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Information To Help You When Booking Venues & Tours


Wait until you're ready. No sense in looking for a gig if your first show is going to be a train wreck.

Make a “demo” recording or video.

Ask around.

Visit the venues and introduce yourself.

Do your online research.

Contact the booker, venue owner, or talent buyer.



It’s only natural to daydream about your first gig. Stadiums. Spotlights. Exotic strangers screaming for an encore. A champagne-shaking promoter handing over a suitcase of fifties. We hate to stick a pin in that thought bubble, but live debuts don’t always run so smoothly. The good news is that with just a little preparation, you can avoid the empty venues, lost gear and withheld payment of legend.

Don’t even think about stepping onstage until you’ve followed these 12 tips.

#1. First gigs start with friendship

If you want to be a participant in the local live scene, first get out there and experience it. Watch some gigs, befriend the rising local bands, shout a few Jägerbombs, ask their advice and fish for support slots. Work out which venue hosts the best upcoming bands in your genre, then ply the promoter with pints. Your bar tab won’t look pretty, but you’ll be paid back in contacts.

#2. Do a stakeout

When you’re offered your first gig, do some homework. Visit the venue in advance to watch a band and ask yourself some pertinent questions.

How big is the stage?

Does the soundman get a decent mix?

Is the PA any good?

How loud can you play?

Is there parking outside?

Will you be beaten to death by bikers with pool cues?

#3. Agree the fee.

Forget about that suitcase of fifties we mentioned earlier, but do agree the payment terms upfront. Will you get a flat fee, a percentage of the door – or does the venue operate the dreaded pay-to-play policy with exposure in lieu of hard cash? If you need help negotiating terms, check out the Fair Play Guide available from the Musicians’ Union.

#4. Trim the fat.

As an unknown quantity, your first gig will likely be propping up a bill of more established bands, so ask the venue how long you’ll be expected to play, then time your setlist with a stopwatch. If you overrun, strip it back to your best songs – and lose the drum solo.

#5. Cover yourself.

Yeah, we know, insurance is pretty much the antithesis of rock ‘n’ roll’s outlaw spirit. But consider this: if you’re not covered by public liability insurance, you’ll be exposed to the cost of a claim if, for instance, you knock out an audience member’s teeth with your guitar headstock. Annual policies start as low as £50, and credible venues won’t let you perform without it.

#6. Play a ‘soft’ debut.

Nobody expects you to be note-perfect out of the blocks, but if your first gig is a crash-and-burn disaster, your local reputation will take a pounding. Before you play for the bottle-throwing public, have a dry run at a friend’s house party or birthday. It might not go as well as you would like, but at least it won’t go on your permanent record.

#7. Ask about backline

Venues that put on regular live music will sometimes have house equipment, typically a PA, drumkit (but not always cymbals) and guitar cabinets. Check in advance what you’ll need to bring along on the night, find out if you’ll be sharing with the other bands, and if you’re the fussy type, bear in mind that venue equipment has often been knocking around since the dark ages.

#8. Make a checklist

When it comes to packing for your first gig, make a checklist and tick off items as they go into the van. You’ll remember the obvious stuff, like your guitar, amp and pedalboard, but don’t overlook the make-or-break extras: batteries, leads, strings, picks, duct tape, toolkit, torch and the miracle spray that is WD-40. Oh, and be nice to the other bands on the bill, or they’ll leave you to swing when your amp spontaneously combusts.

#9. Prepare to plug.

Remember, you’re not just playing a gig: this is also a perfect opportunity to trade your wares and get your name out there. Put your band logo on the kick drum, bring along merchandise to sell afterwards and remember a pen and clipboard to collect names for your mailing list.

#10. Build the buzz.

It’s not healthy for a band to rely on their mates to fill the venue, and you’ll need to pull in paying punters to avoid your first gig feeling like a ghost ship. If you don’t have a web presence, get one, and as the clock ticks down to your stage debut, build the buzz with regular posts, blogs, photos and teasers that make fans feel invested (eg. ask them to vote on which cover you’ll play).

#11. Spoil the soundman.

