Choosing Good Promoters for Your Gigs

This comes from my experience as both a live band booker for a weekly music night at a venue and from promoting individual bands to promoters to get them gigs.

Quick history:

  • Worked at Lynne Franks PR doing listings for live music events to the NME, Melody Maker, Time Out, The Guardian Guide etc by fax – this may be done by email or the Local app works over Facebook but the information needed is still the same: Night name, short description, genres, band names, Venue, full address and postcode, phone number. Doors times and entry price.
  • Used these newly learned skills to promote bands playing at The Raj Tearooms in Highgate, London.
  • Booked Tuesdays new band night at Laurel Tree in Camden in 1997. Did listings and PR for the other promoter at the venue Mikki Toldi. Another promoter at the time was called The Coldplay, who swapped names with a band called Starfish who played their first gig at the Laurel Tree in January 1997.  (Platinum Promotions)
  • Booked one-off gigs for various bands at venues including Downstairs at the King’s Head, Crouch End, Oxygen in Leicester Square, The Mean Fiddler, Harlesden and went regularly to see them live from Fulham to Brixton to Camden to Islington every week.
  • Booked bands with a friend for an arty/fashiony event at Under The Arches in Vauxhall called Androgynous.
  • In 2004, I ran a weekly live music night at 333 Old Street in their basement. The first night brought a scrum of A&R people to see 80s pop rock sounding band The Departure, who sadly made a hasty departure from music after a whirlwind start playing Reading and Leeds after they were signed. (With hindsight, this was perhaps callateral damage from the drug addled major label A&Rmy at the time, while innovative independents such as Creation Records were getting going). (Square Peg Promotions).
  • A live music night at the Phoenix in Cavendish Square, London. Great venue. By this time, less venues held nights for original new bands and many were free and venues started to book comedy nights as it was cheaper. (Square Peg Promotions). I left the name Square Peg Promotions with a friend to carry on with.

Finding a good promoter.

  • Ideally, spending time on your local live music scene will allow you to meet people who book bands for various venues.
  • Find venues that put on bands you like. It takes time to build a reputation for choosing good bands, but this is essential to attract the best bands in your area.
  • A good promoter will be interested in why you want the gig: ie because you love playing live, you have written some new songs, you’ve rehearsed a lot, you are recording, you are releasing something.
  • Essentially, a good promoter will meet you half way. A promoter will do flyers, posters, send a press release to the local paper, put an event up on Facebook and Eventbrite and distribute clear information on when, where and how much it is to attend your gig. They would expect you to do what you can to let people know when and where you are playing and to sell tickets in advance if you can.
  • Promoters that are good at what they do will come and see you live, so booking gigs to showcase yourself will result in new gigs.
  • Essentially being easy to work with, easy to contact by email, message or phone and to reply and turning up on time for soundcheck and not turning amps up on stage too much so the sound engineer can’t do his job is a solid foundation for getting future gigs.
  • Good promoters love live music and want the bands and the audience to be happy.
  • Good promoters can hear good songs and support original songwriting. If a promoter asks you to play lots of cover songs, they are probably not a very good promoter.
  • Good promoters will hire a decent sound system and a sound engineer. Make sure you work with the sound engineer in your sound check and take any feedback they give you about sound levels on and off stage.
  • Good promoters will book gigs with a small door price (unless the venue is so good as to pay the bands and make the night free, but the venue generally books these gigs themselves) and share the door proceeds with bands that make the effort to promote their own gig.
  • Good promoters will communicate. They will say how they want bands to approach them, what to send and will manage expectations by replying in good time and will ensure that their selection process is transparent enough so you can plan ahead and start spreading the word about your next appearance.

Anyway, here is a screengrab of my first trip to the Camden Live Music Scene and going to see a band at The Laurel Tree in early 1997


Here is Coldplay’s YouTube video about their first gig at the Laurel Tree on 16th January 1997. Do you recognise the backdrop in this photo above?


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