5 Reasons Venues Aren’t Writing You Back

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Patrick McGuire. Patrick is a writer, composer, and experienced touring musician based in Philadelphia.]

 

It can be a hugely frustrating experience to reach out to a venue in hopes of booking a show only to hear nothing back. When you’ve spent months or even years creating music, it can be annoying or even downright disheartening when a venue won’t communicate with you and give you a chance to play. But like with everything, there’s two sides to every story, and there might be some perfectly good reasons why music venues aren’t giving you the time of day. Here’s a list of five possible reasons that venues aren’t replying to your emails:

1. You don’t have enough experience

If you’re new at making music, you might have a misinformed notion that the music industry is different than other industries in the fact that it’s not centered around money, but you’d be very wrong. Venues might not be getting back to you because you don’t have enough experience playing music. And if you’re new and inexperienced, the chances of you bringing people to your show, or more importantly, money through the door, are slim, and venues usually aren’t willing to take that risk. Like all of us, venues have bills to pay, and they can’t afford to bring bands in with no following and experience.

So, how do you get venues to give you a shot if you have no prior show experience? Build up your experience performing any way you can. Hit up local open mics, house shows and try to get your foot in the door with the smaller venues you want to play. And when you’ve built up some relevant experience, highlight that the next time you write venues.

2. Your communication skills are bad

You might not think that being able to write emails that are clear and grammatically correct is that important of a skill to have as a musician, but it’s absolutely something that could mean the difference between a venue booking you or not. Venues and show promoters get dozens of emails every day that are riddled with spelling errors and nonsensical sentences, and trust me, they hate it.

It’s even common for venues to get emails from bands who forget to add links to their music or even their band name. How can a venue book you if they don’t know your band’s name? If you put yourself in the shoes of a booking agent, you’ll see the need for emails to be written thoroughly and with things like your band’s name, the show dates you’re interested in, a link to stream your music and some relevant information about your band included.

3. Your music sounds bad

You songs might be awesome, but venues probably won’t give you a chance if they’re recorded poorly. Remember, venues get inundated with hundreds of requests from bands every week who want to play their stage. If your band’s music can’t compete with all the other music the venue’s booking agent listens to, why would they let you play?

If the recorded music you have posted online consists of demos you recorded on Garage Band, it’s time to invest some money and professionally record just one of your songs and share that with venues instead. You’ll be shocked at the difference this will make when it comes to booking shows.

4. The venues you’re trying to play are too big

If your band routinely draws 50 or less people to shows, landing a spot on a bill at a 2,300-capacity venue is going to be to difficult or even downright impossible. Again, from the venue’s perspective, why would they take the time to respond to your email if it’s clear you’re too small of a band to work with?

Instead of taking it personally, keep building your performance experience and work toward packing the shows at the smaller venues you work with. It never hurts to ask, but big venues can’t afford to lose money on a small band, even if they like their music. When you’ve built up your following, larger venues would probably love to have you. But until then, work towards selling out those smaller clubs.

5. Your band is unprofessional

If your band has earned a bad reputation in your scene, venues will be hesitant to work with you. Things like repeatedly showing up late to shows, talking through other band’s sets or not promoting your shows will earn your band some detractors, and their poor opinion about you will spread through your scene and venues will act accordingly.

If you’re new to music, the people working at venues might seem unrelatable, but they’re just like you and me in the way that they want to work with people who are kind, respectful and reliable. If your band has conducted yourselves in an unprofessional way, it could be the reason venues aren’t getting back to you.

How To Book A Gig Yourself…and Be Invited Back

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rich Nardo. Rich is a freelance writer and editor, and is the Director of Public Relations and Creative at NGAGE.]

No matter what anyone tells you, we have yet to figure out a digital musical experience that can equal the fan connections a band can conjure through their live show. There is something in our DNA that is profoundly impacted by live music. Maybe it’s the shared experience with those in attendance or the nostalgia a concert can create for a certain time in our lives.

Or maybe it’s something more primal; the process of syncing our natural rhythm to live drum and bass as it pulse through our bones. Either way, performing is still undoubtedly the best way to create loyal fans and combat the current “musical-flavor-of-the-week” culture we live in.

Still, developing a live following is no walk in the park. You’re going to need to dedicate hours-upon-hours of time to tightening your set and tirelessly promoting your shows. It’ll get tedious, and success won’t happen overnight, but if you work hard you’ll eventually graduate from dingy bars and VFWs to better rooms. On top of that, I can honestly say nothing can match the indescribable feeling you’ll get from performing in front of a room full of people and, if you’re lucky, the dedicated following you’ll gain from gigging out.

