Being a musician is hard work. It rarely pays off (monetarily), and a huge chunk of your time is spent in the thankless act of annoying people—that is, booking and promoting your own shows.
I myself have sent many an unreturned email to concert bookers and venue owners, so I decided to ask one of Santa Fe’s most active and seasoned bookers for some tips. Jeff Williams is in charge of Cowgirl’s music schedule, which has music (almost always live) on any given night of the week.
SFR: What materials do you request from a band/performer that is soliciting a show?
Williams: Typically, they just need a website with the ability to hear some songs. A lot of bands send CDs and promo packs—I have piles of them, as I’m sure you do, too—but I typically don’t request one.
My take: In the old days, a Myspace page was standard because it provided musical samples, contact info, band photos and a touring schedule. Then Rupert Murdoch purchased the company for over half a billion dollars and proceeded to very efficiently drive it into the ground (selling it six years later for a sad $35 million).
Today, consider one of these alternate sites: Reverbnation (social networking for band and industry members), Bandcamp (focusing on making money directly for the artist), Soundcloud (a very simple platform for collaborating and sharing audio tracks) and, of course, Facebook (do I need to explain this one?).
What can a band/performer do to impress you?
It helps when they have a website; it’s nice when they include a short bio and some reviews. It’s helpful if they have a general window of when then are seeking a date to play.
My take: So, the more ahead-of-schedule you are, the better. Sometimes, thinking weeks in advance isn’t sufficient. For instance, if you want to perform at the 2013 Plaza Bandstand series next summer, hopefully you already submitted your application (the deadline was Nov. 30).
What can a band/performer do to annoy you?
I really make an effort to answer all emails as quickly as possible. Sometimes, I don’t get back for a few days, [and] multiple emails don’t help. A fair amount of bands request to play on dates that are already filled, which indicates to me they didn’t bother to even look at our website/music calendar. Also, I always ask bands for a short blurb/bio describing the band and their music, and a three-word description for our print calendar. Sometimes I get a three-page bio explaining that this band defies description, and cannot be described by any particular genre; that can drive me crazy!
My take: Hey! Those sound a lot like things that might exasperate the person who lists your band’s events and reviews your music in Santa Fe’s local alt-weekly. Adding to an already overflowing inbox does not get you the right kind of attention—even in situations where the booker or reviewer might have accidentally dropped the ball.
Also, brevity is key. Your band description should not be evocative of Moby-Dick (except if you are a member of local Zeppelin cover band Moby Dick).
What do you expect the performer to contribute to the show, once booked?
We have a pretty standard agreement for all slots. We ask that the bands mail us some posters, and promote themselves as much as possible through social media. We have a contact list, which includes all local papers (and local radio) with submission and deadline info. I submit all info, but encourage bands to also reach out and promote themselves as much as possible.
My take: Ah, now comes the fun part: self-promotion. You’ve already sold yourself to the booker, so it’s time to mass-email your friends, tape up posters in the dead of night, go door to door and generally make a nuisance of yourself.
It’s not all hard work, though. When the night of the show arrives, and you have hundreds (or, hopefully, at least a handful) of adoring fans lined up to hear you, you’ve already exerted so much effort that the mere act of performing and playing your music should be a breeze.
To try for a slot at Cowgirl, email firstname.lastname@example.org (just make sure you read all of Jeff’s advice first).