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As a touring musician, you encounter a variety of situations that have the potential to disrupt your day’s plans. The attitude with which you meet these daily challenges can influence your success or failure as you move through your career. There are plenty of obstacles thrown in your path. You may choose to approach them with a positive indie attitude or a negative, “why me” attitude. The method you choose of course affects those around you. But it may even be partially responsible for getting or not getting some of the breaks you think you deserve.

I’d like to examine some of the situations that may arise where your positive indie attitude may make a huge difference. I’ve worked with many artists over the years, as manager, agent, promoter and consultant. The one thing that stands out about each performer, above all else, is their attitude about their life, their music, and how they approach each day and every situation. Attitude can be infectious both positively and negatively. If you want to be successful in the music business, be sure that when you leave a situation, your reputation of having an upbeat, positive indie attitude is one of the highlights.

Making Phone Calls with a Positive Indie Attitude

As you book each date, the first place that your positive indie attitude plays a major role is in your phone conversation.

Prepare for your phone sessions. Don’t just pounce on the phone with vengeance determined to book the whole tour. Get yourself in the right frame of mind – calm yet enthusiastic. If you are tired or are having a bad day, DON’T make booking calls. This will not win you many friends nor land you many gigs. Booking calls are a sales pitch. Present a positive attitude and you are more likely to get a positive response.

That said, it isn’t always easy to maintain when phone call after phone call gets little more response than “call me next week.” When multiple calls become frustrating, and you feel your upbeat attitude begin to fall, stop making calls and do some paperwork, take a walk or practice. Change gears before you say something you’ll regret.

The way you leave your last call with a promoter or club owner is the way you will be remembered. If they had a pleasant conversation with you, they would welcome your next call. If not, it may be weeks (or never) before they answer your calls. So set yourself up for success. This is especially true in your local market. News travels fast and there is nothing like a bad attitude to completely kill your strategy of owning your home town market.

Arriving at the Venue

When you arrive at the venue, first impressions make a difference in how the rest of the gig will go.

It’s not unusual to hit traffic on your way to the venue or have various travel delays that can unnerve anyone. It isn’t anyone’s fault, so don’t take it out on those that greet you at the venue. They have been anxiously awaiting your arrival and are probably looking forward to helping you settle in and assist in any way they are able.

Check your attitude before opening the door. Make sure the first thing out of your mouth is, “Great to meet you!” or some other pleasant greeting. You must set the tone for the rest of the event. If you are the opening act, this is paramount to your success that night. If you want those at the venue to help you put on the best show you can, you need to set the stage and offer your winning attitude.

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Dealing with Technicians

Once settled, the next challenge is sound and light check. This task can be fraught with one obstacle after another. From inadequate equipment, the wrong equipment, inexperienced technicians and unhelpful technicians, not enough time and anxious stage personnel, it’s easy to get frustrated.

If you want to accomplish an effective sound and light check, stay upbeat, be very clear about your needs, express them succinctly, and be respectful of those who work at the venue. When you run into a technician with a bad attitude, there is nothing you can do or say to change them. But you can keep your positive indie attitude in check and remain pleasant. Step outside to blow off steam where no venue staff can see you, and return refreshed and ready to work.

When it comes to setting your sound, you know your sound best. Be persistent with the engineer until you achieve the sound you like. Don’t badger, just be clear and attempt to win them over. Sound is a particularly sticky issue for all artists, as it should be. This is certainly one area to maintain your cool if you want to have a good show. Unless you travel with your own sound engineer, you are at the mercy of those on the board. This is one person you do not want to piss-off. Again, your attitude can make or break the show.

Dealing with the Promoter with a Positive Indie Attitude

From time to time we all run into a club owner or promoter who is difficult. From the first phone call, it was clear that this gig would be a challenge simply because the promoter offered resistance. It didn’t get any easier once you arrived at the venue.

Again, you’re not out to make any life changes in this person. You are determined to get through the gig. So do your best show, fill the hall, win over the audience, sell your merchandise. Hopefully, with all that in your favor, you’ll get paid the full amount agreed upon and perhaps you’ll get another gig there in the future. Maintain your positive indie attitude throughout, despite the vibes that may be coming at you from the promoter. Your goals are clear, ignore his/her distracting demeanor.

Dealing with the Audience

When you are finally on stage, this is certainly not the place to air your problems, or be unkind or disrespectful. These are the people you have worked so hard to stand before. This is the moment when your absolute best is tested.

