Opening Band Etiquette

[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.]

 

I’m currently reading Meet Me In The Bathroom; an excellent oral history of the rock and roll resurgence in NYC at the turn of the century, written by Lizzy Goodman. Aside from the havoc that existed then, as the swan song of the “glory days of the music industry” were playing out and my own nostalgia for the culture of New York City at that time, one thing has really stuck out to me in the book thus far; The Moldy Peaches.

The Moldy Peaches were an outlandish, anti-folk outfit that came up in New York City during the 1990s. They also happened to be good friends with The Strokes. As the Strokes were on their way to becoming the biggest band in the world, they invited The Moldy Peaches to open several of their big hometown shows as well as on a few tours. The Strokes even went as far as to persuade Rough Trade Records to sign their friends.

While Kimya Dawson + Adam Green (the two artists behind The Moldy Peaches) now have sustainable careers based on their own talent, they owe a lot of their success to that early help from The Strokes. Which is why we are talking about “Opening Band Etiquette” in this post. If you’re one of the fortunate few acts that is given the opportunity to open for a more established band, it’s important to make the most of the situation. If you known how to finagle one turn of good fortune into another, you can find yourself building a career and headlining bigger rooms a lot quicker.  

Here are some tips on how to do so:

Headliner is King (or Queen)

Whether you’re the local opener for a touring band or actually on the road with someone, the headliner will set the tone. There will be certain things that they require pre-show and you should make sure to adhere to their wishes. The less their pre-show routine is interrupted by your own, the more likely they’ll be to invite you back, especially if your performance is awesome.

If you only have a few guest list spots, make do with that. Worried about getting an extra case of water? Forget it for now. When you’re drawing enough on your own to be the headliner than you can look for more guest list spots and extra water in your green room. For now enhance the headliner’s experience, it’ll pay off in the long run!

Stick to The Schedule; You’re Part of the Team

This point ties closely into the “Headliner is King or Queen” subject. However, it is the single most important thing you can prioritize in order to successfully stick to that rule and thus deserves it’s own separate mention. The headliner will create a schedule that works best for them. You will work your schedule around theirs. Most importantly, it’s imperative that you are on time for everything.

If you are running 15 minutes late to Soundcheck, that could push their own allotted time. Even a slight delay there could end up putting a rush on any press interviews they need to take care of before the show, potentially rob them of the chance to get away from the venue for dinner or disrupt another important aspect of their pre-show routine.

Do Your Own Promoting for the Show

The more tickets sold you are responsible for, the more value you will have to the headliner. Make sure you’re looking for your own press ahead of the show, promoting on social media and getting out on the street to flyer if it’s a local show. If you bring enough people, it’ll get you noticed. Not just by the headliner, but by the promoter as well.

Support the Headliner

Even though they’re probably further along in their career than the bands that are opening for them, a headliner is still out there touring to make new fans and create opportunities for themselves. Don’t forget to bring as much attention to them as possible. Whether it’s tagging them in your social media promotion ahead of the show or thanking them from stage and asking fans to visit their merch table, shoutouts will always be appreciated and often reciprocated.

Network! Network! Network!

One common thread you will see in every post about optimizing a situation is networking. It doesn’t matter what industry you work in, networking is key. Whether it’s introducing yourself to the headliner, getting to know the promoter for the event or hanging out at your merch table interacting with fans, the relationships you take away from any opportunity is what’s going to be your biggest asset moving forward.

The music industry is built largely on word-of-mouth. Do everything you can to build a network that wants to help spread the word about your band and you’re increasing your chances to succeed infinitely.

 

5 Questions Musicians Should Ask When Choosing a Venue

[Editors Note: This article was written by Adam Young. Adam is the founder and CEO of Event Tickets Center. He loves taking in live music at venues ranging from underground clubs to massive arenas.]

There are myriad factors that go into choosing exactly the right place for your band’s next performance. Music venues come with many nuances that affect the overall quality of a show, from sound and layout to physical location and audience demographics. Before booking a primetime slot at a spot that looks great on paper, ask yourself these questions. They may just save you from a less-than-stellar experience.

1. Is the venue in the right part of town?

You don’t want to perform just anywhere. Your style of music and the size of your fanbase will help determine where you should play.

It goes without saying that a location in a major city center is going to bring in a bigger crowd. And the closer your venue is to any big transportation hubs, the better the accessibility for potential attendees. When the venue is highly accessible, more people who rely on different means of transport can attend your show.

Pay attention to the fact that outside noise could infiltrate your space. Check out the venue during its quietest time, and listen to what you can hear. Does the proximity to the airport mean airplane engines overhead? Maybe a city park’s amphitheater offers a better opportunity than that downtown lounge with too much street noise. These are crucial factors to consider when considering the location of a venue.

