Inevitably, as you try to make money playing live, you will run into the question of what might be a reasonable amount of money for your act to bring in per night. (This question is also tied to what rooms you can expect to work in.)

Now, of course, there are no hard and fast rules. It’s not like everybody in the music business gets together and decides how live music payouts are going to work. However, as someone who has been “behind the scenes” on the money side of small venues and concerts, I can say that there’s some basic math which starts to make sense over time.

I call it “The 2X Net/ 4X Gross Guideline.” Here’s how it works:

A band’s monetary clout is directly proportional to the real value they offer the venue or event organizer. For an act to ask for a specific payout amount, the real value they represent to the venue or event should be 4X their asking price. The exception to this is when the band, in and of itself, is THE draw to the event. In that case, the multiplier is only 2X – but venue or organizer expenses should be factored in.

That probably doesn’t make any sense without examples, so…

Let’s say that you’re booked for a private party. You’re being paid to be entertainment for guests who will (very likely) show up whether you’re there or not. The overall event value, which includes things like space rental, food, decor, etc, is $4000. In such a case, it wouldn’t be out of line for you to ask for $1000 as a payout to the band, as $4000 is 4X $1000.

Or, let’s say that you’re looking to get booked at a club, and you want a guaranteed minimum payout of $750 for the night. The club may or may not charge a cover, but they will definitely be selling drinks and/ or food. For your request to be seen as reasonable, the booker has to be pretty danged sure that bringing you in will generate at least $3000 of revenue for the club. ($3000 is 4X $750.)

Finally, let’s say that a small theater is going to bring you onto a ticketed event. The only major source of revenue will be admissions. If you’re looking to be a $500 act for them, then you need to be able to bring in enough of a crowd to create ticket sales that cover your share of the production expense, plus $1000. ($1000 is 2X $500.)

Now, again, this isn’t some system of rules that everybody will recognize. However, I do think it will put you in the ballpark of what’s reasonable.

There are a couple of keys to using this idea effectively:

1) Remember that, for non-ticketed events, “real value” is something decided entirely by the venue or organizer. For some folks, it’s going to be all about how much food their restaurant can sell if you’re on hand. For other people, all they care about is that you’re really killer at playing tunes they like. It’s up to you to work with the booker in figuring out what “real value” means to them. If you don’t figure it out, there may be a large mismatch in terms of what you consider “real value,” and how the venue sees things…which can lead to real heartburn later.

2) Ticketed events can, on a regular basis, be run fairly lean. This is part of what creates the “push-pull” of the multiplier being lower, but expenses having to be taken into account. Bars and clubs often have high overhead, but they can factor in their overall expenses to the consumables they sell, and also carry a bit of momentum from sales not directly related to your appearance. At the same time, a certain level of “built in” draw can exist (due to the business model being something other than live music), which weakens the bargaining position of musicians. A theater or similar venue, on the other hand, doesn’t generate any income until a show plays in the room – and even then, it can be hard to predict how any particular performance will do. It’s not at all unreasonable for expenses to be a direct part of the payout equation. The flipside is, if you are very definitely THE reason that the patrons showed up, you have much more power and influence over the show’s success – and you should be paid as such!

At all points, a reasonable payout expectation comes from being able to figure out the scale of what you bring to the table.

I really don’t think you should get a record deal.

Wait – let me rephrase that.

I really don’t think you should spend time, effort, money, and emotional stamina to get a record deal. I played music myself, once, and hungered after a contract. I never got one, and I’m actually pretty okay with that. I had a non-realistic view of what a recording contract meant, and I’m betting that the same sort of reality distortion is in effect for quite a few other folks.

Of course, my opinion doesn’t amount to a hill of chili (super chunky or otherwise) without some reasoning behind it, so here are my bullet points, in no particular order:

1) A recording contract isn’t a career, or even a job. It’s a loan.

Carlos has said as much on social media, and I agree. I especially agree because I think I might have been the one who came up with the idea that a record company is just an unregulated bank. (I think. Actually, somebody else probably came up with it long before I did.)

