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Jay Flanzbaum of Onlinegigs got his start as a booking agent putting together national and regional tours for independent bands. Those years running a boutique agency inspired the creation of Onlinegigs, an incredibly powerful booking and promotional tool for independent bands and agents. Jay shared with the Connector the topics he thought were most important to putting an unproven act on the road in today's music industry.

To be able to book gigs successfully you'll need a ton of persistence and even better organization. Whether you are booking locally, regionally or nationally you will essentially need the same skills and tools to be effective. Independent bands and agents, by definition, tend to lack the nationwide connections necessary to make the idea of booking an extended tour possible. As a result the ones that are most successful are generally the same ones that understand how to gather, and effectively manage, all of their business related contacts. We've all seen some pretty lousy bands with some damn good gigs, so talent isn't always the main issue.

Data Collection

If you haven't already, you are going to have to start collecting contact information for the people that can help you achieve your goals. If your goal is to have a touring career in the music industry then you better find some venues, colleges, festivals, record companies, managers, record stores and media contacts, to do business with. It is never too early to start this process. You should start today even if your CD won't be ready for another 3 years and you don't have a full time drummer yet. Every person you meet and every possible gig that you hear about will need to be recalled at a later date. There are many sources that a beginner, or even a veteran, can turn to for gathering this type of information.

MusicDishPrinted music industry directories like the "Indie Contact Bible" or "Musician's Guide to Touring" can have an incredible amount of information to get you started. Alternative news weeklies like the Village Voice or the Boston Phoenix are a great source of local music venues, festivals and college listings. Most major markets in the country have an independent weekly publication; some of them can be found online at Online music communities like Jambase or Onlinegigs are also an ideal place to find where bands of a similar style are playing.

Data Management

Once you start gleaning contact information from printed directories, online communities, newspapers and other bands, you will soon realize that you need a good way to organize and access all of this data. You most likely have pages full of notes, emails with venue referrals and spreadsheets covered with names and numbers. The key now is to be able to effectively organize all of your new found contacts in a way that maximizes your opportunity with each one of them.

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Software or web based contact managers like Outlook, Act, Maximizer or Onlinegigs, are all efforts to help you centralize your business related messages, tasks and contact information. It doesn't make sense to dig thru multiple email boxes on different computers to find important messages. Anymore than it would to be unable to find an important phone number because you left your address book in Spokane, WA. Whatever application or method you choose, be sure to get as many of the following features as would apply to your specific needs.

- Complete and total access to all of your important contact and business information in one location
- Multiple, archived backups of your information in case of data loss or equipment failure
- Reminder system for upcoming activities and tasks
- Integrated email & fax messaging with message tracking and searching
- Customizable for your specific industry
- Remotely accessible from any internet connection
- Ability to easily share information with others

Importance of Contracts

After a few months of working your task list religiously and following up on every CD in a consistent and professional manner, you should be ready to start booking some gigs. After all the work you have just gone through to find contacts and reach out to each one of them, it would be a shame to lose out on a gig at the last minute. Admittedly, last minute cancellations and double bookings can and will occur. The story usually goes like this:

You sent out your CD in January; to finally book a gig in April for your upcoming August tour. It's just a Tuesday night for 100% of the door, rooms and food; but it's a needed stop-over between Colorado and Nevada. You call a week before the gig from somewhere in Texas and the club has never heard of you. What's worse, there is another band booked on that night and the other band has a confirmed written agreement. In a toss up situation between the band with no proof and the band with a contract, the band with the contract usually wins.

For gigs that are low-dough or no-dough deals, you should still send a written agreement. A written agreement is your only line of defense after all of the work you have gone thru to secure the gig, not to mention the work you will need to do for properly promoting it. Email is the easiest method because you can easily send the same message over and over until you get confirmation. Faxing is also relatively easy, however having to send a snail mail agreement over and over can be a pretty big hassle. Your goal here is to constantly remind the talent buyer of your agreement and put all of the details in front of them. The higher the dollar value on the agreement the more diligent you should be about insisting on a signed, hard-copy version of the agreement.

