Technique: The Gig Kahuna—How to Approach People Who Can Help You
By David Himes |
As I’m always stating, reaching most of the people who can help you isn’t that hard if you know how to approach them, and in a professional manner. Of course, if you’re an entry-level artist, your chances of contacting Lady GaGa’s personal assistant are slim to none. But you might be surprised at the people you can reach when you know how. While an entire book could be written on this subject alone, I’ll briefly give you a few guidelines. There are different professional approaches, depending on whom you want to contact and what you want. In this example, let’s say you’re an entry-level local band asking for a date in a local club.
The best start is usually by email. If you think you can just send something lame and half-ass like “We’re looking to book a date at your club,” and little or no more, thinking the recipient will click the reply button, you’re in for a disappointment. The person you want to reach will click delete instead. Yes, many people really do send messages like that. And never insult the recipient by trying to get them to visit your website, social network, or whatever online resource. The people you want to reach are extremely busy in their day-to-day activities, and simply don’t have time to hunt you down. Never assume anyone is going to chase you down—not when they are being bombarded every day by a million other requests for their time.
For starters, you want to find out the name of the person you want to reach whenever possible, and address that name. If you can’t find out a specific name, contact anyone at the venue and ask. Most personnel will direct you to the person to reach out to. That person’s name should also be included in the subject field of the email. It should read something like “Attention, Jane Smith.”
In the case of a booking request, you want to include basic information like your musical style, what town you’re based out of, how long you’ve been around, and a specific date or a ballpark range of dates you’d like—preferably one to three months in advance. The information should be very brief and to the point. Never send your basic information in an attached file, such as a Word file. Always include it in the email body.
Stick with standard fonts like Times, Times New Roman, Arial, or Helvetica—the fonts that are likely to be in anyone’s computer. Avoid using goofy frilly-dilly fonts. Keep the message in basic text, and avoid any fancy or colored backgrounds. Just plain, black text on a white background will do fine. Anything more impresses no one, and chances are the recipient’s email program may not be able to read anything fancy and appear as garble to them.
Avoid all uppercase (Turn the caps lock off!) or all lowercase. Also avoid combinations of both, LiKe tHiS (People still do that?). Type complete words, not half-ass garbage like “how u doing with ur self”—all signs of lameness. You want your message to appear typed by someone intelligent and professional, not some retarded second-grader.
Leave the bullsh#t out of your message. Don’t try to impress anyone with the social network numbers you supposedly have. If you’re from out of town, don’t say something like “we’re from town X, but we have a big draw in (your town). Leave out statements like “once you see how good we are, you’ll want to have us back.” And NEVER approach anyone as if they owe it to you to do whatever it is you’re asking for. Finally, spare them the typical bullsh#t about how you will pack their club. They’ve heard it all a million times before. In fact, when approaching a venue in a professional manner, it shouldn’t really be necessary to make a big case as to why they should book you. Keep in mind that almost any club that uses local bands are always looking for openers, seeking out diamonds in the rough, and most of them will give entry-level bands a shot, depending on your locale.
Always include COMPLETE contact information with yes, a phone number. And for cripes sake, NEVER use the retarded combination of words and numbers like this: 5five5-fivefive5-6one2three—another sign of a moron. Numbers only! Set up a signature in your email program, so you don’t have to type your contact information over and over again. It should look something like this:
The John Doe Band
For email, websites, social networks, etc., most email programs should automatically create clickable links. If not, figure out how to make that happen, as clickable links are preferable.
So finally, your message should look and read something like this:
Just wanted to drop a quick line to let you know my band is available around (XX-XX through XX-XX). We are a folk/rock band based in AnytownUSA. We are relatively new on the scene, and would also be glad to play any opening slots you might have.
If you’d like, I can send a photo, MP3 or video, or you can click one of our links for that and other information.
Thank you so much for reading!
The John Doe Band
Optionally, you could attach a band photo, MP3, or video. But I’m not too wild about it, unless requested. The reason being moderately heavy files slow down the download to the recipient, and if they use a spam filter or virus program, it could be read as a virus or Trojan horse and get rejected.
In most cases, you should get a response within a day or two. If not, follow up, hit them again. (Save the sent message and resend, so you don’t have to retype.) If you still get no response, wait two to four weeks and try again. If you do get a response, reply in a timely manner—immediately if you can. And NEVER be like the majority of people and do a vanishing act. I can never stress that point enough: BE EASILY ACCESSIBLE!
While there is no guarantee you will get a response, following the above guidelines will at least maximize the chances of it happening. If I were to put it all in a nutshell, what you want to do is make it so ridiculously easy for the recipient to read your message, and take absolutely as little of their time as possible.
I hope all this makes you a better communicator. Poor communication has been one of the biggest problems in the scene over the last number of years. Hopefully, enough of you will read this and realize how vitally important good communication, and following up is in reaching your goals and getting whatever it is you want.
David Himes is the author of the book Realities for Local Bands: Talent is not Enough. You can find it at Amazon. For a FREE sneak preview, click here. The book is also available in PDF format. Also, David published a local music scene paper for over 16 years and has held over 400 live shows, giving him a unique insight on the scene. Your feedback and comments are welcome.