Anyway.

The whole point of a recording contract is basically to say, “We’ll help finance the creation of a recording and other things, because we think we can sell those things for a TON more than the price of the financing.” If it works out, it’s a sweet deal for the record company, because they very likely have all the rights to the sound recording of your songs – and they can keep selling that sound recording to as many people as they can manage. If you’re not careful, or don’t have enough negotiating power, they will probably own those rights “in perpetuity.” (That means “forever.”)

Record companies don’t give you money for anything. They “front” funds to produce something with your name on it, hoping that your brand will be great for them. If you manage to carve a long-term career out of that situation, then that’s great for you (and the label, for whom it’s probably an even better deal), but the loan itself isn’t a guarantee that things will work out.

Plenty of artists have been dropped by their labels, by the way.

And no, if you get dropped, you won’t be likely to get the rights to all that hard work you did in the studio. That belongs to the people who paid for it, people who aren’t you.

Sidenote: KEEP. YOUR. PUBLISHING.

Actually, just forget about all the record deal hoo-hah and keep everything.

2) Recording contracts don’t create careers. Fans do.

Musicians tend to think that a really snazzy recording, sold in all the big outlets, backed with a spendy video, and pushed with a fancy marketing campaign is what generates a career-powering phenomenon.

Well, no, what creates the phenomenon is people hanging on every note that you play.

Now, to be fair, all the fluff can help you get in front of more people. But you have to ask yourself if all the costs are actually necessary. Sure, it strokes your ego to have spent a whole year in a studio that makes a starship look dinky, and to have display ads in all the papers, plus a launch party featuring 100 white horses and an airdrop of 7000 popsicles over New York. Sure, that’s hard to ignore.

It’s also a frighteningly expensive way to reach a few folks who would have loved you for the music, glitz and glam or no. Yes, it takes more time and effort to find those people without all the hooplah, but if YOU find them, and YOU make the connection, then YOU are in control of your career.

And you might have an actual career, instead of just a big party that lots of people showed up to because of the free popsicles. Those folks are just there for the fun and spectacle, and will be gone in an hour. A career has to last longer than that. The shortcut isn’t a shortcut – it’s a conversion of money to time, and the conversion rate is lousy.

Oh, and of course that expenditure gets tacked onto the loan that the label made you.

Here’s another thing: Record companies look for products that are either selling themselves, or likely will be able to sell easily as the flavor of the month. If they see that you’re building a a real fanbase for yourself, they may come calling, dangling a juicy deal in front of you. Why? Because they want to make money off of what you’ve built.

Ask yourself: If you’re building it on your terms anyway, why should you sell it all off to somebody else for an advance that’s actually a lowball offer, plus the “opportunity” to do everything their way? That doesn’t make sense.

3) Recording contracts don’t do much that you can’t do for yourself anymore.

I’ve talked about this on other occasions. Back in the day of physical media, access to large-scale manufacturing was necessary to keep a large fanbase supplied. Back in the day of a few, tightly gated media outlets, money and clout were needed to dialogue with a significant number of people.

Now, it’s all digital. Making a copy of the entire, uncompressed contents of a full-length recording is trivial. Compression and transmission is only slightly less than trivial. Everybody can get on the Internet and say whatever they want to whoever they want, with the only real limit on audience size being the number of people who will listen. (Social media platforms ARE gated, yes, but not nearly as much as traditional media.)

You can do all of this yourself. You don’t need the label’s advertising machine to connect with your fans. They’re on your favorite social media platform already! Go talk to them. Be available. Answer and ask questions.

You don’t need the label’s production machine to have a music video. A half-decent phone-recording on YouTube can be a major attention grabber.

You don’t need the label’s recording machine to lay tracks. A few okay mics in an okay room can be connected to a $300 audio interface with basic software, and make a recording that sounds just fine. Maybe even great. Plus, you’ll own the rights to your music, and the recording, AND the means to make more.

You ARE the label. You ARE the contract. You ARE your fan-connection machine.

Why pay somebody else? You don’t need a record deal to make art and make connections. All the tools are readily available.