2. What type of audience does it draw?

Reaching the right audience is crucial, and booking at the right venue can get you there. If you’re a toe-tapping jazz duo, the local EDM club isn’t going to be right for you. Do your research, and see the other musicians that have played at the spot before. Are any of them like you? The best venue for your audience is a familiar one, where they’ll be comfortable attending, and happy to see you perform.

3. Does size matter?

Yes, capacity is important. (You want there to be plenty of space for your fans to be able to come to the show, but also consider if you qualify to play larger spaces to begin with.) But the reason to consider size is less for attendance, and more for sound quality. For example, if a room is very large, the sound could be dissipated, and therefore hard to hear. But if the shape of a space reflects that potentially lost sound back to the audience, then no harm done. The size isn’t as important as the acoustics within the space you’re playing.

4. So the layout is really what matters?

Architecture has the power to make or break a performance. Inside arenas and stadiums, for instance, sound waves can bounce off various surfaces or become absorbed before reaching the ears of fans on the floor. In order to know how exactly this is going to impact your performance, the best thing to do is to go listen to a performance in that space. How does the band sound? Does the space match your style of music? Maybe where the local philharmonic performs isn’t best for your indie rock or punk band, but they’d sure have a tough time fitting into the small, underground space best for headbanging and guitar solos.

5. What about technology?

The technological power of the venue is almost more important than its acoustic capabilities. A good sound setup can minimize, if not eliminate, any flaws within the venue’s size and structure. (You should make time to find out if the venue has monitors or other equipment useful for determining your noise-exposure levels.)

And, if you’re the hottest DJ on the rise, it’d be wise to find a venue that comes with all the lighting necessary to host a stellar rave. Knowing the lighting capabilities of the venue can be vital to the performance you want to give.

Next time you’re trying to decide which music venue is right for you, remember to ask yourself the right questions. In summary: know your audience and know your sound, and choose a venue that’s suitable.

What To Expect When You’re Expecting…To Book a Tour

[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.]

 

So you’re band is killing it. The crowds at your hometown shows are getting bigger and bigger and you’ve dipped your toes into playing ‘out-of-town’. You just put out a new record and you really want to bring it, along with your increasingly dynamic live show, to as many people as possible.

Seems like it’s time to hit the road! It’s a long, arduous process to put a tour together independently, but it’ll be worth it. You’ll get to see new places, find new ears for your music and begin laying the foundation for actual booking agents to start paying attention.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning your journey.

The Internet is Your Friend!  

Yes, playing live is about forging connections with fans away from the internet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it to help plan and book your tours. The best way to get contacts for venues outside of your range of familiarity is to do a bit of internet research. Find out where bands that are equivalent to your size are playing and grab the venue contacts either from those band’s or the venue’s website.

You can also use the internet to find bands to tour with. Linking up with a band from another area you’re planning to hit up ensures that you’ll have at least two ‘homebases’ on the tour. This will be incredibly important considering if it’s your first tour you might be playing to some small crowds (or even empty rooms).

Make sure all your dates are up on the internet using BandsinTown or Songkick, as well, and reach out to people via social media that you think might be into your band letting them know you’ll be in their city.

Think Regionally!

The idea of booking a month long national tour seems like a dream come true. The truth of the matter is that it’s not feasible. The longer you’re on the road the more expensive it’s going to be (don’t count on making a ton of money this time around) and the further away from home you get the less people will probably have heard anything about you. The best course of action is to start out small and regional.

Book a 5-10 day run hitting neighboring cities. If You’re a New York band book dates in Jersey, Philly, Baltimore, DC, Connecticut and Boston. It also helps to order your dates geographically so that you’re cutting down the amount of extra-long drives you have to do.

Treat It Like a Local Show

Last month I wrote an article about making the most of each gig you book. I spoke more to local shows for it, but a successful DIY tour will treat each gig like it’s a local show. Stay in touch with the promoter, make sure they’re pushing the show through their marketing channels. Be professional in your interactions and do everything online and in real life you can to make sure you’re drawing as much attention to your upcoming performance as possible.

Don’t Forget The Merch Table

Make sure you have something to sell on the road. Chances are you won’t be making much money from the shows themselves. However, if you can sell a couple of CDs, Download cards or T-Shirts that might make the difference between breaking evening for the night or losing money.

Can You Stay With Friends?

Another important aspect of tour is figuring out where you’ll sleep each night. If you don’t have to book a hotel room you’re way more likely to be able to afford to take the band to Taco Bell for a treat after the show. See if you or any of your bandmates have friends in the cities you’re performing in that would be willing to let you crash on their floors. I can’t stress this enough as lodging will likely be the most expensive part of the tour.

Look for Press!

Chances are you’re not going to get a big write-up in local papers when you’re just starting out. Still, show listings can be a good way to help spread the word and start a relationship with the outlet. Invite writers out to the show and make friends with them. Even if you don’t get a write-up this time around, if your music is special and you forge a good friendship with the journalist you have a much better chance of getting some coverage the next time you’re in their city.


