How to Book Shows: A Tactical Approach to Pitching Venues
We asked the talent buyers on our Gigwell team to give their seasoned advice for pitching—after receiving thousands of pitch emails from artists and booking hundreds of shows over the years, they are sharing their insider tips for crafting the perfect pitch to bookers.
Preparing for Your Pitch to Bookers: Do Your Venue Research
Bombarding every venue in your area with a generic pitch will do you more harm than good. Talent buyers have seen it all and can easily separate serious applicants from those simply firing off emails. Begin by researching potential venues and completing your Venue Research Doc. (Read our guide here!)
Compile Your Artist Portfolio
Before sending your pitch, prepare your Electronic Press Kit. This should include your artist bio, live performance videos, audio samples, images, and any other web links that showcase your talent. Need tips on creating an irresistible EPK? Check out our guide.
The Key to Booking Gigs: Craft the Perfect Email
Remember the #1 rule for pitching talent buyers: keep it brief, and let your EPK do the heavy lifting.
The biggest mistake that bands or solo acts make in reaching out to get gigs is writing a lengthy email. Your goal isn’t to convince the talent buyer that your music is amazing—your goal is to show that you can bring in a crowd.
Here's an example of what not to send:
This pitch example isn't personalized to the venue, it doesn't inform the booker about the artist's experience or draw, and it doesn't stand out from the hundreds of other emails the booker will receive.
Check out this better pitch example to a talent buyer:
This email pitch example to a talent buyer is professional and informative: the subject line contains essential details, the draw is clearly outlined, and the pitch makes the talent buyer's job easier.
The perfect pitch to venues is brief, polite, and personalized. It highlights your band's recent achievements and directing them to your Electronic Press Kit (EPK).
Here’s a breakdown of the content that belongs in your pitch email:
- In one sentence, start with a brief introduction for yourself, your genre, and your band/artist name.
- List a range of dates that you’re interested in playing, and make sure you did your research to check if those dates are available for your genre of music. For example, maybe you’re pitching a Tuesday night show, but Tuesday nights are slated for country music night. Your research should also have already covered the venue’s specific policies, such as blackout dates or criteria for booking new acts. If you don’t have this prepared, go back to the research stage! You only get one shot at a first impression.
- Tell the booker exactly how many tickets you anticipate being able to sell: 25, 50, 200, etc. Never exaggerate your audience draw. Be honest: it’s better to promise a safe number and overdeliver than the other way around.
- List your successes that the talent buyer would want to know: how many tickets have you sold in the past? What other venues or festivals have you performed at? What other artists/bands have you shared the stage with?
- Link your EPK! This is where the talent buyer will learn more about your artist bio, check out your music, and learn more about your act. Your EPK does the heavy lifting so that you can keep your pitch brief.
- Wrap it up! Keep it short—you have a few seconds of their time, so don’t waste their time with wordy paragraphs that get skipped over. Be concise; your goal is to spark interest for further dialogue.
Pitch Tips For Getting the Gig:
As a talent buyer, my best advice is to always think from the venue's business perspective. Remember, you're there to help the venue sell drinks, not just to play great music. If your pitch shows you can bring a crowd, you'll get a booker's attention.
- Avoid a completely cold pitch. As part of your venue research, go attend a show and introduce yourself to the booker or someone on the team. Most of the time the booker will ask you to send an email, and that's when you'll want to send your personalized email. If you can't attend a show, reach out on Instagram and say hello.
- Invest in promotion: if you're trying to get your foot in the door as a beginner, promise (and deliver) a targeted online marketing campaign. A small budget for social media ads can have a big impact and make you an attractive option for venues.
- Avoid a long list of links, and definitely avoid large video attachments! The more things a booker has to click on, the less likely those links and videos will get clicked. Attach your digital EPK with embedded videos and tracks instead.
- Don’t try to stand out with humor. Humor is subjective, and nine times out of ten, it won’t translate through the email.
With each step tailored to the venue's needs, you increase your chances of not just getting booked for a show, but booking music gigs that pay in the future.
How to Book the Gig: Insider Tips From Gigwell Artists
"If you're looking to play at a spot that usually has multiple bands on the lineup, make it easy for them! Put together your own list of bands for the night and pitch it as a package deal for the date you want to play. When it comes to crowd size, be optimistic but keep it real. Let's say you've got two folks in the band and each can bring along like 5 or so friends, family, or coworkers—that gives you around 15 people right there. Don't go promising 30 and then show up with just the 15; it won't make anyone happy. Instead, aim for a venue or time where drawing 15 people is totally cool. And then give it your all to bring in even more, like 20 or 30. Do it that way, and chances are they'll want you back—maybe even in a better time slot or venue!"
"For our band, we kicked off at places with open mic nights and totally rocked it. Instead of just showing up with a guitar like others, we brought the whole band, a PA system, and even merch. We gave it our all, and it worked like a charm. We always make sure to be punctual, sound awesome, tip the staff, and bring a bunch of people with us to buy lots of drinks. The venues were super impressed and invited us back for paid gigs.
"When I'm hunting for gigs for my band, I never just shoot off totally cold emails. Instead, I chat with bookers and venue owners whenever I'm hanging out at other shows as a guest. I casually mention my band and give them a quick pitch. Usually, they tell me to follow up with an email. So, when I email, I make sure it's tailor-made for each person and the subject line mentions our chat. I also make it a point to mingle with other bands and artists in our scene whenever I'm out and about. It's an awesome way to network and sometimes even snag backstage passes to meet more industry folks who can help us get booked. Also, I don't forget to invite venue owners and bookers to our shows. I put them on the guest list so they can come, see us live, and hear what we're all about."
How to Get Booked as an Opener
Many bands and solo artists think that offering to open for a more established band is a good way to get noticed. However, it’s better to connect directly with the band you want to open for, rather than asking the venue. Here’s why: offering to the venue to open for another band gives the impression that you don’t have the right connections or credentials, and won’t be able to bring in a crowd.
It’s a longshot ask for a venue too: venues usually have a list of preferred bands for open slots, so they might not consider new bands unless there's a last-minute need. So instead of barking up the wrong tree, build relationships with bands or other solo artists.
“When we were first starting out, we focused on building relationships with bands who were more established. We’d all come out to their show and hype them up in the front row, and then linger after the show to buy them a drink and chat. There’s a lot of down time in between sets, and we’d strike up a conversation at the bar and usually hit it off from our shared connection to music. The bands always appreciated that we were bringing the energy, and we built so many relationships this way. Within a few months we were opening for our new friends, because they loved the energy we brought to their shows.”
Send Your Pitch!
With all this information, the last step is to actually send your pitch. It's tempting to put it off until it feels "perfect," but don't let the fear of failure keep you from pressing send. Remember, it's all about making genuine connections, understanding the venue's perspective, and showcasing your talent effectively. So go out there, pitch with purpose, and land those gigs that will take your music career to the next level!
Download Free Email Pitch Templates
Got writer's block? Click here to download our free email pitch templates.