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Pitching Yourself to Promoters and Venues: A Guide for Artists

It should be simple enough for a musician to let a promoter know you want them to book you and why. That is, if there weren’t thousands of other artists doing that very same thing in emails to that very same person, all crowding for space in the same inbox (and concert calendar). If you hope to transcend being a needle in an increasingly large haystack, there are several ways you can stand out (in a good way) and book the shows you dream of playing, and here are some tried-and-true pointers.

Get to Know the Venue or Promoter

As with any other kind of gig you’d apply for, you won’t be taken seriously if you come off like you have an unrealistic idea of the people you’re pitching without any prior relationship. Make sure you can meet their needs as well as you want them to meet yours. Do you know their venue’s capacity? Do you have an accurate idea of your band’s turnout? Do you know the right person to contact and are you contacting them through their preferred method? Are you able to find out the name of the booker and address them personally? It might also be worth it to ask yourself if you’d be a fit for them stylistically, which is not to say that you shouldn’t challenge norms, especially if your act is particularly unique or groundbreaking. Some changes are worth fighting for!

These questions may seem basic but they shouldn’t be overlooked. You’re more likely to get a promoter’s attention with a simple understanding of who they are and what they do. Make sure you do your research, and it’s certainly worth keeping an organized spreadsheet in Google Docs of venue info, booker contacts, etc. so you can save yourself trouble in the future.

Make Sure They Get to Know You, Too

Be sure to give them all the information they’ll need to consider booking you as well. You want to be succinct: don’t tell, show. Use links to your Bandcamp, Soundcloud, EPK, social media pages but it’s also helpful to emphasize how many followers you have on your band’s Facebook page or Instagram. Remember, the most important data you can give to a promoter is anything that will help them know how large the audience for your event will be. Numbers talk. But don’t be stiff and corporate, either. Craft a likable, to-the-point introduction to you and your music in a paragraph or two with easily identifiable links to your music and media.

What Can You Do to Help?

Make sure you know what you’re talking about when you discuss your draw and your ability to promote the show. Look at the promoter’s concert schedule beforehand so you can make concrete suggestions for show dates and create a starting point for discussion. If you can present yourself as a solution to filling their gaps in their own schedule, with easy, reliable communication and little fuss, they could look to you as a helpful artist to work with, even if you don’t have a large draw. If you get to know a venue’s staff, communicate professionally, and deliver what you promise, they will think of you first when it’s time to fill very cool slots on upcoming calendars. And obviously, cross-promote the event on your social media, link to them and retweet their other events to develop a continuing two-way street.

There’s a Difference Between Following Up and Spamming

Many people get cold feet about following up in all sorts of professional endeavors, but sometimes it’s the crucial difference between snaring a gig and falling between the cracks. Research even shows that it often takes as many as five follow-up attempts to get a promoter’s attention. But you need to make sure you’re not grating on them. Don’t just send the same email over and over. Add different elements to each successive follow-up email as appropriate, if you’ve gotten a new positive review since your last contact or posted a new song or video online, or even a tweet that got particularly good feedback or a number of replies and RTs.

The trick is to not make it look like a follow-up. You still want to be straightforward in your ultimate query, but you don’t want to bore or annoy them with the same details over and over. Persistence pays off and if you can nudge the promoter professionally and likeably, they may take a chance on someone they passed over originally. Show that you’re serious and determined but also knowledgeable of what bookers go for and what they look for, or for that matter, what turns them off. If you always have something new and interesting to report about your music and its following, you’re far more likely to develop new relationships with the promoters you hope to work with.

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