Tag Archive for bands

5 Ways To Hear About Great Shows Coming To Your Town

I can’t count how many times I hear “oh man…THEY were playing? I wish I knew it! I woulda been there with, like, twenty of my friends!”.

Which, oftentimes, is the most annoying thing a concert promoter can hear.

Most times, I try to take sort-of a “soft sell” approach to marketing my shows. I’d rather be polite and gentle about it than annoying and over zealous. Facebook posts usually go up when a bigger show is announced, about once a week for calendar updates and then again the day-of the show to give a last minute reminder. Obviously, every show is different and, depending on how big the show is or how well (or not well) the show is selling, I’ll push it a little bit harder. But more often than not, I’m somewhat conservative with the marketing of Greenbelt Events shows.

Even with the email list, we’ll only put out two or three emails per month. I don’t know if that’s helped or hurt our unsubscribe rate, but we maintain a pretty decent open and clicks percentage.

But we’re thorough. The website is updated daily. Our email list has a solid number of subscribers and a respectable open rate. Our street team hits a 30 mile radius with plenty of posters and handbills. And we do our fair share of print and radio advertising.

So when someone tells me that they didn’t hear about Band X playing somewhere until after the fact, I scratch my head. The public is bludgeoned with information about things to do and places to go almost every minute of every day. Nearly every single THING that happens has an event invite somewhere on Facebook. Be it baby shower, rock show or community art day, each one of my friends probably gets as many event invites as I do…which is a lot.

So how does one sift through the clutter and hear about great live music events coming to their city? Here are a few of my personal favorite tools that allow me to never miss a great show when it comes to town…

1. Songkick – I LOVE Songkick. It works like this – install a weightless little app on your computer, it syncs to your iTunes (or whatever media player you use) and sends you automatic email updates whenever an artist in your iTunes library announces a show coming to an area near you (you specify where you live and what radius you want to hear about shows in). It’s free and simple and pretty accurate. And with most people having dozens of gigs worth of music (har, har), you can specify how often you want to be notified of new events. (I have mine set to weekly).

2. Jambase- It’s been around for years. And oftentimes, I’ll forget just how great Jambase is for finding shows in virtually any city I visit. But the neat thing about Jambase these days is the location detection on the main page that displays concerts coming up in my immediate region. I don’t need to enter my zip code or subscribe to anything (but I still can, if I choose to) and dozens of shows in an area about sixty miles around is displayed right on the main page. Combine that with some live show reviews, giveaways and ticketing services, it’s a nice, robust place to find out what shows are coming to town.

3. Pollstar – It’s bland. And more of an industry go-to site. And considering how much money Pollstar charges for a subscription to it’s print or web publications, one would think the site would be much more slick than it is, but Pollstar is an industry standard for not-quite-mainstream live and touring music news, industry trends and tour announcements. Again, a search by city option makes this site quite useful for even a moderate live-music fan. And despite it’s bland appearance, Pollstar often has more of the commercial and bigger-name acts listed, often many months in advance of the date and sometimes even before a tour is officially announced.

4. Venue Websites, Stupid – There’s always the obvious way to find out what music is coming to your town or city: look at the venue’s website! In this region, Chameleon Club, The Brass Lantern, Reverb, Crocodile Rock, Spy Club, Championship, The Strand Capitol, Whitaker Center, State Theater, Gullifty’s, The Abbey Bar, Midtown Scholar Bookstore, Cornerstone Coffeehouse and dozens more list their events daily.

Obviously, visiting venue websites one-by-one on a daily or weekly basis could become time consuming. So, the final suggestion on this list (and my personal favorite way) of ways to hear about live music events near you is…

5. The good, old fashioned email list subscription – Any venue worth visiting has one. And any band worth seeing is either playing those venues or probably maintains its own mailing lists. Sure, sure…everyone gets tons of email, but with folders now built into Gmail and Yahoo and Hotmail, it’s simple to just add those email addresses to a specific folder in your inbox labeled something creative like “live music email” or “venue emails” and they’re sitting there…ready to be digested by you at your leisure.

Seeing live music is fun and easy and, in most locales, in no short supply. You just need to know where to find it. What are some of your favorite ways of hearing about live music?

Exposed To Who? 5 Reasons A Band Should Never Play For Free

“Sorry, we can’t pay you…but it’ll be a great exposure gig.

If there ever were a line in the music business which was a bigger crock of bullshit than a band telling a booker “we’ll PACK your room!”, it’s the old “exposure” line delivered from a booker to a band.

I often hear about shows that the bands simply do not get paid for one reason or another.

And while I understand that there are a few times throughout a band’s career where they should actually play for free, it seems like most “opportunities” are nothing more than fluff and never really pan out in the end.

Here are five reasons bands should never play for free – followed by three reasons when they should.

