So, you’ve rehearsed and recorded your latest EP, released your music video on YouTube, uploaded the songs to all the streaming services you could think of, and maybe even reached out to a few booking agents. Your Instagram following might be growing, but the DMs don’t have a single booking offer. What’s next?
Life after putting your music out there
After you have something to put out there and perform for your existing and future fans, you need to book gigs. For established artists, the job gets done by their booking agents.
Here’s a brief job description of a booking agent from music industry blogger and founder of the online school Smartist University Jamie New:
“Booking agents are responsible for booking live performances and appearances on behalf of your artist. <...> And agent’s role is to create touring strategies with management, book shows and appearances, prepare engagement contracts and handle financial aspects, work on other promotional and administrative tasks.”
There are two parts to a booking agent’s job:
- connecting with venues and negotiating to get you in the venue,
- actually doing the nitty-gritty: paperwork, scheduling, communications, preparatory meetings, financial and legal issues, etc.
The latter can be done by an assistant (or yourself, if you can’t afford an assistant’s salary yet), while the former is something that requires years of working in the business and networking, i.e. established reputation and connections.
When to look for a booking agent
Given the above, you might be fooled into thinking that looking for a booking agent should be the first thing you do once you feel ready to book (more) gigs. Wrong.
“Most agents will not consider working with artists unless they have proven themselves as a live performer that can bring out fans,”
explains Rory PQ in his article on getting noticed by a booking agent for Icon Collective.
Here’s the thing – an agent works off commission. Something between 5 to 15% (most commonly, 10%) of what the band or an artist earn off their night. If the fee doesn’t reach a few hundred dollars, investing all those hours of work into your act just isn’t going to be worth it for the agent.
In reality, a booking agent is not for booking your first small gigs, a booking agent is for booking bigger shows, concerts and festivals at a better fee when you’ve already proven your professionalism, reliability, excellent work ethic both on and off stage, as well as actual appeal to your target audience.
Conclusion: you need to book your own gigs before you can move up the ladder onto bigger and better things that a well-connected, hard-working booking agent can get you.
Five steps to booking more gigs (without an agent)
To get a booking agent to book your gigs you need to book more gigs – frustrating, isn’t it? Well, fret not, we’ve got a simple guide to get more gigs on your own and bring up your value as a performer without too much stress.
It might not be all that easy, but it’s better than sitting around waiting to get discovered and ending up a) never getting discovered, b) losing all that invaluable practice, connections, new fans, and income you could’ve gotten from all the smaller shows you didn’t play.
Feeling up to the task? Let’s get started!
Step 1: Marketable portfolio
Design a marketable portfolio – in order to convince venues, festival organizers or any other parties you are negotiating with that you are a worthy act to include in their night, you need to be able to give them a feel of what your performance looks like, how you handle various types of crowds and carry yourself on stage.
To do that, you need:
- define your own brand (who you are, what you represent, values, your style, the vibe you bring about, events that you will fit in),
- develop a web presence in accordance with your brand,
- a media kit (package for any press inquiries, a set of act descriptions, bios, music descriptions, album and track backgrounds, photos, links to key profiles on social & web),
- video(s) of your live performances.
Step 2: Your fanbase
Sure, good music is bound to attract audiences and keep them interested, but you need to do a little work yourself, as a creator, to share the process behind creating your music and foster relationships with true fans.
Fan interaction is key to building a strong fanbase. Wait. My bad. FANDOM.
You actually need to build a fandom with their very own name, lingo and multiple fan accounts. Sure, you might have years of hard work, blood and sweat, before your fandom name is googlable, like Swifties, Blinks or Arianators.
But a journey of a million Instagram subscribers starts with communicating and interacting genuinely with every single one of your handful of fans.
Pick a few platforms that work best for your music and your potential fans and put your effort in interacting with fans there as often as you can. Include the links to these profiles in all of your merch and promo materials for new fans to know how to join.
Step 3: Your show resume
Start actually booking something.
First, scout your own city or town – are there any venues, events or touring bands that might be interested in including you in their events? If your music is good for coffee shops or malls, try reaching out and becoming part of their events.
Can’t get a crowd in your own city/town? Hit the road! Either way, play shows and build your resume.
To be able to showcase your show resume online, you need to get quality photos and videos of your performances, so arrange for a photo or videographer for at least some of your gigs.
To add variety and interest to your show resume, play varied types of shows and events. Theme nights, festivals and clubs are great. Besides making your show resume just fun to look through, the collection of various themed parties and events in your portfolio is going to help your future potential bookers better understand the type of crowd your music is best suited for.
You should also polish your playlist – make sure you have a good understanding of what songs are best to fire the crowd up and get them hooked at the start of your show, which songs are good to carry the audience through the middle, and which ones make a great concluding statement for your performance.
Step 4: Exploring opportunities
Booking more gigs now opens more doors for booking more gigs in the future. Do your research and look for opportunities to play events everywhere. Become an expert in music gig scene, locally, nationally and even internationally (think contests and festivals, but also explore other options).
That touring band you managed to convince to let you open for their local gig? Try to join them on more locations or even go on tour with them! Fellow musicians playing a concert? Ask if they need an opener.
Look for other artists in a similar or compatible genre to play joint shows with – this will make it easier for you to convince venues to book you and make it easier to sell tickets. Join themed nights, house parties, charity events.
This way, you’ll be able to avoid overplaying your tracks to the same crowd, what’s more – you’ll be able to expand your fanbase by reaching new audiences and make new contacts in the business (maybe another band’s manager will like you and make a recommendation).
Step 5: Crowdfunding
Once you have enough understanding of how a show is put together, what budget and technical obstacles you can run into, and have an active fanbase, you can move to crowdfunding your shows.
Since you are essentially pre-selling tickets to an event, think of concert crowdfunding as your fans pre-ordering a show from you. If order volume is commercially viable, the product, i.e. your show, gets released. If not, all money are fully refunded.
To make the process more professional, run your concert crowdfunding campaigns on Show4me. Unlike general-purpose crowdfunding platforms, Show4me allows crowdfunding for a music gig specifically. This means fans are actually buying a ticket to your show. The only difference between the traditional model is that the organization of the show happens only after it sells enough tickets to cover the costs.
Once the show sells enough tickets, you can go ahead and contact the venue and set an exact concert date. Since you have enough tickets sold already, you are going to have an easier time convincing the venue to slot you into a more favorable Friday or Saturday night.
While you do need to arrange and put together your actual show, one thing you don’t have to worry about are tickets – they are automatically generated by the Show4me system and delivered directly to your fans’ inboxes. The free ticket scanner for your iPhone or Android phone from Show4me will help check people in at the door – both professional and convenient, as all the check-in info is synced to your account for further market analysis.
Crowdfunding your shows can actually be a great tool for you to showcase that your shows are profitable and in-demand (remember we discussed above that agents work off commission?). Plus, you get to keep all your fanbase in one place – share your news and updates, upload music for premium Artist club members to listen to, interact with fans, and much more. Click here to start or go to our blog post on concert crowdfunding to find out more.
If you follow all of the steps above, you’ll reach a point where your shows and gigs become more and more profitable and your fanbase – more solid. That’s when booking agents are going to take an interest in setting up your shows, as their cut is now looking impressive.
They can check out your concert history, ticket sales, your fanbase and their geographical location are all accumulated in your account and can be presented to agents as your digital portfolio. Now contact the ones you feel most interested in working with and take meetings with everyone offering their expertise. Evaluate carefully and take your pick.