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Brett McCarronTurning No Into Yes When Booking Your Band

By Brett McCarron

There's a fine line between being a pest and being added to a venue's performing roster. But it can be done.

In this article, I'll provide an example of how I was able to turn a "no" into a "yes" when approaching a venue owner when trying to get one of my earlier bands to perform there. Keep in mind that my point of view is that of a band member, not as a booking agent. This will appeal to those of you who are going the do-it-yourself route.

The band I was in was made up of musicians who found each other by searching music store 'musician wanted' listings. This band had talent, great song selection, and was ready to play smaller venues. We didn't have much in the way of lighting, but we did have good backline gear.

Where to find that first paying gig? After approaching a few club owners, and receiving the usual "we don't hire live bands any more" or "let me know where you're playing and I might come listen to you" dismissals, I decided to focus my attentions on a small club where I occasionally played pool. This bar had a small stage, but rarely featured live bands (they did have a karaoke night once a week).

I asked the bartender if they hired live bands. "No," he said. "We just have karaoke -- it's simpler for us, we don't have to pay a bouncer, and that way we don't force our regular customers into paying a cover charge."

I asked who booked the bands, and was told that it was the barmaid that worked on Monday nights. I made a mental note to come in the next Monday night and ask her.

That Monday, I came in, mentioned that I'd been talking with ________, the bartender, and asked about getting my band on the performing rotation there. I was told the same thing that the bartender told me earlier. I asked who could make the decision to change things up by hiring a good, local band that would bring in extra customers. She told me that it would be the club owner who'd make that call. I asked if she would do me a favor and mention it to the owner.

The next time I was playing pool with my friends, in walked the club owner. Turns out, I knew this fellow from an earlier music gear trade some years back. When catching up with each other, he naturally asked what I was doing with music these days. I mentioned that I was in a band -- a GOOD band -- and that we'd sure like to have our debut performance at his club.

"We don't really have bands here any more," he said. "But we do have an open mic night once a month. Would your band consider hosting it? If we like what we hear, we can talk about having your band play here for the door sometime."

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