Here’s the video transcript:
As the music industry continues to change, many bands are finding that it is just not as profitable (both financially and in fan base building) as it once was to tour extensively. Performance fees for lesser known acts are lower than ever and with gas prices as high as they are, most of us have to question how much we can afford to be on the road. The good news is that with all the digital technology and social media, touring is not as critical as it used to be to expand our ministries.
Still, we all love to play out and we need to keep our calendars full. The key is balance. Cut back a little on travelling long distances to play shows and increase your local gigs. Go on the road when it makes sense and be sure to book multiple shows to and from the main gig whenever possible. But realize that because travel has become so expensive, you may not make money on tours. In the end, you must play more local gigs. They do not need to pay well to make a profit because there are no travel expenses. Local gigs can make your band more money, but more importantly they can help you find fans that care about your ministry because you are accessible to them. It’s easy to root for the hometown boys!
#1 Tip to Find More Local Gigs: Contact the Local Chamber of Commerce.
You have probably always thought the local Chamber of Commerce was boring, if you thought of them at all. But, they have resources and connections you can use.
The two pieces of information you want from them are a media file and their event calendar.
- A media file is a list of contact information for all local media people.
- An events calendar is a list of special events going on in the area.
Every Chamber has different ways of presenting the information: some will mail it to you via USPS, others have a PDF file they will e-mail you, while still others have online access through a website with regular updates. Usually, the media file and the calendar of events are not in the same format. Work with whatever they have. They will probably not be changing anytime in the near future so you need to be flexible.
The media file will help you get publicity for the events your band plays, as well as possible biography articles and interviews about the band. CLICK HERE to find out how to use the media file to get publcity.
The calendar of events is a great tool to help you find local gigs. But, you have to do some creative thinking when you are looking at the calendar—it is not going to say “Band Wanted.” Look at each upcoming and past event. Most of these events are held every year, so you can see what will probably be happening in future months even if the listing is for last year. Creatively think about how your band could fit in with the events.
For example, almost every town has multiple runs to benefit charities. The runners run, but the friends, families and volunteers have nothing to do during the run. Perhaps your band could play just before the opening or closing ceremonies and short sets in between. This would encourage people to stick around and shop at the local businesses. Of course, you would set up a merchandise table too.
The next step is to make sure everyone in the band has the date available to play. If so, contact the event organizers. Most calendars have a number to call for more information about the event. If they do not, you may have to search online for the event to get the contact info.
When you call, remember that the event organizer did not contact you—they do not owe you a show. Having a band at their event was not on their radar. In fact, they may not react well to the idea at first. Be prepared to pitch your idea in a way that is attractive to them. The best opening line is to connect with their cause personally.
For example, I adopt all my pets from the Humane Society and I have volunteered there to walk the dogs. So when I call for a band to play at a pet shelter walk I mention that first. Then I say that I am interesting in helping raise money for the cause because my pets were difficult to find homes for since they are black with long hair. I tell the story of how I fell in love with my chow mix dog by finding her starving and filthy dirty, tied to a post outside the Pet Shelter before they were open that day and how I coaxed her into the shelter with treats and groomed and walked her for weeks before adopting her. BINGO—open door. (CLICK HERE to read whole the story of my dog.)
Now the contact person is actually listening, so pitch your idea about the band playing at their event. Make sure to emphasize the benefits to them: their event will draw more people because your band’s fans will show up, people will hang around longer and have more fun (which should draw more people next year), people will shop at local businesses (giving good-will in the community for their next walk), the band will promote the event on social media, and mention that you have some leads for possible print and radio interviews. Lastly, make sure to emphasize that the band being at the event will not cause more work for the event organizers. Say things like: “We have our own sound system, and oh by the way you can use it to announce your stuff,” “We are local, so you don’t need to bother with food or housing,” and a huge selling tool: “We always give away lots of free stuff at our shows.”