Arrive in time to play a soundcheck, then befriend the soundman and let him know what you want from the mix. Make no mistake: this beardy man in the crumpled t-shirt is the one who dictates whether you sound like towering rock gods or muffled pipsqueaks – and a bridge-building pint and pack of pork scratchings goes a long way to get him onside.

#12. Record yourself.

In the heat of the gig, it’s hard to be objective about what works and what bombs. Yes, it’s painful, but by recording your performance from the desk, you can objectively assess which songs cause a circle pit and which prompt a stampede to the bar. If you’re even braver, set up a video camera, too, and see whether the decision to perform in loincloths really was such a smart move.



1. Decide on a Date Range.

It is recommended that you plan, at minimum, 4-6 months in advance. Booking a tour requires months of contacting, follow-up work, and filling in gaps. Some venues book at least 6 months out in advance, some only one month at a time. You’ll also need plenty of time to market, promote, and contact local press.

2. Choose Your Tour Route.

Decide the general direction where you’d like to go. Chances are that you will probably have to make adjustments along the way. Some cities are easier to book than others. Decide how much you want to drive per day. Space venues out 50-400 miles apart, depending on the region and if you want any days off. Big cities have more venues to choose from but often times require a “pay to play” option or will hardly pay you at all. Smaller towns outside of the city tend to pay more and are sometimes easier to book. It is recommended that you stick to major highways.

3. Begin Contacting Venues.

Start by looking for venues along your tour route. Websites and free, searchable databases can be useful. Most promoters prefer email. Some use the phone, some have their own contact form. Whatever it is, find out their preference and stick to it. Don’t use one generic message or method (nobody likes spam) and answering the question on their mind: How will you make the venue money? How will you bring people in the door? No venue cares about how “good” your show is if you’ll be playing for an empty room. Nearly every venue would rather hire the local band that can sell the place out over a touring, professional band that can’t even get their guest list to show up.

4. Follow Up With the Venues.

Most promoters are inundated with messages and are constantly juggling dates, bands, rentals, and other events. Get a confirmation, make sure you are on their website. Check in to see if they want posters mailed to them, see if there are local media contacts you should be following up with. If a promoter gave you a “hold,” find out what you need to make it a confirmed show. Follow-up again one more time before you leave for tour.

5. If You Have Gaps…and chances are, you will…have a back-up plan. If a show doesn’t pan out and if want to fill the date, start thinking creatively. You can contact nearby towns, to see if someone wants live music for their party or corporate event. If you’re out of venues, try doing a search on Google Maps for live music. Contact local radio stations, record shops, bookstores, , restaurants, shopping centres, any place where you think might be a good idea. Ask your friends/fans in the area if they want to do a house party. Or, begin contacting all of the venues you already reached out to and see if something opened up. Get in touch with bands in the area to see if they can help do a gig-swap.

The most important thing to remember is that this takes patience, consistency, follow-up, and a little bit of salesmanship. Keep at it everyday. Set up an appointment with yourself to contact venues, promoters, etc. for at least 1-2 hours per day (and more as you get closer). Never miss that appointment. If you are consistent and tour often, you’ll begin building relationships with promoters and it becomes easier and easier. Then who knows? Maybe you’ll begin booking for other bands.


Whether you're a musician booking your own shows or a budding music promoter booking their first gig, the first step in the process is securing a site. When you're farther along, you might hook up with a club that actively goes after and hires talent. But if you're promoting your own show, here are some tips on how to book a venue.

The right locale is crucial for making the night a success.

Choose the Right Site.

It's easy to get caught up in the idea of playing your favourite club or venue, where all of your favourite musicians have played. But in reality, you should look for a venue that you can fill. Think of it this way: What's going to feel better on the night of the show, having the show sell out or playing to a huge, mostly empty room? Playing the small clubs are how you earn your stripes to play at the bigger places, so make finding a venue that fits in with both your likely draw and your budget the priority.

Choose Desirable Dates

Unless you're booking a gig way in advance, you have to be pretty lucky to stroll into a club and get a gig on your dream date. Before you book the show, come up with a window of a few different dates you'd be happy with for the event. Oh, and you need to make sure all of the musicians are happy with all of the possible dates. Finding out that the drummer and the guitarist can't make the gig after you've booked the venue, is not ideal.

