What's the Best Way to Book College Shows?
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My band Mooner will be releasing our debut album in March 2015, and we're shooting for shows at colleges or in college towns on weekends in the spring, following the release. A site I frequent, indieonthemove.com, sells a subscription to a college booking directory. It appears they keep a bunch of names and emails up to date and just let you have them. I'm curious if this method is worth the money. I've heard that booking college shows is a notoriously difficult task, and I'm not sure if emailing the same people that anyone with $60 will be emailing is worth the time it takes to write the emails. Is it even worth starting this process without a booking professional that already has these connections?
Thanks for your time, Lee Singer/songwriter
Le Singer Songwriter,
The word you have heard about college shows is, in fact, correct. It's often tough, because oftentimes the bookers are students -- they graduate, or maybe they book two big-money shows a year and 100 different $50 gigs at the student commons coffee shop and it's totally at the discretion of whoever lucked into that gig. I once spoke at a school here in the Chicago area where the student concert planner spent something like $35,000 to bring their favorite band, Uncle Kracker, to campus for an event. It's a different scenario than a bar or a venue, who serve particular musical communities and who have to stay in business.
I checked out IOTM's site and I checked out the tour routes of some of the bands that posted rave reviews about the service in the forum section. Most of them appear to be doing a lot of tours that consist of secondary and tertiary markets, small-college-town bars, mixed with cafes, house shows, and the occasion "legit" venue. Like, 12-date tours with four dates in Georgia, not-playing-Atlanta-type of tours. I queried some folks on Twitter and they said it's good for finding the right-sized place for you to play in other cities and that the users/bands can post reviews of the venue. People have found that to be helpful.
My concern, looking at the "sample directory" page, is that all you are paying for is an email address and phone, a location and maybe a name. You could Google who books student events at Auburn University for free. But if you wanna do regional runs, and this service gives you up-to-date access, if you even get three or four shows out of it, that $60 will be worth it. Your band is not very popular (yet!) and I think you are likely a way off still from roping in an agent. If everyone in the band chips in $12, you can try it, augment what contact you already have or hot tips you got from more experienced bands.
Networking IRL, befriending other bands, doing show trades, and building up your own contacts will behoove you more in the long run. Make sure not to skip out on making that investment.
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