This is part 2 of how I do my booking for my band. This article concentrates on locating venues to play and tools to organize your booking. I recommend reading the following two posts before reading this one:
Use Google Maps to find cities and plan routes
I used Google Maps to not only discover cities to play, but to also track venues for future show and tour planning. The mapping program gives you directions and tells you how many hours it takes to drive between cities. In addition, toggling terrain view, I can make sure I’m not heading my band into mountains in the middle of winter.
For my band Shiplosion, I will be concentrating on places to play within 2 hours of Seattle. Theoretically, say I wanted to plan a weekend mini-tour. I’d zero in on a city that is as far north that I’d want to travel. In this case, Bellingham, WA. I’d bring that up in Google Maps and then try to find a place between Seattle and Bellingham. From the map, I now see a bunch of cities that I can start looking for venues.
I would then begin selecting cities and finding their zip codes. With the zip codes, I could plug into any gig finding service and find both bands and venues in that area.
In addition to finding venues, I’d also create a map that tracked all the venues I found. This helped when planning tours and knowing where clubs are along the way. For instance, in Everett, just north of Seattle, there’s an awesome club called Tony V’s Garage. I’d find that venue and click “Save To Map”.
So, whenever I re-visited my map to plan a new tour, I’d see the venues I’ve already found. This saves time in the future, so you don’t have to find these clubs again. Some prefer a spreadsheet to track all their clubs, but I love Google Maps because the visual presentation is more logical to me. I need to know how far away things are and what my options are going to and from these locations.
Warning! Clubs go out of business and new places open all the time. You will need to revisit cities and update your maps on a regular basis.
Use ReverbNation’s Gig Finder
In just one year, MySpace has become irrelevant for booking. I used to rely on it to find clubs because they had a cool way of just popping in a zip code, specifying a genre, and getting clubs and events within a certain amount of miles.
I just tried to use it again the other day. Complete garbage. They’ve lost the last feature I actually relied on them for.
Facebook? Also garbage. Facebook has horrible event management or event discovery. There are no tools there to help bands find shows.
Then I looked at ReverbNation‘s Gig Finder. Awesome! They do BETTER than MySpace at finding places for shows. When I first started using ReverbNation, not many bands were using it, so it didn’t have that rich of a selection of clubs. But that has changed. ReverbNation has now replaced MySpace for how I find clubs online.
ReverbNation is free, so create an account if you haven’t already. Once you’re logged in, go to the “Shows” tab and select “Gig Finder”.
To find venues to contact, enter the zip code of the city and restrict the miles to about 10. Expand the miles as needed if you don’t get results. If you get too many results, restrict your search by genre. For genres, try to start specific and move to general. For instance, if you’re a punk band, start with punk. If you don’t find results, move to “Rock”. Try “Alternative” after that.
Being specific on genres helps you locate a club best suited for your band. You don’t want to be booking a blues bar when your band is black metal.
After finding the clubs, just search for them on Google and find their website.
Always read everything about the club once you’ve found it
Certain clubs have requirements around being contacted. Some want e-mail while others want you to mail them a CD. Other clubs will tell you that you need to have a certain draw before even considering booking there. Make sure to read their site for full booking information. If they prefer e-mail, and you contact them on MySpace, you might get on their shit list instead of their booking list.
Make sure to know as much as you can about the club ahead of time. You may also want to check with other bands that have played there. They can tell you if the club is worth the trouble or not.
Use a spreadsheet to keep track of clubs you’ve contacted
When you start contacting a lot of venues, you need to keep track of when you contacted them. My general rule of thumb is to wait 2 weeks between contacting a venue. There’s no science to that number, but I figure twice a month is the least annoying, but most persistent, way of getting on a club’s radar.
To make sure I’m not spamming a club, I use a spreadsheet from Google Docs. I like Google Docs because the info is stored online wherever I need to access it, and it’s free. After contacting the club, I enter the date, the club name, city, and the club’s preferred means of being contacted.
In addition to keeping track of who I’ve contacted, this sheet now gives me another shortcut for future booking. I can just glance and see the club’s contact info. Two additional uses are to enter specific information the club wants from you and data about the club like its capacity. And, finally, after playing there, add notes here about if the club sucked or not. Though it’s pretty easy to remember the shitty clubs, it doesn’t hurt to keep a reminder.
So, every time you contact a club for a show, add a new entry to your spreadsheet. When you revisit trying to book that city, you will know who you’ve already contacted and when you should contact them again.
Use SongKick to monitor where other bands are playing
I just started using SongKick. SongKick makes your Facebook events actually useful. It tracks the bands and venues that you like and gives updates and calendars of where they are playing in your area. SongKick also integrates with your Last.fm and Pandora accounts for even more information of music you like.
This service is useful for you, as the booker of your band, because you quickly see when a local band finds a venue you never heard of before. Keeping your eye on what other bands are doing is an excellent way to keep your thumb on the pulse of the local music circuit.
SongKick also allows you to search different cities. However, it’s a bit of a pain, not easy like ReverbNation. You have to find the link at the bottom of the page, enter in your country. Then you have to find your state. Finally, you get to locate a particular city.
Despite the pain, it’s yet another resource to locate different venues you can book at.
Use forums and blogs to monitor new places to play
Locate local forums and music blogs that cater to your type of music. Bands and bookers will often post their shows in forums, so you can see where new venues are popping up. Local music blogs do reviews of shows and can also reveal different locations you might not have been aware of.
If you actively participate in these sites, you may be surprised when your band is contacted for shows by both bookers and other bands. For instance, I used SeattlePunk.org and discovered great new venues, bands, and even new friends.
IndieOnTheMove looked promising for finding gigs. I only played with their site briefly, but they listed quite a few venues.
BetterThanTheVan also has a number of venues on their site. What’s better, though, is it helps you connect with people that might let your band crash at their place. Extremely useful if you’re planning a tour.
For more strategic info on booking shows, you really must read Martin Atkins book Tour:Smart: And Break the Band. He provides tested methods for expanding your market, driving people to shows, and how often you should play the same city. I really cannot recommend Martin’s book enough. If you are planning on touring or just playing local shows, the book is worth more than its weight in gold.
(Disclosure: The link here is an affiliate link to Amazon. That means if you buy the book, I get a small percentage of the sale. If enough of you buy it, I might get enough to afford a beer! I never endorse a product I don’t support or own myself.)
Even more to come
Okay, I thought I would be finished with Part 2, but I realized there’s a few essential steps right after you get confirmation of a show. Mainly, the word “confirmation” is a very loose term in the music biz. Look for the final Part 3 later this week.
So what are your thoughts? Too much crap? Not enough info? Let me know in the comments, or you can e-mail whenever you want: firstname.lastname@example.org.