No matter what happened backstage, in the dressing room, on the phone before the show, in the car driving to the show or during sound check, if you display an ugly attitude here, you are done. These folks won’t forget, and it will be all over social media. The audience deserves your highest regard.

After the Show

After the show, you may be tired. The gig is not over, though. Now you have an opportunity to win over more fans. Meet them at your merch table, sign autographs and greet them. Set aside your fatigue for a little while longer.

When you perform in venues other than clubs, you may be working with volunteers. If you are invited to meet the presenter and some of the workers who spent weeks preparing for this event, take the opportunity! You just might solidify a return gig.

You don’t have to accept invitations to parties you are not interested in attending. But a short meet and greet after the gig will go a long way to creating a good reputation. If you must meet a travel schedule and are unable to stay for a meet and greet, let the venue personnel know that before you arrive so there will be no expectations for you to stay.

Conclusion: How a Positive Indie Attitude Will Advance Your Career

You can be a very talented musician, have a fabulous act, be a savvy businessperson, but if you sport a bad attitude, your successes will be hard won. Remain clear throughout all your dealings with each venue and relationship. Build respect for your group as a testament to your level of professionalism. Maintaining a positive attitude during each and every situation will set you apart from the crowd and make you stand out as someone to work with as you develop your career. Remember, that people hire people they know, so be that person that someone thinks of kindly and you can reap the benefits of a positive attitude throughout your career.

By Jeri Goldstein. Copyright © 2019 Performingbiz, LLC. 

Jeri Goldstein was an agent and manager and now an author and music business and performing arts career coach. She is the author of How to Book Gigs and Tour Profitably a new online course from New Artist Model. Having worked with some of the top touring acoustic artists on the circuit for 20 years, she booked national and international tours for artists performing in music, theater, and dance.

 

by Jeri Goldstein

You called the venue and they were already booked… How many times have you had that happen? Wouldn’t it be great to know the best times to call to at least have a fighting chance of getting booked? Well today I’m going to show you how to book club gigs and specifically focus in on timing your calls to club bookers. Do this, and you stand a much better chance of getting the gig.

When to Book Club Gigs

Clubs are likely to be filling their calendars 4, 6, or 8 weeks prior to the play date. This can be great for filling in last-minute gigs. But it can also be incredibly frustrating if you are planning your tours farther ahead.

When is the best time to call a club? As soon as you know you are planning a tour in the area. Give them a call and let them know about the tour plans. Try to get them to place a hold on your preferred date. After that, it’s your job to get back to them, check on that date, and find out if they are ready to firm it up.

Check with each club to see when they finalize their monthly calendar, prepare any strip ads, or start monthly promotions. This will give a clue as to how far out the booker plans and at what time in the month they actually start firming up dates. Once you know the deadline for the booker to have their marketing ready, then you can make plans to call prior to that deadline.

What to know the best time to book your gigs?

Check Back with the Bookers

As bookers start filling their dates, they look for hot tours that may have just announced their schedules. If they can book a hot act when they are coming through, it will take priority over any holds on the calendar. In other words, it’s important for you to keep checking back with the booker to make sure they are still holding your desired date.

If a larger act is vying for your date, that’s okay too. By keeping in touch with the booker, you might be able to score an opening slot!

Once you are in contact with the club, ask them for other referrals to clubs in the area. Look for clubs that would be far enough away to not interfere with their date but close enough to help build your regional following. These extra gigs could help solidify your tour in case the desired venue isn’t able to confirm their date.

As you can see, club dates are more of an ongoing process. Your tour schedule, your tour routing, and the club’s monthly calendar will be the determining factors, suggesting the proper time frames to begin your calls.

Getting into the Mind of Club Bookers

A few years ago, I wrote a column for Gig Magazine that was a series of interviews with club bookers across the country. My goal was to get into their thought process around how they select their acts and what kind of marketing materials helped them make their choices. As a result of that research along with my own booking experience, I have some helpful insights on how to book club gigs I’d like to share with you.

Be Aware of the High Money Nights

Since many clubs have multiple shows each week, they need to make sure their “money-nights” (Thursday-Saturday) are winners. They use these nights to help pay their bills. These are NOT nights they are willing to take a chance on an untested act.

Now you don’t necessarily have to be a national touring act to get a Thursday through Saturday gig. Regional or local favorites are fine, as long as you can sell tickets, food and bring in healthy bar revue.

