Posted: May 28, 2019
Category: Show Booking
"As a Talent Buyer, musicians sometimes call or hit me up on the street for gigs, but without my computer in front of me it’s a waste of time. Besides, I’m not going to remember any details. Instead, I only book via email. Emails are a traceable record of who said what and the details of the agreement. Sometimes I can even tell if I want to book the band just by how well or poorly the email is formatted. So what to include or exclude in your email?
There are certain things I want to see and other things I don’t want to see:
Most importantly, how do you separate yourself from other bands in the same genre? For example, I get dozens of emails from jazz bands who play from the Real Book — but I only have limited dates to fill. They’re all decent but I can’t book them all, so which one should I book? Music is not a competition, but if you’re trying for a gig, it is. Make yourself stand out somehow, either by genre, or material, or showmanship, or credentials, or draw, or attire, just something that separates you from the other bands, particularly other bands playing similar material.
Keep your email concise and easy to read. Don’t write one long run-on paragraph. Bulleted points are easy to browse through.
Better to send links than attached sound clips. Nobody wants to open attachments from strangers, let alone have to download some specific app that reads the downloaded file.
A colleague who booked a legendary venue once told me that he wouldn't even listen to demo tapes or CDs — and this was before the internet, but the idea is the same. Anyone can hire top studio musicians to play on their recordings but who will be the band that shows up for the gig?
Hence, video is preferred. Again, links, not attachments. Professionally-produced video is fine and dandy, but not necessary. I just want to see what the band looks like, instrumentation, etc. If the venue wants you to bring in a crowd, a grainy video with shitty audio quality but a packed house is better than a slick HD video which shows two people in the audience.
Don’t send attached photos … until requested. Again use a link for photos. I don’t want to open attachments from strangers, or clog my computer with downloads. If and when I need a photo, I will request it.
Have a web site. If you don't have a website, have a Facebook page, or an EPK somewhere online. I want to know that the band is serious enough to show up on time, be professional, have adequate equipment, knows how to work with venue, etc. If a band has a good web site, it implies the band takes their shit seriously, and they’ll take the gig seriously too. You can be a great band without a web site, but without one, I'm simply not sure.
This one is a personal thing with me, but I generally prefer to book musicians who are musicians first, and real estate brokers or plumbers second. Not to say a real estate agent won't be great, but I like to see an email portraying the band/musician as a serious musician rather than a hobbyist. If you have a standard signature your email that reads “Bob Smith, Licensed Plumber” it says to me that music is a hobby for you. Delete that from your emails. Put your best foot forward. I’d rather give the work for musicians who are trying to make a living at playing music, and know the etiquette relating to gigs, rather a garage band who may not know the ins and outs of actually gigging.
Avoid superlatives about yourself, but use superlatives written about you. Nothing screams “out of control egomaniac” more than an self-penned bio that says “I’m perhaps the greatest living guitar player.” But if Guitar Player magazine says that, it means a lot, and I want to know that.
Diligence works (but only with a pleasant, non-demanding attitude). If someone emails me a year in advance of when they’ll be coming into town, I may not be booking that far ahead, but if they remind me every few months I will remember that band when I do start booking that time frame. Timing isn’t everything, but it’s important. Remind me, then remind me again.
Lastly, keep your attitude pleasant. Fortunately, most of the acts I book are nice people but a few have been demanding and overflowing with attitude. Nobody likes an asshole. Just because you’re a great musician, or have played at my venues before, doesn’t mean you have a pass to be a petulant dickhead. And yeah, I’m talking about you Brian!"
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Scott Cooper is music industry veteran who currently books the music at two San Francisco Bay Area venues (Testarossa Winery and Sam’s Chowder House). He plays guitar with Grateful Dead tribute band the China Cats and his own band Scott Cooper & the Barrelmakers. Scott has released four solo CDs (the first one reached #5 on the jam band radio charts) and recorded a dozen more CDs with Relix Records band Stackabones, the Gary Gates Band and others. Scott previously was a syndicated music journalist for newspapers across the country, and worked 10 years in radio as deejay and Program Director.