How to Get a Gig on the Road.

Hey gang, I’m writing this article because recently I’ve been getting a lot of people asking me if I can book them some shows. Unfortunately I’m busy running my own career and booking tours for others is something I’ve not got the time for nor interest in right now. That’s not to say I don’t want to help. After all that’s what this is all about. Feel free to write to me if you have questions or need some advice but when it come’s to the nitty gritty you’re going to have to get your own hands dirty.

The point of this article is to accompany my Gig Profiles. There are many types of gigs out there and all require slightly different approaches. I’ll do my best to cover as many bases as possible but this is not the be all and end all for booking shows. For example; I wont be touching on festival applications, that’s a whole different kettle of fish.

Banyan 17

It’s best to kick off this process approximately 3 months in advance.

Finding Venues

There are a few different techniques I use to find potential venues in a new city. Firstly, the most obvious Google. Just a simple search, for example when looking for shows in Manchester google “Live music venue Manchester”. Straight away you’ll have a list to start with as well as a map with all of their locations. Go through the list and do a bit of research. Check out their website, their Facebook pages, their trip adviser reviews and whatever else you can find. Single out the venues that are going to suit your sound. There is no harm in sending off an email to all of them but you are going to want to concentrate your efforts on those that seem compatible. No point in trying to get a gig in a hip hop club if what you do is acoustic folk music, and visa versa. This will narrow your list down and by now you’ll probably have one or two favorites. The venues that really stick out.

spiritualOnce you’ve found one or two compatible venues, check out their upcoming shows/events. Usually they will have a different theme for each night. For example Monday night might be acoustic Singer Songwriter night, Tuesday Open Mic, Wednesday Jazz, Thursday rock…..etc. Knowing which night you are applying for is going to help. Also in their upcoming events they will be advertising the upcoming acts. Research the local talent. Find a band or artist that is similar to you and your sound. Get in contact with them, let them know you are coming and that you’re looking for shows. Often local acts are turning down gigs because they are already booked or they are looking for support acts. They may be able to palm you off a gig before you’ve even spoken to a venue. Next check out their upcoming shows. This will give you a list of venues that you already know are compatible. You can do this with more than one band. Before long you’ll start to get a feel for the scene you’d like to be a part of, in a brand new city, that you haven’t even visited yet.

Making Contact with the Venue

So you’ve found your scene and you have a list of potential venues that will suit your sound. Next you need to know how they book their acts. First place to start is the contact page on their website. Most venues will have an email address there for the booker. If they don’t have a website, check their facebook page. If you can’t find a specific music booker email then you’ll need to contact the venue directly. You can either give them a phone call or shoot them an email. Remember you are not trying to sell yourself just yet and more than likely the person that will be receiving you phone call/email will be busy so keep it short, polite and to the point.

e.g. “Hi, my name is Simon Wright. I’m a travelling musician and I’ll be visiting Manchester soon. I was hoping to get a contact for whoever is in charge of booking your live music. Thank you for your time.”

Usually they will give you an email address but sometimes a phone number. I always prefer to communicate via email. Too many times in this industry have people broken promises. If it’s in black and white it’s much more likely they will keep their word. So if they do give you a phone number, make the call, introduce yourself, then ask if you can continue the conversation via email.

Securing a Date

Now is when you want to sell yourself. This email is the most important part of the entire process. Where you will secure your show or forever be looked over by the venue booker. You can make a template for this email which you constantly update and improve, like a resume. Do not however, send the template without personalising it for the venue you are contacting. Here is a short check list for this email.

  1. Let them know that you have researched the venue. It doesn’t have to be much. Something simple like “I’ve checked out the venue, I think my sound will really suit the place.” It shows you are serious and you’ve done your homework.
  2. Always ask for a specific date. For example if they do Funk on Saturdays and that’s your thing then write something like “I think Saturday’s Funk night will suit my show the best. The Saturday I’m hoping you have available is Nov 19th.” This is doing the bookers job for them. All they need to do is simply look in the dairy, if the date is free, slip you in, done. Rather than, deciding which day will suit, then finding the next available free date, making an offer which you reject as you won’t be in town till the following week…. blah, blah.
  3. Mention your engagement with your audiences. The bookers job is to find entertaining acts for their punters. They do not care how many years you studied the bass clarinet in university before moving on to guitar to be more accessible. They just want to know that you’ll entertain the crowd.
  4. Mention your latest and greatest achievements. You want to keep this email short and punchy. Do not rattle off everything you’ve ever done from winning a battle of the bands in high school to supporting Adel before she was famous. Just mention two things, your latest, and your greatest. Myself, I mention my #looptheworld tour on which I have performed over 270 shows in 15 countries (latest) and in 2013 I was nominated Australian Independent Music Awards “Live Artist of the Year” (Greatest)
  5. Include a video of you performing live. The sound and even the performance are not that critical here. What is important is the way the crowd are responding. So pick your video wisely. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s the best performance of your life if the video has one guy in the audience checking his phone. What you want is something that has a big audience that are all glued to the stage and having a good time.
  6. Links! Use them for everything! A link to your Bio, a link to your website, your facebook, instagram, soundcloud, youtube. It’s a way of putting a lot more information in your email with out cluttering it up. If the booker wants to research you more they have the option.
  7. A brief description of what you do. Remember try to keep it short and simple. e.g. “I’m a loop artist. I layer acoustic guitar, beatboxing, base lines and backing vocals to create a full band sound and call on the influences of blues, soul and hip hop.”
  8. Compare your sound to a well know act. This is the easiest way to give the booker an idea of what you do. I have difficulty like any of us when asked the question “So what kind of music do you play?” I could yabber on for hours the intricacies of my sound and performance. However I find it gets the point across a lot quicker if I say something like “My performance has been described as Dub Fx meets Ed Sheeren”.
  9. Let them know how long you are in town. You never know, if they like what you do they might offer a second show or even a residency.
  10. Be confident, professional and most importantly polite. Don’t be unsure of anything. If you are then they will be too. Professional just means good grammar, spelling and language. And polite, we all know what that means but remember to stay polite. Sometimes you will have a back and forth with the booker as they try to decide if they will have you. At times they can come across as rude, cold or unappreciative of your time and effort. They speak to cocky musicians every day. Being rude is a symptom of their job. Don’t take it personally.

