So you’ve played all the cool venues in your area. You’re a smash hit in your hometown, and now it’s time to take the act on the road. But where do you take it?
Artists just starting out might be at a loss for how to find a venue in a different city, but believe it or not, there are plenty of venues looking for talented performers just like you. When seeking to expand your circuit, the first decision should be how far you actually want to expand. Sure, it would be fun to play gigs all over the country… but how feasible is that? Chances are you’ll want to limit your initial search to areas within a day or two’s drive from your base, where overhead is basically just the cost of a tank of gas and an inexpensive hotel. Save the flashy jets and lavish suites for when you hit it big — and someone else is paying for them!
Once you decide how far you want to travel, figuring out how to find a venue in a different city can seem daunting. But don’t worry; there are organizations out there that have already done 90 percent of the work for you. Determine the largest towns and cities in the radius you have selected and use the internet to search the following:
1. Chambers of Commerce
When you think of your local chamber of commerce, you might picture men and women in stuffy business suits, sitting around a boardroom discussing costs and figures. But chambers of commerce also have a resource that is valuable to you: membership lists. A quick call should be able to net you a list of all the bars, restaurants, civic centers and other venues in the area that hire or host musicians, comedians and other entertainers, along with their contact information. After all, the organization’s purpose is to promote these businesses, right? From there, it’s just a matter of crafting a form email, asking if the owners or managers of those venues would be interested in hiring you to perform (be sure to include a link to your website, preferably containing sample material). Contact each one of them separately, not as a group, and don’t forget to change the name of the owner/manager and venue in each email you send.
2. Local Newspapers
This one requires a tad more research, but it’s a great alternative if there is not a chamber of commerce in the area in which you’re hoping to perform. Most newspapers serving a city of any size will have an arts and entertainment section, and nearly all will have community calendars posted online. Find those sections and make your own list of the venues you see. Then seek out their websites and repeat the email process detailed above. In fact, even if you do receive a chamber list, it wouldn’t hurt to check the local paper’s website in case there may be some potential venues that are not chamber members.
3. City Halls
From small towns to big cities, nearly every municipality has a local festival or two each year, and those festivals have an ongoing need for entertainment. Though many are operated by community organizations rather than the city itself, a call to city hall should get you in touch with someone who knows the contact person for every local festival. After all, the city has to approve the permits before the events can take place. In some areas, the chamber of commerce also may have this information on hand, so if you start there, be sure to ask about festivals, as well.
4. Colleges and Universities
Know who has stages to fill and student fees to spend? That’s right: colleges and universities. Call the main line from the university’s website or search online for contact information for the student affairs and cultural affairs offices. The student affairs office will be seeking entertainment that would be of interest to students (rock bands, comedians, etc.), while the cultural affairs office will want entertainers who bring unique perspectives to campus (dance troupes, world music bands, etc.). A call to both should help you determine whether your brand of entertainment is a good fit. However, be aware that many universities plan their entertainment and cultural schedules six months to a year in advance, so don’t expect bookings to come quickly. But hey, it never hurts to get on their radar. And bonus: many colleges and universities provide travel, lodging and meals for visiting entertainers. Not a bad gig if you can get it.
Once you’ve mastered the art of how to find a venue in a different city, it becomes easy to daisy-chain the research to find paying gigs over longer distances. Just remember to space them out so if you’re on the road for two weeks, there are enough gigs on the way home to justify the return mileage. Otherwise, you’re just wasting time — and gasoline. But should you find yourself stuck for a night or two on the road without a gig, it’s not the worst thing that could happen. That just gives you time to start researching your next tour.
written by: a71678