[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Jhoni Jackson, an Atlanta-bred music journalist and venue-owner currently based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was originally featured on the Sonicbids Blog.]
Not getting a gig you’re pining over can be incredibly frustrating. It’s especially disheartening when you can’t figure out why you’ve been turned down, whether you never received a response or simply got a blunt nope. Like record label execs, promoters and venue owners don’t always have time to explain their logic. Even fewer have the time or desire to coach you through a better chance of scoring a show. Instead of getting angry or giving up, instances of rejection should invigorate your independent spirit. Get proactive by studying these three reasons you might be denied a gig. Employ your DIY initiative in learning from them – and keep trying.
1. Your inquiry was too vague
Did you include enough information about your band? While this might seem like common sense, it’s unfortunately not common practice. I’ve received countless emails that look a lot like this: “Hey, I’m looking to book a show for my band at your venue. What dates do you have available?”
First off, what band? No right-minded venue is going to reserve a night for you without knowing anything about your music. A brief bio, press photo, links to tracks via sites like SoundCloud or Bandcamp, and social media accounts are basic tools for thoroughly conveying who you are.
We’ve stressed this before, but it’s worth mentioning again: Sonicbids can help you with your electronic press kit. And, while an EPK isn’t the be-all, end-all for approaching venues and promoters, it’s definitely an industry standard that makes things easier for both booking and contacting press.
2. You approached the wrong venue
Picking a venue based solely on the fact that you like the atmosphere or that bands you admire have performed there is an easy mistake to make. What you should really be considering is whether or not that spot is a good fit for your particular band.
There are venues that cater to specific genres, like coffeehouses that host acoustic nights or bars that regularly book rock ‘n’ roll acts, and others that are open to a variety of styles. As much as that matters, so does size. All of these details can be found by reading about the club, checking out its website or Facebook page, or visiting it in person.
Objectively think about your band: How many people will you draw? Is your set loud and abrasive? Or is it soft enough to suit a small, hushed setting? Once you’ve nailed down what exactly it is that you can offer, you can narrow down your list of potential venues to only those that are truly appropriate.
3. You weren’t convincing
Yes, an EPK is tremendously helpful, but whether you include one or not, you still have to tailor your inquiry to the venue in question. Before they even hear the music, they’ll read your introduction. Make it a persuasive one. If all you did was introduce your band with no regard for the club’s style or regular patrons, you probably haven’t done enough to sway anybody.
What is it that they’re looking for, exactly? A promise that you can pull a sizable crowd carries a lot of influence. You can prove this with social media numbers, evidence of previous shows, or a promotion plan that includes a massive push of a Facebook event combined with nicely done flyers and posters that you’ll strategically spread throughout the city. Really, a mix of all three is your best bet.
In any case of rejection by a venue, there’s always this last-ditch option: Offer to play for free. This shouldn’t be a recurring event, of course. But when you’ve never played at a venue before and none of these methods work in winning them over, you can always propose a free performance – and prove your worth by playing a stellar set to a crowd you single-handedly drew.