So you got the gear, you rounded up your bandmates and figured out some songs. Now you want to play in a club. How do you get to the booking agents and distinguish yourself from hordes of bands harassing them for shows? If you put yourself in the booking agent's shoes, you'll realize that mass mailings of press kits and CDs often disappear into the entropic system of an agent's office. Your job is to put order into the agent's life, and make it easy to make money for the club. Chantelle Hylton, booking agent for the Blackbird, helped us out with some helpful tips:
* Call the venue and let the agent know you're sending some music, and that you'll check back in two or three weeks.
* Send a letter, press kit and music that day.
* Send your music on CD.
* Make your press kit original--but, please, no stinky food. Limit your buttons and stickers to one each. Avoid sending photos showing you posed on bridges, with beer, or shirtless.
* In your letter, include what bands you could bring with you, or the names of some local bands that you complement.
* One page is quite enough for bios and press quotes, with press clips on the other side.
* Just so you know, you're not the only group that claims to be the "best up-and-coming band in the Northwest."
* Check back in a few weeks, and tell the club what dates you'd like to play. Clubs generally book two to three months in advance.
* Remember you're a newbie, so don't even think about asking for weekend dates.
* If a month goes by and you haven't heard a word, send your music to newspapers, zines and radio stations to get press clippings, and then send them to the club. Once you can bring 30 to 50 people to a show, let the agent know.
* If you still receive no response, the booking agent has just given you a passive "ciao."
Of course, you need a budget to carry out this list. If you have more tapes than CDs, prioritize your list and send your CDs to your top choices. Put your contact information on everything you send, thereby increasing your chances of making contact if something gets lost in the shuffle. If you get the gig, enlist your friends' friends' friends to show up that night and order drinks. Yes, your music is important. But making the club a good bit of money will get you a second chance.