A while back a musician asked me about where to send concert pitches. She wanted to know how to find appropriate places to perform so she could send more targeted pitches and get better results. Good question.
I was glad she asked because we all have venues we’d like to perform at “some day” and these fantasies can cloud our view of where we might be performing now.
We want the status boost of adding prestigious venues to our bios. Think Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, or the Met (fill in your own dream venue here). And, of course in our fantasies, these are always sold-out concerts, full of adoring fans.
But we need to work with the here and now—from where we stand today. So when you’re sending out pitches, it’s good to check . . .
Are you barking up the right trees?
If you’re focusing all your efforts on the same small set of top-level presenting series that every other musician is pitching to, then you’re losing out on the performances you COULD be booking now.
My guess is you don’t yet have a huge following and so those top-level concert series aren’t within reach yet. So how do you choose which venues to pitch to now?
Some musicians compile lists of presenters found in the Musical America directory or through their state arts agency. Nothing wrong with that. But then they send out blasts of generic identical emails to every presenter on the list. (Yikes!)
Don’t make that Big mistake.
No one wants to be spammed or to receive a generic “Dear Sir/Madam” email. Or to get a pitch from someone who clearly hasn’t bothered to read about their series.
Too many musicians send their all-purpose pitches to presenters that they haven’t researched, and who aren’t good matches for what they’re offering. So here are my top booking tips for where to send concert pitches:
Tip #1: Do your homework: research the concert series first
Read the series website in detail. Check out the artists who are booked for this season—read their bios on their websites. If they all have management and significant performance experience, or have won major international awards, are you in that same camp? Consider whether you—and the program you’re offering—are a real fit.
Also, read about the community engagement work and partnerships the series has. Find out what kind of community performances they may produce along with their main stage concerts. Note that some high profile series hire local musicians for community engagement (AKA “outreach”) performances.
Tip #2: Start close to home
Look for smaller non-traditional venues in your community and region. Especially if you’re offering non-traditional programming, you want to find venues that are enthusiastic about presenting new and challenging work.
Ask your mentors and colleagues for suggestions. And read the local arts calendar listings to find additional series and performance spaces. Get to know the area’s concert series and keep tabs on what they’re up to.
Barbara Raney, who managed Epic Brass for many years, recommends that emerging artists “approach smaller series with smaller budgets and make them an offer they can’t refuse! Practice six degrees of separation: if you want to get to a series, plot a course through the people you know and the people your people know. Your message is more compelling when you can say something like, ‘Jim Barker suggested I contact you . . .’ ”
Tip #3: Start with the people you know
A couple of my clients, when they were first starting to book their own concerts, made a list of friends and colleagues who lived in other cities. People they thought would be open and willing to help. My clients asked these people if they knew of venues or had connections to places where they might perform.
One client ended up with helpful contacts at several community colleges that led to new bookings. And the other had a friend who was happy to make an introduction to a local venue and help with the booking. That friend was also a musician so they ended up doing several joint concerts. It was truly a win-win.
Beyond your immediate region, you may have additional leads for possible performances in the cities where you attended school and where you grew up. Explore your options.
Once you’ve done your homework, and come up with a more targeted list, make sure you tailor each pitch to the specific venue or series.
Here’s to your better booking!
Note: this post’s content is lifted from the 3rd edition of my book “Beyond Talent: Creating a Successful Career in Music” and inside the book you’ll find many more insights to help you get more of your best work out into the world so you can finally become the artist you are meant to be.
If you’re curious about getting expert coaching to help you reach your goals, find the details here.
Let’s get your career truly in forward motion,
Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well