Here are some tips on how to book that first gig, and how to get invited back!

1. Be Professional In Your Pitch

Yes, the promoter knows that you’re self-booking. They still want the comfort of knowing you will take the night seriously. Keep in mind that they’ve probably gotten a few hundred other “booking inquiries” that week. Ask yourself what’s going to make them offer you a slot on one of their nights over those other bands? Some ways to be professional include:

  • A succinct, clear subject line (i.e: Booking Inquiry – The Beatles October Date @ MSG?).
  • Be informative in the body of the email. You should include a description of your music, where you’re from and any performance history. It is also necessary to include a link to where the talent buyer can listen to your music and check out your socials.
  • Don’t have typos!
  • Follow up approximately 3-5 days after reaching out if you don’t hear back. Also don’t hesitate to pick up the phone. Sometimes that’s the best way to cut through the clutter of acts hitting up a promoter.

2. Stay In Touch with The Promoter Ahead Of Your Show

Nothing makes promoters more nervous than booking a band and not hearing from them again until they show up at the venue night of. Give the promoter updates on what you’re doing to get people to come see your band. Also share any promotional assets such as Facebook events or flyers with the promoter as well. This way they can take comfort in the fact you’re promoting and maybe even help get the word out as well.

3. Promote On Socials and Ask Your Friends

Actually promote, don’t just show up! Be active on both yours and the band’s social media accounts. Also don’t discount the value of hanging flyers (particularly in the venue) and calling/texting your friends. Sometimes those IRL invites are more memorable than a Facebook invite.

4. Help Book The Bill

This isn’t as important as a lot of the other points on this list but it’s definitely a plus. Promoters are usually booking a bunch of dates at once. If you can book the rest of the band’s on your bill it takes the work off of the promoter’s plate and gives a better chance of the bill being cohesive.

5. Bring Your A-Game

Put in the work before the show to have a great performance. At the end of the day that’s what’s going to ensure people want to see you again and get your band invited back to play on better bills.

6. Communicate With The Promoter Night Of

Introduce yourself to the promoter when you get there and thank him/her for having you. Thank him/her again at the end of the night and let them know you’ll reach out about subsequent dates.

7. Follow Up After You Performance

Give it a couple of days after the show and then email the promoter. Thank him/her again for having you and then see what upcoming dates he/she has available. If you can get in this routine with a few different promoters, you can put a nice little circuit together for yourself.

8. Don’t Overbook

Space out your dates in any given market! If you play too much in the same area, you’re going to most likely divide your draw. Obviously when you first start playing, do as many low profile gigs as possible to find yourself as a performer, but once you’ve achieved a level of confidence in yourself that you care about draw, try not to play your own market more than once per month.

Promoters will not be happy if they find out you’re playing next door in a week. Neither will your friends and fans be as inclined to come out and support if you’re ALWAYS playing out.


Keep these eight things in mind and you’ll be well on your way to building your live career!

5 Reasons It Pays To Collaborate

[Editors Note: This article was written by Suzanne Paulinksi, an artist consultant with over 10 years in the music industry and owner of The Rock/Star Advocate.]

 

They often say, “Teamwork makes the dream work,” but what does that actually mean? Sure, we all know the benefits of growing our own team to carry out our own vision, but what are the real benefits to working with others who don’t work for us?

In years past, as I tried to get former businesses off the ground, I had been approached many times to collaborate with other business owners. More often than not I said no, afraid someone else would cloud my overall vision or try to usurp whatever I was currently working on and take it for themselves. I also had bad flashbacks of school projects when group work meant me busting my ass and four or five others benefiting off of my all-nighters.

So I pushed ahead on my own.

After two businesses failed to reach their full potential, I realized it was time to get out of my own way and realize the potential of combining forces. It’s one thing to hire internally and have a team help execute your vision – in fact, it’s crucial – but it’s quiet another to work with someone else who is in your same position (the captain of their own ship), but who brings a different perspective or skill set to the table.

Whether you’re a business owner or a songwriter, when it comes to true collaboration, it’s no longer about making your vision work, it’s about doing what works, period.

You don’t have to abandon your vision, but you do have to be open to improving it.

If you can trust that it’s just as important to have people who work with you as it is to have people to work for you then you can profit (in more ways than one) from these five benefits of collaboration:

1. Opens you up to a new or larger fan base: If you’re an artist who is trying to build their fanbase, positioning yourself to be a featured artist on someone else’s track or reaching out to share a stage with an artist who has already established a tour can get you in front of others who may not be familiar with you, but who are already primed to be potential fans of yours. Don’t stay up on other musicians as a way to “keep an eye on the competition,” but stay informed on who’s making moves as a way to keep an eye out for collaboration.