I got into this business thinking I would be an engineer in a studio. That’s not how it worked out. Live-sound got a hold of me, and that was pretty much it. Even so, I do some occasional studio-style mixing, and I think I’m starting to get the hang of it.

One of the major problems with recordings is that you don’t control the playback system. One person might play your music on a rig that’s built to reproduce the entire audible range of sound with a laser-flat response curve. Another person might be listening on barely-working earbuds. Someone else might be one of those incredibly annoying people who listen to music by pumping it through their phone’s speaker. CAN WE STOP THAT PLEASE?

Anyway.

Even before the age of smartphones, “translation” was a big issue for folks making records. The question that was constantly asked was, “How do I make this tune sound good everywhere?”

In my mind, that’s the wrong question.

The real question is, “Does this mix continue to make sense, even if the playback system has major limitations?”

I realize that this is an appeal to absurdity, but I see it as counterproductive to try to make a song sound “good” on a half-dead clock-radio. A mix being played through a small, damaged speaker should sound like a mix being played through a small, damaged speaker. Spending hours and hours trying to make things fool people into thinking they’re listening to a better playback device isn’t worth it for most folks, especially because the mix will probably sound strange on more decent systems.

But spending some time on making sure that your recording basically works in a variety of situations IS worth it.

It’s actually pretty easy. If you already have a digital audio workstation of some kind (ProTools, Logic, Cubase, Reaper, GarageBand, etc, etc), you won’t need any additional equipment. Back in the day (and now), studios used to have small, limited bandwidth speakers they could route mixes through. That was before you could get another equalizer, basically for free, simply by running another instance of a plugin.

And that’s what I recommend doing.

Put an extra EQ plugin across your main mix. Set that plugin to kill off both the low and high-end of your tune. A high-pass and low-pass filter set at about 200 Hz and 5000 Hz respectively should be a good start. Collapse the mix to mono if you can. Your mix should now sound like it’s being played through a phone speaker (gah!), or pretty mediocre earbuds.

Does the mix still make sense? Can you still hear all the instruments that you feel are crucial? Are the vocals still intelligible? If not, start making changes. Get to a place that you like, and then pop the “crappy speaker” EQ into bypass. Restore the stereo field, if you were working in mono before.

With all the high and low end restored, does the mix still make sense? Are the bass and kick overwhelming in the bottom end? Is there too much traffic way up high? If so, make changes in just those areas – the areas that were cut out by the EQ. Try not to touch the midrange much, though, because that’s what you just got yourself satisfied with.

Do some back-and-forth checking as you work. You’ll know that you’re done when the mix still works in both scenarios. The mix without the “sucky playback system” EQ should sound “good,” assuming that you think your regular playback monitors sound good. The mix with the EQ should work, and be basically listenable. Your tune will now have a much better chance of “translating” in multiple scenarios.

And, as a final opinion, I would say this: If your mix absolutely must be mind-blowing on a specific format, make a special mix just for that format. If, for example, you know that a huge chunk of your fanbase is definitely going to be listening on Airpods, create (and clearly label) a mix that’s designed to be stunning just for them.

But, if you’re not really sure what people will be listening on, basic attention to translation should go a pretty long way.

 

For some artists, stage banter is just a box they check.

“Oh, I’m between songs. I need to say something…”

And so they proceed to yak about whatever. Maybe it’s about what the next song means to them, or something. Who knows. You only get about 10% of it, because they do at least one of the following things:

They might speak very quietly, getting lost in audience chatter or other goings-on.

They might drop the mic down to their chest, or for bonus points, their navel. Their speech sounds very thin and distant as a result. (And even quieter.)

They might mumble.

They might prattle away at high speed.

They might use 50 words to convey a 10 word concept.

Very quickly, they start to lose the crowd. The audience’s attention drifts away, like a canoe filled with restless river otters. Nobody can figure out precisely what’s going on, so the focus on the stage drops away. The energy level craters.

