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Booking: How to book concerts for your jazz band and organize tours

Updated: Jan 16

Yes, jazz is not an easy patch. Every one of us musicians has probably heard that enough or experienced it first-hand many times. And yet: with diligence, patience and a few technical tricks and aids, you can also manage to book unforgettable concerts for your jazz band, organize entire tours and thus not only promote your jazz band, but also create memories for life. After all, apart from the career aspects, it's the unique live moments that we musicians strive for.

Do you want to know how to book concerts for your jazz band and organize a successful tour? In this article, we'll give you a step-by-step guide and take a closer look at the jazz scene in Germany with its numerous clubs, festivals and broad cultural funding landscape. Our aim is to help you take advantage of the fullness of opportunities and successfully position your jazz band in the scene with structured booking.

Booking jazz band concerts made easy

It's hardly a secret that in times of streaming portals and competition with constantly available free art online, regular concerts are becoming increasingly important in the career planning of musicians.

Concerts not only offer the opportunity to introduce your music to a wider audience, but also improve your performance skills, inspire you to new musical heights and help you build a loyal fan base and other valuable contacts. One thing is clear: the best booking contacts are made after successful concerts. Once you're on stage and get the crowd going, there will hardly be a gig that doesn't result in a follow-up gig or at least a recommendation.

"Networking is the be-all and end-all of booking!"

You should definitely take a structured approach to maintaining contact with important people who could be crucial for future gigs. Record contact details, notes on ideas discussed and keep a record of rough dates when you have agreed to meet again. Organizers often have the will to organize a performance, but the resources are only available at a later date. You can theoretically use your contact app on your smartphone or a simple Excel spreadsheet for this valuable network maintenance. CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems, which are used by professional salespeople on a daily basis, for example, are somewhat more charming. In these mostly web-based programs, you can record all relationships with important contacts but also create reminders for follow-up calls. They also often help you to send emails to your contacts more quickly with the help of dynamic templates, for example. This allows you to stay in touch with your network whenever the timing is right - with minimal manual effort. The most prominent CRMs include HubSpot, Insightly or Zoho. In contrast to the three big generalists on the market, GigB has specialized in creating a perfect CRM for musicians and creative professionals. It is therefore even more specifically geared to the needs of artists, more intuitive to use and also significantly cheaper than the competition (GigB is and remains free for small bands with few gigs).

Band booking: Where and how to start?

All beginnings are difficult. We often hear similar concerns from young bands: "Maintaining contacts is all well and good, but where should I start if I hardly have any connections?"

Sure - jazz musicians who have been on the world's stages for decades sometimes have their own booking agents or at least well-filled contact books with promoters, which they can activate much more easily. But you too will already have potential gig sources in your network. Think out of the box. These days, concert venues go far beyond the classic concert hall or jazz club. House concerts, guerrilla outdoor concerts, online live events or collaborations with cool retailers, restaurateurs or brands that could be inspired as sponsors. Ask yourself who in your circle of friends, in your family or possibly in your university environment would be open to a concert or other event with your project? Of course, these "exotic" concert venues don't offer the ideal conditions for all bands. Sometimes they fail due to the lack of a grand piano, insufficient space or cumbersome noise restrictions. However, these exotic venues come with some huge advantages. As an unknown band, you will experience success much more quickly, because a gig in your favourite café around the corner is much less complicated and can be organized with much less lead time than in the Unterfahrt in Munich or the A-Trane in Berlin. You will also generally find that interested co-organizers are incredibly helpful and motivated. We musicians of the Team GigB have ourselves played concerts in intimate attics, sailboats or hairdressing salons - for which the organizers have sometimes brought pianos, lent drums from acquaintances and drummed up an incomparably grateful audience. Yes, we are talking about concerts - not background music.

Incidentally, these kinds of concerts can even be much more attractive in terms of fees than you would have been offered as an unknown jazz band in one of the hip clubs in your city.

