Turning No Into Yes When Booking Your Band
By Brett McCarron
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"We don't really have bands here any more," he said. "But we do have an open mic night once a month. Would your band consider hosting it? If we like what we hear, we can talk about having your band play here for the door sometime."
I accepted on the spot.
The band was excited to learn that we had an opportunity to perform. From our set list, we decided on a dozen songs that we really performed well and that we knew audiences would like. Because ladies in the audience can't wait to get up and dance, we made certain to include tunes that had a great beat. we rehearsed these songs -- including segues, intros, and endings -- so that it sounded like we'd been performing together for years.
We posted fliers all over town to advertise the open mic. Of course, we put emphasis on the fact that we were hosting the event. Our name and posed, group photo was prominent. We even sent notices to the editors of the entertainment section of the local papers, along with coupons for free admission. We were happily surprised when one of the newspapers included us in their live performance calendar for the week. We also plastered the bulletin boards of the places where we worked, the local music stores, relatives, etc. to try and creat a buzz. It also helped to try and get friends and coworkers to verbally commit to attending.
The night before the gig, I made a pair of basic 4-channel light boxes, complete with dimmer controls. They were painted black on the outside, white on the inside (for reflectivity), and even featured our band name stenciled on the back.
When the show finally happened, we had a lot of friends and relatives in the audience. This really pleased the club owner. Even more so because they were a thirsty bunch! We opened by performing a 5-song set. Then we let other musicians perform, finally closing with another 4-5 songs. We killed. True, we only had basic stage lights, but we acted and sounded amazing. And we had our own cheering section to keep us motivated.
The club owner was wildly enthusisastic, offering us a verbal agreement to perform once a month for the next three months. Our deal was that we got to keep 100% of the door (but with nothing guaranteed). It sounded like a deal to us, and we shook hands.
We did those shows, and used them as springboards for additional performances at other venues. We made videotapes, audio tapes, and had our friends and families take still photos to show our band in action. We padded our press kit with newspaper clippings from sending notices to the entertainment editors two weeks before each gig. We sent press releases to the rock radio stations, too, to try and get as much free publicity as we could manage.
Pretty good results from such a humble beginning. We continued to make multiple attempts at each prospective new venue, attempting to turn the initial "no" into a "yes." We were persistent, but polite. We had a quality product and a great scrapbook and press kit. This approach worked well for the next few months until we were able to sign on with a professional booking agent.
Give it a try!
We had just taken a baby step on our journey toward being a regular, gigging band. We had many more No's ahead of us, but we'd made that all-important first sale. We had confidence. We had moxie. We had just added a notch to our belt and were hungry for more.
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