How To Book Shows As An Independent Artist [12 Steps]

book shows acoustic gig

Playing shows regularly is a hard slog. But there is no better way to gain traction as an independent artist, build your fan base, and maybe even impress a label rep who could pull you up to the next level. Whether you are looking to pack the local 100-capacity rock’n’roll bar, or snag a lucrative slot at a small or medium-sized festival in your area, you need to learn the right way to book shows for your band.

1. Act Like A Professional Musician, Even If You Are Semi-Pro

If you want to get book a show for your band, you have to make a good impression from the very first contact point. This involves showing up as a professional, whether it be via email, on the phone, or your online presence, social media, website – whatever.

Walk the walk, talk the talk, fake it til you make it.

This does not mean putting 10 bottles of the most expensive vodka on your rider along with a detailed recipe for your favourite guacamole and acting like a total tool when the wrong brand of sparkling water is delivered to your green room.

But if you send an email with a sound, professional structure, a solid EPK (electronic press kit) with all information about your band in one place, you will make it a lot easier for a promoter to say yes to your band, and no to the plethora of other independent artists sending them emails every week asking for the same thing.

We’ll get into the details of a professional booking email below, but just keep in mind – promoters and booking agencies are professionals, so if you meet their standards, and present yourself like an unsigned band on the way up, you will stand out amongst everyone else showing up like a hobby band begging for gigs.

2. Send Venues Your Best Music

Source: NDR.de

So you send an email to a venue to book a show and they open your email because it looks professional and they click on a link to your music. This is the ultimate hot-or-not moment. Your music needs to be kickass.

Now there are several levels of independent musician and only you will know at what level you are at. I am NOT saying you need a professional recording from a high-end studio that cost you thousands if you haven’t even been on stage yet.

You don’t need a demo to get a gig at the local open mic night. A rough demo might be OK to book a show at local café, or the front-window stage of a small pub or bar in your area.

But if you want to book a concert at a 200+ capacity venue that you were born to perform at, you have got to submit some music that tells the promotor – this band will put bums on seats! Or feet on floors. Or punters through the door.

If you can get a promoter excited about your music, you will be a lot closer to getting your band booked for shows.

When I used to work in live sound, I was in close contact with promoters and booking agencies and these guys are really, really into music. They will take a chance on a band if they adore the music regardless of whether or not they think they will fill up a venue. They often just want to see them perform live themselves.

Alan McGee of Creation Records who signed Oasis, The Libertines, The Hives and many others, did so purely because he loved their music and wanted them to succeed. His biography is thoroughly entertaining by the way!

So if you want to get your foot in the door and impress that one promoter who will fall in love with your band, you’ve got to make sure you submit the best version of your music possible.

3. Record A Killer 4-Track EP To Get You Gigs

4 Track EP

If you’re in an independent band starting out, you’ve got a set of songs together and are ready to play live. Or you want to take your live game to the next level, away from local pubs to bigger stages and bigger crowds.

A solid 4-track EP with the very best of your songs could be the key to having a venue, festival or agency book you for shows.

An EP is a cost-effective way to showcase your best music as an emerging band. Record it live or as overdubs in just a few days and make sure it is mixed not only to a professional standard, but to reflect the style and creativity of your band.

Find the right studio, engineer and producer for the job and you will be well on your way towards booking live shows and growing your fan base.

4. Build Your Tribe Of Hardcore Fans Online

book shows for your band

If you can build a fan-base of listeners hanging onto your every word online, you can convert that to rabid fans at your shows, no worries.

Content is king. Ever heard that phrase? The way to stay ever-present online and slowly build your fan-base is to document everything.

Film your rehearsals. Film your shows. Post pictures of your gear, your bandmates, your trials and tribulations. Record the entire album production process and turn it into TikTok videos, Instagram Reels or YouTube shorts. Make it into a documentary of the behind-the-scenes action.

Online marketing is all about showing yourself and your artistic process from the first idea to the final product. It doesn’t have to be sleazy or attention-grabbing. Show up authentically and you will attract your tribe of fans that then turn out in droves to your live gigs.

