If you’ve never formed a band, booked a gig, promoted a show, put out a record, toured or have been signed to a label, the task may seem quite daunting. In the spirit of sharing ideas and helping out local music, a three-part series addressing these goals has been compiled featuring some of the top minds in the field around the Mid-Valley. This issue addresses how to form a band, and how to book a show.
HOW TO FORM A BAND
1. Like what you do. As nearly every musician interviewed has stated, you need to like to play music for the sake of playing music.
As local musician Sam Estes says, “I would say one of the most important things to do is to have fun first. It’s cheesy, but it’s easily the most important thing to be sure to do. If you aren’t having fun playing, then you are essentially wasting your time.”
2. Like who you play with. Band members spend a lot of time with each other – especially if the act evolves into a touring project – so you don’t want the band blowing up because of chemistry problems (which happens a lot). Since a band is about making music, the chemistry has to also involve being on the same page about a sonic vision. As local musician Andy Alvarez says, “everyone in the band has to kind of agree on the sound. It’s good to have different influences, but a clash will happen if one person wants to play metal and another (wants to play) acoustic folk music.”
3. Own it. It’s okay if you don’t play a popular style of music. Don’t apologize for it. Own it. It’s what you (and hopefully what your band-mates) want to do. There is a market for everything. This is along the same lines as the previous two entries.
4. Have fun. Get it? Some people may say you have to be good. But what is good? It’s all in the eye of the beholder.
HOW TO BOOK A SHOW
1. Contact venues. It may sound dumb, but if you’ve never played a show, venues generally don’t come calling. You have to contact venues, and sometimes, many times before you get a gig. As local concert promoter Doug Hoffman says: “I recommend contacting a venue over email twice with the same pitch to recognize that the group is serious about their performance.” Promoters and talent buyers have different preferences about how they would like bands to approach them about possible gigs, and those are usually listed on the venue’s Web site. Nowadays, most prefer to be contacted via e-mail, in lieu of press packets via the postal service or a phone call.
2. Provide information. Bookers want information about your band, and want that information in a very easy-to-access and truncated form. Bookers often have other jobs, and they generally only have an hour or two every day to book shows. They also tend to get a lot of e-mails, phone calls and press packets every day too, so that means they don’t want to spend more than a couple of minutes on you (especially if they’ve never heard of your band). What kind of information do they want? Jared Sheridan, owner of Wasteland7thirty, explains: “make the request (to play a show) formal and complete, with links (to music and biographies) and contacts.” IKE Box talent buyer Andrew Quakenbush adds: “make it as easy as possible for the venue you’re trying to play to find links to hear your music.”
3. Give the booker a reason to book your band. Why should the venue give you a gig? A lot of venues live month-to-month, and a low-attended show can have a significantly negative impact on an establishment. Creating a bill with your friends’ band who brings a few people, or accepting an “off night” (not a Friday or Saturday) and “delivering” with a solid crowd can go a long way to picking up gigs. Quakenbush says: “make the venue aware that you’re conscious of what it takes to put on a successful show.”
4. Know who you are. If you’re just starting out, know that you don’t have a lot of power in the band-venue relationship. If a venue gives you your band’s first gig, they are doing you a favor by giving you a chance. As Sheridan says, “Be realistic with demands, and know your draw.” He added: “Research is the most important thing to do.” You may be desperate to get your first gig, but you don’t want to play at a place that doesn’t fit. If the venue is too big, the band looks like it can’t draw. If the vibe isn’t right, it makes for a weird night.
That is all until next issue!