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Hi, my name is Melissa Koehler, and I’m a country musician from Ontario, Canada.
I use this outline for booking shows at clubs, bars and coffee shops across Southern Ontario. This outline has helped me get gigs at notable venues like Maxwell’s in Waterloo, The Boathouse in Kitchener, The Casbah in Hamilton, The Commercial Tavern in Maryhill and the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival.
So, if you are a musician looking to book a gig at a bar or a club but you’re not sure where to start, then check out my musician’s guide to booking a show at a bar or club below and follow along with how I go about it!
First, you need to research where you want to play. Decide what bars and clubs you want to play at and in what cities. Make sure you pick a venue that matches your music.
For example, if you play country music, then find a country bar or club where your music fits and makes sense. Keep a list of these venues and then see if you can find out who is in charge of booking the music.
Here’s a short list of the venues I’ve performed at that I had to do a bit of research in order to find. It’s good to be systematic about these things.
Try to find the manager’s name on the venue’s website, or give the venue a call and ask for the manager’s name. When you’ve done all your research, you should have a solid list of venues and people to contact at those venues.
Create an EPK (Electronic Press Kit)
Next, you need to create an EPK (Electronic Press Kit). An EPK is like your band’s resume. It gives a band that no one has ever heard of some credibility and it gives venues an idea of who you are and what you play.
In your EPK, you should include pictures, a biography of your band, any notable past performances or achievements, a list of covers your band can play, and links to your social media, iTunes/Spotify and live videos.
Here’s a screenshot of what my EPK looks like.
As you can see, I even added my logo for credibility!
Create a Cover Letter
Once you’ve created your EPK, you need to create your cover letter. The easiest way to do this is to create a generic cover letter template that you can use over and over again.
Here’s a screenshot of what my cover letter looks like.
Simply highlight the places where you need to switch out the names of the venue and the manager.
Your cover letter should address the bar or club manager by name and then outline your band’s name, how many members are in your band, the genre you play, where you’re from, the name of the venue you want to play at and a few dates you’re interested in playing there.
You should also mention that they can find your EPK attached and include a few social media links at the end of the email.
Also, if you happen to have a video that could act as a musical sample of your work, perhaps at a venue similar to the one you’re applying to, you may wish to highlight this as well.
For example, here’s a video of my band playing at The Commercial Tavern from where I’m from and a very popular venue for country music! It’s something you may want to include in the EPK, if you think the venue owner would appreciate it.
Have Someone Proofread Your EPK and Cover Letter
Once you’ve written your EPK and cover letter, have the band review it to make sure you haven’t left out anything important.
If they give it a thumbs up, then ask a friend or family member to look over it. Make sure it makes sense to them and have them look for grammatical errors that you may have missed.
Send EPK and Cover Letter to Venues
Once you’re done your research and you’ve written your EPK and cover letter, you’re all set to start contacting venues.
Make sure to include the correct names of the venue and manager in your cover letter and then doublecheck that you’ve attached your EPK to the email.
Once you’re confident that everything looks good, hit send!
Follow Up with Venue Managers
Hopefully, you hear back from everyone you contacted, but if it’s been a week or two and you haven’t heard back, be sure to send a follow-up email.
Ask politely if they’ve had a chance to review your EPK and let them know that you can be contacted at anytime if they have any concerns or questions.
Create and Send Invoice
Once you’ve head back from venues and have decided on a date, it’s time to figure out your pay and get it in writing.
Send them a digital invoice with a clear description of what you’ll be providing musically, as well as the terms and conditions for paying you.
Make sure you bring a printed copy of this invoice to the night of your gig to avoid any confusion or miscommunications.
It might be a good idea to have the band, a friend or a family member look over the invoice too.
Send a Thank You to Venue Managers
A few days after your band has played, send the venue a thank you email for having your band play at their venue.
Let them know that your band had a blast and that you’re interested in playing there again. This will help you stand out from other bands and give you a chance to set up your next gig there.
Here’s an example of a thank you email that I use.
Update Your EPK
As you get more and more gigs, update your EPK with all the new and impressive venues your band has played at!
Did we miss anything? Let us know your tips and tricks for booking shows in the comments below!
Oh, almost forgot. Here are some links to some of my personal music stuff in case you’re interested!