 

I like to use this video however sometimes it’s not appropriate. I also play a lot of restaurants and cafes. This is not the vibe they are after. Know your venue.

Getting Paid

Don’t mention money in the first email unless they ask you to. It’s best to let the booker decide if they will have you first. That way you have more of a leg to stand on when it comes to negotiating. If you over quote in your first email, you’ll never hear from them again. If you over quote after they have offered a date, at least they will write back to let you know it was too much and you can go from there. When deciding how much to ask for it’s always a good idea to know what they pay other musicians. One of the bands that you found earlier should be able to help you out with this. Some people, like myself don’t like to give out the details of how much they get paid so put the question more like “How much should I ask for?” Rather than “How much do you get?” Then remember, there is always a little give so quote just a bit higher. Getting paid, particularly internationally can be tricky. Most venues won’t want to do international bank transfer. In the past I’ve had to ask a local friend to use their account. Make sure you sort this out before the show. You don’t want to be left high and dry once it’s all over.

After the Show

The best time to book another show, is straight after a show. Always invite the booker to your show. They do this for a living and don’t turn up to every show they book. But, if you get to play for them live they will feel a lot more connected to you.
Plant seeds, if you are leaving town, let them know when you’ll be back and that you’ll be in contact about another show when you are on your way. If you ended up getting the Tuesday night but you really wanted the Friday, let them know. “I had a great night, next time I’d love it if we could organise a Friday show.” And always write a thank you email. Let the booker know you enjoyed yourself, the staff treated you well, the food was delicious, whatever. Give them pride in their venue and harbor the friendship. These relationships will be your bread and butter.

Best of luck, get out there a get a show. Let me know how you go if if you have any hints and tips that we could add to this piece.

 

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Gig Profile: Milk & Madu Canggu, Bali

This will be the ninth installment of the #looptheworld Gig Profiles. As I travel the world playing music for a living I will be writing up these Gig Profiles in an effort to help out those that dream of doing the same. I hope you find the information helpful. If you have any questions feel free to contact me. I’ll do my best to help out as much as I can.

Milk and Madu is a favourite amongst the locals in Canggu. Not necessarily as a music venue but more for their amazing breakfast menu and delicious pizzas. In fact, music is only a new thing for them, I believe I am their first live musician. Pablo, one of the owners, recently invested in a PA and tells me that he plans on making live music a regular thing.

milk-and-madu-3The setting is perfect for the Sunday afternoon show. A grassy yard with views of the sunset over the surrounding rice paddies. The weekend attracts families so there is always a group of kids playing on the lawn. Last week they even brought in a jumping castle. I love playing for the children. They are fascinated by the music and either jump around dancing with no inhibitions or stand motionless staring wide eyed as I loop up another track. At some point they will all have a go of my tambourine or shaker.

The vibe they are after is obviously family friendly, so keep the big kid words out of it. Also it’s a Sunday session so avoid the pub rock stuff and stick to some feel good acoustic vibes. You are more than welcome to play original music and you’ll find both the punters and the staff are very supportive. It’s predominantly a restaurant so don’t expect a dance floor (from the adults anyways, the kids will be cutting up a rug for sure.) And be respectful with your volume, people are there to enjoy the music but also the company of their friends and family.

The PA is basic, 2 x 15″ Behringer powered speakers and a 12 channel mixing desk with built in effects, but that is all you need. The show is outside so you shouldn’t have any issues with feedback or strange room EQs. They also have 2 x wireless microphones and stands so all you need to bring is your instrument. The gig starts at 5pm and finishes around 8pm. At this stage they are only doing Sundays, but who knows, if it’s successful they may introduce new nights. It’s always worth asking.

