Something I have learned over the years is the importance of taking a moment to understand someone else’s perspective, especially when it comes to asking them for something that I want. This is especially true when it comes to performing a show. As entertainers, it is easy to get tunnel vision and see only the stage, the crowd, the adrenaline, the chance to be heard and the money. But I challenge you to set that aside for a moment.
Put yourself in the place of the venue. For them, their concerns are things like: “If I hire this artist for the night, will my customers like them? Will they bring me new business? Do they have a good track record of showing up on time and not getting stupid drunk during their show? Will this artist share in the promotion or is it all going to fall on me? What if this artist can’t pack my venue; is it worth hiring them above another act I have history with who will?”
These are reasonable questions. It’s one thing for you to want to “get” exposure or recognition or a chance. But wise artists consider what they can “give” as well. Give some time and effort to marketing and getting the word out. Give some time and effort to learning about the bands that have successfully packed the room. Give the venue some reassurance that you take this seriously and will deliver.
The internet and the tools available to artists these days have leveled the playing field. If you will do your part and put forth some effort, it will pay off. First thing is to be very honest about who you are as an artist. Don’t approach venues where your music won’t fit. Also, be realistic about the size of venue you pursue. If you are a new artist without an established fan base or your music suits a smaller audience better, then don’t try to book a venue that holds 1,500 people hoping it’ll be a built-in crowd. Research the venue online, look at their photo gallery and get a sense of what a prime night is like there. Read reviews of the venue. Look up the websites of the bands that perform there now and get a sense of their musicality and marketing efforts. Google their band and read their reviews. It’s important to know what you’re going into so that you can discern if it is the right venue for you and so that you are not just going in blind.
Next, get creative on promotions when it is your turn to play. Learn about how to write a proper press release from places like prlog.org. Do some research online and find the names of the music columnists in the city you are playing by pulling up the online version of the newspapers/publications and searching the music reviews. Find the online social and community calendars in that city and submit your show for their calendar listings. Send WELL WRITTEN press releases to the media and Chambers of Commerce in the area, and then follow up with a phone call. Be very active on your own social sites like Facebook and Twitter, enough ahead of time so that people are aware you are playing and can help spread the word. Design nice posters and post them on your website for your next event, but also email a PDF or JPEG version to the venue, to the local music store, etc. so that they can post them in their windows.
Lastly, DELIVER! All of this effort you’ve put into research, marketing and promotion will mean nothing if you can’t back it up! Make sure you do show up on time. Cooperate with the venue, and don’t take advantage of them by dragging out load-in, setup or sound check. Be aware of what is going on at the venue while you are there. Are they trying to get the place cleaned and stocked? Are they trying to place tables? Are there customers in the place currently that you need to be careful to not disturb? Be aware of your discussion with your band and crew during this time and refrain from strong language or gossip that could make you look unprofessional to those you don’t realize are listening . . . especially the venue owner/staff! Do your thing and then go! This is not the time to pull up to the bar and have a few. Remain professional at all times. Then put on the show of your LIFE! No matter if there are 10 people in the room or 10,000, your performance isn’t hindered. Give your all, create a win-win, and the venue will beg you back!