Ari’s Take: Don’t Be Afraid Of The Phone

Posted: September 14, 2015 by Kimberly Weiss in & Tips, Promo, Support, Support, Promo, & Tips
Tags: , , , , ,

I’ve played over 500 shows and I booked the majority of these. I set up a 60 date tour around the entire country from scratch – starting without contacts for the majority of the cities. I’ve spent the better part of 4 years living on the road, making nearly all of my income from live shows.

It all started, though, with the first few shows of course. I didn’t intern with a booking agency, I learned all of it by doing it. With all the contacts I’ve acquired, I could be a booking agent if I wanted to, but I really don’t want to and really don’t like booking. I do it (like many other aspects of the business side of my career) out of necessity and to keep more of the gross income.

So, how do you get a show booked, let alone a tour? It starts with the right email pitch. Through the wonders of the internet, the hard press kit is virtually extinct. I haven’t sent out a press kit package in the mail since I signed up for Myspace in 2005. Even if the website says ‘Send demos and press kits to this address.’ Don’t. It’s a waste of time and money. Getting a show booked is a lot easier than you expect.

First, you have to contact the proper venue for your style.

Once you have the venue picked out, make sure that you have the draw to justify booking a show there. There’s no sense in playing Madison Square Garden if you can only draw 500 people. Similarly there’s no sense in you playing your local 500 capacity hot spot if you can only get friends and family out.

The most important thing to 99% of all venues in the world is turnout.

They are a business establishment and if they book too many shows where no one comes they will go out of business. You don’t want to be the reason the venue goes out of business do you? Neither do they. Venues try to book sure things. They rarely take chances on unproven acts: those they haven’t heard of or who don’t have a proven draw. Unfortunately ‘the music’ is an afterthought.

**Worth noting that the venue manager, Louie, at Lestat’s in San Diego, is the only venue manager I’ve ever heard mutter the words ‘we don’t care about draw here. We’re about developing artists.’ Novel idea.

So you’re going to need to get that draw first.

Your pitch email to a venue you’ve never played or spoken with before should look something like this:

Subject: oct 23- pink shoes cd release
hey john looking to get pink shoes in on oct 23 for our cd release.

we just played the basement last friday and had 217 paid. i have the bill together for the 23rd with with jamsensation (75 at varsity june 2), tonys ride (40 at basement april 4) and blue maroon baboon (95 basement feb 3). i expect 400 out for this.

we’re printing 200 posters and 1,000 handbills, running $150 in facebook ads, facebook/twitter/email blasts and have a great street team on the ground. we’ll be passing out handbills after local shows.

pink shoes:

let me know if i can grab the date. thanks!


Guitarist/Manager of Pink Shoes
Austin, TX

-played on KMEP ‘bands on the rise’
-‘the song of 2011’ by City Pages
-winner of Daily Paper’s ‘Band of 2010’ contest

YES, put your impressive accolades in your signature (thanks to Amber Rubarth for this tip). You don’t want to include this in the body because if you’re in the band you don’t want to sound pompous and you want to keep the body as succinct as possible. The booker most likely will just skim the email if she doesn’t know you. Using all lower case letters is how people in the music industry trade emails and it is less intimating and more inviting.

Your first follow up email should be:

Subject: Re: oct 23 – pink shoes cd release

hey tom, checking in to see if i can grab oct 23 for pink shoes cd release. will get 400 out for this. thanks!

– joe

Guitarist/Manager of Pink Shoes
Austin, TX

-played on KMEP ‘bands on the rise’
-‘the song of 2011’ by City Pages
-winner of Daily Paper’s ‘Band of 2010’ contest

Always reply from the email you already sent so the booker can just scroll down the email to read your initial pitch.

If you haven’t gotten a response after the 3rd email (or sooner depending on the timeline) PICK UP THE DAMN PHONE AND CALL THEM! This seems so obvious, but so many musicians are deathly afraid of the phone and have gotten so accustomed to just interacting over the computer that they sometimes forget that phones exist. Some bookers ONLY book over the phone.

I’ve actually called a venue after 4 emails with no response and the phone call went like this:

‘Hi is Steve in?’
‘Hi Steve this is Ari Herstand, I’m looking to get into the Warehouse on June 10th.’
‘Oh yeah I think I got a couple emails from you about this. So what’s the show? What’s your history in the area?’
‘I just played the college down the street for 300 students and want to follow this show up. I have a student street team ready to promote this show.’
‘Ok let me see’! June 10th.. yeah it’s open. Ok sounds good. Let’s do it. $8 tickets? 7:00 doors, 18+. We do 70/30 split. Cool?’
‘Yup that works!’
‘Ok it’s confirmed. Send me a promo photo and bio that we can get up on the website along with links.’

BAM! Show booked at a venue I’d nearly given up on because of no email response.

Ari’s Take: Don’t Be Afraid Of The Phone.

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