As near as I can tell, the trouble comes from not realizing that the entire time you’re on stage, you’re performing – or rather, that’s what’s expected. If you stop performing, the emotional connection between you and the “folks” starts to get scratchy and intermittent.

The audience wants to be lead on a journey, and they will go where the band takes them…but only for as long as they feel like the leaders know where they’re going. If you seem to be meandering aimlessly, the spectators unconsciously dismiss you from your space at the front of the pack.

The solution?

If you’re going to talk, make the talking actually feel like part of the show. It should be obvious to the crowd that you are still asking for their attention.

1) Make an effort to get your speech to “concert level.” You don’t have to be annoyingly loud, but the overall volume should be comparable to your singing voice. This helps to telegraph that, yes, the performance is still happening.

2) To aid in the above, use the mic as you normally would. Park it in front of your mouth, where the element will receive your voice at the highest relative level possible. This will help your speech to be crisp, intelligible, and also tonally rich – all things that signal that you’re still in the captain’s chair.

3) Form your words deliberately and precisely. Especially in an acoustically challenging environment, talking like you have marbles in your mouth makes you incomprehensible. Incomprehensible people don’t hold the attention of audiences very well.

4) Slow down. Not painfully slow – that’s just as bad – but leave a touch of space between words and sentences. Running everything together is rather like mumbling.

5) Get your message across in as few words as possible. I’m not saying that you can’t go on a five minute monologue if that’s what you want to do, but I am asking that every word in that monologue actually be necessary. Rambling might feel to you like you’re saying a lot, but it’s actually a momentum killer that conveys very little.

If your stage banter actually feels like part of the show, it enhances the experience. If it feels like some weird afterthought, it will get treated in accordance with that perception.

“Should I bring my amp?” the musician asks in the show-planning email thread.

Yes.

Thanks everybody, see you next mon- okay, I’m kidding.

But the answer is yes. If you have some sort of device that you can use to tweak the sound of your instrument, even if that’s just a bit of extra volume, you should definitely have that handy. Here’s why:

1) What if the PA and/ or monitor system can’t quite get the job done?

Of course, if you’re careful about advancing the show, this is much less of an issue. However, it’s still possible that, for any number of reasons, you won’t be able to get what you need. Maybe there won’t be enough mixes, and you’ll have to share with someone who needs monitor-world to sound very different from what you need. Maybe you won’t be able to get enough volume. Maybe something will be tuned very strangely. Maybe you actually need an active DI, but the engineer doesn’t have one on hand. You want to have a fallback option, even if it never becomes necessary. Speaking of which…

2) What if the live-sound setup is adequate, but suffers a failure?

Sometimes, the last direct-box just dies, and that’s it. Sometimes a monitor wedge quits, and there isn’t a spare. Sometimes your in-ears don’t work the right way, or at all. Sometimes a whole mixing console (even an expensive one) just takes a giant dump.

If you’ve got your amp, you can still make some noise and have some kind of show.

3) What if the live-sound engineer is stupid, uncooperative, malicious, or absent?

I hear the horror stories. The person behind the console doesn’t always get what you need, or they may try to make every band – even a Celtic folk ensemble – sound like 1980’s-era Metallica. They may not understand your directions, or be able to carry them out. They may not have time to recreate (from basically scratch) the sound you’ve been dialing up for months in rehearsal.

(You have dialed up your sound in rehearsal, right? When you can hear whether or not it works well with the rest of the band? Please, answer in the affirmative.)

And some engineers are just plain jerkfaces who think they know better than everybody else, or, when you need something, they’ve gone out to take a 45-minute smoke break. When that happens, you will benefit greatly from having some knobs that you can reach over and turn.

You have to have some level of control over what’s happening to you.

4) What if the engineer likes it when you can make your own choices?

I can only speak for myself, but I’m all for letting you get yourself dialed up. It tends to reduce stress for both of us, and I can get a clue regarding what you want without having to start with a purely abstract conversation. Plus, if you have different tonalities that call up for different songs, you can just make that happen naturally while I translate it out front.

Now – what does this not mean?