Contact the Venue

Depending on the size of the club, there will either be someone who handles all of the bookings or whoever answers the phone will pull out a calendar and write your name on it (while sounding incredibly bored and leaving you wondering if you've really booked the place). Either way, once you agree on a date, there are a few questions you need to ask:

How much is the hire fee/rental fee? (See more below about negotiating)

When can you load-in and soundcheck?

At what time do the doors open?

By what time does the show need to end?

What technical resources does the venue provide?

Are there any special rules?

Sign a Contract

Many times, very small venues will not demand that you sign a contract, but you should definitely ask about any sort of written agreement anyway. As you move to larger venues, contracts become more common. You'll often be asked to sign a paper confirming the date for the show, the price you'll pay to lease the space, and any special arrangements you have made. Be careful when you're signing one of these contracts because if the show falls through, you'll be liable for paying them the fee anyway after your name is on the dotted line.

Negotiate a Price

In club bookings, sometimes there's not much flexibility in the rental fee.

Note that this rental "fee" is usually a minimum amount of money that has to be made on the door, not necessarily a cheque you have to write up front as if you were renting a wedding hall. Hopefully, the door money and bar money will cover this guarantee you make to the venue. Still, you're on the hook for the sum, so it never hurts to try and negotiate the numbers.

There are two things that can help you get a better deal: Proving that you'll bring in a big crowd and proving that you'll get a lot of press before and after the show. When you bring people into the venue and attract media attention, you help them do what they need to do to make money—namely, pack the place with patrons willing to buy drinks. Give them some evidence that the night will be a success on that score and you may be able to get a better price. Obviously, a demonstrated ability to may be tough to prove if you're still a young group. If there are no professional write-ups, even social media mentions, Facebook pages, videos, even Twitter chatter or Instagram images might help impress management.



Playing gigs is essential for any musician hoping to develop their sound and gain more fans. Whether you’re focusing on playing on your local circuit or are looking to spread your wings further afield for out of town gigs, you’ll definitely need to be in contact with gig promoters and venue bookers to get some gig dates organised. So here are some guidelines to getting in touch with promoters and venues to book those all-important gigs.



If you’ve got your ear to the ground in your area then you’ll no doubt already have some local gig promoters and venues on your radar. Try and go to other bands’ gigs as much as possible too, to get to know more promoters on your circuit. If you’re looking for new contacts locally, or perhaps for gigs in a different town or city, then also keep an eye on venue gig listings to find out which promoters are putting on regular shows. Most importantly of all, chat to other bands for their recommendations of promoters they’ve worked with. The Unsigned Guide online music directory also has contacts for Promoters and Venues across the UK so can also be a good starting point if you want to book some out of town gigs.


Whilst it may be tempting to wing your music out to all the promoter contacts you’ve come across, you are ultimately wasting your time – which would be better spent investigating a little further initially. Check out what types of music promoters are putting on and bands they’ve previously booked. Does it fit in with your style of music? There’s no point emailing an acoustic promoter when you’re a heavy band! Spend a couple of minutes looking on their website and recent gigs they’ve organised to make sure you are barking up the right tree before you hit the Send button.


How gig promoters prefer to hear from musicians and how they want to hear your tracks varies across the industry. Whilst some prefer to receive MP3s via email, others find files like this clog up their mailbox and would prefer a Facebook message with a link to your music. The Promoter and Venue listings in The Unsigned Guide will tell you exactly how each contact prefers to hear from you & what format they want your music in.

Many promoters will have information on their website about the best way to submit music so make sure you follow their guidelines. Generally it’s best to keep contact short and relevant. A brief intro about your music, where you’re based, what gig dates you’re looking for and details of any noteworthy gigs you’ve played in the past is a good start. If the promoter has previously put on bands that you have a similar sound to that is also worth mentioning, and will add a personal touch to demonstrate you’ve done your research.

It’s also a good idea to put together a press kit to direct promoters to. It’s a straightforward easy way for them to find out everything they need to know in one simple click, but just ensure you keep it up to date! Don’t forget to include contact details for your band and links to well-maintained websites and social media pages.


There is no harm in politely following up your email if you don’t hear anything at all, typically leaving 4 to 6 weeks from your initial contact.


Information collated by Keren Morrall for your convenience.

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