Booking bands in small towns

JesseTheGerm

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Hey folks. I am looking for some advice on booking an original band in small towns. Background: I am in an Alaskan band. There is one (kind-of-but-not-that) large city here, Anchorage. There are several other clusters of population in the tens of thousands or thousands, and then some tiny villages, all separated by hundreds of miles of lonely highway or no road at all.

We don't think it would be advantageous for our band to waste the good summer weather and low gas prices playing the same venues around Anchorage. We want to get out and tour. Before we tour the rest of the world, we want to conquer our state. We need more gigs to improve our on-stage abilities and get road-hardened on some weekend runs before we commit to spending a couple weeks far from home. This means playing in some of those smaller cities, towns and villages. This means booking ourselves in places whose interpretation of live music is Everyone's Favorite Cover Band who plays an entire four-hour night. Or, booking places that have no live music at all.

Does anyone have any advice on how to sell an original band with one hour of music to a venue used to having four-hour cover bands or no live music? What can I pitch them to make it appeal to them? Where are some unique types of places to approach?

So far, I've been offering to play on off-nights, any time of day, play an acoustic set, share a bill with another band, build a bill ourselves and bring some more bands out on the road with us, etc. That way we're not interrupting their Cover Band Friday that their regulars expect, we're offering a bonus on top of that.

Another thought I've had is trying to specifically market ourselves to people in those areas online and off and contact them personally and get them pumped up that we might be playing our town...so then I can say to the venue, "we have X-amount of people who say they're stoked to come check us out as soon as you book us"

Thoughts?
 

Leumas

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I would say that if you really only have an hour of material then you're going to be in for a tough sell. I think you're right to try and split a bill.

I would also suggest coming up with at LEAST another two hours of material. Doesn't matter if it's original or covers, obviously covers is a lot more time effective. And don't get stuck on the idea of playing covers faithfully...have your band trip out and do cool stuff with them.

The only other thing I would say is this...get used to bombing. Everybody has terrible gigs, especially when they're rolling the dice on venue. Be fair to yourselves, and be fair to the people that have a place for you to play.

So, stretch out your time, and be prepared to eat a shit sandwich or two. Other than that, best of luck! :dude:
 

JesseTheGerm

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I would say that if you really only have an hour of material then you're going to be in for a tough sell. I think you're right to try and split a bill.

I would also suggest coming up with at LEAST another two hours of material. Doesn't matter if it's original or covers, obviously covers is a lot more time effective. And don't get stuck on the idea of playing covers faithfully...have your band trip out and do cool stuff with them.

Been there, done that, not going back. We play a couple covers we like and throw one or two into a set to spice things up and have fun. The problem is you get into playing 20+ cover songs, and you're spending all your time maintaining someone else's songs, and you're not writing your own. We will get more material of our own, obviously, but you know, it takes time. This is just my experience playing in a mostly-cover band. It was supposed to be an original band but we got stuck in that rut, it caused a lot of tension, and we broke up.

The only other thing I would say is this...get used to bombing. Everybody has terrible gigs, especially when they're rolling the dice on venue. Be fair to yourselves, and be fair to the people that have a place for you to play.

So, stretch out your time, and be prepared to eat a shit sandwich or two. Other than that, best of luck! :dude:

Haha, also been there, and duly noted. Thankfully, like I said, with the experience in the mostly-cover band we got a lot (but certainly not all) of the stupid newbie mistakes behind us. But we are still very new and raw, in that shitty-new-band phase. And even then shit happens. For example our last show a week or so ago, we were the second band on the bill and we got about 40 seconds into our first song and....the power went out. I played songs on an acoustic until they closed the venue. Oh well.
 

Kamen_Kaiju

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put together a media packet or web site you can send to the venues.

Explain who you are and what you do and why you're awesome and worth paying for.

Have video of your gigs available. Overdub better recorded music if you've got decent video but a bad live mix blowing out the mic.

Shine it all up, polish it, and start selling yourself.

It's hard doing original music man, very hard. It's a tough sell. ..people want covers. Bars want covers.

..pisses me off too but this is the game we play.

Maybe do a third of your set as covers? Sprinkle some cover songs into your set and put a little spin on it,...make it your own.

I've got a couple backup songs I use for this, like Moondance or I Heard It Through The Grapevine,...I just funk 'em up and make them heavy and groovy instead of poppy. Make it your own. :)

Good luck man. :thumb:
 

Joeydego

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I have no idea what your local scene is there. I think alaska and in my head Im seeing one bar somewhere with a general store, a mechanic shop, a water tower and a few houses in 100 square miles. The exact opposite of here. Here, there are a zillion bars and bar bands, so we generally all draw and play for 10 people each. I kinda like being the only game in town if thats what is is by you. "Hey, come see my band or sit at home". However, you mentioned cover bands. I really dont care how good your originals are, you cant compete with bands playing songs that all sold in the millions. Even if they suck, they'll still draw better. An original band needs a hit on the radio. If that happens you can forget alaska, you'll be touring then. Its tough, playing originals. Been there. You have to love it. If you're in it for money, start playing covers.
 

Rich

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What Leumas, Malikon and Joey already said. You've got a tough sell in front of you and booking with other bands to fill up time is going to be your best bet. Perhaps find some message boards or use Craig's list or whatever to locate other bands that are willing to book nights with you.

