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Q + A: Booking Advice for Musicians on U.S. Tours

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You rocked Edinburgh Fringe. Now you’re ready to take your act from the land of castles and scotch to the land of Elvis and blue jeans. You envision: sold-out venues, fistfuls of dollar bills, screaming fans, a slick American agent and all sorts of tour shenanigans.

Not so fast friend. We asked Billy Geoghegan, Brown Paper Tickets’ music outreach representative to set you straight on booking shows in the States. Geoghegan has decades of experience helping independent record labels, DIY artists, promoters and music venues with everything from set-up to booking, production, publishing and marketing.

Keep in mind, that when it comes to music, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Each piece of advice depends on the situation and the artist. Email questions to billyg [at]brownpapertickets [dot] com, he would love to hear from you.

Q: What is Your Advice to Musicians Trying to Build a Name? 

A: Never cancel, if possible. Play as often as possible. Don’t hate the empty room—empty rooms make great dress rehearsals. You never know who the one attendee is.

Q: Booking Agent or No?
A: Be careful what you wish for. Even if it doesn’t cost you money, it can cost you everything else. If they’re doing what they do for free, be wary. Keep in mind that your band will be associated with that agent. So if they’re rude or disappear, your band will carry that reputation. Do your own booking or partner with other bands—don’t be a nuisance, offer to help the other bands first.

Q: Why Not Pretend to be Your Own Agent?
A: Lying is not a good way to start a relationship. Be direct, be honest, be yourself. There is no secret code. There is nothing you can say that will make them want you. I have been asked, ‘how do I ask to be booked?’ You just ask. That is it.

Q: Should Bands Expect to Make Money on a U.S. Tour?
A: Keep money in perspective. Any new or expanding business requires time, effort and money. A lot of artists think they’re out there to make money. Not all the time. Not in the States. You’re there to promote your band. Guarantees are great if you can get them, depending on the level of band.

Q: What is Your Take on Contracts, Tech Riders and Stage Plots?
A: Use contracts as a reference, not as a weapon. Have tech rider and stage plots so people know you’re professional and you have your sh*t together—always have them, but never rely on them.