So you wanna be in a rock band?: All the right moves to securing the right gig
Owners Vs. Promoters
For newer bands, the other two options are much more feasible. So what's the difference between the two? Though similar tactics are utilized when it comes to contacting promoters and club owners, from my experience, I have found that club owners tend to be more reliable, and sympathetic to the position in which new acts find themselves. As well, club owners have strong insider knowledge of their venue's regular crowd, as well as the acts that draw well to the club. Therefore, if you request to be slotted onto an already established bill, it more than likely will be a decent show.
Promoters, on the other hand from my experience, often will try to screw you in any way possible. Now this is not the case in all situations, but I do suggest if you decide to work with independent promoters that you issue contracts that outline all of the necessary gig details along with the promised compensation. So, in the event a promoter tries to give you the runaround, you have legal proof that they agreed to the show's details. In addition, prior to working with a given promoter, I recommend that you contact bands with which they have previously worked to inquire as to how their events have run in the past. Generally, they charge club owners flat fees for their services so regardless of whether the show turns out well, they get paid the same amount. Unfortunately for bands, this often results in poor treatment and a lack of consideration.
As far as the initial approach goes, bands once again need to take into consideration that this is a highly competitive field, especially if you are looking to get shows at the top rated venues. If you are a new act, you will need to use every and any angle you can to get yourself booked, whether that be through the utilization of a catchy tagline, an explanation of your band's diverse influences, an allusion between your band and a renowned artist of the past, name dropping of previous acts from which members have participated, toured with, and/or producers with whom your members have worked... Literally I mean it, anything and everything.
But, before you approach any booker, make sure you've got a good story to tell. You need to peak a booker's interest so that they are willing to give you a chance. If your act is relatively inexperienced and you have yet to record any material (yes believe it or not, you can get shows without bookers hearing your music), your biography will become your primary selling feature.
Members of the popular Toronto based band The Antics, went out of their way to paint themselves as rebellious punk rockers that really couldn't care less what other people thought. In their case, mirroring the attitude of their predecessors, The Sex Pistols, definitely worked out for them.
In addition to having a biography on hand, most bookers like to be able to put a face to the name. They want to check out your band's image and appeal, so obtaining professional promotional photos right from the get-go is crucial. Snapping a few decent band shots is quite feasible even without access to a large budget. Many student photographers need to gain valuable work experience and shots for their portfolios. As a consequence, they are apt to offer their services for a minimal fee or sometimes even free of charge. Check out Fanshawe's photography division, there is some serious talent there.
Lastly, though I did make a little quip that it's possible to book shows without submitting music to booker, keep in mind that this is a skill, which only an experienced musician who has been around the block a few times will be able to pull off. Therefore, having an audio recording accessible, even if just through a free “Myspace” account will be beneficial as most bookers want to hear your act before they book you a slot. Basically, you need to look at it from this perspective: in this case, something is better than nothing, but DON'T EVER send a burned CD with a paper cover that you made yourself to a booker (so unprofessional).