Being able to take part in DIY tours when I was younger is one of my fondest memories. No matter what comes out of your musical career, you’ll always cherish the times you spent on the road with you band and the experiences you’ll have along the way. So take the risk and book a tour. If you’re serious about being in a band for a living it will be one your biggest assets in terms of creating a bigger buzz and getting the sort of booking agents, managers and labels that can help you reach the next level to start paying attention.

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!

Tips to Draw the Crowd: How Local Artists Can Beat the Struggle

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Adam Young, CEO and founder of Events Ticket Center.  Adam is passionate about live music and hopes to inspire others to get out, see a show and make new memories.]

 

It’s supposed to be all about the music, right? Well, it turns out building a successful band takes a lot more than a decent melody. You’ve been writing, practicing, networking, booking and selling merchandise, and it’s starting to pay off. You’re building up a fanbase and maybe even getting some good press.

This is the middle of the journey, and it has its own unique challenges. We’ve put together a list of some of the most common (and annoying) problems musicians face, and our advice for how to turn them into opportunities to reach new fans and build a name for yourselves.

Struggle #1: The local music scene seems cliquey.

Depending on the size of your city and your genre, it may feel hard to break into the local musician community. Maybe your band just relocated to a new city and you don’t know where to start. Everyone seems to know everyone already and there’s no room for another name on the bill.

Fortunately, you can take steps to make your band known in the new scene. Look for local hangouts where other musicians congregate and introduce yourself. Spend some time getting to know them—after all, you already have a lot in common, and it’s more than likely that they’ll be willing to help you out. Alternatively, you can also connect with nearby bands through social media, which also helps you find potential new fans.

Don’t forget that most bands have been exactly where you are now, working to make a name for themselves and gain exposure. You’ll have to put in some time, but local musicians (generally) love to help each other out. Go see some shows, hang around afterward and introduce yourself. Let the bassist know you really loved his performance. Even better? Plug other bands during your own shows. They’ll be grateful, and they’ll remember it if they’re looking for someone to share the bill with. Community is the key here.

Also, think bigger than just your city. When you meet bands visiting from out of town, offer to host them. There’s a pretty good chance that they’ll reciprocate, and the next time you’re on the road, you’ll have a free place to stay.

Struggle #2: You’re getting low show attendance.

It’s a huge bummer to play to an empty room, especially if you’ve been steadily drawing crowds and record sales are strong. Low-attendance shows can come out of nowhere and really kill your confidence. Of course, there’s so much to say about how to draw audiences, how to market your music and get the word out about shows. Social media is one huge asset for letting people know about upcoming shows, and with the right strategy, it can help you fill a room on short notice. One tip that might be less obvious: Make sure the venue is the right fit before you commit.

Here’s an example: Maybe the booking person at the biggest, most popular venue around heard you play, and they want to book you last minute for a weeknight show. It’s a huge opportunity, and a much larger venue than anything you’re used to. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Your band won’t have the time or resources to draw in a crowd that will fill that venue, and an empty room is not going to get you invited back anytime soon.

Better to fill a small room with fans and energy and gradually build from there. Sometimes the better move is to say thanks and put that contact in your back pocket for when you know you can fill that space.

Struggle #3: People don’t buy records like they used to.

The good news is this is an industry-wide problem, so you’re in good company. The bad news is that there’s no easy answer. Bands make less money from album sales these days, whether it’s digital files or CDs and vinyl. It’s essential to put out new material and have it available for sale, review and airtime. But studio space is expensive, and many bands lose money on records they’ve already poured lots of cash—not to mention hard work—into.

While there’s still a lot of pressure to release solid albums, many bands can’t rely on them to make a living. Your best bet is to diversify. That means any band that wants to be successful needs to:

  • Have hard copies of albums to sell at shows and to distribute to press
  • Sell digital versions and hard copies of albums online
  • Utilize all the popular streaming services out there, like Spotify, Pandora and Bandcamp
  • Promote your music through social media to ensure you reach as wide an audience as possible

Struggle #4: You’re reluctant to accept help.

You may be thinking “I’d have no problem accepting any help that came my way.” And you might be right, but many musicians can get caught up in what they think their musical path should look like. They end up missing opportunities where they could meet new people, promote their music and build their fanbase, all because they thought they’d be able to do it on their own.

I talked with P.T. Banks, a musician from Austin, TX, and he said there’s nothing like your community to help you succeed, if you’re willing to let them.

“I refused some managerial and financial help early on in my career because of pride,” he said. “Working on your craft is the most important thing, but accept help and let people believe in you.”

Maybe that looks like setting up a Kickstarter to get your new album recorded or accepting when friends or family offer to support your music financially. Getting to the next level may be as simple as getting out of your own way.