One last tip for exotic contacts. If you manage to work your way up to bigger and bigger stages after a while, make sure you keep these contacts on your toes. Invite the people who made the first stages accessible to you to your concerts, inform them about news or releases. Even very successful live bands repeatedly fall back on these special forms of performance opportunities. This proves to be particularly attractive when, for example, off-dates on tours need to be filled. There is nothing better than being able to fit a house concert "under the radar" on the way from A to B on a Monday evening that is difficult to book!

Jazz band booking: In addition to your own network, hard work, patience and a thick skin help

In addition to the "quick wins" from your existing network, you will of course also have to do some good old cold calling. It's called cold because you don't have a personal connection or starting point with the decision-maker at your counterpart. So this means: research venues and festivals, write a meaningful intro mail about your jazz band and off you go!

You should keep the intro mail as short as possible. Organizers also prefer concrete offers. Booking applications that already suggest possible performance dates usually enjoy significantly higher response rates (percentage of responses to your applications) than general applications. Your information material should also be to the point. A teaser of 2-3 minutes, preferably in video format, has proven to be the most promising format for many jazz bands. Remember that organizers sometimes receive up to 100 applications a day (!!). The better you manage to get to the heart of your project, the higher your chances of success. The disproportion between bands applying and a limited number of concert dates or festival slots is the reason for sometimes very sobering response rates. Response rates of 5% are already considered particularly good. In concrete terms, this means that you send out 100 applications and receive just 5 responses. A response does not necessarily mean a gig commitment. Responses can also be rejections, postponements to a later date or information about more suitable organizers. However, don't be discouraged by these purely statistical figures. Cold calling is and remains an irreplaceable tool for expanding your network. Try to make the cold call as "warm" as possible. Research information about the venue or festival and the responsible booker as best you can. There is nothing that annoys bookers more than applications from bands that completely miss the club's concept stylistically, that are not at all suitable in terms of technical or spatial conditions or that do not meet other conditions that are published on the organizer's website, for example. Don't waste your time or that of your counterpart here and find out as much information in advance as you can. This research process can also help you to establish a personal connection in your application email. Maybe you discover a great vintage amp in the stage rider and write the booker a short sentence about why you would love to play on it as a guitarist in his club. There's a good chance that your counterpart makes music themselves and you'll have scored some sympathy points for a shared passion.

We will soon be writing a separate article on the subject of "Intro mail and optimal application material", as this specific topic seems to be of concern to many bands.

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Booking sources for jazz bands: and how do I find all the clubs, festivals and promoters?

Ah right - there's one more thing: research!

Don't worry. There are numerous good individual sources here. Depending on the genre, for example, associations have good databases of clubs and festivals. In the area of jazz in Germany, there is the Jazzinstitut Darmstadt, which maintains over 1,000 locations. The disadvantage of these rather static lists is that entries can quickly become outdated or venues are listed that are already closed. Again, many venues that have only recently opened are missing. A supplement with simple googling is therefore of course an essential part of your research process.

You can find even more venues in your free GigB account. GigB already lists over 2,000 venues for jazz alone throughout Europe and there are a further 30,000 concert venues and promoters in the pipeline, which are checked by GigB's team for topicality and data quality using the latest technical tools and shared with you in weekly updates! With GigB, you can view venues by capacity or genre on a clear map and write to them directly via the web app using dynamic email templates in just a few seconds. Festivals can be sorted according to the respective time periods, so that you can specify relevant events even better for your specific tour dates. You can even filter venues on GigB according to available pianos or specific grand piano brands. And that's just the beginning! The team at the Hamburg-based start-up is committed to publishing the largest living database of venues, festivals and promoters to provide all the passionate musicians out there with the world's best source of concert opportunities and make booking concerts and tours easier, fairer and more time-efficient.

See for yourself in this short video how easy it is to search for suitable concert venues or festivals with GigB and contact them directly.

We hope that this first article in our series on booking has given you some valuable tips. More articles will follow soon! Don't want to miss them either? Then join our free newsletter updates!

Photo by Yasmina H on Unsplash

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