Musicians' Resource Directory
Along with making good music, booking a decent show is one of the most important aspects of being in a band. It can also be a supremely frustrating process. For a young band working on their own, finding a willing venue and chasing down bookers is chaotic at best. It isn't easy to stand out from the crowd, especially in a town as musically saturated as Seattle. Getting a gig requires patience and a strong defense against rejection. Because let's face it, in the beginning you're going to get rejected—a lot.
If you approach things with delusions of grandeur, assuming that your three-month-old act will get a headlining slot at the Showbox on a Saturday night, you deserve all the disappointment you're setting yourself up for. Be prepared to take things slowly and pay your dues by gradually building a reliable draw. Eventually, clubs will start contacting you for a change, and you might be pleasantly surprised to find just how many people in the city are willing to help you get your ass onstage. After all, there are a lot of clubs in Seattle, and they've got to have someone playing to drinkers when the bar is open. You just have to be prepared to play some Monday and Tuesday nights at first.
"Don't act like a fuckin' rock star," advises Shorthand for Epic singer Billy Corazon, who's been booking shows in Seattle for more than five years. His best piece of advice would make your mother proud: Be polite.
"It's the stupidest, most obvious screwup to be an asshole. There's a difference between having confidence in your music and just being a prick. Go into it with the realization that bookers are dealing with so many people every day, and they really do a lot of work."
It's also important, he says, to treat other bands as allies instead of competition—to make the process easier for everyone. You're all playing the same game, after all.
"If you like a band and you want to play with them, go to their show and give them your demo," Corazon says. "Try to cultivate relationships with other bands and then come to a booker with one or two that would also be good for a bill. If you can come into it with bands that they're familiar with, especially a band that might bring people to a show, I think a booker can appreciate it. It's less work for them."
"But if they don't show interest, just let it go," he continues. Being overly insistent can really kill ya. There are so many bands in town of varying quality; they're all valid, but there is stuff a booker is going to like and stuff he won't. You can't take it personally if someone isn't interested in setting something up with you. It takes a lot of patience and planning."
Pete Greenberg advises the same two assets: patience and planning. He's been booking bands at Belltown's Crocodile Cafe for over three years and relates a harsh truth to bands looking to jump headfirst into gigdom. "It can be a long process, unfortunately," he says.
As for planning, he says to always have your shit together when making contact with a venue's booker. "One of my favorites is when I get a call from a band and they say 'Hey, I'm in a band, we want to play there,'" Greenberg laughs. "I ask them if they've sent in a demo, and they ask, 'We should send in a demo?'"
"Have something the bookers can be familiar with—a MySpace page, a demo, something people can refer to," he continues. "It doesn't have to be flawless, but it should be something people can base judgment on." Don't send a booker a link to songs you wrote three years ago with an entirely different band—come with something current or don't come at all.
Greenberg notes a small but important detail many bands tend to overlook: "Always have your phone number on the actual CD," he says. "Should anything get lost or separated, you want people to still be able to contact you." And the über-fancy press kit is not necessary. "It's nice, but we never really hang on to a lot of that stuff," Greenberg says. "But I will take your demo as seriously as you do. So if it's just a Sharpied CD-R, if you obviously don't care about it, why should I?"
Corazon has learned from his own experience that having a solid demo before booking shows can make all the difference.
"If you can come right out of the gate with a well-done recording that looks and sounds good, you're going in leaps and bounds ahead of the game," he says.
And another thing: "Have fun with it, too. If people can tell you're having fun, that's infectious."