2. Opens you up to more prominent industry attention: Especially if you’re in the songwriting business, collaborating with another writer who already has the ear of industry decision makers can elevate your chances of getting their ear as well. That’s not to say you should only work with people who have reached a certain recognition – working with someone else who is on your same level can be just as beneficial. Not only are two brains almost always better than one, but creating something from two different perspectives can give your project the unique spin needed to make others listen.

3. Gets you a life long partner in this industry who has your back: Creating art is a very vulnerable process. Creating art with someone else can create an almost immediate bond. In an industry that can be very unforgiving, forming a close relationship with someone who can 100% relate to your specific position in the industry can be invaluable as you grow together.

4. Makes you better creatively and professionally: As I said above about not needing to abandon your vision, but being open to improving it, collaboration causes you to reflect on what you bring to the table and push further. A strong collaboration will force you to dig deep and put it all on the table. Much like an accountability buddy when trying to finish a task, when there’s someone to answer to you’ll try harder. On a professional note, knowing how to work with other personalities and talents is never a skill you should let get rusty.

5. Gives you a great story: When you bio is all about you, it becomes a snoozefest. Everyone loves a good love story in the movies, and everyone loves to hear how a song or project came together from a successful collaboration, especially if it’s an unexpected one. It gives you plenty of content to share and drip out as part of your promotional campaign. It makes cross-promotion a no-brainer, once again getting your work in front of a larger audience.

A little bit of skepticism with who you choose to let into your creative world is healthy, but paranoia or being overly controlling has never served anyone in the long run. Remember that in the end, it’s all about presenting your fans with the best version of yourself and sometimes it takes others to bring that out of us.

Here’s to making the dream work!

Instagram Best Practices For Indie Artists

[Editors Note: This blog post was written by Hugh McIntyreHugh writes about music and the music industry and regularly contributes to Forbes, Sonicbids, and more. Speaking of photos, be sure to check out Hugh’s piece on getting fans to take more photos at your shows!]

Of all the major social media platforms, Instagram might have the worst reputation for “mattering,” as some people would put it. It can be difficult for many people to grasp the importance of an app where people post pretty pictures of where they are and what they’re doing, if not simply selfie after selfie.

Well, if you haven’t realized it yet, this is the world we live in. You had better just accept it and learn to be good at the things that the world has deemed important if you want a job that relies on you being even somewhat well-known. I’m not suggesting you need to start spending all of your time curating your Instagram, but if you want your profile to grow and you want to be heard (and seen), you’re going to need to learn a thing or two about the world’s most popular photo-focused application, and you’ll want to at least put in a modicum of thought before every post.

Here are six best practices I hope you keep with you at all times:

1. Use At Least One Hashtag

I could go on for pages about how best to use hashtags, where to apply them, when they are most appropriate, and which ones will bring the most people to your photo, but that is another article entirely. Instead, right now I’ll keep a laser-like focus and simply say this: you should be using hashtags, and even if that makes you nervous, you should at least be adding one to everything you post on Instagram.

For the moment—this is my avoiding getting into the very lengthy discussion about hashtag etiquette I mentioned above—just know that using at least one properly-chosen hashtag will help you in a number of ways, and there isn’t really any good reason not to tack one on. Make sure it’s appropriate, fits the image, and isn’t too long, and soon enough, you’ll see at least some newcomers find your image and perhaps even like it and follow you. It certainly doesn’t hurt, right?

2. Be On-Brand

Deciding what your Instagram page will look like should tie-in with your brand, and therefore it shouldn’t be too difficult to decide what that means. If you play death metal, you might want to think about keeping the photos you upload relatively dark. If you produce high-energy electro-pop, perhaps you’re interested in bright colors and explosive hues? Folk-pop that evokes feelings of longing could lend itself better to certain filters and effects you can easily locate on the app.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter what you choose, and you can feel free to be creative here, but think carefully before committing to something, because once you’ve started cultivating your brand, you should really stick with it. At times that may become difficult, but maintaining a cohesive brand is helpful in all manners of marketing, and it’s often the most successful marketers who make it big.

3. Engage

A lot is said (and written) about what to post, when to upload, and maintaining your brand, but I don’t often see enough pieces emphasizing how to engage with your friends, fans, and even strangers on Instagram. It may sound like brand speak (who actually says “engage”?), but it’s the best way to describe what I’m talking about.

Don’t be shy when it comes to Instagram—it is social media, after all! Look for other musicians, artists, those in the music industry, and anybody else who you find interesting for any reason and follow them, like their photos, comment when they post something especially fun or beautiful, and message them if you’ve started to form any kind of meaningful bond.

