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A Full Calendar is a Full Plate

 I left off the last post talking about the long-time-gone regional music magazine NO Cover, that was the Gulf Coast's god-send magazine for musicians 20 years ago. Even in this Internet age, there are still plenty of these publications floating around, not to mention the much-harder-to-get-coverage-in local weeklies like Atlanta's Creative Loafing or Nashville Scene, SF Weekly, etc. Those weeklies, they are great for getting entertainment venue information from, seeing who is playing where, but getting "ink" in them to promote yourself is much harder than the regional magazines which are usually clamoring for content. 

If you're going to aggressively keep your calendar full and yourself busy as a musician, you'll need to arm yourself with the weekly newspapers of the bigger cities you wish to play in, as well as the regional publications, and from there also hone in on the regional music websites that promote shows in your area. In an age when just about anyone and any company has a website, you're golden for garnering the information you need to come up with a cold-calling list of clubs to try to book yourself in and fill that Daytimer.

First things first, get your script down for when you call. You need to know exactly what you plan to say to whomever answers the phone. A disinterested bartender or other employee may leave you on hold forever. Heck, the club manager will do that too. Be ready for it. Be patient. Be the friendliest person you've ever been no matter how much of a pain in the arse the person doing the booking can be. It pays off, believe me.

In 1990 when booking a five-state, 14-day tour of 12 venues with myself and famed avant guard guitarist Eugene Chadbourne, I called one of the bigger clubs on the hit-list to secure the date. The disinterested "I'm in a band, too" secretary working for the club owner either gave the owner the wrong information about who was on the phone, or he heard it wrong, but he apparently thought it was Eugene on the phone, and not me, the guy who was opening the tour and putting the whole thing together.

I waited for ten minutes, finally I hear, "Hey Eugene, how you been? Whose this Lawson guy, just somebody riding on your coat tails or what?"

Trying not to get angry, or bust out laughing, I said, "Uh, hey Mr Clubowner (named changed to protect the ignorant), its not Eugene, its that Lawson guy calling." Well, after he stammered and sputtered, we closed the date and terms. I wasn't in a position to not close that date after that foot-in-mouth scene he started the call with, and since I handled it cooly and showed good humor, I turned a potentially ugly situation in the last stop on our tour. 

So think about these things before you make your hit list and start calling clubs:

1. Make sure you can describe yourself and your music to whomever is listening in concise words that make sense and won't scare the average pub booker. Please, know what you're selling before you try to sell.

2. Think about what you're going to say if the phone gets answered by the wrong person. Ask for the manager, in a nice way, and get their name before the call if possible. You might even want to call a day before and get the manager's name so you can then call and ask for them by name the next day. That helps, a lot, in getting calls through. 

3. Make sure you're ready for anything. Book a date six months out if you have to, but be persistent if you know that they book your kind of act. If they want to her a CD or MP3 or whatever first, get their email address and follow up with them when you say you will. Sometimes getting asked for these things means they are interested, sometimes it means they are blowing you off. And its hard to tell which is which most of the time. Odds are they are Googling you while you're on the phone anyway. At least we live in an age when you no longer have to spend $5.00 to mail out a disk and printed promo stuff. 

4. Once you have all of your ducks in a row and only then, start putting together a list of clubs. Do this in a spreadsheet program. List the venue name, the contact name, their phone number, website, email address, city, state and any other important information in a notes section like, "only books solos on Wed night, bands on Fri-Sat" or that kind of stuff.

5. When you're negotiating the date and the price, bring up a tab as part of the compensation. If you can get the club to give you free drinks, great. But at least make sure that soda drinks are free, and try to get them to throw in a meal as part of the pay. Sometimes that can be a pretty great bump in compensation and its money you don't have to spend when you're out traveling from that gig cash.

More tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Posted: 12/16/2008 3:27:06 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink
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