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Guide: How to Book Shows as an Independent Artist in Austin

How to Book Shows as an Independent Artist

The Independent Artist's Roadmap to Live Performances

As an independent artist, carving out your space in the music industry can be an uphill battle. With no label to back you up, the task of booking shows rests squarely on your shoulders. However, the freedom to craft your path also comes with the opportunity to connect with audiences on your terms. This guide offers a step-by-step approach to booking shows, ensuring your music reaches new ears while you retain creative and financial control.

live performer singing

Understanding the Independent Music Scene

The Importance of Live Shows for Independent Artists

Live performances are crucial for independent artists. They offer a platform for real-time engagement with fans, a chance to earn income, and an opportunity to build a reputation that can lead to more gigs and a stronger fanbase.

live show in a small venue

Knowing Your Audience and Venue Fit

Identifying venues that match your musical style and audience is essential. Research venues that host similar genres and cultivate a list of potential spots that align with your brand as an artist. For example, you don't want to try getting booked for an EP release at a bar that only hosts cover bands because the audience won't fit.

Crafting Your Pitch: Promotion and EPKs

Creating an Effective Electronic Press Kit (EPK)

Your EPK should be a one-stop shop for promoters and venue owners to learn about your music. It typically includes a biography, high-quality photos, music samples, music videos, press coverage, and contact information. With programs like linktree, it's never been easier to put all of this information in one place. Typically you can organize your linktree to include all the promotional materials anyone may ask for.

EPK checklist

Tailoring Your Approach to Each Venue

Personalize your pitches. Demonstrate that you've done your homework about the venue and explain why you're a good fit for their lineup. Make sure you know what regulars perform there, it might be a good idea to make friends with some of them to better help get your name in the door.

Networking and Building Relationships

Leveraging Social Media and Music Platforms

Social media platforms and streaming services can be powerful tools to increase visibility. Regularly update your profiles with news about shows, releases, and behind-the-scenes content.

girl recording herself playing guitar

We know it's corny but look into what styles of videos are trending, and try to utilize the algorithm to get your music or band out there. One tip we can give for this is to look for any sounds or styles of videos that have recently become popular, the sooner you hop on the trend the more likely you are to get views.

You can also use Instagram’s boosted post feature to pay for views. Typically the rate is $4 per 1,000 impressions.

The Power of Personal Connections

The music industry thrives on relationships. Attend local music events, engage with other artists, and make connections with venue managers and event promoters.

One of the best ways to do this is to pick one bar or venue and consistently visit it around the same time. Eventually, others will recognize you as a regular and it will be easier to talk to people that way.

The Logistics of Booking Shows

Understanding the Booking Process

Learn about the typical booking process for venues you're targeting. Know when to reach out, whom to contact, and how far in advance bookings are made. Most bars have a single person who is responsible for all their booking & they don't normally work as the bartenders. If you want to learn about who’s booking for the bar, try to ask the bartender or manager if they know who to get in contact with for shows.

Once you have an email or phone number, prepare your pitch & reach out. Typically bars book 3-6 months in advance so keep this in mind.

booking agent on his phone

Negotiating Performance Details and Fees

Be clear about what you can offer and what you expect in return. Discuss performance fees, merchandise sales opportunities, equipment provisions, and other logistics.

A common way to be paid without having any prior live show experience is to either ask for a very low flat rate ($200 - $400) or, you can ask to keep a percentage of the door ticket sales. Generally, asking for a percentage of the door sales is easier.

Enhancing Your Live Show Experience

The Importance of a Good Live Performance

A compelling live show can turn first-time listeners into lifelong fans. Invest in your performance skills and stage presence to leave a lasting impression. Dress up, add lights & extra elements to your show, interact with the audience, really try to throw a party.

end of a concert

Popular Venues in Austin for Live Music and Open Mics

Austin, TX, is a prime location for independent artists looking to book live shows. Known as the "Live Music Capital of the World," Austin's vibrant music scene is bursting with venues that cater to a wide array of genres and audiences. Here's a snapshot of some popular bars and venues in Austin that are known for hosting live performances and open mics:

  • Broken Spoke: A legendary honky-tonk offering Texas two-stepping and country legends.

  • Carousel Lounge: A carnival-themed bar with a fun atmosphere for live performances.

  • Continental Club: A retro club with a history of rockabilly, country, rock, and soul music.

  • ACL Live at The Moody Theater: A prestigious venue that hosts the filming of the Austin City Limits series.

  • The Saxon Pub: An intimate listening room for singer-songwriters.

  • Cactus Cafe: Known for international acoustic acts and all-ages shows.

  • Antone's Nightclub: The home of the blues in Austin, featuring big names and local talent.

  • Speakeasy: Offers three levels of entertainment, including live music and a rooftop lounge.

  • Elephant Room: A jazz hotspot in the basement of the historic Swift Building.

  • Victory Grill: A historic venue known for blues and R&B, along with Southern comfort food.

  • Little Longhorn Saloon: The center of Austin’s honky-tonk scene with no cover charge.

  • Historic Scoot Inn: The oldest bar in central Texas with a cozy feel and live music.

  • The White Horse: Live bluegrass, country-western, and Americana bands with a lively dance floor.

  • Hotel Vegas: Nearly nightly live music, dance parties, and patio gatherings.

  • Stubb’s Bar-B-Q: A music institution that pairs great barbecue with live bands​​.

Moontower Entertainment: Your Gateway to Private Events

For independent artists aiming to tap into the lucrative market of private events, which often offer steadier income streams than public gigs, Austin's Moontower Entertainment can be an invaluable partner. Offering services for any budget and occasion, Moontower Entertainment boasts an impressive roster of five award-winning party bands, along with access to hundreds of other Austin-based artists across various genres. They can cater to events ranging from intimate gatherings to large-scale concerts, managing music budgets from $1,000 to $500,000. By connecting with Moontower Entertainment, independent artists can find the perfect platform to showcase their talents at private events, from birthday parties and weddings to company and holiday parties​​.

Moontower Entertainment

When seeking to book shows, whether it's in the eclectic venues of Austin or for private events, independent artists must be diligent, proactive, and ready to present a compelling case for their music. Building a strong local presence, coupled with the backing of a reputable booking agency like Moontower Entertainment, can significantly bolster an artist's live performance career.

Gathering Feedback and Building a Fanbase

Use every performance as a learning experience. Gather feedback, capture attendee information for your mailing list, and engage with fans online after the show.

Conclusion: Perseverance and Growth

Booking shows as an independent artist requires a blend of talent, business acumen, and tenacity. By approaching the process with a professional attitude, clear goals, and a willingness to learn, you can increase your chances of success. Remember that each show is an opportunity to grow your fanbase and hone your craft. With persistence and creativity, you can build a live performance career that's as independent and vibrant as your music.

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