Photographing Brian David Collins and Rae McAlister

On Saturday, July 6, my band Amy and the Peace Pipes had the opportunity to play with Rae McAlister and Brian David Collins at Avogadro’s Number in Fort Collins. I took the opportunity to capture some photos during their sets, on Avo’s beautiful backyard patio. It made for some great natural lighting, mixed in with some of the colored lighting they were using for the show.

Rae McAlister

Brian David Collins

It’s always a bit of a double-edged sword when it comes to taking pictures bands I’m playing with. On one hand, it’s a great opportunity to refine my photography and hopefully capture some images that the artist can use. On the other hand, I’m also focused on getting ready to perform and ultimately need to take some time (especially in the band right before ours) to get everything in order to take the stage. I do wish I had more time to get some different angles and use my wide lens.

Band Booking – how to contact a venue

Booking gigs can be one of the most daunting tasks for your band, but I’ve found that once I get started with contacting a few venues and get the ball rolling, it becomes easy to build momentum.

When I first started booking for Greenfoot back in the mid-2000’s, I would often build physical press kits that included a bio sheet, photo, and CD, then hand deliver it to bars and venues. Now that I’m booking for Amy and the Peace Pipes, that technique has gone by the wayside but luckily todays requires a lot less (and cheaper) effort, as long as you’re willing to stay on top of follow-ups.

Here are some of the booking scripts that I use. I’ve tended to get better responses when I do two things with the emails: keep them very short and direct, frame in the context that I’m helping them fill a date. A lot of times we assume that bars and venues are giving us exclusive attention and are thoroughly listening to our demo to see if we’re a good fit, but the reality is that they’re just quickly trying to fill dates before they can move onto the other 50 things they need to do to run their business.

One last note: none of these ideas are particularly my own or original, but are a conglomerate of many articles and techniques I’ve read at some great DIY musician blogs, like DIY Musician Blog, HypeBot, and Music Think Tank to name a few.

Prework

  • Make sure you have a website that includes all the basics about your band but specifically has direct access to your music/videos. The more professional your site, the better, but make sure you have an attractive homepage (with a great professional picture of your band) that is intuitive for a booking manager to hear what you sound like.
  • Go to the venue’s web site and try to find the email address for the booking manager/coordinator. If they don’t make that clear, you can use the general email address. If all else fails, contact them through Facebook Messenger, but you just change your email a bit. I’ll give two templates below.
  • Come up with a 1-sentence “elevator pitch” about your band. It doesn’t have to change the world, but it does need to describe you’re niche (for Amy and the Peace Pipes I say, “We’re a woman-fronted piano rock band out of Fort Collins.”
  • If they have a calendar, go double check your wanted to date to see if it’s open, and better yet if you’re planning 2-3 months ahead and the calendar happens to look blank, they may have more openings and be more apt to give you the date that you requested. Also check to see if there’s a pattern for dates they have live music (whether they typically have them on a Friday or Saturday, or if there’s a specific night of the week)
  • Pick 1-4 dates that you would like to request. I typically give them 3. Don’t be afraid to ask for the ideal date, but also give them some options as well (e.g. if they book music on Thursday, Fridays or Saturdays, ask for 2 Saturdays then throw in a Thursday).

Sending the email

Subject: Booking Inquiry: Amy and the Peace Pipes for <Month Name>

If you know the name of the booking contact:

Hi <Booking Contact>,

I hope you are doing well. I was wondering if you are actively booking bands for <Season or Month Name> at the <Venue Name>? If so, my band, <Band Name>, would love to help you out. We're a <1 sentence "elevator pitch" description about your band>.

Could we help you fill any of the following dates:
- <Date Option 1>
- <Date Option 2>
- <Date Option 3>

If you have another date where you'd need some help, just let us know.

Thanks,
<Your Name> from <Your Band Name>
<Your Band's Web Site>

If you don’t know the name of the booking contact, I include all of the information in there as there’s a good chance they’ll just forward this email to the booking manager:

Hi <Venue Name>,

Could you help me get in touch with the person responsible for band bookings? If you're looking to fill any dates this <season or month>, my band, <Band Name> would be a great fit. We're a <1 sentence "elevator pitch" description about your band>.

