How Do I Book My Show? Part 2 15

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:

Herd the Cats: Organizing Your Band with Google Calendar
How Do I Book My Show? Part 1

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.

Using Google Maps to plan your shows

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.

Use ReverbNation to locate venuesThen 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

Use SongKick to monitor bandsI 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 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 and discovered great new venues, bands, and even new friends.

Additional resources

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.

Tour:Smart: And Break the Band
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:

 How Do I Book My Show? Part 3

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15 thoughts on “How Do I Book My Show? Part 2

  • Spooky

    Google maps is one hell of a useful tool for tours. In fact, we never have even brought an old school road map on any of our tours- or use a GPS for that matter. (I do the logistics and the driving, though, and my memory is really good). I never thought to use a spread sheet for venues as I usually store that stuff in my brain- it would be helpful for remembering names of booking contacts- though I try to establish a good enough relationship with them that I can remember that too (is it me or are there a million Jeffs who book shows). I can’t wait until I can afford these books y’all be toutin’!

    • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

      My memory is nowhere near that good. Especially when booking a tour in cities I’ve never been before. And I looooove my GPS!

      Actually, I’ve never booked through anyone named Jeff before. There must be one Jeff stalking you.

      I can’t wait until anyone can afford the books I all be toutin’! Seth needs beer and website bill money! :)

      Google Maps is awesome. I need to update that one I shared on I probably will once I start booking shows again!

  • Bridge

    I would love to see advice about booking shows with other bands; namely a tour with another band. I know a couple bands that tour with each other, and if it were me I’d be worried about stepping on the other guys’ toes, y’know? Like, who gets to headline? Which band picks the venues? How can you be sure the other side will come through on their part of the arrangements?

    So yeah, if you have any info on that, it’d be a good read for me ;)

    • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

      Oh. Dude. That is definitely its own post.

      It really wouldn’t be informational as much as biographical…and funny.

      But I definitely have a couple of stories to tell. :) This might be a Friday post just for fun!!!

      • Spooky

        A tour is a fairly intimate thing and if you are going to be touring with another band, chances are you have already played together before and get along pretty well. Stepping on toes should never be an issue, especially with something as trivial and meaningless as “Headlining” (sounds kinda like a feminine product, doesn’t it).

        In the end whoever picks the venues or ends up headlining should be based on practical thing like the draw and payout that works best for the tour. If toes get stepped on and every thing has been done smartly, it’s probably just the singer being a drama queen. In places that both bands are equally unknown and practicality won’t work in deciding who is the headliner and such, use an impractical method to decide- like the Wasabi Challenge, or a coin toss… Tour should be fun, most importantly!

        • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

          The Drama Queen Wasabi Challenge! Then make them get on stage and sing immediately after.

          Yeah, the term “headlining” really needs to be tossed out. Just because you’re playing last doesn’t mean you’re “headlining”. If you’re playing on a weekday, it’s best not to be playing last. The crowd ends up disappearing as soon as the clock strikes 12.

  • Steve Forker

    Thanks for good brainstorming ideas and advice on booking shows. I was starting to feel as though I was hitting a dead end using my same old blunt tools. Your ideas will help me mix it up a little bit and we’ll see if that helps.

    I refer you to “T.V. Eye” as performed by John Zorn on Elektra’s “Rubiyat” compilation for a good example of someone winning the Drama Queen Wasabi Challenge and then singing immediately after. -StFo

    • Chris "Seth" Jackson Post author

      I’m glad I could help! Let me know if anything there isn’t working for you, or if I can help you out with anything else.

      I plan on exploring non-traditional venues and shows with my band. Hell, maybe even “virtual shows”.

      • Steve Forker

        I hear you on the non-traditional venues. I have a friend who plays art galleries and I even found a flyer for a show at an antiques & furniture store here. My music isn’t really the kind of thing that sells all that much beer, so I’m having to get creative too. -StFo