How To Supercharge Your Band's Bookings

The following is a guest post by Joe Lilly. Joe is a professional internet marketer and guitar player based in Las Vegas. You can read more of Joe's excellent writing here

Getting More Gigs That Pay More

It's a common problem with local bands - you have a great press kit, a good demo and a great look. You have a decent following. But for some reasons the bar owners and booking guys aren't following up and don't answer your calls. You're stuck playing the same Irish pubs night and night again. You really need to get some new ears on your music but it's tough when the booking guys won't call you back. If you've felt like this, you aren't alone. Lots of musicians feel as if the booking guys aren't driven by booking the best musical acts possible.

I have a secret to tell you....

They aren't.

(Technically it's not that they don't care about great music - it's that you are not memorable or different enough to warrant a listen to your demo or a call back. This is a common problem in businesses of all types and seems to really frustrate musicians, who tend to care a lot more about making music than they do follow up calls.)

Just like rehearsing or practicing your modes, marketing yourself is something you just gotta woodshed. I used to make 150-200 calls per day to businesses that had absolutely no interest in buying what I was selling. At times that 'something' was whatever I was schlepping for my day gig. Sometimes that 'something' was me or my band. I learned the hard way that in order to get attention from the booking guy (your prospect) you have to be different and memorable. Lucky for you, I'm going to teach you how to do that. These techniques are EXACTLY what I used to book tons of gigs...and build an internet marketing business that generated $100 million in revenue last year.

Laying the Groundwork: Abandon Your Current Approach
I would bet my ES-335 that your current sales process looks something like this: You hear about a venue and decide it would be a good place to play. You either a) call and ask for the booking guy, or b) stop by and ask for the manager/booking guy. They either a) blow you off and ask you to mail a kit, or b) tell you they aren't available and ask you to leave a kit with the bartender. So you do. You also ask the name of the decision maker. After waiting the obligatory 2-5 days you make the ol' follow up-call or e-mail. That goes down something like this: "Hey, Mr X, this is Joe Lilly with the Joe Lilly Band. I mailed my kit to you and wanted to ensure that you received it and talk about playing a show at your bar/venue. Please call me at XXX-XXXX...."

What exactly is wrong with that? It's the easy way out and 95% of people do it half-baked. It's the business equivalent of karaoke. Mr. X gets 10 lead guitarists per day dropping off 10 press kits, and soon all the calls, all the kits, all the everything starts to blend together with his AOL install CDs and pictures of his cat. Mr. X starts making booking decisions on stupid things like "do I like the way the kit looks?" At the very least he'll ditch your kit without giving it a listen if he doesn't like your chosen font or shade of blue. So.....take all of that and and stop it. Just stop. Instead, use my simple 3 step approach.

Step 1: Represent Yourself During the Introduction

Did you see Boiler Room? How about the scene where Ben Affleck tells the trainees to "act as if?" Although we aren't hard-selling bogus stocks, there's a lot of wisdom in this approach. Let me explain: Instead of acting like a guitar player trying to book his band, you should act like an agent trying to book his superstar act. If you're going to the venue, dress professionally. If you're calling, do so from a quiet location. Don't wear flip flops or call from Hardee's...and never, ever, EVER tell ANYONE that you are a member of the band. Instead, your introduction should sound like this: "Hello, my name is Joe Lilly with Lilly Entertainment. I represent a number of regional acts in the Midwest and happen to have a fantastic group pulling through your neck of the woods on [date you'd like to play]. I've taken the liberty of sending you a kit, and will call you on [name a date] to discuss your venue's schedule that night and talk about getting an agreement together. I understand if you already have a headliner - my boys are happy to open since they're new to the area. If you have a moment, please call my direct line at XXX-XXXX. If I'm on the phone just leave a message with my receptionist and I will do my best to drop everything and get back to you. Thanks so much."

Why this works: You sound professional. You sound like you're running a business. You sound like you're successful enough to have a receptionist. You are also not asking permission to call back - you're telling Mr. X what you are doing and you are (most importantly) assuming the sale.