The more followers and fans you have online, the more likely you will pack a venue to the limits. Promoters want to book great bands, but they really want to sell out the house. Build a decent following and you will convince the guys at the venues to book shows for your band.

5. Connect With Local Bands

The single most effective way to get your foot in the door of the live music scene in your town is to connect with local musicians.

Organise a concert with 2-3 other bands in your genre and approach a venue in your city. Show them the hard work you are willing to put into the organisation and promotion of your metal, folk or post rock night.

As long as they think they can make some money with a cut of the door deal and bar revenue, there is no reason they won’t book you for this show, which may even turn into support slots or headline shows in the future.

Make friends with bands in your rehearsal space. Go to shows and talk to the bands afterwards. Get acquainted with everyone in your scene and make sure everyone knows your band.


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6. Get To Know Promoters At The Concerts You Attend

If you can go out to local shows and pick out the promoter amongst the crowd, by striking up a conversation with him or her and telling them about your band, you might be well on the way to getting your independent band booked for shows.

Ask the guy on the door, the girl mixing sound (maybe before or between bands, rather than shouting in their ear during the show) or the barmen and women. Find out who is responsible for booking the band on stage and ask to speak with them.

Tell them politely and honestly about your band, that you are looking to play gigs, as a support slot or whatever and slip them a copy of your latest EP or album. Talk to them on their level, like a business-prospect, as essentially, they are looking to fill venues and earn revenue. See, there is always a venue in revenue.

7. Focus On Support Slots For Bands 1 Level Up From You

Touring bands need help! Often bands will get booked for a summer festival in Europe, the US or wherever and then try to maximise the potential of playing overseas by touring the country or continent.

They then turn to social media, Facebook groups and start begging for help booking shows in various cities along the way to the festival. They will have a general time frame for each city and as slots fill up, the show requests get more and more specific as to where and what dates they are looking to play.

Reach out to bands that are one level up from you and tell them how much you like their music. Maybe you just saw them play live. Tell them about your band, that it would be a perfect fit to share the stage and that you would be glad to help them get a gig in your city the next time they tour.

By associating your band with theirs and by sharing the stage, you not only move up a level on the independent band scale (if it’s not a thing, I just created it – it goes from 1 to 10 obviously, 11 for spinal tap) but you get to play in front of their fans, turning them into fans of your own.

8. Get Organised With A Spreadsheet of Venues, Promoters and Booking Contacts

Chances are, you have already started researching the niche venues of genres in your city or the cities you are looking to tour through.

Collect the names and email addresses of all booking contact persons in a spreadsheet that you can build and return to time and time again.

Ask any friends in bands for their list of contacts and add it to your own. If you let it grow over a couple of years you will have an armada of promoters and venues you can contact for that lucrative slot on your next tour!

Upload it or create it using Google Sheets to have it available to you at all times. You never know when you might need to access it if a show falls through at short notice while on tour.

9. Put Together A Professional EPK That Stands Out

Remember when I said to act like a professional? This is where we talk about approaching promoters at their level.

Don’t just send out a bunch of emails with a few lines of text asking for gigs and a link to your Bandcamp page. Send some eye-candy. Create some intrigue. Make the person on the other end want to click your link more than all the others in their inbox.

What is an EPK?

An EPK or electronic press kit is a collection of information about your band – from the names of your band members, contact details, to the albums you have released and the critical acclaim and awards you have received.

Everything of relevance should go into creating an EPK, highlighting the strengths and achievements of your band and your music. A well-crafted EPK will propel your independent band to the front of the queue and get you booked for gigs.

What You Need In An EPK To Get Your Band Booked For Shows

Ideally you will create an eye-catching, well-designed one-page PDF with all the information listed below. If you need help with the design, reach out to a graphic designer friend or find on one Fiverr.com.

