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How To Book A Show: Class Is In Session

Posted by Artist Growth on Feb 3, 2016 8:28:33 AM


Guest post by Terry Rickards, talent buyer for The Basement / The Basement East in Nashville, Tennessee.

Hello all. I hope this note finds you all in good spirits. I’ve been asked to write a few words on how to help you make music your day job. Best of luck with that. I do not envy the musician’s plight especially here in a competitive city like Nashville. Finding a gig here that is worth while is an arduous task. 

But, who am I to have knowledge of such intimate details of your artistic nether regions? I’m Terry. I’ve been booking in Nashville, specifically East Nashville, since February of 2011. I Started at a 125 cap room called Mad Donna’s, moved over to a 300 cap at The 5 Spot and now, I work at The Basement East / The Basement 500 cap and 200 cap respectfully.

So, you see, I see many of your emails asking for a gig. Most of the time I honestly can’t do much for you. Most of the time you’re not helping me help you either. So maybe you can find something in these paragraphs to grease the sometimes squeaky wheels of the booking endeavor as you try to navigate the musical landscape of our little town of Nashville and beyond. 

To get a variety of perspectives, I asked some of my booking friends for their "Dos and Don’ts”. Here is what they had to say.

Ashlee-Jean Trott, who books for Music City Roots and Bluegrass Underground, asks not to be bombarded with CDs or awkward social circumstances. I think the fact that she even listens to CDs mailed to her is valiant. I don’t even own a CD player so sorry if you sent me a CD. She says essentially treat her like a normal person: be personable in your booking emails and don’t have a sense of entitlement. “When I find out through the grapevine that a friend I just met plays music and they’re actually good, I want to book it.”

I’ve also found this to hold very true. "You gotta make the scene baby!” I’ve made so many connections over a beer and cigs, I can’t even begin to tell you. Being a good person to be around is a good place to start.

How about Samantha Frances of High Watt/Mercy Lounge and also the front lady/bass player/songwriter for the rock band Frances of the Foundation. She is playing both sides of the fence. She’s not into lengthy emails either. Pertinent info only please. Again, Don’t harass her. We’re flippin’ busy over here!  I would think that up to 2 weeks for an initial response is reasonable and 4 days for responses once we’re engaged in the booking dialogue. She also likes a personable email. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, give her a window of 2 or 3 dates that work for you. 

One of Nashville’s musical patriarchs, Mr. Mike Grimes, has been booking in Nashville for a minute and is now the proud co-owner of the venues I book, along with Dave Brown. He wants to see a coherent pitch that includes a play history in the area. Convince him you can, have, and will put people in the room. Remember, we are all running businesses.

So let’s look at some nuts and bolts of a booking email and what the author of this article likes to see. 

State who you are, if you’ve played any of our venues previously and when it was, if you can recall. Please make my job as easy as possible by taking out as much guess work as possible. For example: "I’m Joe Band we played last November 5th with John Band and Sue Band. We had a paid attendance of Q”.  I’ve got a line up of X, Y, and Z bands at the ready for early March. " 

Include each band’s assets. Assets include websites, youtube videos or anything along those lines. Make sure links are working and are fairly updated. Include this in every email where it can be easily found. If you have local bands that draw on your suggested bill, that exponentially increases your chances of getting a gig. You’ve made my job many times easier.  

I’m not saying my job is harder than anyone else's that is for sure but, consider this…

I read about 15 - 20 emails a hour for 6 - 10 hours a day. I don’t have the brain capacity to remember emails even a few hours old let alone days old. Please don't use terms that are general. "That date", "the other band", "our draw is pretty good".

For me, specifics are vital.

Have some live videos easily found on your website. Covers are nice but I like to hear what you sound like live doing your songs. The higher quality the better. 

If you’re a band that is just starting out or doesn’t draw well, putting 2 or 3 bands on a bill who are in a similar situation unfortunately doesn’t make that bill any more attractive to a talent buyer. 

Phew ok. Are any of you still reading? We've just scratched the surface. I could go on and on. So, to summarize: be specific, be patient and put yourself in our shoes. Our job is to fill a room to the best of our ability night after night and provide a great time for music lovers who come to our venues.

I’ll leave off here and say thanks for reading. I appreciate and respect your time, efforts, talents, and aspirations. I want to book your band. I want you to succeed. I just need you to convince me that you know what a good show looks like. Help me help you. I know it’s a constant struggle and that struggle is real. 

Terry Rickards 

The Basement/ The Basement East


how to book a show

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