Musicians: Increase Your Chances of Getting Booked (Create and refine your EPK)
Do you as a musician wonder about the magical formula for getting booked gigs? If so, you're not alone. Here at Hold the Note, we've heard this challenge voiced many times.
So we (Michelle) sat down with Drew Tanner to pick his brain. Drew is in-part responsible for the bookings that are happening at the People's Bank Theatre in Marietta (the largest downtown venue in Southeast Ohio), and had also held a long term position booking performers at the Marlinton Opera House (which hosted acts such as The Avett Brothers, Jim James from My Morning Jacket, Moutain String Bands, and many other national artists).
We spoke for a while about all of the ways musicians can make the best impressions with those who might be booking talent, and here's the overview of what you can do to increase your odds:
-Make sure you have an EPK.
I had no idea what an EPK was before this sit down (it's an electronic press kit). But it's kinda easy to create one on Reverbnation (click here to link to their press kit stuff), or you can make a free one on Wix (by clicking here), or a super easy to use one over at Squarespace (here). You can even fulfill these needs mostly on Facebook. EPKs can include your bio, your upcoming tour/show dates, links to socials, videos and mp3s.
When it comes to your bio, and/or your band description, "the main thing is being able to tell your story in a very succinct way, to somebody who's not familiar with your work", shares Drew.
If you're just taking a quick glance to see what an artist is all about-what their sound is like, what their influences are-it's gonna be that much harder for a venue to sell that show to their audience.
When I asked about the possibility of the venue paraphrasing or rewriting the band bio/info, he said it's not that they don't want to. They simply don't have the time to devote to doing so.
"It's labor-intensive (for the venue) and it (rewriting someone's info) feels like a guessing game."
So by being very clear with your message and description, you're taking the guesswork out of the translation for the potential gig agents and managers. If you really love poetic prose, and feel you best describe your story though...story, he suggests saving that for paragraphs two or three. The most important thing for booking agents is to see if you're a good fit for the other acts on the bill. And if it's too hard for them to figure that out, they'll move on.
Keep in mind that the opening sentences of your story are often what are shared in any press releases and online events. So this will help future fans to connect with you in the easiest way possible, too.
"Also, sometimes I've seen musicians that just assume since they have an album or two out, and are doing tours, that everybody just knows who they are." Drew noted.
But unfortunately, it's likely not true. Even the most publicized acts don't reach everyone. It should never be assumed, at any state in your career, that everyone knows everything they need to know about you and your music. Research has also shown that the average person needs to see/hear something multiple times for it to "stick". So even when you think you've shared as much as you can...you may want to share, again...and again.
-Your bio...What sets you apart?
How do you describe your music, your sound? If you can pin a genre on it, please do, because "like it or not, people that are booking talent like to be able to put you in a couple of boxes" (to compliment other acts in the lineup, if anything else), Tanner explained to me.
I wondered if, when talking about your music, it could help to explain what kind of experience the audience might expect to have? Drew's reply was:
"Absolutely! Is it a visual show? Are there interesting things that happen on stage?...Qiet comes to mind where they've just got this incredible stage presence"...
"But more often than not, the average band is 4 or 5 fellas, standing on a stage with their instruments"...or at least that's what comes to mind for many booking agents...so what makes you different from that story in their head?
When it comes to your online presence, having strong visual content could be the difference between getting booked or not getting booked.
When you're trying to promote a show, the agent/management is wondering what images they'll be using to promote you. Will the photo be in focus, of high quality, and showing the crowd (if included) and musicians having a good time?
This makes me (and Hold the Note, as a whole) think about how there have been so many artists I've been trying to link to, to share their music in the live music guide...and there are musicians that don't have any examples of their music online-not an mp3, not even a YouTube Video.
For starters, you could at least have a friend take a cell phone video at one of your shows, so people can hear what you sound like.
Drew agrees, and says this gives a "sign of life", that you're currently creating and performing.
"And with videos, I've also seen some that are 4 or 5 years old, and they leave me wondering if these are still the same band members. Has their sound evolved or changed since these videos have been taken? Likely, they've gotten considerably better since that old video was shot.", he shares.
"It sends a red flag to me that these guys don't take themselves too seriously, if they're not thinking of promoting themselves"
-Social Media vs. Website?
Drew says that's not as important as consistent and updated marketing for your music. "What concerns me", he adds "is a Facebook presence where you have 300 followers, and the last time you posted was 4 months ago". Again, stay current with your audience, to make the job of the venues as easy as possible. Instagram and Facebook are still big in the MOV, so stay current and put your best foot forward.
Get your music listed on Spotify (here) and/or Bandcamp (here), so people can hear your sound. They can check you out before buying your merch, before coming to see you, and can buy your music, too. Then link those music uploads to your EPK, your social media presence, everywhere...remember, people often need to see it more than once for it to stick.
A Final Note...
"To me, if I see an artist is committed to marketing themselves, that makes my job of promoting the show that much easier, because they're invested in building and cultivating their following. It shows people are already paying attention to "these guys", and if I book them, it's likely not going to be an empty house."
Also, when I asked about upcoming shows, and how the search process goes for booking opening acts and such...
"It's a lot of matchmaking (thus, the clear descriptions up front can be very helpful). Some people don't fit a mold per se, but could still be an interesting opening act. Delbert McClinton is headlining the local jazz/blue fest here (at the PBT), and we have a woman from Marietta College opening for him. But sometimes our hands are tied: A headliner may bring their own opener along, or sometimes the contracts (with the headlining artists) may say 'no opening acts', or 'no openers without prior approval from the management'. They don't want to be associated with bands that are 'half-assing' it. So if you want to be in the running to open for a national, touring headliner, keep in mind that their management's also gonna be looking online to see what you're about."
If this article helped give you some ideas, or motivate you to pull together (or refine) your EPK, please share and/or comment below. We're rooting for you at Hold the Note, and wish you the best with your music careers!