Are You Filling the Calendar or Building a Career?


Have you ever felt frantic about getting more dates on the calendar? So often, I find that many artists are fixated with filling up their calendars with any gig that comes their way. Depending on your goals, that may be exactly the thing to do. For those of you attempting to create a long lasting career, that has some momentum and progresses from one level up to the next, I would like to help you examine the types of gigs you are booking.

As you begin to book your act, it is important to play as much as possible, build a fan base and create interest in the act. It is also possible to play gigs that are just not right for you. Some gigs just don’t seem to have any impact on your career building process. Sometimes, you need to accept a gig just to make money. Keeping the band solvent is certainly an important factor. My concern is that you are working from a master plan, a set of career goals that will help you determine whether one gig is more advantageous over another. I have witnessed artists get lost in the day-to-day details of booking the dates without leaving enough time to step back and review the big picture. Your master plan should guide your every decision. Allow yourself to evaluate constantly each gig being considered and decide to accept it or reject it based on how it moves you toward your career goals. Think about the following factors as you consider each date.

The Venue:
Is this the right room for your act? Have you selected the room because other acts similar to your own play the room? Even if you are not quite ready to play the room, but this is where you should eventually play, it is important to begin developing relationships with the booking personnel and to follow the schedule of upcoming concerts booked into the room. Will your audience attend your show at this venue? Even if this seems to be the right venue for you, is it the right venue for your audience? Will your 11 pm start time hamper your audience or suit them? Is it in a part of town that they will travel to or not? Is the stage appropriately sized for the size of your group? Is this a venue where emerging acts are normally booked along with more notable acts or is it a local dive? You want to select rooms that have a mix of national and regional acts and begin to have your name listed among those various acts.

Sharing the Stage:
Sharing the stage can be a huge career boost. It puts your act in front of an audience you hope to make your own. In some instances, the association with a name act or larger act can potentially help secure you a future main act slot at the venue. Potential record deals, agent signings, and management deals have been known to come from opening slots or co-bill appearances. Selecting appropriate acts with whom to share the stage must be considered carefully and selectively sought after. Accepting co-bill or multi-act performance situations can also be a detriment to your act when inappropriate matches are suggested. Whether you are the opener or the main act, a bad match can hurt you. Always check out the act intending to share the stage, get recorded material and a press packet, get comments from people who have seen them live, find out something about their audience draw before accepting the situation. If you are trying to grow your audience, it doesn’t make sense to open for someone who draws less than you, even if they are more well known in the market.

The City:
A constant review of your goals and master plan will help you decide whether certain cities or markets are important to your career growth. Your goals will clarify those markets that are a must-play in order to develop important media attention. When faced with a choice to play a showcase venue in New York City or a much smaller market just outside of New York City, your choice must be based upon your overall goals. If media attention and playing this particular showcase venue are important career moves, then the fact that you will be paid more money at the secondary market venue should not sway you to pass up the career opportunities offered by playing in New York City.

Does a certain city fit within your touring plans making it an important transitional date helping you get from one major city to another? Can a date serve to pick up some money on an off night or weekday? These dates are important to include within a tour as you route the important career building dates together.

The Media:
Selecting dates in media-rich markets is always an important consideration when your career goals depend on gaining media attention. As you negotiate your dates, inquire about the local media opportunities and how much promotion the venue is offering. Find out what the venue’s relationship is with local media and will they share their media contacts so you may take advantage of those opportunities. Is the local media also national media, i.e., The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune or The Boston Globe? Do you have potential to play a date in a city where certain nationally syndicated radio shows are taped or broadcast live? A date in that city may be worth scheduling if you can get on one of those radio shows even when the gig doesn’t pay much. The syndicated show offers future national exposure worth many times more than the gig.

The Money:
We would all like to be making a good living from our art. Creating touring budgets can help you manage your touring costs more effectively. When it comes to accepting or rejecting a gig based on money alone, I refer you right back to those career goals as well as your goals for each tour. Certain tours will most likely be investment tours such as when promoting a new recording or breaking into a new market. In the first scenario media attention will be a priority and in the second, building new audiences and playing new venues will be paramount. The money factor may play a secondary role in each of these situations. Adhere to a realistic tour budget and attempt to break even or better even while achieving other goals, but be prepared to finance some career building tours while moving to the next level.

These are the challenging questions sure to arise as you book dates while holding true to your career goals. Don’t be so eager to simply accept a date just because they sought you out or you have the date open on the calendar. Consider each situation, make sure it works within your master plan to move you one step closer to your goals. Good luck.

And, I invite you to learn more about this and other topics important to your career development and to sign up for free weekly audio Biz Booster Hot Tip! Every Monday you’ll get another valuable strategy and technique that you can put to use immediately. You’ll find helpful books, career development seminars, Booking & Touring Success Strategies & Secrets online course and information on booking tours, the music business and performing arts. It’s all waiting for you at Jeri Goldstein is the author of, How To Be Your Own Booking Agent The Musician’s & Performing Artist’s Guide To Successful Touring, 3rd Edition.

* If you would like to reprint any of these articles, please contact Jeri Goldstein for permission.

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