Be Your Own Booking Agent

Live performance for musicians, poets and performers doesn't require an independent booking agent. Just follow these simple steps to get yourself a gig.

For musicians, poets and performers of all shapes and sizes, getting your first few gigs can be a very daunting experience. Here are some simple rules of thumb to follow to help you on your way.

1) Prepare a demo package.

Every performer needs to give the hiring party an idea of what the act is like. For most, this takes the form of a demo package, which usually includes a cassette, CD or VHS tape for performance, as well as a press kit of clippings. Here, make sure that all pieces of the package have consistent contact information, in case they get separated.

In general, keep your demo package focused on the image of your act and the audience you expect to draw. And spend some time and energy on this package. It's the make-or-break link in your gig chain.



2) Confirm the contact.

Before you mail your package, confirm the proper mailing address and contact information for the person calling the shots at your prospective gig. Make sure you spell everything correctly. Nothing says "unprofessional act" like a misspelled name, and it's not unheard of for moments like that to prevent future employment.

3) Polite persistence pays.

Once you've delivered your demo package, you need to call to follow up and confirm arrival, as well as to spur a decision. Frequently, you can get a gig just from a professional follow-up, without a review of your materials. Get permission for future follow-ups ("Cam I call back in a week?") if they haven't made a decision yet.

When you make your follow-up call, be prepared to bring up more good news about your act (radio play, media coverage, other gigs, new band mates or creative works, etc.). Provided it is delivered politely, this kind of follow up will give you more of a chance to impress the venue into giving you the gig you want.

4) Be realistic. Don't expect to make much money on your first gig.

Until you have proven that you can make money for the venue, your negotiating power is minimal. So don't get hung up on needing to make a certain amount on your first event. First impressions last, and your goal here is to become known as easy and profitable to work with. Later on, as you become established, you can successfully negotiate for better paydays.

5) Treat the staff well.

Many performers bring a bad attitude to the staff at venues. This is a very poor business decision. Managers will frequently ask their staff for their opinion on the performer - everything from professionalism to manners to how good their crowd was. Make the staff your friend, and you are much more likely to be invited back.

6) Be creative in your bookings.

Many performers develop tunnel vision in planning their bookings, and only try to perform at venues or events where they've seen similar performers. But there may be many other places - fairs, bookstores, parks, cultural events, fundraisers, senior centers, a friend's party, etc., etc. - where you can gain valuable gigging experience. Where else could you be working?

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