Keep in mind, that for many clubs, they make their money from the bar and possibly the food. So they are interested in getting a crowd but are not wedded to the specific group. This sets up a dynamic where the competition for gigs is at a fever pitch, driving band fees down.

How to Book Club Gigs: Not too Early, Not too Late

Filling the calendar in a timely manner to meet deadlines is a driving force for the booker’s schedule.

That said, you may find they are more willing to “see who’s coming through town” toward the beginning of the month. And then, they set their dates rapidly as the calendar deadline approaches. You may find them more non-committal during the early part of the month because of this. But if you wait until the later part of the month, you may just find them booked!

It’s a balancing act. But again, here’s where placing a hold on specific dates may prove to be a very valuable tool.

Start with Weeknight Gigs

Many clubs look to the weeknights as a place to test new acts, so if you want to book club gigs, that’s a good place to start. If you have a growing following, you are more likely to get a more favorable night. And you may be able to work your way into one of the “money nights.”

Developing local talent tends to be something that many club owners and bookers love to do, especially when they can see the potential of future success for the act. If you fall into this category, you could discuss a regular night, multiple times a month with a club to foster this audience-building process.

Be Ready to Promote Your Gigs

Clubs want to know you have marketing tools and plans in place to help with any shows you do in the area. Most clubs do minimal marketing for individual acts. If you have a good mailing list, put it to use! That will be a plus for consideration and help you stand out from the competition!

How to Make Your Act More Attractive to the Club Booker?

Participate in Development Programs

Pay attention to any programs offered by the club for developing acts. Some have open-mic nights, others have a hierarchical method of growing the talent by strategically placing new acts early in the evening and as their audience grows, moving them up to more prime-time night slots. Participate in these programs if you are new to the club.

Keep Track of Numbers

Club bookers appreciate a growing fanbase! So take the time to develop your fanbase in each new market and use your numbers to leverage your value and book club gigs. Use your social networks and email lists to nurture your fan base. Make sure you share how many people on your list live in the area around the club. These numbers may mean more food and drinks sold along with tickets.

You can also track and share your numbers from past performances in the area. Remember how much merchandise you sold last time you came through town at this club or any others you’ve played.

Participate in the Promotion of the Gig

Marketing for club dates is often left to the act. If you rely on the club for your marketing, you may be disappointed with the shared strip add listing multiple acts for the month. So share your marketing plan with the booker to demonstrate your commitment to your audience development.

Offer to be on hand early enough to do radio or phone interviews prior to coming to town.

Be creative and willing to share marketing ideas that might create an interesting, unusual performance night. Whatever clever marketing pitch you can add to increase media attention or audience awareness will work in your favor to build your value to the venue and the area.

Be Easy to Work With

Make sure your set up doesn’t require any unnecessary expense or actions on behalf of the club or their technical staff. If you have unusual backline needs, make sure you carry those with you and are pro-active in creating an easy load-in, set up and sound check.

Also remember that club bookers are juggling a lot of dates. Sometimes as many as 6 different acts each night! So there’s a good chance the club booker will seem stressed. If you meet with a harried voice on the other end of the phone, it’s not about you. It’s the relentless pressure from the job. So your best approach is to be prepared and easy to work with. Prepare your pitch, send appropriate materials that are easy to read through and be prepared to make multiple calls to develop your relationship.  Be accommodating, plan your call-back time and be vigilant but not obnoxious. If you don’t land your optimum date the first time around, keep at it and plan for the next tour through the area. Remember, it’s all about building the relationship.

Conclusion: How to Book Club Gigs

By now you should have a better idea of how club bookers approach their timetable. Try keeping everything we talked about today in mind next time you’re booking club gigs and you’ll be much more successful.

If you want more tips on when to contact different venues and performance opportuntities, we have a free ebook for you where I break down the best times to contact bookers for festivals, college gigs, performance arts centers, and elementary schools. Click here to download the ebook for free.

By Jeri Goldstein. Copyright © 2019 Performingbiz, LLC. 

Jeri Goldstein was an agent and manager and now an author and music business and performing arts career coach, key-note speaker and seminar presenter. She provides valuable resources, instruction and coaching to those navigating their way to creating a successful touring career. Having worked with some of the top touring acoustic artists on the circuit for 20 years, she booked national and international tours for artists performing in music, theater, and dance.