Well, it does NOT mean that you have to carry around enough audio firepower to be “loud” in the upper bowl of a stadium. Save your time and back. A smallish rig that’s perfect in rehearsal will do the job. (There’s another lesson: Rehearsal volume and blend should be show volume and blend. If your band is going to the gig, and then suddenly adding 10 dB or drowning somebody out, that’s a whole other issue.)

It does NOT mean that you should be obnoxious. The point of having the amp handy is that you have a tool for ensuring that the band continues to sound like a band under different circumstances. It’s not so that you tear people’s heads off, or dial up enough high-mid that your instrument clangs like a steel bar against concrete.

It does NOT mean that you’re prevented from running direct if you want to. If everything’s as smooth as butter, and you love the sound of the PA, and the amp is completely superfluous, no problem! You don’t have to run any audio through it if you don’t want to.

The point is to not leave your backup at home. It’s easy to not use it, and really hard to go back and get it.

A lot of my musician friends are discovering just how viable it is to produce their own material in the spaces available to them regularly. Under the right circumstances, doing so allows for leaner budgeting, and even a much steadier release cycle. (You can work with and release tunes on, say, a monthly basis, rather than wadding everything up into a do-or-die album process that takes years.)

In the DIY-recording realm, a point of confusion tends to be the difference between acoustical treatment and soundproofing. I’ve heard more than one person refer to the placement of acoustical foam on various surfaces as “soundproofing,” and while I understand what’s actually meant, the terminology is still off.

So, what’s the difference?

It’s actually a fairly simple distinction, at least as I’ve come to understand it. Acoustical treatment is modifying the behavior of sound within a space. Soundproofing is preventing the transfer of acoustical events between spaces.

To be fair, acoustical treatment can – technically – aid in some soundproofing. Acoustical absorption means that sound energy is converted to thermal energy. If, through something like acoustical foam, a sonic event is prevented from ever reaching a wall, then you won’t have a problem with that sound causing the wall to vibrate. At the same time, it’s important to note that most building structures are less and less likely to vibrate effectively at higher and higher frequencies anyway, with the losses from acoustic foam quickly becoming essentially irrelevant.

Soundproofing is a much more difficult business, because it requires getting a handle on vibrations that are very strong and difficult to stop. It’s a game of mass and isolation. Very heavy objects are difficult to set into motion. Objects that have less surface-area in contact with other objects transfer vibration poorly. The transfer of vibration from air to solids is highly inefficient; You can easily feel a big thump on your chest from someone’s hand smacking into you, but that same sensation from a subwoofer firing into the air requires a TON of speaker power.

So, with all that, effective soundproofing tends to rely heavily on expensive, permanent (or quasi-permanent) construction. Rooms can be built within other rooms, for instance, with air gaps between the outer and inner walls. “Airlock” systems with multiple, heavy, gasketed doors can be employed. Floors may be floated with absorptive rubber spacers.

A room can be nicely soundproof, but sound terrible inside. Build a concrete bunker inside another concrete bunker, and not much sound will get in or out. The reflectivity of all those hard surfaces will be horrendously bad, though.

Basic treatment, on the other hand, is much easier. Gather up a few thick, fluffy blankets that you can hang, and you’re likely to create a noticeable change in the room’s internal behavior. Reducing the “splatter” of content at or above 1000 Hz isn’t exactly trivial, but the effort required is within reach for almost anybody.

(Please be aware, of course, that really great sounding rooms almost never happen by accident or by way of a few, hasty changes. Full-blown, world-class acoustical spaces require a great deal of thought and preparation. The best ones have effective treatment at low frequencies, which is not a simple thing to do. Big studios with renowned rooms are expensive for reasons that include both soundproofing AND treatment.)

As I said, room treatment and soundproofing aren’t the same thing. In your self-recording adventures you’ll likely encounter some “environmental” problems. Figuring out which of the two concepts applies the most will help you approach the issue in a way that actually has a chance of being effective.

If you’re playing in bars and clubs, there will most likely come a day when you encounter a certain artifact. Some might call this artifact “The Scepter Of Plagues.” Others might name it “The Odiferous Transducer Of Doom.”

