As mentioned in my last column, if you’re feeling rather ambitious and up to the challenge, a final means of getting your act booked would be to propose to a club owner/booker that you would like to put together your own show. But, as I previously stated, I only recommend this option to bands that are experienced, have strong followings, and know how much hard work is required in order to do so. In addition, I recommend that this option only be presented to bookers with whom you’ve worked before so that you are aware of their expectations.
Often established acts will find themselves at the request of various charities wishing to put together fundraising events or if your act is planning a special event to co-ordinate with the release of a CD or a music video, putting together your own show for each of these options would be in your best interest.
There are definitely a lot of great advantages with lining up your own bill, and outlining the details for the night, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s an easy task. I can tell you from personal experience, no matter how hard you try to cover every detail, last minute issues will arise, and/or there will be something you have forgotten. Therefore, I recommend starting early.
Compliment your sound & make your whole show strong
Sometimes having extremely diverse variety-type shows can be effective if an event is being put together by a large organization or a festival. However, when it comes to local rock shows, I recommend that you do not stray too much from your own sound. Booking solid openers that are unique, but complimentary to your act would be in your best interest.
When crowds come out to see a specific act, it’s because something has caught their attention about that band’s music and/or performance which has lead to the development of their following. Bookers, taking note of a strong act, will usually book lesser-known support acts with which the strong act shares a similar sound. The rationale behind this strategy is simple: the fans of the strong act will be more likely to enjoy a support act if the genre is relatively the same. Hence why you don’t see many concerts with a jazz band opening for an industrial group, because it will likely divide the audience.
The other point to take into consideration when booking acts on your bill is their draw. I know there’s a tendency to want to book your friend’s bands (who may or may not be established), but at the end of the day, you need to ensure that your show overall will be strong.
I think it’s fair to have a couple of newer bands as openers for the show as it would give them a chance to expand their fan base, however, make sure that you aren’t relying on a solitary act to bring out all of the people.
Usually when I put together shows, I book four to five acts a night. The opening act is often a friend’s band that is from out-of-town with little to no draw. However, the other four acts on the bill (my band included) are established in the area and can make up for the initial band’s lack of contribution to the crowd. I always give the headlining spots (the last and second last set times) to the strongest acts on the bill, as you want to ensure that each band will have a decent crowd to whom they can play.
Make sure to leave your ego out of the decision making process when you’re devising the band schedule for the night. If you’ve booked an act that has been established in the area for 20+ years, the headlining spot indefinitely should be theirs, NOT yours just because you booked the show. It will still be recognized that it’s your show as you did all the grunt work, but if you would like it to be the best night possible, know your bands, their capabilities, and book their set times according to such. Also, knowing when each band’s crowd usually comes out should be taken into consideration.
Choose your venue wisely
The setting and atmosphere need to be appropriate for the music genre, but as well keeping the crowd capacity amount in mind is important. Estimate a realistic figure in terms of attendees for the night based on each act’s average draw. Depending on that amount, you’ll be able to more accurately find a place that suits your show’s need. 100-200 people may be a strong turnout depending upon the event, but if you are playing at a club that is designed to accommodate crowds on the upwards of 800, then the place will look empty. A smaller more intimate venue would be more appropriate in this scenario. Giving the appearance that the place is packed will do wonders for impressing bookers, and you’ll find yourself likely to get more show opportunities in the future.
Selecting the date
Obviously setting the date may not entirely be your decision if you are putting together a show on behalf of a non- for-profit organization. However, if they have left the details up to you, you will likely have some influence. Before agreeing to any specific date, do your research. Know which club you have in mind, and when their crowds are usually the strongest.
For example, I have found that crowds at Call the Office are often larger on Friday nights then Saturdays, even if the bills for each night are equally strong. As a consequence, when hosting my own shows there, I always request Fridays.Of course there are strong clubs, such as The Bovine Sex Club (Toronto), that seem to have a built in following for every night on the week. Therefore, selecting a weekday will not necessarily put your show at a disadvantage. However, selecting the date of your event based on your chosen venue’s crowd alone is not enough. You need to know your competition.
When my band was touring the States this past summer, we had so many shows going on month to month that keeping track of holidays and other events that fell on the same night as our appearances became overwhelming. As a consequence, we unknowingly booked an appearance in St. Louis at a local bar just down the street from where a Rancid concert was taking place. Luckily for us, the support acts with whom we were booked were very strong, so we manage to play to a decent-sized crowd. However, we can only imagine how much the larger the turnout would have been if Rancid were not playing that night. Therefore, being aware of shows offered by other popular venues that may compete with yours is of the utmost importance.
Realize that the regular bookers/promoters of clubs will have a stronger means of promoting their events. So, if you are scheduled to put together your event on the same day that the Taste of Chaos tour is coming to the JLC, again, suck up your pride, and choose a different date or else your show will suffer the consequences.
Make it quick, easy and painless
There is nothing worse than an unorganized show that requires fans to have to wait around for long periods of time while each band tears down and sets up their equipment, and runs through a sound check. For the benefit of your soundman (he’ll appreciate it, trust me) and your fans, stick to one backline (drum-kit, minus breakables and a bass amp).
Obviously selecting equipment that is compatible with each band’s requirements is important, but usually the standard practice is that the headlining band will provide the gear for each act to share. Some liability issues can come into effect here, so make sure it’s crystal clear that if any of the support acts damage the headlining act’s gear, that support act will be held responsible for the replacement charges.
Another suggestion I offer you in terms of making your show run as smoothly as possible is sticking to the club’s already defined parameters. If on average, the venue at which you are hosting your event runs all ages shows with five-dollar covers, your event should follow the same format. Regular club audiences often do not bring more money with them outside of covering the cover charge and/or their drinking expenses. If suddenly, the cover charge is raised unexpectedly to even seven-dollars, it may cause people to become frustrated, and worse, denied entrance because they didn’t plan for such. This situation can be avoided if your show’s cover is advertised well on all promotional materials, however, I still recommend sticking to the club’s typical practices as a means to avoid potential angry customers.
Give them plenty of notice
Last, but not least, give everyone involved plenty of notice. I recommend drawing up a schedule of the night, and notifying everyone involved at least two to three weeks in advance. Be as detailed as possible. Make sure you mention which act will be providing the backline (outlining the make and style of the equipment), what the cover charge is, each band’s set time, when doors open, how many people are allowed on the guest list (if applicable), how much time will be allowed for changeovers, where bands will be allowed to set up their merchandise, band payment etc.
Try and answer all the questions that you anticipate arising. Not only will this help to avoid last minute conflicts, but as well, it gives each band, and the venue plenty of time to advertise your event. Make sure to provide all those involved with a method to contact you if there is a problem.
Along with outlining how you would like the night to go, tell everyone involved what you expect of him or her. If ticket sales are required, each band needs to do their part. Remember it’s your reputation on the line, and your show’s success is a reflection of how hard your band works. Tell each support act what’s required of them, and keep on their asses to make sure they keep their promises.