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Booking Local / Club Shows
Most club bookers are young and eager to make their venue known for its selective and hip booking policy. At a midsize club like the Mercury Lounge we had a wide range of artists, from major-label veterans Wilco and Echo to recently-signed talent showcasing for their labels to bands playing out for their first time. Finding a new, up-and-coming artist is one of the most rewarding parts of the job, but also one of the most difficult and time-consuming. It's risky for everyone involved: I needed to book acts that could draw well (that is, attract a lot of paying customers to the show) not only as proof that I had an ear for talent but also to make money for the club. And artists playing the club for the first time had to not only play well but also bring in paying customers in order to be asked back for a second shot.
Who You Are
You are a musician trying to get a show at a reputable club. You may have a manager and/or a booking agent, or you may be going through the whole process without any help. There's nothing unprofessional about a solo artist or band member trying to book a show on his/her own. If you have a manager or agent who's thoroughly familiar with the ins, outs, and intimacies of your act, it's fine to have him make the necessary calls for you. It's not necessary, however, to recruit a friend simply to fulfill a perceived role. You are the one who knows your act best, and you will most likely have the most persuasive voice.
The Very First Call
The first time you call a club, keep your pitch brief. Most clubs have regular booking days and hours, so find out if you're calling at the right time. If you're calling on an off day or before or after booking hours, do NOT try to make your pitch anyway. You may not want to be lumped in with the masses of other calls, but there's really no way around it. At the Mercury Lounge my booking hours were Tuesdays and Thursdays between 1 and 5 p.m. Some artists would try to be sneaky and clever and call at 12:50, thinking that they'd get to me ahead of everyone else. It didn't work. It only annoyed me and made me less likely to take their calls later. Once you get the right person on the phone at the right time, ask if they're accepting demos.
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