Are you a musician? Is your group having issues? Ask Fan Landers! Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist and is the author of The Girls' Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her — confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.
My dearest Fan Landers,
I run a DIY space and book shows around town in majestic Chicago. We need your help! Rather, a lot of bands, presumably new, need your help.
Too often I get bombarded by a handful of bands that are relentless in asking for shows. I'm talking an email a day and phone calls, on top of the 50 new show requests per day we're sent.
Could you offer some guidelines on how much is too much, and explain the difference between appropriate persistence and annoyance? I never want to rule a band out before I hear them, but some cases have become borderline harassment, which makes me never want to talk to these people again.
Kelly Nothing, Animal Kingdom
For your own sanity, I suggest you put some guidelines on whatever web presence you have for promoting shows, wherever people are contacting you. Step people through what they have to do to submit themselves for consideration for a show, how long they need to wait, and why following up daily harms rather than helps.
That said, no one ever reads the instructions or "about" section for anything. Perhaps consider making the instructions a blinking GeoCities-style splash page for the Animal Kingdom site.
Most people in bands are obsessed with their own bands, obsessed with "making it" when all evidence points to the impossibility of that. So people resort to the battering ram technique. Forgive them.
Let's break this down: Bands—do not call promoters about booking your unknown band unless they or their site suggests it. You gonna sing 'em a tune? Who are you, Bobby McFerrin? What are you going to do—regale them with a scintillating description of your sound and a sexy promise of what booking you on a Monday night is going to do for their venue? FALSE. Put down the telephono.
Send the promoter an email with the basic information about your band that is no longer than a paragraph. It should include pertinent info such as your band name, whether you have a recording out, other places or shows you have played recently (three is plenty), if you are touring or local, and one sentence of what your band sounds like ("Train if they were on Burger", "'80s style punk", "Jew's harp ensemble", "electronic music," etc.).
Include a link to your band's music and where it can be streamed. Do not attach songs or albums to your email, do not include a zip of your discography, do not include multiple pictures of your band, do not include five links to different things. Direct people to one or two things that illuminate and explain what your band is about. No one needs a lyric sheet.
Give them 10 business days before you follow up. Then check in through email. Then give it another 7-10 days. Lather, rinse, repeat.
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Another thing that works is go to shows at the venue or space where you are trying to get booked. Being a regular helps develop a rapport, but also gives you an idea of whether your band is right for the space or the type of shows booked there, as well as a chance to connect with other bands that are on the scene. Having someone else put you on their bill is often an easier way to get on a show as a new band than converting a promoter to your cause.