Most likely the event organizer will not make a decision on the phone. If they seem at all receptive to your idea, offer to send a press kit, asking if they would prefer a physical kit or and EPK. The press kit will be passed around a committee for approval. Hopefully, you have already convinced the person you talked to on the phone to champion your idea, so approval may be easy to get.
Generally, the sticky point is the cost of the band. My advice is to take whatever they offer and don’t haggle.
If the final choice is to play for free or not at all—play for free. Here’s why:
● The event is a fundraiser, so in the eyes of the organizers any money they pay you is coming out of money that should be going to their cause. Most often, the event planners do not understand the concept of spending money to make more money. No matter how much you haggle, they are not going to pay the band much, and since they weren’t planning on having a band in the first place it is easy just to say no.
● You can sell merchandise. The band will be at the center of attention during the most crowded times of the event. People will notice you—just be sure to set up the table in a high traffic area and hang around the table during the entire event.
● The band will gain goodwill from the community for donating their services to the cause. Mention your donation from the stage during your set—don’t make a huge deal out of it, but mention it. Immediately afterward mention your merchandise table and how people can help you out be buying merchandise. If done correctly, this tactic works. The key is to come off looking good without begging or taking away from the cause of the event. People will want to help you because you helped them if you do not appear arrogant about helping them.
● Publicity for local special events is the easiest media attention to get. Sure they are going to talk about the event, but they are also going to talk about the fact that your band will be playing at it. You can really use this to publicize your band and build your press kit. As you are working on publicity, talk about your personal connection to the cause—use it as a segue to then talk about the band.
● People know people. Playing these events can help raise money and promote a good cause. But most importantly for the band, special events bring out good hearted people who want to make the world a better place. These same people are often well connected within the community. In other words, they are good people who know “the right” people. If they get to know and care about your ministry, these people can be in a position to help out with leads for shows, donations, and word of mouth publicity. One of the most exciting phone calls a band can receive is someone that wants to hire the band because they heard about your from someone that met you at a special event.
● The band is going to get an excellent recommendation letter.
Where do you find the Chamber of Commerce?
Chambers are often local to specific cities (i.e. the New York City Chamber of Commerce) but they can also be organized by neighborhoods, townships, counties, or any other geographical designation. Some places have a Visitor and Tourism Bureau either instead of or in addition to a Chamber of Commerce. Contact both if you have both in your area. There is a national Chamber of Commerce and State Chambers of Commerce, but neither of those will have the local community connections that you are looking for.
The physical buildings are most often in the downtown area of your city or town. The best place to start looking for your local Chamber is to Google your town or city’s name with “Chamber of Commerce” after it. If you cannot find one, go to your local city’s website—they often have links to the Chamber. Also, search for Chambers in nearby towns or cities; anything within a half hour drive is worth looking into.
A little disclaimer: Joining the local Chamber of Commerce is not recommended. It is usually pretty expensive with very few benefits that actually help the band. Look into it if your band is a business (not a hobby) and if you think it may help your ministry. But, be careful to compare the benefits to the costs.
to help you book more gigs.
There is no magic formula for booking your band, it requires consistently finding and contacting people who might be interested in your music and your ministry. No one likes to contact people we don’t know, including bookers. It’s easier for them to contact musicians they already know. So music ministers who do don’t actively pursue gigs don’t get them because bookers generally book musicians they know and trust.
If we don’t make the effort to reach out, the band won’t have places to minister.
I spent years booking and had to learn the hard way by trial and error. It would be wonderful if you didn’t have to go through that process. So I’m giving you my strategy—FREE.
When you click the button below you will get a 3 page PDF that outlines what to do each month to get the most possible and best gigs. I can’t do booking for you, but I can share the process that worked for me!
Prefer to listen to this article?
Here’s the SoundCloud link:
Get Your FREE Christian Band Booking Calendar
Christian musicians need places to play to be able to do their ministry.
Sign up to get a FREE booking calendar that shows you which booking tasks to do each month. Know what to do and when to do it to get more gigs so you can do more ministry.