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Booking Local / Club Shows

As one of two bookers at the 250-capacity Mercury Lounge in New York, I became well-acquainted with the many do's and don'ts of booking a small-ish type artist into a small-ish type club in a big-time city. Booking guidelines vary from city to city and club to club, but there are certain fundamental standards that apply everywhere.
The Club Booker's Job: What It's Not
The first thing you should know about booking your act is that most club bookers spend 10 hours a day in a windowless, un-air-conditioned, often fly or mouse-infested basement office. Club booking is one of the least glamorous jobs in the music industry. I went to work every morning at a bar that reeked of vomit and stale beer from the night before. The concrete floor was littered with cigarette butts and shards of glass. The bathrooms were disgusting and stayed that way until the busboys finished cleaning up around 5 p.m. There were few of the corporate perks you might associate with the music business. No expense accounts, no travel (except maybe the annual South By Southwest music conference in Austin), no free subscriptions to Billboard or HITS. Okay, there were a few perks. I drank a lot of free beer (which became less appealing after staring at taps and kegs all day long), I got free CDs from friends at labels (many of whom would want to be put on guest lists to sold-out shows in return). I got into other clubs for free (although after leaving work the last place I wanted to go was another club). In other words, club bookers are not the slick, polished music-industry execs who have gold record plaques on their walls and Time Warner stock in their portfolios.
The Club Booker's Job: What It Is
Most club bookers are more than just club bookers. I did not just listen to demo tapes all day long. I was also a night manager and a publicist. I printed and sold tickets. I hung posters, designed flyers, ans ran to Key Food for deli platters. I painted the dressing room and I scraped stickers off the bar. Booking a club is a hands-on, get down and dirty, do-it-yourself venture -- not unlike booking your act.
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