All around the US, performers are asking… “When will it be safe to start performing WITH an in-person audience?” Here in California, The CDPH (California Department of Public Health) have issued a COVID-19 Guidance booklet dated Effective April 2, 2021 for “Outdoor Seated Live Events and Performances.” If your area is higher than an Orange Tier, some of your venues may already be open. No matter where you are, there are strict rules for performance venues to adhere to if your favorite venues are going to open their doors.
Expect concerts to charge more to be in the room because capacity will be at 50%, but expect to be able to buy a ticket to watch the concert virtually!
So as we look to the summer and fall, expect that some outdoor events may open even before the bigger theaters. That means, wherever you are, I am suggesting musicians consider looking at nearby cities, within 100 miles of your home base, to introduce yourself as a local musician who is ready to perform in-person or by virtual methods.
Here are a number MUST HAVES to throw your performance hat in the ring!
In the booking world, a live performance video is considered your calling card. I am not talking about an official video with a storyline throughout, but you or your band performing live in a rehearsal hall or studio. The booker wants to see your vibe, so get right to the most useful footage that shows what your show really is. No long instrumental intros or a story about the song is needed.
If you are a solo artist, take one of your virtual performances on FacebookLive or Twitch, and edit the best footage. For your band, I suggest finding a rehearsal hall with a stage and lighting, usually you can rent one for about $30 an hour, and bring in someone to do sound for you and use at least 2 iPhones or good cameras to capture your performance. You may have to do some editing, but you can use your iMovie or Garage Band programs to get it done. Still stumped on how to edit your video? Look on Fiverr or Upwork for a virtual assistant.
I find it best to pitch a 2 to 3 minute song but you want to start with the most exciting part of your performance….truthfully, the booker will only watch the first minute of your song. So make the first minute really convincing.
PITCHING TO VENUES
If you have both an acoustic performance and a full band show, you will need a video for each kind of performance. Usually when you go to a venue site, you will have to email your request or fill out an application. If you are doing an introductory email, KEEP IT SHORT! You want to describe who you are with a 15 second elevator pitch identifying the genre of music you play, then ask for a specific date, supply one website or active social media link and a link to your live video.
Still no email answer after 2 emails? You may want to find a phone number and call and see if the email on the website is still working. Yes, actually make a phone call. If you call a few hours before the venue opens, someone will pick up the phone and will probably be able to tell you who is doing the booking and how to contact that person.
If you are pitching to perform at a larger venue, always send a band video. If the mainstage is full, email back asking when they start booking for the future and supply the acoustic video, so they know you do both. I got surprised a few times, not knowing they had an acoustic stage and we got that gig. The following year, because they booked us before, the event hired the band for the mainstage. If you are filling out an application, don’t make up venues you have played to look impressive…be honest with your stats!
CLUBS AND SMALLER EVENTS
If you are trying to book a club, winery, brewery or smaller venue, always remember to put the date you want to play in the subject line. It will get notice in the bookers email. If after a week you do not get a response back, take your same email, forward it and in the subject line write: 2nd request…& your date. Then just write a line or two saying you know they are busy but you would still like to play the date and your video is below.
Here I go again pushing you to get some kind of website. If you have a website, and it has not been updated for awhile, it is time to make it current. Make sure the bio is updated providing a line or two about you releasing music or planning tours. Also, many websites do not show a LIST OF PAST PERFORMANCES. This is really important, so if you have done a variety of gigs, make a list of past venues performed and make sure you can see that on your gigs listings. Having a past list of performances played will show the booker you are not just a beginning performer.
I did a blog and FBlive on February 26, 2021 on ‘Constructing your Website’, so check those out!
SOCIAL MEDIA & AUDIENCE DRAW
Most venues will ask, “What is your audience draw?” Plus how you promote your upcoming events. First, about drawing an audience. Be honest with your numbers. In fact, many times I down play the number of people that we may attract, so when more people show up, it looks like we did our job mega-promoting the performance.
If you can only draw 10, then say that. Most venues have the days and times they want a new act to perform, so they can see your show and how their audience likes your performance. Remember, understanding how the venue makes money, should guide your booking strategy.
Clubs make their money selling beer & wine and some food, where bigger outdoor events, with FREE admission, are funded by sponsors. We will do another entire blog on how to approach both small and larger events and what to charge.
How will you promote your shows? Most of you will use social media so that means the venue will want to see you are active on at least one social media platform. I am not sure how you feel about Facebook, but I find most venues have a facebook page…so if you don’t have one, maybe this is a good time to start posting a bit on the media. Even if you are social king on Instagram or Tik Tok, if the venue has a social presence on Facebook, you should too. Instagram and Facebook are owned by the same company so it is easy to share on both networks.
There are other ways to get people to your show, an email or newsletter, keeps fans informed. If you read any marketing information, you will find that having a healthy email list is still the #1 way to contact your fans. You can even use it to let them know you are posting a new event or launching a new song on a certain day on your preferred social media network. People have to see a posting, at least, three times in different mediums to acknowledge an event is happening.
REHEARSE YOUR ONE HOUR SHOW
Almost every venue, outside playing at club or bar, will require you to perform for at least 60 minutes. Yes, one hour. Think about it….would you pay for $10 or $15 to watch a music set for 10 or 20 minutes? So, jam up your original songs, explore doing some unique cover songs and work out your banter between the songs.
You need to perform for one hour….if you have 2 hours, that is even better. Some outdoor events and festivals may want you to perform 2 sets with a break. The more you can play, the more you can get paid!
All of the suggestions above may take some time, so that means you need to get busy ASAP! It is now April, and I have just gotten emails back from a few colleges, city summer concert series and future festivals and they are booking now! Start researching any outdoor events that took place in 2019, and next blog we will talk more about how to find the gatekeepers/bookers for outdoor events that are already booking gigs for the summer and the fall.