  1. Band name
  2. Band members
  3. A band biography and description of your music
  4. Discography
  5. Links to your music
  6. Links to your socials & website
  7. Links to your music videos and live footage
  8. Band Logo and Photos
  9. Media quotes & reviews
  10. Previous shows, tours or festivals (mention any better-known bands you played with)
  11. Contact details: email, phone number, address, contact person

Head over here for a complete guide on how to craft the perfect EPK.

10. Send An Email That Will Gurantee You Will Get Booked For Shows

Sending out an email like this will probably not get your band booked for many shows.

Dear Promoter,
my Band Akashka would like to play at your venue sometime in the coming few months.
Here is a link to our music: www.akashka.bandcamp.com
Please get back to me ASAP.

Sending out an email through a professional mailing service with a solid design, photos and HTML links to your music, website and social media channels may just be the ticket to create intrigue and make them want to know more about your band.

It looks like it was sent from a booking agency!

11. Book Shows At The Right Venue For Your Genre

Have you ever seen a psytrance DJ play at your local punk venue? No, I didn’t think so. Many venues do cater for different genres and crowds depending on the day of the week, time of night etc., but you do want to make sure you are looking to book shows at the right venue.

As a band, you should always be looking to find your niche, or create your own. This includes getting to know the right venues for your niche and getting in front of fans that frequent those particular locations.

Start small and local, then build up to bigger and better venues.

If you’re just starting out, you want to try to play anywhere. Get those nerves out of your bones in front of your best friend, your room-mate and your mum.

Head to the local café and ask them if your folk group can perform on evening. Go to an open mic night and ask the manager if you can play a couple of songs as an opener or closer of the night.

Open up for the jam session with your psychedelic rock band at the bar down the road. The promoter might take notice you and ask you to support a touring band on another night.

If you’ve got a number of shows under your belt and your ready to take on larger venues or go on tour, research the right locations in the cities you are looking to play.

Get in contact with bands from other regions and ask for help. Reach out online looking for support acts to help organise and promote gigs in the cities you are looking to tour through. Promise a gig in your hometown for any bands that help out.

12. Find Gigs On An Online Booking Platform

Source: Backstagepro.com

How do I find music gigs? There are surprisingly few online platforms for booking gigs available right now, and many that were online are no longer offering their services. That being said, there are a couple I have used here in Germany that have enabled my band to team up with other bands from around the country and play shows together.

Online Artist Booking Platforms:

Backstage Pro – A Germany-based online platform for musicians to book shows, find support acts or musicians in a specific location. Includes a directory of venues and clubs.

This has been my favourite for booking support gigs with touring bands or gig-swapping in other cities. Backstage Pro also offers musicians wanted classifieds and a marketplace for buying and selling instruments.

Gigmit – An online platform for bands and promoters. Apply for support slots, festivals and shows in specific cities. Mostly for gigs in Germany.

SonicBids – A platform to post your own gigs and find bands to play with or apply for shows by other bands and promoters.

ReverbNation’s Gig Finder – A directory of over 100,000 venues that can be sorted by similar artists who have been booked to play there.

More Tips…

How Do Solo Artists Get Shows?

If you’re a solo artist looking for your first gigs, here are some ideas on how to break onto the live scene:

  • Head to an open mic night
  • Busk on the street or in the park to gain live experience and get in front of people.
  • Offer to play living-room concerts. (Some solo musicians have organised entire tours playing only in private living rooms!)
  • Ask at your local café, bar or pub to play an unplugged acoustic gig. No tech needed, just show up with your guitar.

Now, go book some shows!

If you play in an awesome band with killer music and follow the steps above you should have no trouble whatsoever booking shows for your band. The only step left is to rehearse your music, work on your live-show and rock up to the gig. Have an awesome time on stage and then repeat ad infinitum. The sky is the limit!

About The Author

Nick Braren is an audio engineer and musician with over 15 years experience in the studio, on stage, back stage and front of house. He is the owner and operator of Upaya Sound, guitarist and vocalist of Vandemonian, father of 2 and husband of 1. When he’s not in the studio or in the band room he’s either travelling in his van or at the beach – or both.

Mixing Engineer




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