What's Your Draw?
**Guest post written by Paula Tolly, one half of the Boca Raton based Americana duo 33 Years.
"You know the scenario.... you’ve been trying to get into this local bar for who knows how long and your buddy just gave you the name of the new booker. You email him or text or whatever his preference is and you get the dreaded dead end comment back: "How many people can you draw at my venue....?" Your heart sinks, your confidence dwindles and you think, "Hey, is there anyone out there who really cares about the music nowadays?"
You write, again, the booker in that DC venue where you are trying to get a show to round out your tour and AGAIN - that question pops up.... "How many people will you bring?" Well... DUH! I’m trying to break into this new market. How do I get my foot in the door when I KNOW I can’t bring a draw the FIRST time I play your venue?
What to do? Well - you could lie, but that probably won’t work.
Pay for drinks? I recently spoke with a fellow musician in my local area and he confessed that he actually pays to bring people or, rather, pays for their drinks. REALLY? I mean, REALLY? Is that what it takes to get people to come listen to your music?
OK - if you’re on this site, you are already onto a really good resource. You can always find local talent in a target city to help draw a crowd, BUT this only takes you so far.
You could call everyone you know and offer to buy them dinner, drinks, watch their dog, babysit.... but this approach will only get you so far. Plus, your friends and family will get real tired of your loser musician approach and quickly tire of you.
So, the question still looms...How do I manage to get effective results when a venue says to bring warm bodies?
Good news is - YES - there are venues out there who care about your music! The key is to figure out WHO they are and not WASTE precious time trying the same old in-roads. How do you find these new in-roads you ask?
Gatekeeper - Just as in any good effective sales strategy, you need to learn who your gatekeeper is. The gatekeeper is the person who is essentially the deal killer. He or she is the facebook manager who probably should not have that job. Let’s face it, the gatekeeper might be a loser booking agent who posts more messages about the diet they are on instead of trying to do their job - which is - to keep the bar owner and the bands happy!
Learn who your gatekeeper is and watch their activities! Look for a possible reason to get to know them better. Invite them to your gigs.... make sure you add comments to their Facebook entries - re-tweet their tweets - WHATEVER it takes to get them to see that you are a cool person and can someday help them.
Let’s face it - the booker needs bands and when they tell you that they want to know how many people you can draw, that should be your invitation to STEP UP YOUR GAME! How badly to you want to play this venue? Where there is a will, there is a way! You’d be surprised how many musicians are simply afraid to make a phone call and simply get a warm body on the line at the establishment! Did you try? Really - ask yourself this.... did you? Chances are, you didn’t exhaust all your means to try to establish communication with this venue.
Ok - back to the real question - How do you find the venues that are REALLY interested in the music? Simple - the answer is right there in your back yard. Ask fellow band members. They will be happy to tell you who their contacts are and, together, you can master the fine art of A-Venues. A-Venues are the ones who are actively promoting your band through their media outlets, making posters, sending you info on gigs, sending requirements, giving you recommendations for other bar owners who are like minded. Remember - don’t waste time fretting over those venues you can’t book yet - instead focus on getting asked back and whatever you do - DON’T GIVE UP!
Finally - and I hate to have to say this.... make sure you keep working at your game. Don’t think for a minute that you are the best singer, or guitar player or WHATEVER! If you don’t engage with the crowd on some level, you may never get asked back. Find someone to tape your live performances and then make sure that you review every aspect of your performance with your band-mates. Is your bass player glued to his comfort position on stage? Is your guitar man too concerned with his pedals and not sending his groove out to the crowd? Show the love to the audience and they will love you back. Show the love in this way and the bar owner will love you and, I PROMISE, you will be invited back!"
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Paula (& Kevin Tolly) are both classically trained musicians who have returned back to the scene after many years. They consider themselves Americana as they like to perform covers from Traditional and Contemporary Country, Rock, Blues and Bluegrass. As a duo, they try to change up their acoustic sound with more unusual arrangements.
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