1. You Are A Business –
You eat pizza, right? Has the local pizza shop you get your pizza from ever given you a free pizza? You walk into that pizza shop and expect to exchange a little currency for that pepperoni and mushroom, right? Think of your band in the same light. While you may not be making Foo Fighters money in your first year or two as a band, you’ve still got flyers and posters to pay for, rent on the rehearsal space to cover, gas and expenses getting to and from your gigs and probably a laundry list of other items that need to be paid for. Every dollar counts. Don’t give away your goods in the name of “exposure”.

2. There Is Always A Budget – And if there isn’t, it’s probably not a gig you want to play anyway. If someone calls you and asks your band to play their event but immediately follows their pitch by “we don’t really have a budget”, your reply should be “then we can’t play your event”. Every event – be it a church bake sale or Coachella – has a budget. If that budget can afford to include a service in it’s festivities, it pays for it. If it cannot afford something in the budget, that item gets CUT. Why should the band be treated like something of no value?

3. Exposure To Who? Is Rick Rubin going to be at that gig you were offered? No? How about Irving Azoff? Oh, he’s not either? Maybe the head of marketing for Apple Computers? Then who are you going to be “exposed” to? A bunch of pedestrians who would be at a particular event either way? Maybe they’ll buy your CD, maybe they won’t. And if they DO buy your CD, are they coming to your next gig? My experience says “No”. And that’s what you want that exposure for, isn’t it? But if you’re the kind of band who wants to “expose” yourself to little old ladies walking around a town art day or some sort of backyard party at your local church, then by all means -go for it.

4. It Cheapens The Industry – Now more than ever before, a band needs to view itself as the currency generating commodity that it is. When you get booked at a bar to play for three hours, you’re expected to either bring your fanbase out to consume mass quantities of alcohol and food or entertain the built in crowd the club already has. That’s an exchange of goods for services. How many sterotypes exist about musicians and bands? They’re broke. They trash hotel rooms. They party too hard. They’re unemployed, unreliable, unmotivated….why further those stereotypes by playing for the promise of “exposure”?

5. There’s Always A Paying Gig On The Same Night – How many bars are there in your state? How many American Legion halls? VFW’s? Dedicated music venues? Those are all paying gigs. If you’re having trouble getting a gig, you’re either not working hard enough or you’re not good enough. That’s it. There are no shortage of bars, shows, events, clubs and parties that will pay you decent money for a set or a night of your music. Don’t sell yourself short by saying that there are no other options.

Now, certainly, there are exceptions to every rule. And this one is no different. In the decade that I’ve been booking shows, I’ve asked PLENTY of bands to play for free. But in the past three or four years, that number has dwindled. Perhaps it’s because all of the shows I book are actually revenue generating events; perhaps it’s because I, like a new band, have paid my dues with the free gigs. But here are three bona-fide good reasons you should feel good about playing a freebie once or twice a year….

1. It’s A Cause You Can Believe In – It seems like there’s a benefit show for some sort of illness fundraiser every night of the week. And if you’ve got some connection to breast cancer or leukemia or diabetes or the homeless or the hungry…and a promoter or event organizer asks you to donate your time to play a set in the name of raising money for a great cause, go for it! We’ve all got our convictions – and it’s respectable to donate your time now and again for a good cause. I’m going to stop short of using the “k” word, but it’s certainly good mojo to give back now and again.

2. It’s An Opening Slot For Radiohead- Or whoever your favorite band might be. But this one has a caveat – if you’re a HUGE fan of a band playing a headlining set at your local venue and you feel that playing a set in front of their audience will help you in some capacity and YOU asked THEM (or the booker) if your band could open, then do it for the gipper. But if the promoter or band asked YOU to play in front of them, then you should always get a couple of bucks for your time (and expenses).

3. It’s a Conference Or Showcase- Nobody gets paid to play SXSW or CMJ or MMC or Launch. Or, if they ARE getting paid, it’s because they’re the sought out headliner. Many music conferences and industry showcase nights can lead to bigger, better paying opportunities. Shake your money maker.

Staying On The Radar

Bands that get frustrated with me (or any venue, for that matter) for not booking them immediately on their first contact should find some reassurance in this post.

On average, I’d say I get around 100 inquiries, mass mailings and physical press kits in the mail each week from bands and solo artists seeking to play a show at The Abbey Bar. With the simplicity of a band getting their music online and being able to craft a slick looking website, it’s made it that much easier for aspiring acts to get their music in front of potential bookers than ever before. And while I appreciate that desire of so many bands to play our room, it’s made my workload that much heavier. (We do, believe it or not, listen to every single submission).

I do try to reply to every act that emails, but that’s not always possible. Which is why it’s good for a band to remain persistent…but polite in their attempts to reach a booker. (Read more about this HERE)

But just like a band bugging a talent buyer at a club to get a date, I’m in the same position as a promoter. Oftentimes (usually at the bigger shows) I’ll get questions from people that go something like this “Man, how did you get XXXX to play here? I can’t believe they’re playing Harrisburg!”

