How to Book Your First Live Show Like a Pro

How to Book Your First Live Show Like a Pro

By Chris Knab

Trying to find your first live gig is usually difficult. You will have to convince some booker of live shows that you are capable of filling their venue, so your first shows will likely be local small venues and your main source of any live performance compensation… And it won’t be free of any expenses on your part either.

Expenses involved in local/regional shows will be limited to gas, performance promotion, and finding cheap places to eat/sleep if you are playing outside of your home area. To get booked at a local or regional venue you will not need the services of a booking agent, instead, you will have to do it yourself.  All you need is a complete and updated press kit (preferably an Electronic Press Kit or EPK), lots of persistence, and the ability and confidence to play a 45-60 minute set.

Once you’ve selected the regions you want to perform in, send the venue owner your complete press kit and follow up with a phone call within 5 to 7 working days. They will then tell you whether they’re interested in booking you for a show or not.

If they are interested, they will tell you how they compensate acts of your stature. After you’ve negotiated a deal you will have to gather all the pertinent information and set up a contract…probably a verbal agreement early on in your career.

(Note: after you’ve played a venue a couple of times and established a working relationship with them, the venue might not want only a verbal contract anymore, but a written agreement or contract. However, getting things in writing is a very good habit to get into.)

The Agreement Details

Here’s a list of issues you will have to address and specify in a contract, verbal or written:

  • “Purchaser” or “Buyer” (Name of the Venue)
  • “Artist” (you)
  • “Deal” – The deal you accepted and the amount of money (if any) you will get paid.
    • The four most common deals you will encounter:
      1) Flat or Guarantee Ex.: $ 300
      2) Versus Ex.: $ 300 versus 30% door, whatever’s higher.
      3) Plus Ex.: $ 300 plus 30% door
      4) Points/Split Ex.: 50/30/20 of Net
  • Date of Event
  • This is really a bare bones outline of important issues you should know about. Believe me you will encounter your own issues with venues as your live performance career progresses.
  • Set Length
  • Deposit (if any)
  • Who will pay to whom, and how much and when
  • Admission Fee (Ticket Price)
  • Capacity (how many people the venue will hold)
  • Act of Nature (Force Majeure). The force majeure (literally “superior force”) clause is applied when there is an unexpected event that causes performance of the contract to become impossible; it releases one or both parties from their rights and obligations.
  • Cancellation fees of the venue
  • Recording of your performance  by the venue  (get this in writing, and don’t let them do it without at least getting a copy)
  • Promotional Commitment (This specifies the minimum amount of money you  expect the club to invest in advertising the show.)
  • Merchandise: How much the club will take from the gross of merchandise sold (usually 10%)

This is really a bare bones outline of important issues you should know about. Believe me you will encounter your own issues with venues as your live performance career progresses.

Photo Credit: Jessica Lynne