It's whom you know!

Networking is important when you want to get your band booked for a gig

15 September 2014

So it’s true; networking is important and you have to know people to get shows booked. The last couple of months I have tried to get gigs; it is extremely difficult and the success rate is quite low. But things seem to be changing..

When I first started, I shot at every opportunity (in Dutch ‘ik schoot met hagel’). I emailed every venue, every festival and most of the time I did get no response. I found out this has several reasons.

Email doesn’t work. That became obvious again last week. Trying to showcase Roger William’s music posters and flyers in Amsterdam, I emailed many places but my inbox remained empty. One phonecall made a difference and we might have a show.

I should call more and mail less, but to be honest, I find that quite scary. I do it though, cos we’ll get nowhere with just email.

When calling venues, it is still not simple trying to get to speak to the right person. It can be a nightmare at some places. If they do not know your name, they never transfer your call. Even when someone asks you to call them, without a direct number, it can be impossible to get through. We have tried for years to speak to someone in one of Amsterdam’s best venues, but we never had the pleasure to speak to the lady we needed.

When I worked at Hope Recordings, Leon and Steve were on the phone all day. One of my best friends works for Mojo and even on holiday in South Africa and Namibia, his mobile kept ringing and we have many holiday pics with him on the phone. In Rookie, I always tell my students to know the name of whom you need to speak to and to call when you want to arrange something instead of email (and wait a week before taking the next step).

I used to send 100s of mails to everyone trying to get them to book BCUC, EJ von LYRIK or Mr. Sakitumi. Nowadays I mail and call a couple of days later. I do not send many mails anymore. I only contact people I know and that makes my success rate quite high. Less effort, more effect!

Luckily I know a lot of people. Partly because I used to do voluntary work at EKKO in Utrecht, a cultural centre where I worked while I was a student in the mid/late nineties. Many of the former volunteers are now successful in the creative industry; Su is doing well with her filmwork and other art projects, Allert is sound engineer and has a analogue synth studio, others are still DJing, promoters, bookers, etc. I am still friends with many of them and we see each other at (private) parties and festivals.

I go out to festivals and concerts to see friends and to network, but I also go to special network events like World Blend Cafe or MusicLab at De Zwijger and I attend conferences like ADE, Noorderslag or Rotterdam Beats. I think it is good to show my face, as it improves the chance that they will read my mail and answer my phone calls.

I know now what to aim at; I do not shoot from the hip, but target people who I know want to listen to me and who might be willing taking a risk through booking my unknown (South) African artists who will probably not sell more than 20-50 tickets if we are lucky.

Collaborating with Dutch artists can help as well. Linking DJ DNA with PinKi & DA Bruin, EJ with the Bob Marley Tribute Band. BCUC recorded a track with Gregor Salto and played live with the Hobbyisten in Middelburg. It does not guarantee more visitors to the show, but it can help and it is a smart way to get more people through the door, which is nicer for both the artists and the crowd. A (half) empty room can be a sad sight, but the show must go on – even when there are only 5 paying visitors.

Kaapstad meets Kytopia in the Sugar Factory was a big success last year: what a show and what a party!!!! We did not earn a penny that night, but we had a great time. Mainly because the band rocked, but also because all our friends were present. Maybe 80% (or more) were personal friends of Jorien and me and/or people we have worked with in the past and/or people who know that Manage Your Art always gives good parties. We build up credibility and we have people who trust we book artists who are fantastic performers.

And we can make a deal with the Sugar Factory because we know the creative director. We book are artists who became or friends. And the room is filled with people who came because they know MYA, they know us…

It’s about trust; it takes time to build a relationship an you have to maintain it. Remain professional while being personal, deliver what you promise and return favours. It’s phone calls, short emails, follow up, support each other and show your face through attending shows, festivals, conferences and network drinks, also when you rather lay on your sofa after a hard day’s work. Cycling through the rain because a friend organised a gig and is afraid it will be (half) empty.. and then, after trial & error, and investing a lot of time there day arrived that some of your phonecalls are being answered and that venues book your artists. Good thing is that when you know whom to target, your success rate will be higher.

Less shots in the dark, more on target!