The rest of us just call it a mic that’s been beaten half-to death, and which has never been cleaned.

Yuck.

Such awfulness alone is a really decent reason to have your own vocal mic. There are other justifications, of course, like predictable performance (especially if you use your own vocal processor), and knowing that you’ll have a transducer handy which works nicely with your voice.

But there are so many mics out there! How do you figure out which one is the right choice?

1. Forget About What You Liked In The Studio

Some mics used in studio settings work well on stage, it’s true. Some people use “on stage” mics in the studio anyway.

At the same time, though, a LOT of mics that are great for recording are a giant ball of trouble for live audio. Sure, they sound perfect when you’re in a vocal booth with headphones on, but that’s at least one whole universe removed from the brutal world of concert sound. They’re too fragile, too finicky, too heavy, their pickup patterns are too wide, and you can’t get close enough to them to leverage your vocal power.

…and yes, I know that those studio microphones look cool. I also think they look cool. Looking cool is neat, but what’s awesome is actually getting the job done. I personally run into very few “studio” mics that can actually function usefully in the nightmare hellscape that is commonly referred to as “live vocal reproduction.”

2. Don’t Agonize About The Spec Sheet

There are people who spend months looking at all the numbers associated with every mic they might want to purchase. They worry about the sensitivity, and the self-noise, and how low the frequency response goes, and the impedance, and…

Folks, any halfway decent mic that’s actually designed to be on stage will be fine in all those areas.

If you want to spend time looking at something, look at the frequency response graph and polar patterns. Even then, recognize that those plots can be fudged and averaged to look better than they really are.

Mics with flatter response curves will tend to behave better across different systems. Some manufacturers “dial up” a lot of studio-mic-esque high-end into their offerings, which causes them to sound better on systems without a lot going on in the high-frequency area. However, that can also translate into feedback trouble and harshness when you perform on a rig with an extended response.

Mics with tighter polar patterns are generally better at rejecting feedback and picking up less of everything that isn’t you. Tighter patterns mean that you have to be more diligent about staying “on the mic,” though, and may cause you sudden problems if you have a tendency to cup your hands around your microphone.

3. Rent Your Shortlist, And Rehearse With Them

Once you’ve narrowed your possibilities down, try to find a pro-audio rental house that will let you pay to try them. If you can’t find a rental, reach out to your contacts and see if you can get a loaner.

Then, get in a real room, with your real band, and rehearse as hard as you can using a relatively unsophisticated audio setup. (Caveat: If you use your own vocal processor, definitely make sure to rehearse with that, and definitely make sure to use all the presets you call up during a real gig.)

The point of this is to figure out how the mic actually delivers in all the noise and chaos of a show. The microphone that’s the right choice for will “make it easy to sound like you.” The reason for the simple audio rig is to find out how the mic works WITHOUT a lot of toys and whizbangs attached. A good mic won’t need superhuman effort and a rack of processing to get the necessary gain to hear yourself. A good mic won’t need a ton of EQ fiddling to dial up an overall tone that fits in with the rest of the band.

Also, that “rest of the band” bit is very important. It’s nice if a purchase candidate sounds sweet through the wedges when nobody else is making noise…

…but the mic REALLY has to work for you when the drummer gets excited, and the guitarist turns up, and the keys player recalls a patch that occupies the entire audible spectrum, and the bassist is trying to move the stage through sheer force of sound pressure.

The right mic will satisfy the needs set out above, and will also be well constructed, feel decent in your hands, and mate with XLR cables without fuss or flimsiness.

Buying your own mic is an investment in your career. Take your time and find something that actually works for you.

It’s sort of like looking up a very steep hill – there’s a venue you’re hoping to play at, but they have no idea who you are. How do you get their attention?

Having been a venue operator “back in the day,” I’ve received numerous “cold” contacts. Some of them got me to respond positively, and some didn’t. If you condense everything into the most concentrated form, the folks that had a chance of a positive response were the ones who took the time to establish a real, individual relationship. The ones who didn’t make the effort were either politely declined, or ignored completely, depending upon the severity of their conduct.

