If your band is going on tour, chances are there are a lot of people you will need to get in contact with, especially if you’re booking the shows yourself. Depending on how big your band is, how far in advance you’re planning the tour and what time of year you are planning it, there may not be the standard grungy venue available for you to play. However, it’s important to hit as many big cities as possible to help grow your fan base, so booking gigs at nontraditional venues might be your best course of action for some cities.
Nontraditional venues are any locations that weren’t created to host shows; they can be coffee shops, record stores, house shows, hotels or even parking lots. Non traditional venues can be easier to book than traditional venues because the hosts are often looking for supplementary income to the venue’s original purpose and are also just trying to give musicians a place to play their first gigs.
Establishing a Band Presence
Before you start booking your tour, it’s important to have a functional website to reference when reaching out to music clubs and people who book shows in order to show them who you are. Include an about page that lets visitors quickly find out what kind of music you play, who your musical influences are and any other important information about your band identity. Websites can also provide your band with a platform to establish your band’s credibility and will improve your chances of booking at any venue.
In order to build and engage your fan base, it’s important to establish a social media presence. This means posting content regularly, letting your fans know what your band is working on, how the tour is going, when they can expect your next album etc. Video is set to take over digital marketing, so use social media to post some short clips of practice or performances. Videos of performances help venue owners know what you will sound like when potentially playing at their venue. While social media presence is important for your audience, it’s also important in order to network and build connections with other bands you hope to play with someday.
Once you have a functioning website and some solid audio and video recordings, create an electronic press kit (EPK) to send to venues. EPKs consist of contact information, a short biography, high quality photos, expert quotes about your work, press coverage, tour information and links to professional work like recordings and music videos. Packaging this information makes it easy for labels and venues to check out your band, especially if they don’t have time to peruse your website, and allows you to showcase your best work in a practical bundle.
Exploring Non-traditional Venues
There are a variety of venues that bands use for playing shows when standard venues are not an option. If your band is unable to book a show in a city you’re wanting to play in, consider contacting the local community radio. This allows your band to play in a setting of music lovers and can get your band some recognition in that community. This can also help expand your audience by giving people who don’t go to shows a chance to hear your music.
If you’re hoping to play a show for an audience, consider exploring churches in the city you’re passing through to see if any of them host shows. Bands like Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton had moving performances at Église Sainte-Thérèse-d’Avila, a church venue in Quebec. More commonly, churches are hosting shows as a means to supplement their income and provide a safe space in the community for youth to listen to music. Churches usually have stages with unique acoustics, controlled lighting and a classic aesthetic that gives them an ominous vibe and an interesting backdrop for photos during the performance.
Alice Phoebe Lou, a South African ethereal indie-rock musician currently based in Berlin, plays shows at the Berlin Planetarium. This Planetarium is the largest in Europe and makes the perfect venue for multimedia shows where music, light and video work together to create an extensive performance that is equal parts about the music and the feelings it excites. While planetariums are not a practical venue for most musicians, thinking outside the box about where you can play music can provide you with new and dramatic venues for shows.
Another less uncommon location for shows are record stores, although they are often more selective about the bands they allow to perform as these are unconventional venues. Record stores are more inclined to host local bands, so if your band recently released an album, see if the local record store will carry it and allow your band to host an album debut show there. This will be good publicity for your band and the store, and your chances of playing there are greatly increased. Record stores offer a cool and musically oriented environment for bands to play shows, which can be a nice change from dark venues, bars or houses.
House shows are the ultimate venue for most bands, as that is usually where bands start out playing. House shows tend to capture the environment of the performing artists and offer a more laid back and personal setting for performances. They are also inclusive of the all-ages music scene, usually more affordable than professional venues, and often allow guests to bring their own beverages, which means some of the money saved on expensive bar drinks can be donated to the touring band. However, it’s important to ensure that the houses you’re playing are insured to avoid costly accidents to the house and your equipment.
Booking the Show
Hopefully if you’re considering touring, you already have contact in most cities that will help book a show for your band. However, if this is not the case, explore the music scene in each city you’re playing and scope out bands who play similar music to you. Reach out to them and ask them if they’re willing to open for your band, as having a local band will likely draw out locals from the community to attend. Network as much as possible until the date of the show and use social media to connect with and invite as many people as possible to the show.
One of the best ways invite a lot of people to a show is by creating an event page on Facebook. These can help you and the venue keep track of how many people to expect to attend, which can help everyone prepare for the scale of show. Invite your friends, and your friend’s friends to the show, and try to get at least three bands on the set for a full bill of bands that will attract a wide range of music listeners and help to diversify your audience.
Booking shows for your band, especially for long tours, can be a lot of work. However, it can be made easier if you have networked and formed connections with other bands. Networking is facilitated if your band has a website and social media presence for people to connect through, and having connections to locals can help your band find non traditional venues to play. Creating facebook events can help get locals to your show, so use social media to your advantage to promote your show. While the logistics of booking shows can become complicated, networking will always play a part in streamlining the show booking process.
Bio: Avery T. Phillips is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves nature and examining human interactions with the world. Comment or tweet her @a_taylorian with any questions or suggestions.