Could we help you fill any of the following dates:
- <Date Option 1>
- <Date Option 2>
- <Date Option 3>

If you have another date where you'd need some help, just let us know.

Thanks,
<Your Name> from <Your Band Name>
<Your Band's Web Site>

Email Tips

  • Adding the web site at the bottom of the page is crucial. I also always add the “from <My band name>” at the bottom too, making it easy if they end up searching their email later.
  • I typically send the emails on Tuesday through Thursday during the day. I try to avoid sending emails at night, as those will be part of the pileup they get when they come into work the next day. I want that email to come in either mid-morning or early afternoon when they’ll hopefully want to react to it quickly and get it out of their inbox. I stay away from weekends (when they’re busy doing bar/venue stuff, and Sundays and Mondays are likely the days off for most of them).
  • I’ll still work on them the night before and write the email, just store it in my drafts, then go in and just send the email when the time is right

The Most Important Step: Following Up

Chances are you won’t hear back from that original message. Venues tend to get a lot of emails from various vendors and often will treat your original email like spam or white noise. After sending the message, I’ll go snooze the message in Gmail (if you use Gmail, this is an awesome tool for reminders and follow-ups) from 7-9 days later, then when it pops up, I send a quick follow-up email:

Hi <Booking Agent Name>,

I just wanted to follow up on my email from last week, wondering if we can help you fill any of the following dates:
- <Date Option 1>
- <Date Option 2>
- <Date Option 3>
Please let us know if we can be of any help. Thanks so much!

-<Your Name> from <Your Band Name>
<Band Web Site Address>

If you’re lucky, you’ll get a response, but I often follow up 1-2 more times, again 7-9 days apart. I’ve never had anyone yell at me for spamming them, sometimes you’ll get the “thanks, but no thanks”, but at least you got a response.

I’ve had a lot of success with this technique, but the key is staying on top of your follow-ups. If you don’t get the answer you want, remain respectful and offer to help them in pinch. You’re trying to help venue owners and booking managers realize that you’re eager to partner with them to make everyone successful. I’d love to hear booking tips others may have.

Photographing Undercover Bear

I need to confess something. I really hadn’t used my DSLR since Christmas before taking these pictures.   This has been in large part of being busy, but also in part that my iPhone has been pretty good lately capturing snapshots of my family, combined with the fact that many activities have been out in the winter weather and didn’t want to risk the elements damaging my equipment – not the best solution, I know.  My band also spent most of the winter hunkered down and recording, not playing many shows and thus not many opportunities to shoot bands.

Undercover Bear asked us to play their CD release show in late March, and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to play with the Whisk(e)y’s lighting. Undercover Bear did an awesome job in creating some really memorable moments in their shows, with their choice of instruments, solos, changing off singers and even a wardrobe/accessory change.  They had a packed room and awesome crowd, which made for a fun shoot.

My Band’s New Single!

It’s been a crazy-busy January. I’ve been cooking a few different blog topics in my head, but time has gotten the better of me this month. However, I’m really excited to announce that my band, Amy and the Peace Pipes, has released a new single, “Burning Bridges”. Go check it out!

I know many of us are now using streaming services (and why not), but if you’d like to download your own copy, we’re giving it away for free to our Peace Pipers mailing list subscribers, just join up and you’ll get the download link!  Even if you don’t download music, you should join up anyway.  In the age of prevalent social media, it’s become increasingly difficult for bands to reach their audience across all of the noise (especially when Facebook wants to force people into buying ads to reach all of the people who liked their page).  The mailing list is really the one true place where everyone who is interested in us has an opportunity to receive our updates – whether they open the emails or get too many emails to open them is another story, but at least I know that our updates were at least delivered.

Thanks so much to everyone for supporting me and my band. When I stop and think about it, it’s really incredible to think that we can put stuff onto iTunes and Spotify and make it available for the world to hear.

Blue Mesa at the Downtown Artery

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to shoot Blue Mesa when they played with my band at the Downtown Artery.  I was particularly excited for this opportunity as the Artery has a really cool stage layout and lighting displays.  Blue Mesa’s energy made it a lot of fun to shoot, and I was particularly glad that I was able to sneak in through the back to get some drummer shots.  Blue Mesa really put on an awesome show, especially considering that this was their first performance after some major lineup changes! They definitely rocked it and I’m looking forward to playing or shooting them again!

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