Whether you’re a seasoned touring veteran, successful booking agent, or simply a beginner booking your first tour, there are some things that only experience on the road and first hand knowledge of the show and tour booking industry can teach you.
From planning your tour itinerary and finding appropriate music venues along your route, to properly approaching bookers/talent buyers, garnering the right press and radio coverage to properly promote your shows, and maximizing tour profits, there are a plethora of things that must be considered and facilitated in order to book a successful music tour (and not kill your bandmates along the way).
What venues to play
There are two types of shows:
1) Destination shows. These venues will be empty unless people are coming specifically to see you. If it’s your first time in a town and you’re not famous, you won’t bring anyone, nor will you make any money or new fans. Always a door deal.
2) Entertainment shows. These venues have a good house crowd, and the job of the band is to keep the people engaged and drinking. We’re usually talking about three to four hours of playing, so be prepared. These venues usually pay a guarantee – maybe $500 for a weekend and $300 for a weekday. Another deal these places will give you is bar-sale percentage. Thirty percent is the usual, and that’s okay for a weekday, but not for a weekend.
As a rule of thumb you should always get guarantees for Friday and Saturday. For the rest of the week, you can try getting guarantees, but it’s hard to avoid bad deals, especially in the beginning.
How to compile a good venue list
Finding the right venues. The most effective way is very simple. Look for venues where bands get paid to play and write them down. Bands that get one venue that pay tend to play other venues that pay.
Make a list. Excel works best. Open a new tab for every state (this will prove to be effective later on). What you need to have in your list is:
• venue name
• phone number
• contact person
• what days of the week they have shows
How to contact the venues
Phone is king, but you’ll have to email as well.
Phone. Call and ask to talk to the booking person. If he’s not there (they’re usually away, keep calling!) take his/her name, so the next time you call, you can ask for them specifically. Also, make sure to ask for their email and on what days of the week they have shows. Always update the list. When you get to talk to the booking person it’s all about the personal connection. Make them remember who you are, so when they look through their hundreds of emails your name pops out.
Email. Email with the date you’re hoping to book, a short biography, and a link to your music. If you have a following in the area let it be known, but don’t lie about it (it’s a terrible move). If your email is too long, nobody will read it.
Follow up. After a day or two, try calling to see if the booking person had a chance to look at your email. After a week or two you can email again.