As I mentioned in the last Gig Profile for Old Man’s you will need a work permit to gig here in Bali. Immigration take it very seriously and you don’t want to wind up being deported. The process is easy enough. Just contact www.baliexpatservices.com and they will walk you through it. You are going to need to stay in Bali at least a month to earn enough to cover costs but trust me, once you’re here, you are going to want to stay longer anyway. You can back up this gig with weekly shows down at the bigger venues like Old Man’s and Deus and there are a bunch of small live music venues in the area too.milk-and-madu-2

Location: Jl. Raya Pantai Berawa No.52, Tibubeneng, Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361Gig contact: Pablo Fourcard via Milk and Madu website or Facebook Page
Pay: 1 to 1.5 million IDR
Gig season: All year round. High season is during the months of July and August, during Easter Holidays, and Christmas / New Year (December till 1st week of January). This is the time Bali is the busiest. However, for many reasons, best time to come to Bali is April, May, June and September, just before and just after high season.
Max Capacity: Approx 200
In-house PA, no soundman.
Milk and Madu links: Facebook, Instagram, Website

Top 10 #looptheworld Shows So Far

This was a difficult list to compile. Almost every show I have played since the #looptheworld adventure began has been memorable for one reason or another. Special mention has to go to Choppers Bar, Koh Tao. Those hot, sweaty nights with the Koh Tao Pub Crawl made up a huge amount of the memories that the tour has brought me so far. Every night at Choppers was another crazy party. So too were all of my performances at Harmony, Ios. However, this here list is about those single shows that stood out. The shows that warmed my heart and kept me on a high for days after getting off stage. Those shows that reward me more than financial gain. The shows I’ll remember long after my career is over. The shows I’ll look back on and smile.

No. 10

Surfers Paradise Live Festival May 2015

A festival stage definitely helps to make the top 10 list. A big crowd, a great PA, a professional sound man, the whole kit and caboodle. This was also the last show before we took #looptheworld international. On a more personal note; Surfers Paradise Live Festival was special because my family was there. My mum, my little sister Megan and my adorable little nephew Malakai. It was also the first time my newborn nephew had left the house since his birth. I’m very proud of this fact. It will be a story I tell him when he’s older. I hope one day he takes up the musical adventure that has brought me so much satisfaction.

Show No.9 >

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The Beautiful People We Meet #3: Tallulah

Tallulah seat dancing
Tallulah seat dancing

I know it sounds cliche, but one of the most exquisite things about travelling is the people you meet. I mean, that was the inspiration behind this column in the first place. Travelling opens your heart and mind and as a result you meet beautiful people wherever you are. On Ios I was fortunate enough to meet Tallulah, although I suppose it’s not surprising as she seemed to know everyone on the island. Tallulah is originally from South Africa but has been a woman of the world for several years. She even worked with a circus for a while! My story of Tallulah is only a small snapshot of the beautiful person that she is. I am writing about her this month because in the short time that I have known her she has inspired me to be more open and spontaneous both with myself and with others. Tallulah’s outlook on life is magical, she exudes positivity.

As many people do on Ios, Talullah was sharing accomodation with another person. Tallulah and Sophia’s house was just one room with two beds, a small kitchenette and a bathroom. Their room actually reminded me quite a lot of my George Street home back in Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia. Tallulah had brought fairy lights with her to the island, those who know me will know that I find that very impressive. They always had such lovely food and their door was always open, literally, they had a shoe shoved between the door so that it wouldn’t close and friends just dropped by whenever they liked. The first thing that struck me about Tallulah and Sophie was their down to earth beauty. Both girls, in their individual way, exude confidence, with open hearts and smiles.

tallulah sebastian and sofia
Tallulah, Sebastian and Sophia

Half way through our stay on the island we heard that Talullah had broken not one but both of her ankles after falling from the roof of one of the many churches on the island. She had ventured up to see the sunrise over Ios. I went to visit her with a block of dark chocolate and a watermelon in hand and I must admit, I was expecting to find a broken girl ready to pull the pin and find a way home. Instead I was met with the same beautiful smile and carefree attitude I had come to know from her, she pursued happiness and positivity with complete dedication and grace “mostly, it just reminds me of how lucky I am to be able to walk in the first place” she told me. When people asked what had happened she responded with a cheeky “I fell from heaven”. Luckily, and I say that somewhat trepidly, it turned out that only one foot was broken, the other just badly sprained. It still meant walking was a massive inconvenience but it didn’t stop her. Being as magnetic and beautiful as she is there were always a few handsome gentlemen who were willing to give her a lift and she would do the sitting down dance all night long. I should mention here that she did not want to be seen as ‘unable’ and so was fiercely independent even with one broken and one sprained foot. An accident that would cut a lesser persons holiday short without a second thought, barely even slowed her down. Her brother Sebastian, who was half way through an adventure of his own was quick to drop everything to come and be by her side. He deserves a special mention in The Beautiful People We Meet. Within hours of his arrival on the island we became what felt like long time friends. The strong sibling love was a special thing to witness on an island of strangers.

Tallulah Robbie Simon
Tallulah and Robbie with Simon taking a #looptheworld photo opportunity in the background.

Thank you Tallulah for being such a wonderful positive person, the world could do with a few more people like you.