You don’t necessarily need to do this with every single account, because that would become exhausting, but don’t be afraid to converse with people you don’t know. Strangers are just friends (and potential fans, in your case) you haven’t met yet.

4. Share Something Compelling

It is incredibly easy to tell the difference between a great Instagram account and a boring one. You don’t need to think about it or consider who the person is—just look at the content and let it speak for itself, which, by the way, is the same thing that can be said for music. Stop thinking it’s okay to just post selfies and pictures of your lunch and starting putting in some actual effort.

Yes, it may mean you need to stage an impromptu photo shoot from time to time, or actually plan some time to shoot some pics, but that’s what it takes these days to stand out on this platform. If you keep uploading beautiful images of interesting things, you’ll see your engagement grow, and that will likely coincide with an uptick in plays and streams of your tunes.

5. Be Consistent

One of the worst things you can do on almost any social media platform, be it Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or any of the others, is be inconsistent with your uploading. If you and your band decide to only post images on your Instagram account once a week, that’s your decision (and not one I necessarily endorse), but you should stick with that. If you like to upload more frequently, try to keep up the pace.

You don’t need to keep a strict schedule (unless you do something special on certain days of the week, for example), but don’t share what’s going on in your life almost every day and then disappear for two months, because people will either worry about you, or perhaps even worse, forget about you entirely.

6. Keep The Caption Short

I always personally become incredibly annoyed whenever I see someone has posted an image that clearly holds some significance with the equivalent of a paragraph of text beneath it. Instagram is perhaps the worst platform on which to spell something out with words, and the site itself makes it incredibly difficult to actually read anything.

There are times when it’s necessary to actually spell something out, and you may even be able to share an image with a good amount of text from time to time, but for the most part, keep the words off your IG page!

Early Music Marketing Tips For Indie Artists

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Janelle Rogers, the founder of  Green Light Go Publicity, a music PR firm which helps up-and-coming musicians reach their audience.]

 

You’ve probably heard all the standard things on how to promote your band. This may include ideas like ‘play more live shows’, ‘go on tour’, ‘post on social media’, ‘invite all your friends on Facebook’, ‘have a release show’, ‘get covered on blogs’, or ‘get radio airplay’. Some may even tell you to buy ‘likes’ or streams, (which I never advise).

Rather than tell you all the ideas you’ve heard ad nauseum, we’re going to move outside the proverbial box into areas that aren’t as obvious. Below are a few ideas to get you started.

1. Regularly Engage on Social Media with People You Admire

This is social media with a spin. You probably know by now to post your single release or upcoming show. But what if you don’t see any engagement with your following outside of a like or two from the same few fans?

If you’ve hit a plateau where you aren’t moving beyond your existing fan base, you should start looking at how you can begin expanding your following through less traditional means. How much are you engaging with the people you admire? This can be as simple as a local venue or band, or as big as your favorite blog, writer or national record label.

By posting insightful and supportive comments you have the opportunity to engage others who are interested in hearing what you’re about.  Engagement is a two-way street and if you are simply posting about your band without engaging with anyone else, you’ll only make it so far. By engaging with people you admire, you’ll have an opportunity to build a relationship with someone who wouldn’t normally be accessible to you.

2. Create a Spotify Playlist

A lot of bands come to us because they are interested in having us pitch curators for inclusion Spotify playlists. Curators are often looking at your social media engagement, band accomplishments, and how engaged you are on the Spotify platform.

If you’re lacking in any of these department, you can start by creating your own playlist to include your song as well as other bands you admire. The added benefit is that it gives you an opportunity to engage with those bands as mentioned above while showing your support for them.

3. Go to Live Shows in Your Market

The common advice is simply to ‘play more live shows.’ What if you’re struggling to be booked in the first place or you simply don’t have a following for a booker to consider you? In addition to playing live shows you should also look at how you can support the shows in the market.

This gives you the chance to get to know the booker person-to-person and also network with other bands while showing your support. If you want to be considered for shows, you need to look at how you can build the relationships to be asked when the opportunities come up.

4. Stay in Contact Once You’ve Built Relationships

Once you’ve begun building these relationships, the worst thing you can do is to let them go. You shouldn’t just build the relationship until you get what you want, whether it’s getting your song on a Spotify playlist, getting booked for a show, or being covered by a blog.

A great relationship isn’t built when you only come around when you want something. Create a schedule for yourself to stay in touch if you struggle with staying on top of relationships.


You may have noticed all four tips were based on community, giving back and networking. You may see success without one of these elements, but the chances of establishing ‘staying power’ are slim. If you really want to move forward and reach a larger audience, employ all four and see where it takes you.