Monday, March 8, 2010


So you want to book a show, huh? Well, we want to help. Between Dan, Sias and myself, we’ve set up dozens of shows all over this fair city. Unfortunately, we don’t have much time to commit to it anymore, but we’d love to offer up our insight and see if it can’t help inspire someone from the next generation of Salt Lake hardcore to take up the task.

Booking a show can be the most fun, or the most stressful, thing ever, but it’s almost always worth the hard work. The beauty of this guide is that it not only applies to hardcore shows, but also to any kind of DIY event. Let’s get started.

Finding a place to hold shows is always the hardest part. With Salt Lake City’s finest cracking down and enforcing nonsensical and poorly clarified laws, some businesses are scared to risk paying fines for ordinance violations. But there are some that would love to help because everyone loves a good live show -- and as a small business, $100 or so for a couple hours of racket can make a big difference.
Look anywhere (and everywhere) for a space big enough to hold a small crowd. It doesn’t have to be huge, and it most-definitely doesn’t have to fit the mold of what most people consider to be a "venue." I’ve played shows in shacks in the middle of junkyards, the driveways of pizza places, abandoned hotels, college auditoriums, church utility rooms, skate parks and tin-foil covered basements. With a few honest-to-goodness clubs here and there, too. Try and think outside the box when it comes to looking for new places.

Dozens of shows have taken place in SLC with the help of small, local businesses. It can be a daunting task, because you will be turned down more times than not, but eventually, if you stick with it, someone will say yes. [See: Baxter's Coffee, Artopia, Wild Mushroom Pizza, The Black Box, Uprok, Red Light Books, Undergroundz Coffee, Connections Skate Park, Wagstaff Music, New Hope Center and Tower Theatre, for proof.]

Here are a few things to remember:

1) Be friendly and professional. You don’t have to be a suit-wearing business man by any means, but at least be respectful. Tell the owner that you’d love to rent out a space to hold a concert. Explain that you're accepting small donations for touring musicians and that the venue will receive a slice of the pie. Or, hold benefit show! Not only are they a great service, but some venues love the idea of "doing some good."

It may take some convincing, but stick with it. If they say no, don’t get angry and tell them where to stick it. They may change their mind and be willing to help in the future. Provide them with your contact info and thank them for their time.

2) It’s okay to exaggerate a little bit. Even if you’ve never booked a show before, tell them you have. It’s a little white lie and they might be more inclined to work with you if they think you know what you’re doing. Don’t tell them you used to run a booking agency or anything outlandish, but a simple, “I’ve booked a few shows here and there before but the places either closed down, moved or changed owners. I’m just looking for a way to get some local bands a little exposure,” will go a long way.

Confidence is key. Act like you know exactly what you’re doing. Telling a potential venue that you’re willing to pay them a portion of proceeds usually sweetens the deal. It gives struggling businesses a little extra incentive, too. If it’s a coffee shop, tell them that you’ll give them a flat fee, but there will be people there to buy drinks and snacks all night long. Business owners generally look at the bottom line above anything else. If it helps them pay their bills, they’re interested.

The key is to be diligent and to not get discouraged. Keep trying and eventually you’ll find a place.

Once you’ve got that down, everything else is a piece of cake in comparison. Like most things, the first step is always the hardest. But once you’ve got that, it’s pretty much smooth sailing from there on out.
Tomorrow we’ll look at the best way to actually put a show together. That's when we get to the fun stuff.

*Ed. Note - I broke this down to four parts, and if anyone has any advice to add (that maybe I forgot), drop it in the comments. I'd like to try and make this an awesome comprehensive guide for anyone that wants to try booking shows. Salt Lake needs more of them.


Juan Pedro said...

this is awesome! I'd like to add Parks to the list of places to hold shows. parks are easy to rent out, and if you just point everything that makes noise away from any houses and the shows usually work out!

josh said...

it also doesnt hurt to book the show at more than one place, that saved me a ton of trouble when places fell through.

Sam said...

House shows are awesome too!

Someone has to have a basement, garage, back yard, something like that... Then find a local band with a PA, throw the word "donation" on the flier and you're set...

xdislocationx said...

that helps but... I wouldn't really wanna see any bands that are playing shows right now because they suck. Don't get me wrong though, there's definitely some good bands out there, but they aren't getting as much attention as the "good" hardcore bands that actually are. It's sad actually, but that's life.

trevor said...

So take it upon yourself to book one of the "good" hardcore bands that you want to see.

Get them a little more attention.

Sam said...

You don't want to see any bands because they all suck. Well, all of them but the good ones. But the good bands don't get as much credit as the "good" bands...


Ty$on said...

yaaaa. what?