True story: I once sent ONE booking email and ended with a SEVEN-gig tour in Canada. Certainly beats the usual “send a 100 festival emails and get one [negative] reply” situation!
I’m not saying it’s easy, or a regular occurrence, but there is a good lesson in there. I’ll tell you the full story in a minute, but first here’s the practical takeaway that you can put into practice right now…
We’ve all been there, haven’t we..?
You stumble across that club or festival where you know your project would be a perfect fit…
…You carefully craft that pitching email to the promoter and hit send…
…And you wait a bit more…
… And… radio silence.
If you’re really doing well with bookings, you probably plan some timely follow-ups, but still… nothing.
It’s not that your approach is wrong; far from it.
Persistence, well-crafted email pitches, and timely news updates are all essential tactics when trying to connect with a club or festival, as we’ve discussed before.
But sometimes, we need to accept a fundamental truth…
Promoter Attention Overload
Promoters are bombarded with so many pitches that 90% of their attention is taken up by musicians, agents, managers, labels, and colleagues who they already know and trust.
Which sucks if that’s not you.
Getting an agent or manager seems like the logical solution, right? After all, they’ve already made many of those industry connections.
But whilst there’s nothing wrong with searching for a booking agent, there’s another avenue which can bring you similar results, much more directly:
A promoter’s inner circle.
(Or, if you’ll excuse a nerdy jazz analogy, opting for a backdoor cadence when everyone else is 2-5-1’ing)
The Inner Circle
It’s rare for promoters to work totally alone.
Most established venues and festivals have a small but dedicated team behind them.
And, while the promoter is indeed the usual focal point, don’t overlook their assistants and colleagues who are:
- Highly knowledgeable about jazz
- In daily contact with the main decision-maker
- Receiving only a fraction of the pitches that the main promoter gets
Getting A Foot in the Door
These people provide a great shortcut to reaching the main decision-maker(s) if they can vouch for you, or at least draw the promoter’s attention to your music.
Your regular booking email can easily be lost in a sea of pitches, but it’s unlikely a message or comment from a member of the team will face the same fate.
Of course, you still need to put in the groundwork to understand their remit, tastes, and activities and forge a real connection; the upside is huge.
“I have enough trouble finding the promoter’s contact; how can I reach the assistant?!”
That’s what one musician said when I talked about this on a live members session recently.
And it’s true: anything of value rarely comes easy, otherwise everyone would be doing it and it would stop being easy.
But if you are motivated to crack the gig, there’s always a way, starting with:
If you don’t have an account, set one up straight away – it’s free.
Not to search for a job, but for honing your digital detective skills:
- Search for the festival or venue.
- Click on the ‘people’ tab.
- Scan the resulting list of job titles to identify the team members.
2) About Pages
You can also scour the ‘about us’ section on websites (sometimes called “Meet The Team“) which often offers valuable clues, or even direct contact details.
Once you’ve found some likely candidates, try connecting with them by email (ideal) or (assuming they have a work-focused Twitter/IG) via social media.
The goal is simple: form a connection, learn more about the inner-workings of the event and see if you can get your music into the main promoter’s ears.
I’m not suggesting you should give up on the main promoter, but connecting with these people too provides an excellent back-up.
And remember: you’re also playing the long-game as many of these junior employees will become the main decision-makers in years to come, and you will be part of the inner circle…
So How About That Canadian Tour?
As those of you who know the jazz scene in Canada, the festivals are very well organised into a narrow summer period, which means it’s very feasible to have bands play multiple in a row.
They’ve even got a website to make it easy for you: jazzfestivalscanada.ca
In theory each promoter makes his or her own decisions about who to book, but they tend to stay in close contact.
We identified one promoter who was a big fan of the band, and worked hard on convincing her to book them.
She then took the idea to all her ‘colleagues’ at other festivals, motivated them to join in and came back with a list of 7 dates.
Of course, she wasn’t ‘the assistant’ in this story, but she fulfilled the same role: championing a booking from the ‘inside’.
Her support meant more than that of an agent because she had less vested interest.
Coupled with the fact that the other festivals trusted her judgement, it was the perfect way to convince them.
Thanks, as always, for reading!
Looking for more tips on how to book gigs? Head over to our jazz gigs homepage for all the free content and resources.
Looking for more hands-on support? Whilst we are not booking gigs directly, we are able to help with a bunch of connected tasks such as drafting pitch emails and researching target clubs & festivals… You can reach out by email for that.