So You Want to Book That Show

careers, Music Business, Performance

Nope. They still haven’t responded to your email.

I’m not talking about a love interest here, I’m talking about music venues.


You might be sitting, waiting, wishing, wondering why that band was able to book a show there, but you haven’t.


Well, musicians, listen up. It’s not a piece of cake to manage a venue and book shows. Venue managers and booking agents get inundated with requests. However, there are things that will make you stand out. And there are some major talent buyer turnoffs.


Dan Millen, president of Rock On! concerts, a boutique concert promotion and venue management company, books acts for venues such as Church in Boston.


What is the most common mistake he sees when musicians are trying to book a show?


“Not providing enough information as to WHY their band should be booked! This generally speaks to a lack of business chops or lack of understanding of how things work in the venue business,” explains Millen. “We operate on tickets and drinks (…) without people in the venue we don’t stay in business, so a band better understand that if they can’t bring out a posse of friends/family/groupies, they are not going to go anywhere very quickly.”

He explains that “a band, when approaching a booking person, needs to put forth (honestly) how many people they feel like they can bring out, how they intend to reach those people, and demonstrate a follow through on that once the gig is confirmed.”

He adds that he puts a lot of effort into helping others with this, and wants to see everyone succeed.


There are several key points all managers I reached out to said they are looking for in an act:

  • A solid website, including social media pages, including Facebook, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Youtube, and Twitter.
  • Videos of performances. Nothing fancy, but just enough to demonstrate how you perform live. However, if your show didn’t have much of an audience, it’s recommended to post a video of your rehearsal instead.
  • A list of previous venues you have played.
  • Evidence that you promote!
  • Contact info for booking, and promo photos.
  • Good music. Well, I’m sure you thought of that. And while venue’s booking managers aren’t, from I was told, going to be biased to their favorite genres, you still have to show some creativity and talent. As one manager said, nobody is asking you to blow us away with arpeggios or be the next member of Iron Maiden. But are people going to have fun with you and enjoy it? THAT matters.


Millen adds, “I like what I like, but I don’t book my venue clients with what I like unless I know it’s good for the venue.”

Nicole Dellarocca is an Assistant Talent Buyer at Pianos, New York City.


“Just having basic information accessible and easy to find goes a long way,” she says when asked what makes a band more likely to be booked. “I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent searching the internet, looking for a band’s contact info because an email address wasn’t listed on their Facebook page or website.”


And the biggest turn offs?

“The biggest is bands who expect to immediately be given great spots and big guarantees without ever having paid any dues, and who complain royally when offered an off night or an unpaid or low paid gig as an audition.” Millen says. “Just because you have a band doesn’t mean you are entitled to a gig, and just because you are a musician doesn’t mean you are entitled to be paid for it.  It’s not fair to the bands who are hustling and paying their dues and packing clubs on off nights to get to those coveted weekend slots.”


When asked, venue managers cited bad experiences with bands, too. Basically, everyone, don’t get on your high horse and act like you’re the best thing since the British Invasion. Many booking agents and venue managers told me they’ve dealt with people who were rude, trashed dressing rooms, bailed on shows on short notice, complain about being paid when they didn’t bring in much of an audience, and musicians who were rude to the staff. Let’s be real here. Acting like that is uncalled for and doesn’t make you a rock star, it makes you a jerk.


Dellarocca adds, “We’ve recently had a lot of bands cancel on us last minute, or even worse, just don’t show to play their show. Having a band not show up really hurts our venue.”


Another golden piece of advice from Millen? “If you want to further your career as a musician – the key thing you need to learn how to do is BE NICE, be professional and be thankful to the people around you.”

Remember that personality and professionalism go a long way. You could be Neil Peart on the drums, but if your backstage behavior is more Nigel Tufnel, you’ll be in for some booking hurdles.


4 thoughts on “So You Want to Book That Show

    1. Thank you so much! If there are other topics you’d like to hear about, I am allllll ears! And I’ll have more cross-posts from my Sonicbids blog, too.

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