COVID’s clearing up! Time to book my band!

As things start to return to normal and there is a flurry of bands and venues looking to hook up again to get back to live music, it’s a good time to remember (or learn for the first time) to approach how you work with venues in a “venue first” approach, meaning they are not there for you, you are there for them.

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.

What do you mean “I am there for the venue”?

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, here are some of the questions or things you should consider. Make a list and then contact each venue, introduce yourself and ask these “money-shot” questions (pun very much intended).

More often than not, you may surprise the venue’s booking manager or owner when you use these questions instead of just the typical “I want to play at your venue, here’s my EPK!” approach to steer your booking process:

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 the venue?

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 of empowering the venue, you’ll make venues want to book you because you are great to work with and always take care of their sales and business needs before your own.  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, Right Hook”, or “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 more 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, not the other way around. Be the most awesome business partner ever and any venue will work with you again and possibly may even refer you openly to other venues.

I just want to book my band for a gig! What do you mean “what we’re worth”?!

Settle down, Padawan. This is more important than you think.

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

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 value bubble of the experience and interactions you bring to any business relationship.

This value is greater than just the value of your gear, your gas and other physical expenses. 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.

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 as pie right?  Mmmmm, pie.

Build Better Music Industry Relationships with Better Knowledge and Skills

Taking off your music creator and marketer hat and putting on your business-building relationship hat may not come naturally for many musicians and producers.  As fellow musicians, we understand that feeling!

Eleven Music Career Center is here to help. We offer an online course called “Staying Professional” as part of our Music Entrepreneur Academy. For less than the price of a cup of coffee per week, you’ll get access to video content and coaching events that help you make more money with music and ensure you are able to build positive, strong relationships with venues and music industry professionals, resulting in a healthier music business!

What’s even better is that you’ll never actually pay the full price of $250/year for these courses! Use the discount code EARLYBIRD2021 during checkout to get 50% OFF your first year + $50 OFF every year after that for life!

So which do you choose: one fancy coffee a week or the liveable music career you desire?

Become a Great Business Partner with Music Entrepreneur Academy