I often find the below process comes into play when I have no relationship with a venue. They are new to me, I am new to them, and we are basically starting off a new “partnership”. Here’s a loose step-by-step of what happens. If you’ve got steps you’d like to add to this process, post them in the comments section.
STEP 1: Visit the website and read over their booking procedure. Check their calendar to see what dates are taken or still open. No use emailing or calling a venue to ask questions when they’ve already spelled out the answers online. Don’t ask to play on July 5th when there are already 4 artists billed for that night. Also do your research and make sure this is the right venue for your sound. See Coffeeshop of Club? Pros and Cons of Nightlife Booking.
STEP 2: The email. Reach out to a venue and pitch yourself. Tell them who you are, where you’re from, when you’ll be in town, and ask if they have the suggested date open. See “Starting From Scratch: Tips for the Brand Spankin’ New Musician“. It might not hurt to let them know how often you come through their town, and other local venues you’ve played in the past.
STEP 3: Once date/time are confirmed, the club will likely ask you to split the show with 1 or 2 local acts. Find locals whose sound will compliment yours and who will help put the word out to their fanbase. In most cases, a venue will not confirm you for a date unless the other bands are also confirmed (this varies from venue to venue).
STEP 4: Assuming that this gig and lineup is set in stone, ask all your day-of-show questions. What is the door policy? What percentage does the club take? What percentage do you take? Do you get a larger cut if you pack the place out. Do you get 0% if the turnout sucks? When do doors open? When is load in? Sound check? When does the show need to be over? Are there artist perks? Free food? Discount on drinks?
STEP 5: Make sure everyone in your band and the other bands know what you know – load in, sound check, door policy…etc. Make sure you are all on board and working to push the show for its ultimate success.