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.
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.
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.