The Do’s and Don’ts of Booking Shows
Today I’m bringing you another Do’s and Don’ts for upcoming Hip Hop artists. If you’ve missed the last two, where we talked about promoting your music on social media and submitting to blogs, find them here and here.
Today I will be speaking about one very important part of your career: Live Shows.
In the age of social media, and being able to reach thousands of people with the click of a button, a lot of artists fail to realise the importance of live performing. In my opinion, touring and doing shows is just as vital as having a strong online presence. When you win people over in person, and with a great performance, they are a lot more likely to remember your name, purchase your music, come back to see you again and stay loyal fans. Even if you’re doing a show in front of only 10 people, if you turn those ten people into real fans, the impact is greater than having 100 people like your Facebook page.
Now obviously there are a lot of things you need to keep in mind, in order to make a lasting impression, or to start with, get booked on a show in the first place. And there are just as many thing you shouldn’t do.
One of the more difficult things is getting booked on shows at all. It helps to have a manager or a booking agent, but as an upcoming artist, chances are, you don’t. In this case, you will have to do the following things yourself:
- Prepare a press kit, or have a PR agent do this for you. This is important, in order to present your music to promoters and venues. You want to make sure that it includes your bio, previous shows you’ve played, anything that makes you stand out, as well as links to your best music and contact info. If you have a live band to play with you, make sure you mention this, it is easier getting booked with a band.
When you have your press kit ready, do your research and look up as many venues and promoters in the city you’d like to perform in as possible. The keyword is networking! Go to hip hop shows of artists who are similar to your style of music and try to introduce yourself to the people who put the show together. Find out what it takes for them to book you and how to submit your press kit to them. It’s important to build healthy relationships with people like this and to not burn any bridges. Theres no place for big egos!
- Once you have made a list of promoters and venues, send your press kit to as many as possible. If you’re not looking for specific dates, you can keep the time frame general. If you are looking to book specific dates, hit them up well in advance. In Europe you should do this 3 months in advance, but in the United States, 2 months should be enough.
- One thing I do not recommend is paying to play. This is a common practice now, at least in the United States, but most of those shows hold no benefit for the artist. If you are one amongst 10 opening acts, the crowd will probably not even be there in time to see you. A lot of these shows are just a hustle for promoters to put money in their pockets or pay the main act. However, if they ask you to buy a reasonable amount of tickets to resell, it might still be a good opportunity. Keep in mind that the promoter or venue is taking a risk with upcoming artists. You always want to look at the expected amount of people, who you are opening for, venue size and so on. Just make sure it makes sense.
- Make sure that your email is professional. It helps to speak of yourself in third person, and, if you have to, make up a name for your representative. It just looks better when you have somebody else inquiring for you. Don’t worry if you get a lot of No’s. You will get at least one Yes, and that’s a start.
- There are several different responses you might get here; ideally you will get booked on a show with at least a small performance fee for you, but that’s rare, unless you already have a solid following. Be open to doing free shows! Especially if you don’t have to travel far or worry about a place to stay at night. Shows are great exposure for you and you can sell your CDs there or even merchandise, if you have any. So if the opportunity is a good one, take it.
- Once you have your shows booked, make sure you promote them properly. If you are performing in your own city, you can take the street promotion into your own hands, get flyers printed, pass them out, definitely leave some in the place you’re performing at. If you are performing out of state, look into hiring a street team to do this for you. Hit up the local college radio stations for interviews, send them radio drops, contact the local blogs in order to spread the word about your upcoming show. Also share the dates on your social media accounts and website, make a Facebook event page and invite locals. You can do fun things like take pictures or video at rehearsal to keep reminding people of the upcoming show. Do not leave all this up to the promoter, because at the end of the day, you don’t want to perform in front of an empty room!
- Please be organised and keep a calendar of your scheduled shows, so you can keep track and promote accordingly and, also very important: Practice enough!
And that’s where we make a cut for now and will resume new week, when we will talk about the Do’s and Dont’s of performing. Later on we will also speak on full Tours, including Touring in Europe and on a budget.
This was written in collaboration with DJ Chuck of Honor Flow Productions.