How to approach a venue for a gig.
If you’re intimidated by the idea of booking a show in your city, don’t be. Ruben Burgos of Urban Media Global, who books at some of New York City’s best-known venues, concurs, “The worst thing you’ll hear is simply no.” I, myself, run close to sixty four venues in New York City for booking artist, booking djs and booking bartenders and dancers with a few other friends, and inquiries are welcomed. We’re constantly looking for talent to fill the calendar, but we’ve got our hands full with running the whole shebang. It’s a relief when we’re able to confidently let someone else take the reins.
That said, there’s a certain protocol for introducing yourself. Always check the venue’s website for specifics, as requirements may vary. Below, however, is an overall guide to hitting up a venue with insight from both myself and associates of mine, who boasts more than twenty years of experience as a promoter of shows featuring local, national, and international acts.
Choosing a venue to approach
First off, be sure to pick a venue that meets the needs of your audience. If you’re a brand new act, shooting for a spot with a 500-person capacity probably isn’t the best choice. A coffee shop that hosts singer-songwriters likely isn’t the right option for a super loud metal band. A hip-hop artist wouldn’t exactly fit in at a hub for a city’s industrial scene. If you aren’t familiar with the venue in question, do some research by perusing its calendar, looking for venue specs online, and visiting the place in person to feel out the vibe.
Ingredients for a successful inquiry
1. Submit your music
“Linking to music is definitely number one,” I always say. “With sites like SoundCloud and Bandcamp at the world’s disposal, there’s truly no excuse to not have music available if you want to be booked. I understand it’s hard for some folks to get their music recorded, but it’s still essential if you want to get a show. We have to hear you first.”
2. Send your EPK
You should have a full EPK ready. If you don’t, you can build one with Sonicbids’ help.
Did you know? Sonicbids members can email their electronic press kits in a professional, seamless package to any industry contact. With the click of a button, you can follow up with your contacts, manage your own booking outreach, and gauge interest in your EPK.
3. Fill the bill
Have a plan of action. Who else will play the show? “Having an entire bill in mind is always a good start,” A lot of my partners say. “It shows the artists are proactive and really have their mind set to put on a great show for all involved.”
If you’re trying to hop onto an already existing bill, feel out the situation. “This is definitely not taboo” , “You never know unless you ask. It’s hard out there. Some folks are more organized than others, but it doesn’t mean your band is bad. We may have been chomping at the bit to book you, and we’ll be stoked to include you where we can.”
Picking a date
While venue owners and promoters are always hoping for a big crowd, weekends are usually reserved for bands who will potentially fill the space completely. Be sure to keep that in mind when suggesting a date. Also, make sure you give yourself plenty of time for promotion – a month, at least.
Drafting the actual inquiry
The email you send should be professional – consider the subject line, how you address the receiver, grammar and spelling, and its overall layout. Keep it simple (don’t use a flashy font or colors) and concise (don’t send them an essay-long account of your band’s history). It’s not a stretch from how you’d approach a journalist when seeking press. Here are a few simple bullet points to include:
- a description of your band and why your show would be appropriate for that particular venue
- a succinct and accurate description of your sound using genre terms or comparisons to other bands
- photos and links to social media accounts
- a particular date or a window of time during which your band is hoping to schedule
- your plan for promoting the show via social media, flyers, posters, etc.
Outcome: They said yes
If you receive a positive response, they might talk about money or a contract. As long as you’re polite and consider the deal objectively, this process should go smoothly. Carefully weigh the pros and cons of any offer, whether it’s that first-time bands must play for free or that 50 percent of the door is yours minus a sound fee, before responding.
Outcome: They said no
I once had someone get pretty irate with me because I turned down their proposal. Reacting angrily is probably the best way to ensure you’ll never get a gig with that particular venue. It’s fair to ask why they turned you down, though. Take whatever they said constructively, and consider it helpful advice for your next inquiry.
Ruben Burgos is an Brooklyn-bred music journalist currently based in Flushing, Queens New York, where he juggles owning multi digital technology companies, freelance writing and, of course, spending time with his kids.