Over the years I’ve worked with many of this country’s most prolific jazz artists, both as a manager and an agent. In the process I’ve learned that successful gig procurement is as much about marketing and promotion as it is about great music. Sadly – pop-sensibilities have infected the jazz world and there’s no getting away from it. Whenever I am asked about how I get so many bookings for my artists I tell them that my technique involves implementing a sustained but elegant PR campaign well in advance of actually getting in touch with a promoter – something that any manager/agent/artist can do for themselves without a huge financial outlay.
Get the Promoters On Side
Promoters generally will not book an act that they’ve never heard of full stop. I should emphasize that I’m targeting this article to – you – the performer – who already has a reasonable profile but is grappling with the frustrating fact that there are just too many jazz acts chasing shrinking numbers of jazz gigs. Needless to say this is due to funding cuts and general economic malaise. Your PR campaign should be specifically aimed at promoters, artistic directors, programmers – whatever title they go by – in order to familiarise them with your particular USP – keeping your name top of mind so to speak.
Too often artists concentrate their entire PR efforts on the jazz media – which is undoubtedly useful. However by not allocating equal time to keeping promoters in the loop, many artists miss out on a range of opportunities. Here’s what I advise:
You Need to Have a Strategy
Firstly, compile a list of promoters’ details – especially their email addresses (see bullet-point list below). This can be a bit time-consuming but will be an on-going process (never-ending actually). Now this is the important bit: Whenever you have ANY significant news – ie album release , awards, award-nominations, prestigious gigs ie Glastonbury, London Jazz Festival, Glasgow Jazz Festival , you’re dating Miss Piggy – you get the gist – put together an attractive release (I send an e-flyer via the trackable Mad Mimi programme) and send it to your promoter list. Your e-flyer should be succinct, contain at least one photo, two media quotes, a media link (or proof of your claim), a high-quality, performance video link, your gig list and of course contact details, website etc. You might send e-flyers out to 500 contacts, of which only 50 will bother to open; but then you know that there are 50 promoters who are at least marginally interested and potentially receptive to a follow-up by you or your agent. I try to get in touch with a warmed-up promoter within 2 days of sending an e-flyer. Leave it any longer and they’re liable to forget the news and possibly you. It is helpful if your news coincides with prime booking periods* ‘but strike while the iron’s hot’ is generally my modus operandi for success.
*Mid-January – mid-March for autumn/winter; mid-May-August for spring/summer; mid-November-Feb for summer festivals
Compiling Your Promoter’s List
1. Check out the websites of other jazz artists (whose gigs you think you should have).
2. Check out jazz listings sections of magazines, newspapers (Guardian guide, JazzUK and Jazzwise are great), jazz websites etc.
3. Jazz Services website has a comprehensive venues section.
4. Buy a copy of British Performing Arts Yearbook (Rhinegold Publishing) and check out the Arts Festivals, many of which book at least one or two jazz acts. It also features many venues/events that you might not normally come across – very useful when planning a tour.
5. Research the various regional Arts Council websites to learn which venues have been awarded programming grants.
6. Local authority / council arts departments are generally au fait with local festival plans and in many cases are actively involved.
There are a myriad of ways of pursuing and capturing your quarry, but I can’t overemphasize the effectiveness of a subtle but sustained PR campaign – aimed specifically at promoters.