So…what does all that mean, exactly? Well, speaking for myself:

1) From a marketing standpoint, a cold-contact is you selling me (the booker) a relatively expensive product that I’m not sure I want. The key thing there is “I.” What might sell someone else on your gig is not guaranteed to convince me that it’s a good idea. You need to have some idea of what the individual venue wants. This means that you have to do your homework in some way. If there’s a web resource with booking information, make sure to read through that info, being careful to pay attention to anything that deals with the business side of the show.

2) The initial contact should come from someone who cares intimately about the specific show you’re trying to do. For a lot of independent musicians, this means you, the musician. Lots of emails, social-media messages, and phone calls get ignored. They get ignored even harder when they come from some nameless, faceless person at a booking agency or label. The prime reason for that rejection is because the nameless-faceless doesn’t care enough about your show to do the homework on the venue. They just “shotgun” a whole pile of messages to a whole pile of places after minimal research – and it’s obvious that they’re doing so.

As a booker, I got lots of emails from the nameless-faceless crowd that were clearly all from the same “Los Angeles Pop-Punk-Metal-Crossover Band Generator” template, and that blatantly ignored booking information that was publicly available. For a while, I answered those emails, only to get into crushingly tiresome conversations where the nameless-faceless tried to negotiate on various aspects of the (again) publicly available information. I eventually realized what a waste of time it was, and just deleted the emails.

3) Related to the above, be sure that however you make the initial contact, make clear that the venue’s business needs, as they’ve outlined, are understood by you. Failing to make this clear can cause you to be de-prioritized, especially if the venue does have booking information available You want to avoid creating a request that requires the information to be spoon-fed to you. The entire point of putting those whys and wherefores in a public place was so that it wouldn’t have to be endlessly discussed in a million emails and phone calls.

(Now, of course, if the venue doesn’t have that information available, you’ll probably have to ask them about it during the initial contact. There’s nothing wrong with that – just make sure that you ask BEFORE pitching anything.)

4) When making your pitch, focus intently upon what is truly actionable in terms of creating a profitable event for the venue. This is something of a ruthless process, because a lot of standard sales-pitch elements simply don’t apply. For example:

Who you’ve shared the stage with doesn’t matter. Plenty of bands who had no business being on stage with anyone else have talked their way onto shows with decent acts. I’ve been witness to it. Besides, the general public doesn’t care that you’ve been on deck with [someone they may or may not care about]. They (and the venue) do care about whether they like you, and are willing to come out and see YOU.

Where you’ve played doesn’t matter. It matters even less than who you’ve played with. It’s not a measure of meaningful exposure at all. You might have played a 1000 seat auditorium, but only 50 people were in attendance. And again, the show-going public doesn’t give a hoot. The biggest, hottest promoter in town could run giant ads through all the local media outlets, proclaiming that [Your Band] has played [Somewhere Else], and the reaction from the public will be “Who?” and “So?”

The number of Insta-Face-Twitter-Verbnation followers you have is almost completely irrelevant. How many of those people are local? How many will buy a ticket to your show, on the night in question, at that venue? How many are actually engaged?

An example of what IS actionable is evidence of people clamoring for you to do a show in their town. If you can show a venue some sort of real proof that you have an engaged, dedicated audience in their area that can at least half-fill the room, that’s a powerful tool.

Another example of what’s actionable is you being friends with some local bands that have a track-record of doing well at that venue, or at places similar to it. That leads into the “Zen” approach…

…which is “cold contacting” a venue without cold contacting them at all. Rather, you make friends with a band that has a good relationship with the room. They are the ones who are known as being a money-maker for the place, and as cool people. They get booked, they get you on the bill by leveraging their reputation, and then (very crucially), you come in, treat everybody beautifully, and help increase the size of the crowd. Everybody wins, and the venue gets to know you.

The point is that you have to create a relationship with someone, somehow. It involves time and effort, but the potential payoff can certainly be worth it.