Real World Example: When my band was ready to start playing out, I used this technique to book us at a very popular pub outside of Chicago, IL. After our first show I followed up, again using this technique. They were so impressed with us that we earned a standing monthly gig at this little pub. That earned us well over $10k in the first 12 months we performed there.

[If you have HUGE cajones, add this: "I don't normally book acts without visiting the venue first, but I've heard about you guys and you seem to have a good reputation so I'm really excited to talk to you about this." ]

Step 2: Assist Yourself During the Follow Up
In most worthwhile venues the booking guy will have a gatekeeper answering the phone. The receptionist's job is to ensure that Mr. X is only talking to important people. need to prove that you're important. How do you do that? Simple. Call on behalf of yourself and act like your own gatekeeper. I know what you're thinking. "That advice and a few orange midgets puts me in the chocolate business." Bald Guitar Dude doth retort - this step is a golden ticket to ENSURING that you will connect to Mr. X. Let me roadmap it out for you. Your call will sound like this: "Hello, this is Jeff Anderson calling from Joe Lilly's office at Lilly Entertainment. Mr. Lilly was hoping to connect with Mr. X. Is he available? If so I have Mr. Lilly standing by." One of two things will happen: 1. You'll get through and connect to Mr. X, now magically yourself. 2. You'll leave a message or (preferably) request to be sent to Mr. X's voicemail. In this case, leave a voicemail as Jeff Anderson.

Why this works: Mr. X starts to think that your time is so important that you have to have an assistant call Mr. X on your behalf. Mr. X thinks you are the best agent in the region and feels like a big fat wank for not knowing who you are. Other fun facts: Almost nobody notices similarities in your voice enough to realize that you are acting like someone you aren't. At most you'll get "You guys sound a lot alike," to which you say "yeah I don't like to talk about it but he's my half brother."

Real World Example: Bald Guitar Dude got his band a gig at Taste Of Chicago using this technique. Oh....and no press kit was sent. (It happened that the agent had just had a band fall through and she was panicking. She checked us out online and booked us on that call.)

Step 3: Revive Unresponsive Leads
Now that you have a list of venues who can't wait to book your band, it's time to dust off the folks that don't remember you. (Remember them, from before you read this article?) Here's how to get them crawling back to you. Invent a name for yourself and call when you know Mr. X WILL NOT be in the office. (This is counterintuitive but stick with me here.) The objective is to get his voicemail. Call on as your alter ego and say the following: "Hey X, how've you been? It's Steve. Haven't heard from you in a while so I thought I'd call and see what you're up to. My number in case you forgot it is XXX-XXXX. Oh, by the way, man, I have great news about - [click] -." And, that's right, hang up the phone mid-message. Just make sure you leave your number before you hang up. Mr. X will call you back within 72 hours. When Mr. X calls back, just remember the name you used and act as if you've been representing the band (a la step 1).

Why this works: Booking agents talk to loads of people all the time and are frequently big networkers. They have no idea who half the people are that they talk to. By acting informal and cutting yourself off mid-message, they assume you're an old colleague or friend that they haven't heard from in forever and that you have some exciting news that they need to talk to you about ASAP. Oh...and that you use AT&T wireless because a trendy iPhone is more important to you than reliable cellular service. I tested this method extensively when I was in inside sales. This increases the "return call probability" by about 300%.

Real World Example: I cold-called a senior executive at a very large (Fortune 50) financial firm, got a call back and wound up closing a HUUUUUGE sale. Due to a non-disclosure I'm forbidden from saying who it is but let's just say that their stock price isn't doing very well right now.....

Wrapping It Up
I hope you've learned a bit about how to increase your bookings by being different and memorable. In addition to being effective, the techniques above are really fun. Once you're comfortable, use your creativity and try to think of your own ways to be different and memorable. Some of you might think this stuff is a hokey, which maybe it is. But what's better - being run of the mill, not memorable, and spending your weekends playing Playstation 3 and eating Papa Johns, or playing a couple of little tricks and booking yourself for bigger, better shows more frequently that pay more?

Joe Lilly is an internet marketer and guitar player based in Las Vegas, NV. He writes about music, marketing, and the benefits of dry heat at