Many times as an emerging musician you want something — and maybe even feel like you even need it:
“I NEED to play Mercury Lounge to get on The Bowery‘s radar and let people know my band is important!”
You are likely going to spend a lot of time stressing and agonizing until venues come calling. But what if you start organizing and booking your own events?
I realize you may be thinking, “Are you really suggesting I add one more thing to my plate? I already do eight million things for my career with my Facebook and MySpace and Twitter and website and e-mail list and rehearsing!”
I definitely do not think booking or organizing events is for every musician, but booking shows and organizing events puts you into a position of power. And beyond that, you can control more of your own career, promote music you believe should be recognized, and help engender community among musicians.
Imagine it: not only can you decide when your next show is going to be and move full speed ahead in setting it up, you can make it what you want it to be. Didn’t get selected to play CMJ or SXSW? Organize an unofficial showcase and create some buzz. Didn’t get selected to play Bonnaroo? Start your own festival. Potential labels and managers are especially interested in artists that have already been able to do things on their own. Not only will booking and running your own events help you understand how the whole industry works, it will also demonstrate your competence to potential deal makers.
Setting up and booking events can be incredibly fun because you can craft lineups you are truly excited about. Now you are an artist who has something to offer! You are no longer solely looking for shows to play – you are also looking for other musicians who you would like to showcase. When you see a band that you are really into, instead of going up to them after the show and saying, “That was so awesome!” or “I’d love to play a show with you sometime!” you can let them know you would be interested in booking them at an upcoming event. You are able to establish industry relationships from a place of offering, which is an extremely advantageous position. As those relationships grow, those artists might hear your music and want to perform with you (if you are even interested in that). Even if that doesn’t happen, the seed of your connection will always be your offering them something.
Most importantly, one of the most gratifying parts of booking and running events is facilitating and highlighting the positive communal quality a music scene can have, rather than the competitive nature it can sometimes be prone to. You can foster a place where musicians/bands get to know each other and each other’s music. It can become even more inclusive if you help promote organizations you believe people should know about. They don’t necessarily have to be music-related, but starting a partnership with that organization will further strengthen community, not only within the music scene but across multiple industries. This creates new bridges for the music community, but doing this can really put your own career in perspective.
I know all of the above is WAY easier said than done. I never thought I would do this kind of work, but now that I do I actually find it helps to inspire me and my music and it creates a balance for me. Sometimes it is incredibly overwhelming, but I have found ways to make it work. In following posts I will discuss more details of what it takes to run your own events, what it is like to be a musician running these events, as well as conduct interviews about the “double agent” life of event organizer/booker/ artist with some musicians who run and book very successful NYC events.