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My band Mooner will be releasing our debut album in March 2015. We're shooting for shows at colleges, or in college towns, on the weekends the spring following the release. A site I frequent, Indie on the Move, sells a subscription to a college booking directory. It appears that they keep a bunch of names and emails up-to-date.
I'm curious if this method is worth the money. I've heard that booking college shows is a notoriously difficult task and I'm not sure if emailing the same people that anyone with $60 will be emailing is worth the time. Is it even worth starting this process without a booking professional that already has these connections?
Thanks for your time,
Lee Singer Songwriter
Dear Lee Singer Songwriter,
The word you have heard about college shows is, in fact, correct. It's often tough because often times the bookers are students. Thus, they graduate, or maybe they book two big money shows a year and 100 different $50 gigs at the student commons coffee shop. I once spoke at a school here in the Chicago area where the student concert planner spent something like $35,000 to bring their favorite artist, Uncle Kracker, to campus for an event. It's a different scenario than a bar or a venue, who serve particular musical communities and who have to stay in business.
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I checked out Indie on the Move's site, as well as the tour routings of bands of some of the bands who posted rave reviews about the service in the forum section. Most of them appear to be doing a lot of tours that consist of secondary and tertiary markets, small college town bars, mixed with cafes, house shows and the occasion "legit" venue. Like, 12-date tours with four dates in Georgia. I queried some folks on Twitter, and they said it's good for finding the right sized place for you to play in other cities, and that the users/bands can post reviews of the venue and that people have found that to be helpful.
My concern, looking at the "sample directory" page is that all you are paying for is an email address and phone, a location and maybe a name. You could Google who books student events at Auburn University for free. But if you want to do regional runs, since this service gives you up-to-date access, if you even get three or four shows out of it, that $60 will be worth it. Your band is not very popular (yet!) and I think you are likely still a ways off from roping in an agent. If everyone in the band chips in $12 each, you can try it, to augment what contacts you already have or hot tips you got from more experienced bands.
Networking IRL, befriending other bands, doing show trades and building up your own contacts will behoove you more in the long run. Make sure not to skip out on making that investment.