Are there perfect pitches when it comes to booking your own concerts? Maybe not, but we can get close! Over the past few weeks we’ve been focusing on how to book more concerts. If you missed any of these, last week we focused on WHERE you might get more bookings, and the week before on the WHAT of programming to offer. This week we’re tackling HOW to make pitches perfect for booking more concerts.
Assuming you’ve now got specific prospects lined up, have researched the appropriate contact person at the venue, have a compelling program, and have online samples of your work ready to go, the next step is the pitch. It’s the email proposal you send to a series presenter.
This is exactly where most musicians fall down on the job. Why? Because this step involves facing our fear of rejection. Because you WILL be rejected. Countless times. It’s simply the nature of the job: it’s sales. As in grant writing, people who do concert bookings professionally know that a 10 to 1 ratio is pretty good. That’s 9 rejections to every one acceptance.
So booking concerts calls for thick skin! One trick is to get yourself thinking that every rejection brings you closer to an acceptance. And every pitch helps you hone your skills.
But of course, we’re human: we don’t like being rejected.
This is why so many musicians yearn for a booking agent or artist manager who will do this painful stuff for us. It’s a nice fantasy but it’s not a likely prospect for the majority of talented and accomplished musicians out there. People who could actually be performing more if they got over their reluctance to DIY booking.
So the real question is this: do you or don’t you want to be performing more? If you do, are you willing to do the work regardless of the fear? Because that’s what it takes: the courage to feel the fear and do the work anyway.
Perfect pitch with 5 elements
Below is the structure of an email pitch. But you can adapt this for use in pitching and follow ups by phone and in person as needed.
Most presenters (the people who book performances) are inundated with calls and emails from musicians looking for work. Out of self-preservation most presenters screen all calls and only respond to emails pertaining to their immediate projects. So you need to be persistent, positive, and resourceful.
If you’re emailing, use a subject line that will prompt the presenter to open and read your email. If you’ve been referred by someone who knows the presenter (maybe you have a friend who has performed on their series) use that person’s name in the subject line—as long as you’ve gotten their permission. Something like:
“Jane Doe suggested I contact you: booking inquiry for next February”
If you don’t have a contact try:
“Booking inquiry for April [YEAR] performance”
It helps to use a specific time frame and include the year since many presenters book far in advance. And if you have another quick compelling element to add in the subject line, you may want to include: Award-winning quartet or Grammy-nominated ensemble, or 3 New England Premieres.”
After the subject line, the structure of a pitch is:
1. Establish a connection with the organization, the presenter, the series, or the community.
“Tim Smith, the baritone who performed for your series last year, suggested I get in touch with you” or “I grew up near Portland and know your series well!”
If you don’t have a connection, make one between their series and what you have to offer, “I saw that you’ve booked world music groups and was impressed with the terrific roster of artists you’ve presented.
2. Identify yourself and what you do
(genre/ensemble, etc.) “I’m Jane Smith with the ABC Brass Quintet” or “I’m Marla Campbell, a jazz violinist.”
3. Give a third party endorsement.
Include one or two of your most impressive credentials. This is to give the presenter evidence of your abilities and experience as a performer:
“I recently performed on the DEF and GHI concert series.”
“I’ve performed with the 456 and 789 ensembles.”
“My band recently released our debut recording and got a great review in the So-and-So.”
“My ensemble has presented well-received family concerts at the Whoville Library and the Whatsit Community Center.”
4. Program Idea: explain what specifically you are offering.
“We’ve just completed our debut recording and are looking to book album release concerts this fall. We’d love to include a date in your area.” [pitch for a club]
“Our ‘Liquid Architecture’ family program makes music composition and structure come alive. We work with audiences to ‘build’ a new piece of music, relating architectural concepts to musical ones.” [pitch for historical society, library, or architectural college]
“We’ve got a program of works by women—including new works by two regional composers.” [targeted pitch for a women’s college and a women’s conference]
“I’ve got a new program that pairs literature with music inspired by it, that I perform together with local actor Tom Beakman doing the readings. [pitch for a bookstore, library, or college lecture series]
5. Make clear the intended follow-through:
By email: “I’ll call to follow up in 2 weeks. Thanks and I look forward to speaking with you!” If you’re pitching by phone, “May I email you some information about the program?”
Sample of a complete email pitch
Subject line: Catherine Jones suggested I contact you re: bookings for March [YEAR]
Dear Ms. Smith:
Ms. Jones at the ABC Concert Series in Portsmouth suggested I contact you. I’m Chelsea Kroger with the string trio Trifecta. We have a terrific program of tangos, rags, waltzes, and other dances we’re taking on tour in your region next March. We read about the innovative family programs you offer and thought you’d be interested in the way we actively engage audiences in our performances.
I’d love to speak with you about your series and how our program might fit your needs. I’ll follow up in a few days with a phone call.
Looking forward to connecting with you,
PS: We have video clips and audience reactions from our live concerts on our site at http://www.TrioX.com.
If no one answers
If you call and get voicemail, leave a brief message, “Hi, this is Tammy Fleminger with the Tritone Trio following up on the email I sent—would love to talk with you about your series. I’m at 617 555-1212 and I’ll try you again—have a wonderful week!”
Wait a week and then try again at a different time of day. Leave another message if no one picks up. After that, try a few more times, experimenting with different days of the week and different times of the day, but don’t leave any more voice messages. If after five or six attempts you still cannot reach the person, move on.
You can also send one follow up email. What I do is I forward the first email but add at the beginning of the subject line, “Not sure you received this:” followed by the original subject line.
Keep scrupulous notes about all your presenter contacts. Make a log of all presenter interactions so that you can track when you called, what you sent, and when to make the follow-up contacts. Whether by phone, email or in-person, be personable and positive.
Possible Outcomes to Pitches
Remember that when presenters say no, they’re not rejecting you or judging your music. They are simply saying that what you’re offering does not fit with their series—at this point. It may in the future, or it may not. You need to determine if this presenter is appropriate for you and your music. Be cordial and ask the presenter for suggestions of appropriate other series where you might be a good fit. Presenters all know each other, so no matter what the results are, make sure you leave them with a positive impression. Thank them for their time.
2. “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”
A presenter may say they will call you if they’re interested, as a way to let you down gently. You may want to periodically send career updates (maybe 3 times a year at most) or invitations to your performances in their area. But don’t spam them!
3. The presenter is interested!
She or he may ask you detailed questions about your program and where you’ve performed. Talk in terms of the fit your performance might make with their series. Ask questions and remember you are building a relationship with this presenter, not simply trying to score a single gig.
Sometimes, a presenter is interested in a future season, not the immediate one. If this is the case, ask when it would be best to follow up and then make sure you do so.
Challenge: identify 3 presenters or venues where you think your music is a fit. Draft an email pitch appropriate to each of them. Get feedback from trusted sources, and then hit ‘send.’ This will put you one step closer to booking more concerts.
Do you have a question about booking your own concerts? Hit me up in our free Facebook group.
Dream Big, Plan Smart. Live Well!