Getting booked at all as an original band is tough (my band is much like yours - mostly originals, an hour and a half or so along with a few bastardized covers) so when we play out, it's almost always with some sort of other band or two. We've played with other original bands, cover bands and even opened a show for two tribute bands that do Journey and Van Halen respectively. Whatever - we'll play with anyone. The point is to get some slots lined up that will take the pressure off of you to play the entire night plus leverage the fan draw of multiple bands for a better turnout overall. Eventually, you'll find yourselves aligning with a few bands you work well with and can book more shows together that benefit everyone involved.
 

Joeydego

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What Leumas, Malikon and Joey already said. You've got a tough sell in front of you and booking with other bands to fill up time is going to be your best bet. Perhaps find some message boards or use Craig's list or whatever to locate other bands that are willing to book nights with you.

Getting booked at all as an original band is tough (my band is much like yours - mostly originals, an hour and a half or so along with a few bastardized covers) so when we play out, it's almost always with some sort of other band or two. We've played with other original bands, cover bands and even opened a show for two tribute bands that do Journey and Van Halen respectively. Whatever - we'll play with anyone. The point is to get some slots lined up that will take the pressure off of you to play the entire night plus leverage the fan draw of multiple bands for a better turnout overall. Eventually, you'll find yourselves aligning with a few bands you work well with and can book more shows together that benefit everyone involved.

that Ass bury scene down by you there is geared for original bands. An original band can survive, rooms there tend to have regulars. We have a few rooms in manhattan like that, too. Cover bands in manhattan actually have a harder time living, if you can believe that.
 

FUS44

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I can see this in Manhattan. There's not many Tommy and Tina's "livin' on a prayer" downtown. If they are, they are shining shoes or turning tricks. It ain't weekend at Jenks.

Asbury is a hell hole but it's tough to find places to play on the shore w/o doing a roster of horrible, played out covers (million sellers or not) and deal with the bullsh*t of booking agencies. Booking with some of those indy bars is an equally Quixotic exercise, but at least I don't need a talk box.
 

RAG7890

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put together a media packet or web site you can send to the venues.

Explain who you are and what you do and why you're awesome and worth paying for.

Have video of your gigs available. Overdub better recorded music if you've got decent video but a bad live mix blowing out the mic.

Shine it all up, polish it, and start selling yourself.

It's hard doing original music man, very hard. It's a tough sell. ..people want covers. Bars want covers.

..pisses me off too but this is the game we play.

Maybe do a third of your set as covers? Sprinkle some cover songs into your set and put a little spin on it,...make it your own.

I've got a couple backup songs I use for this, like Moondance or I Heard It Through The Grapevine,...I just funk 'em up and make them heavy and groovy instead of poppy. Make it your own. :)

Good luck man. :thumb:

+ 1, what Mal said. :thumb: :applause: :applause:

:cheers:
 

Leumas

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Do you or your band know any other bands looking to take the same plunge? If you do try and book yourselves together and make a package deal of it. It's going to be a lot more appealing to venue owners if a night of entertainment is turnkey for them.

To support a whole night on your own you're going to need at least three hours of material, and IMO at least some of it has to be covers. Think about it, even the biggest bands in the world bring an opening act. There's no musical unit that I can think of that plays solo, and does all original material for 3 hours at a shot.
 

Kamen_Kaiju

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great points, finding local bands you click with and fit on the same bill with and doing little package gigs works well.

One of the bands I play with does that a lot,..there's like 2 other bands in the area we get along with so we sell it as a 'party in a box.'

Bar owners dig that convenience.
 

edro

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Some things to consider. Not preaching to anyone so ignore at will, just offering a bit of stuff from experience doing clubs in my younger days, staying busy, and making money at it. The following should address and hilite most kinks in your plans...

First:
The club owner is there to make money.
He makes money by the cash register going ding.
The register goes ding by folks drinking/eating.
Folks have to be there and stay there to drink/eat.

Now the tough part:
Does your "originals show" offer attraction for folks to first show up AND then stay?
Do folks dance to your originals or is it coffee house stuff, etc.? (You are competing with cover/party bands in a local market, popcorn munchers don't care who wrote the song, most want party)
Have you video'd a show and watched it. (Dead time between songs, stage presence, crowd reaction or lack of, sound, stupid non-pro shit, etc.)
After watching the vid, objectively, would YOU go see you and enjoy it.
Does your music style attract folks that will spend money? (Bigger issue than you think...)
Does "I've got to make money" figure anywhere in your situation?
Do you have enough sets to cover (average job #sets req plus one set)? We know that one...
Does your music have multiple metronome settings over a set? (Dead serious)

Going through the above objectively can help you decide direction you need to take concerning covers, more material, etc., etc., etc....

Maybe the above is worth something to somebody...
 

edro

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Dead on stage will zombie out the audience quick, fast, and in a hurry...... Forgot to add that, damnit...

You don't have to be as cranked up as Mal in a vid I've seen but it damn sure helps excite the crowd... Make em dance, yell, sweat, and get thirsty... Ooooo, pattern.... :D

Presentation makes food taste better... Chefs selling product.... Soooooo...
 

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