It’s simple: good work ethic, a solid industry reputation, giving 110% when it comes to promoting a show and, above all else, in a market like Harrisburg, the key element in getting some of these bigger names in has been persistence.

I tell bands all the time- stay on my radar. (Be sure to read between the lines, though – a generic “thanks for getting in touch, we’ll contact you if something can work out.” is FAR different from me telling someone to actually “stay on my radar”.) I might not be able to book you right this second, but if you stay in touch with me in a polite, persistent manner, we’ll nail something. And I’m not telling bands to do anything that I don’t do myself. If I want to get the big shows, I realize that I have to be patient, persistent, polite and professional.

About once a month or so, I’ll follow up on some old emails I’ve sent to agencies inquiring about a certain band. Sometimes, it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But it never hurts to stay politely on the radar of the agent or venue you wish to work with.

More Advice for Aspiring Bands (And Agents)

I recently accepted a new contract with another venue. It’s much smaller and not nearly as centrally located as my primary venue, but a fun room nonetheless. It’s more of a “neighborhood bar” than anything, but they want to increase their bottom line by expanding their music programming for the weekends. Consequently, my workload has increased in the way of fielding calls, emails and calendar-crafting. Which has inspired today’s post.

Far too often, I get calls from bands who simply do not have their shit together. No website. No MySpace. An email address that’s difficult to spell or sound out (Me: “What’s your email address?” Them: “stixxvoxx69atAoldotcom”) Twitter? What the heck is that? Facebook? Nah, but we have six hundred followers on MySpace!


So here are a few more tips for young bands (or older ones who may have forgotten) who want to get into the calendars of music venues…but can’t figure out why they don’t get booked.

1. If you call (and you really shouldn’t) – know what you want to accomplish.

Do you have your thirty-second elevator pitch ready? Or will you fumble and make it up as you go along? Most every talent buyer or club booker I know hears from hundreds of bands all wishing to do the same thing: get booked and get paid. So when you call (again, you really shouldn’t unless you have a preexisting relationship with the booker) make sure you know what you want to say and get it done. There’s nothing worse than me taking a call from a number I don’t recognize and have to listen to a band pitch their act and then not even have a website to direct me to. Or a band who, until the phone call, I had never heard of ask me what I can do for them.

2. Don’t call. Email.
I realize this will contradict what I explained in Number One, but knowing that most people don’t listen, I’ll say this as well. Personally, I would much rather get an email (or two or three) from a band who wants to play with a simple “Hey! Really love your room. We’d love to play sometime. Here is a link to our site/MySpace/YouTube, etc.” This way, when I’m sitting here in my giant, climate controlled office in a skyrise high above the streets with my receptionist screening calls, sushi-delivery at the door and all the free time in the world, I can click your links and see if what you’re doing will make sense in our calendar.

3. Patronize the place you wish to play.
The first time The Hold Steady played Harrisburg in 07, following the announcement, I immediately got inundated with requests from bands who were hopeful to get the opening slot. And I had to laugh, because I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen any of the members of most of the bands who inquired at a show or an open mic. And THEN, a few of them had the audacity to tell their friends what an asshole I was for not booking them (I know this because it’s a small town and your friends aren’t as loyal as you think they are). Some of my favorite bands to work with are the ones to come to other bands shows, pay the cover on ticketed nights and generally participate. This is a participatory industry. You cannot expect to receive without giving back in some capacity.

4. Be persistent, but not annoying.
Send an email. If you don’t get a reply in a week or two, send another one. If you know the booker is going to be at a particular show, stop by the show and introduce yourself. Sometimes, the best way to “break through” the chatter is to go old-school on my ass. Come into the venue, have a beer with me and tell me in person why I should book you. And then thank the person for their time and go enjoy the show…maybe make note of what that band is doing and how you can relate that to what you’re wishing to accomplish.

5. When you DO get booked…
Sell that show as if your life depends on it. Think “If I don’t get 150 people out to this show, my life will END”. Well, maybe not THAT extreme…but you get the picture. Times are TOUGH. Budgets are being slashed like a going out of business sale and you need to make me (or any buyer) realize that we made the right decision when choosing to book you. There have been bands who have BEGGED me over the years to give them a shot. And when I finally gave in, they didn’t even send a poster to the room. Promote your show. Tell EVERYONE you know that you’re playing. But more importantly, do something to make them WANT to come see you. Be different. Unique. Use that noggin to create a compelling reason for your friends to take time out of their schedule to come to a bar and spend their hard earned money supporting your band.

Or, just stay in your garage practicing those Nickelback covers and playing backyard barbecues in the summer.