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Philly Music 101: How to book a show at a Philly venue

Photo by John Vettese
The Bul Bey rocking the house in West Philly | Photo by John Vettese

Philly Music 101 is our regular series guiding you through the wonderful world of the Philadelphia music scene: all of its passionate, loving participants, from artists to venues to studios and more.

Life as an independent artist in Philadelphia can be rough, especially when it comes to booking shows. When you approach a venue, what exactly are they looking for? Will your music appeal to them or turn them off? Where does social media presence lie on the spectrum? What will get your band a coveted spot on their calendar? Where is the damn instruction manual for booking a show?

We hear it from Philly artists all the time – they want to play out more often, but they haven’t had any luck getting promoters’ attention. Well, The Key is here for you! In an effort to provide some transparency in the live music world, we decided to hit up talent buyers for a handful of venues throughout Philadelphia to get an idea of what they expect, why they expect it, what will wow them and some general pointers on how to book a show. Continue reading →

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Local industry heavyweight Jesse Lundy spills on show promotion and breaking your band

Jesse Lundy, talent buyer for Point Entertainment, programmer of the Philadelphia Folk Festival and teacher at Drexel University’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design, recently spoke with Musician Coaching about his experience in the Philly music scene and his thoughts on how local bands can break into the market.

He details his career with Larry Magid at The Electric Factory and subsequent move to former Bryn Mawr venue The Point – which closed in 2005 and branched off into his Point Entertainment production company. Lundy also gives a goldmine of advice for young bands trying get their footing in any local outlet.  For example, don’t rush on to Kickstarter and record an expensive LP as soon as you find your niche:

The biggest thing I tell acts is that it comes down to what you do in the studio. I think a lot of bands feel like they have to put out a full-length record. They find a producer to make a record for $20,000…. But artistically, you don’t need to release a 12-song album as your first project. I think you’re much better off releasing an EP. Put your four, or even your three best songs and a live track out first. Hold some things back that can be part of your live show and that you can release later.

On the topic of social media, Lundy warns against repetitive and monotonous show promotions (“If you’re not getting a window into who the artist actually is – what their sense of humor and personality is, etc. – it’s not something I’m going to pay attention to.”)

Perhaps Lundy’s easiest advice to follow, however, is to take advantage of open mic nights around town:

If you get up and do a pro set, you’re playing the same stage you want to play as a regular act, but you’re taking the pressure off the club. You’re not asking the club to invest in your future; you’re investing in your experience in the club. If you do a great job, the bartender, sound person and open mic host will turn around to the club owner and say, “This act showed up last night and blew everybody’s mind. You should take a look at them and maybe book them.”

With word-of-mouth working hand-in-hand with an entertaining social media presence, potential fans are more likely to stick around and keep up on what the band in question is currently working on.  But as Lundy points out, it all comes down to money management and dedication.

Read the full Musician Coaching interview with Jesse Lundy here.