of to perform your music.  They will be in business with or without you.  Live entertainment isn’t always their primary source of business. Always approach every gig with the venue in mind first. That way, if you can meet or exceed their expectations in how you conduct yourself and how you put their sales and marketing goals ahead of your own, they will put you on their “preferred artist to do business with” list next time.

How to Book My Band: Venue Relationship Checklist

Before even reaching out to venues, be prepared with some questions you can ask to help the venue know you’re a professional. Make a list of questions (we’ll help you get started with a few below) and then contact each venue. Then introduce yourself, your intention to perform at their venue, and ask the questions below.

Unfortunately, this approach is not all that common, so it’s likely the venue’s booking manager or owner will be pleasantly surprised when you ask.

What does the venue need to do to have a good night and make sales goals?

How does that translate to what I need to do to promote the show?

How many bodies (fans) do I need to bring to help their business break-even or profit?

What kinds of co-marketing efforts can we do to help each other (promote the venue and the performing act)?

How much does the venue need to bring in to make sure we can be guaranteed our current minimum performance fee?

Remember, venues don’t have to book you. In fact, you probably need them more than they need you.

They have a ton of options and will book who they feel is going to fulfill their goals and needs.  You should not have a sense of entitlement that you deserve to be there.  Your music may be special or unique to you and your fans, but it isn’t to everyone.

By changing your mindset from self-serving to one in service of the venue, you’ll make venues want to book you because you understand their business and want to help them achieve their goals as a business partner.

If you want venues to care about your act then you need to care about the venues.

If you do, your own performance business will grow as word spreads that you are an honest, helpful and trustworthy entertainment act to host.

“Giving” First Makes “Asking or Getting” Later Easier

If you’re a Gary Vayerchuk follower, you may be familiar with his concept of “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook”, or “Give, Give, Give, Ask”. Basically what this translates to is this: You need to give before you can receive.

Putting a venue first makes it easier to ask and/or enforce your band or music act’s own minimum wage requirements.  If you start to change your mindset from “we just want to play” to “we don’t play a show for anything less than X number of dollars to meet our band’s business goals”, your own way of thinking and processes start to reflect that and you approach the whole situation from a different perspective.

Now I don’t want you to think that by “giving one thing” you can now “ask the world” of a venue. It needs to be balanced, and in reality you should care about giving more than you are going to hopefully receive. The opposite party, the venue in this case, wants to feel like you are making it easier for them to reach their (ticket/food/beverage) sales goals. Paying a band to perform is an expense for the venue, so if you can help make it easier for them to recoup the expense of paying you and more then venues will likely book you more often.

Be the most awesome business partner ever (by helping the venue make money) and any venue will work with you again and possibly even refer you openly to other venues.

I Just Want To Book My Band For a Gig! What Do You Mean “What’s Our Value”?!

You just want to play your music. We understand, but this is more important than you might think.

If you’re just starting out, it may be just fine to play for free, for food and drinks, or for the door cover charge.

But as your performance and show becomes more polished and you grow as musicians or entertainers, you’ll find that it’s wise to re-evaluate what’s called your “intrinsic value”, or the whole of your experience and interactions that you bring to any business relationship.

This value is greater than just the value of your gear, your gas and other physical expenses (or explicit value). This includes your knowledge, your musical talent, your industry experience, and your ability to create an entertainment experience that makes both your band and the venue you play look like top notch rockstars.

You can learn more about a musician or band’s intrinsic value in the book “The High Paid Musician Myth” by John O. Reilly (Trans-Siberian Orchestra drummer).

“Just playing a show” is only the beginning of a live show transaction. There is WAY more to consider, be self-aware about, and bring to the table than you ever thought in the past. Expectations need to be managed for all parties involved and it’s the band’s job to be a good communicator and negotiator as much as it is to be a good entertainer and marketer for the evening.

One major way you can help a venue out is when you start really gaining a following. Those fans who love what you do and want to see you perform whenever and wherever they can. Once you have a regular following of fans at your live shows, you can leverage this for payment negotiations with a venue. The venue cares about making sales on the night you perform, so if you can make the venue’s job of reaching it’s sales goal easier by bringing in a crowd (your fans) you have better leverage to negotiate a higher 

TAKEAWAY: At the end of the day, all you need to do is remember one thing: take care of the venue first, and the venue will take care of you.

Today’s Action: Put Together Questions for a Venue

Before you start with “how can I book my band?”, start with “how can I help a venue have a great night?”.  Changing your mindset and seeing your band as a value-adding business partner with venues you play will increase your attractiveness to venues and give you more leverage to ask for things as your band’s business grows. Easy, right? 

Here are some co-marketing ideas to try with venues

  • Co-sponsor the Event post on Facebook with both the venue’s Page and the Artist’s Page. Then post the event in a few different ways a few times a week until the show date.
  • Do something similar on other social media platforms – Instagram, TikTok, Twitter
  • Start promoting the venue/show as soon as it’s booked on your artist website and each week in your weekly email newsletter to your list of fans. Ensure the venue is doing something similar with their email list and/or website.
  • Drop off a few posters at the venue for the venue to hang up in high traffic areas to help promote your upcoming show date. Include small fliers that the venue can set out on the bar for patrons to take weeks ahead of the gig date.
  • If the venue regularly advertises on local radio, TV, or newspapers ask them to consider listing your act’s name and performance date in the ad prior to the show date. 
  • If the venue sells drinks, have them put your favorite drink on special the night of your performance (maybe with a fun drink name related to your act) and promote the special from the stage between songs.
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This guide shares eight ways hiring a coach can make you a more successful, profitable, and full-time music creator.

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8 Ways Having a Music Career Coach Can Help You Become more Successful in Music