How To Keep Moving Forward When No One Is Booking Gigs
This is a guest post by Bree Noble. It’s part of an ongoing series we’re doing to help provide resources and practical tips during this crisis.
If you’re like most artists, booking is not your favorite task. It can be tempting to put booking on the back burner because reaching out to venues and event coordinators can make artists feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. Maybe you procrastinate by checking everything else off your to-do list first. Then you wonder why you don’t have any gigs. I can definitely relate.
That’s why I encourage musicians to make booking a daily or weekly habit, just like brushing your teeth or doing the laundry. Once you get into a groove, it becomes easier, less scary and sometimes even more fun.
But now your booking rhythm has probably been thrown off. With the COVID-19 pandemic, it is no longer possible to book gigs, at least not in the short term.
It’s taken a lot of focus and effort to build solid booking habits, Don’t let them lapse. You’ve developed your “booking muscles” and you don’t want them to atrophy!
So what can you do to keep moving forward with booking when no one is booking gigs?
Take a Deep-Dive Into Research
I love research. In fact, I used to love it so much that it sometimes became a crutch that kept me from actually doing the booking calls and emails. It was easy to feel like I was being productive by doing research. But research alone won’t get you gigs.
But, since there are no immediate gigs to be had, this is the perfect time to lean into research. I give you permission to go deep “down the rabbit hole” and gather as much research as you can now. Once this season of social distancing is over, you can go right to your research and start making those connections. Or, if you follow my suggestions below, you can start sensitively connecting with them now.
What kind of research should you be doing? My favorite way to research is called “healthy stalking”. Find artists in your area that you admire who have a similar sound and are in a similar career stage to you. Check their events calendar on their website for future and past dates and take note of those venues.
Go deeper down the rabbit hole by looking at the event calendar of target venues in your notes to find other artists playing there. Check their website to see if they are in a similar genre to you. Then do the same thing with their gig calendars. Each artist and venue will lead to more sites to research.
Seek Out Venues Who Livestream
Some venues are already prepared for this crisis. Tech-savvy venues already have the capability to livestream stage acts on their platforms. While this used to be a luxury and a fun interactive tool, now it’s a necessity and a lifeline for the venue to keep providing live entertainment.
Do some google searches for venues that livestream. Check out the Facebook pages of local venues to see if they’ve livestreamed in the past.
Maybe you are tech-savvy and can offer a “page takeover” where a venue gives you access to livestream from their Facebook Page or YouTube Channel. This could benefit both you and the venue.
Connect With Venues In A New Way
During this time I encourage you to continue reaching out to venues, but think differently about the motive and purpose of reaching out. I’m guessing your usual focus is landing a gig. That can no longer be the focus, at least in the short term. Instead, it’s all about relationship-building.
Since venues are most likely closed, don’t try calling or visiting in person. Email, Facebook Messenger or Instagram DM will be the best way to reach them right now.
Here are some suggestions of how and why to reach out to venues during this quarantine period.
Remember, venues have been hit just as hard if not harder than artists. They have rent and other bills to pay with no ticket sales to offset these expenses. They are probably feeling even more stressed, frightened and out of control than you are.
Offer compassion. Offer encouragement. Offer hope. Offer empathy. Be a human. Make your communication entirely about them and never mention anything about you or your needs. Remind them that this pandemic will end and when it does, people will be more excited than ever to enjoy live music.
This is an especially great way to reach out to venues you’ve played before. Just thank them for providing a place where artists can be heard and people can gather to be entertained. Thank them for what they’ve done for you as an artist and the artist community at large.
Offer to help
Make some suggestions of how local artists can help support them during this difficult time.
If they aren’t doing livestreaming, suggest it as an option to keep their supporters engaged. Propose a livestreaming fundraiser to bring in money to pay their bills until they can open their doors to the public again.
The Next Step
While social distancing timelines are still uncertain, don’t reach out to venues unless you’re going to do it in one of the above 3 ways. At this time, pushing for bookings or starting the conversation with links to your EPK will come across as inconsiderate. Venues are struggling and we must be sensitive.
But if you approach them from a place of encouragement, gratitude and service, with caring and empathy, the conversation may develop further. Then and only then should you consider taking the next step. If you feel you’ve built a rapport and they’ve been receptive to you, it may be ok to move to a booking conversation.
Since they don’t have any idea when they’ll be able to start booking, I suggest asking if they’d be willing to check out your EPK to see if your music would be a good fit for future opportunities. Basically, you’re trying to get to first base and no further right now. You may also want to mention (if you can say this truthfully) that your fans have been saying how excited they are to see you live again once this ban is lifted, so you expect an enthusiastic crowd.
If the venue owner responds to your EPK with a “thumbs up” and you’re feeling really good about the relationship, you could then ask if they’d be willing to “pencil you in” for a date in the future. Make sure they understand that it’s not set in stone. Tell them you’ll follow up in a few weeks to see whether the date is really do-able or not depending on how things with the Coronavirus play out.
Whether you end up simply offering encouragement, gratitude and service to a venue owner, or you actually get a date penciled in, you’ve built a relationship. The future value of the relationship is far more important than getting a “yes” today.
I hope this gives you some practical ideas to keep your booking routine going. If you create a daily or weekly regimen that combines deep research, innovative ideas and caring conversations, you might not see immediate results, but you’ll be feeding your booking pipeline for years to come.