I am writing this blog post from the Czech republic. We are with Sliotar at the Keltska Noc festival in Plumlov, in Moravia. I am listening a a wonderful Czech celtic band Poitin playing their set in the background, my band mates are trying to sleep. It was a late one last night, the session went well past 5am. These sessions are great places to meet, talk and share music and experiences with other musicians.
I always get little bit flattered when I hear another bands telling me, they tried to get to play at a festival, because they saw the festival on Sliotar’s website. That was the way I found new venues in the beginning of our touring life. But the fact is that it is not as simple as picking up few bands who play similar music to yours, see where they play and send few emails. When I was booking our first long European tour, I sent out thousands of Emails. The European venues can be slow to reply Emails, and in most cases book well in advance. But there are now denying it, in the beginning you need to be a bit of a hustler. But as soon as you get the foot in the door, it is all about building relationships. And for us these relationships have led to more shows than any hustling I’ve ever done.
And here’s a few things to keep in mind. Don’t think you are unique. The venues get contacted by hundreds of bands and somewhere in that pile of demo tracks and CD’s they get sent, there is a band that might not sound just like you, but similar and does the same job for less than you can do after your travel expenses. Also if they are local, they definitely have a personal relationship with the venue.
Don’t think that just because you come from abroad, you are special. Sure there were few shows we got int he early days just because the venues thought it was a good idea to have an Irish night. But those days are long gone. There are enough Irish bands on the road to make sure the fact that we come from Ireland does not have that much appeal anymore.
Not everyone is going to like your music. That’s fine and don’t take that personally, just move on to the next venue. In the early days booking becomes a little bit of a numbers game.
Oh and I hate to admit, but things like the number of likes your Facebook page has an effect these days on how the venue view you. But trying to fiddle the game by buying Facebook likes does nothing but harm. If you have 10000 Facebook likes, but there is only three people at your show, that is a sure-fire way to never get booked again. Oh yeah, and venue owners do talk. Do a good job and people will know about it, do a bad job and people will definitely know about it.
Now days Sliotar have a long history of touring, festival and venue organisers that are more than happy to recommend us, video footage and pictures to show that we have been there, and done it. This takes years to accomplish (I’ve been in Sliotar for 15 years), and still does not guarantee you the gig. But it does help when approaching new venues. It’s like a well written CV full of experience. Oh yeah, and we have a kick ass live show to back it all up, even if I say so my self. Without the great lives how, stage presence and good music you will always struggle.
Build those relationships one show at the time. Go out of your way to nurture those relationships. It will take time and you need to start small. But if you are persistent, you will get there.
The author J.P. Kallio is a singer songwriter
To get EIGHT of his songs for free go HERE