Getting Ready for the Road

Putting a group of people on the road for any amount of time comes with responsibilities. There are many people who will need detailed information about your schedule in order for your tour to be effective, safe and organized. Band members and their families, your manager, a publicist and even your fans all need to have access to different information about your trip. At a minimum all of your shows should be listed on your website as soon as they are confirmed. Ideally you would also list set times, the venue's address, phone number, website and any other bands on the bill with you.

The Tour Itinerary however is really the best way to be sure your trip is error free. Everyone on your team should have a chronological listing of each of your tour dates with as much or as little detail as they need. But the master itinerary for you and your band members should list all of the contact info for each venue, set times, payment details, venue capacity, ticket price, age limits and step by step directions from one gig to the next. This is your bible for the trip and the more copies you make the less likely you will be lost in Lincoln, Nebraska without the buyer's phone number or any sense of direction.

The Tour Itinerary is also a crucial tool in satisfying your greatest responsibility as a touring band: Advancing Your Shows. If you want your journey to free of surprises, then you will advance all of your shows. This simply means contacting the venue a week or so before the gig to confirm performance details, get important load in information and find out about any last minute changes. Out of your entire organization of band members, managers, agents, tour managers and interns, there needs to be one person who can assume this role.

Properly Promoting Your Shows

If you have never played before in a particular market, then most likely nobody in that town has any idea who you are. And why would anyone come out to see you play if they have no idea that you are even playing. What you really need is some press or at a minimum just a listing with the local radio and print music calendars.

Your first step is to put together all of the contact names, fax numbers, email addresses etc. for the local media outlets in a 30-60 mile radius of each of your gigs. Then you will have to prepare a professional and concise press release. A good release should be able to convey all of the pertinent information on one page. Radio stations and newspapers get flooded everyday with hundreds of releases, they do not have time to read numerous pages that outline your band's Zen philosophy or each of your bass player's numerous influences. Keep it to the point or they will not read it all. Keep your layout clean; do not use multiple fonts and font sizes or too many colors and graphics.

Make sure your release has a section with the performance details that is easy to pick out and includes: Performance Date, Band Name, Venue Name, Full Address, Phone, Website, Ticket Price, Set Times, Age Limit and any other bands on the bill. Also be sure to include your personal contact information: Contact Name, Phone, Email, and Website. If someone needs to get in touch for a photo or an interview, you will want them to be able to track you down quickly and easily.

Here is where your Contact Management program really comes in handy. You could take the time to create numerous, personalized press releases for each press contact you have found. This would probably take you days depending on the size of the market. If we are talking about New York City, it could take you months. But if you have the proper tools like I mentioned in the section above, you should be able to create one template and send personally addressed releases, by fax or email to hundreds of media contacts all at once.

Putting It All Together

There isn't any service, software application or magic pill that can guaranty success in the music industry. But being organized and professional certainly can't hurt. There are many tools and resources that can help you take control of your career and everybody finds different ones that work better for them. The key is committing to treat your music career as the serious business that it is. You also need to realize that the hard work is never over, even if you reach a level to warrant working with a bigger agent, manager or record company. You will still need to be organized, you will still need to remember names and phone numbers and you will still need to let everyone know when you are gigging. As a registered Jambase user, you are entitled to a free trial month of Onlinegigs. Use referral code 100045 when you sign up at:

"The whole thing had me blown away." Alex Steininger - CD Baby

Onlinegigs gives musicians, agents, managers and record companies the only One Button solution to taking control of their music careers. With the click of just one button members can:
- automatically issue a performance contract by fax or email
- automatically update any website with the new tour date information
- automatically generate a tour itinerary with driving directions from one gig to the next
- automatically send a press release to the local media in any market in the country
- automatically notify and remind fans about upcoming shows in their area

With access to over 10,000 industry contacts and powerful contact and tour management tools, Onlinegigs is the only answer for the indie music community. You can sign up for free to OnlineGigs' monthly newsletter covering booking, touring and promotion.

Provided by the MusicDish Network.
Copyright © Tag It 2004 - Republished with Permission