The Tao of Working with Promoters

It’s a sad fact that most jazz musicians don’t have the luxury of an agent working on their behalf and in addition to everything else they’re obliged to ‘beat the bushes’ and contact promoters to book their own gigs – not an easy task especially when they’re often competing with old boy networks and professional agents. But if you employ a bit of ingenuity and good timing it’s not impossible especially if you have something special to offer –  which of course you do.

Firstly it’s important to lay the foundation before you call:

  1. Ensure the promoter (or venue, festival booker) has been sent your recent bumph BEFORE you call (one of my e-blasts perhaps?) She might not have perused through it but at least you can say it’s been sent though you’ll probably have to resend.
  1. Take some time to research the promoter’s name – you’ll have a better chance of being connected to the decision-maker if you ask for her/him by name as opposed to asking reception to identify the booker – chances are if they think you know the person in question you’ll be put straight through. If reception asks what it’s about simply say ‘programming’. Try to obtain the promoter’s direct line and in fact ask for it at the conclusion of the conversation  – also their mobile number. If you’re actually contacted by a promoter use one of the caller ID programmes so that in future you can get ahold of these elusive creatures (especially when the world seems to want a gig and they’re approaching a brochure deadline with only a couple of slots left to fill).

When you finally have a promoter’s attention it’s advisable to initially enquire which period they’re programming – usually six to eight months into the future and determine if they’ve received your information: If they haven’t,  ask for their email address and inform them that you’ll send the bumph immediately “so watch out for it” and will follow-up shortly thereafter. If they know your work, continue the conversation about their next programming period (using the industry word ‘programming’ makes you appear more professional and experienced at booking gigs.) Whatever you do don’t appear amateurish and ask for a gig within the season of your call unless you enquire if they might have a last-minute opening due to a cancellation – you never know – you might hit pay dirt!

Top Timing Tips ~

  1. Avoid calling on Monday mornings – for too many reasons to list here – just trust me.
  2. Many accessible promoters prefer to engage after 5:30 when they’re more relaxed and receptive.
  3. If a promoter asks you to call later because they’re in a meeting – do it because as you know they’re often not available – carpe diem and all that jazz.
  4.  If you happen to be speaking to a promoter during a brochure deadline – cut the discussion short because they’re anxious and won’t be absorbing any of the conversation. They’ll also appreciate your consideration and will often suggest another time as a result.
  5. Avoid Friday afternoons as they are often involved in a band get-in.
  6. Avoid the last day – usually a Friday – before a bank holiday – they’re usually not around anyway and if so are distracted by urgent tasks they need to complete before their break – if they’re there in the first place (being in jobs with benefits they often arrange to combine accrued holiday days with official days off and many are away for two weeks!)
  7. Don’t jump on a promoter on the first day AFTER a break because they won’t be a receptive as they might on the 2nd day after trawling through emails etc – you know how difficult it is to get back in the groove after being away.
  8. Send emails early in the week as opposed to a Friday when they’ll often be buried by all the emails sent over the weekend.

After awhile you’ll get the hang of how promoters work in general and their individual idiosynchracies. You’ll get over your trepidation and realise that in chasing him for a gig you’re actually doing a promoter a favour because a big part of their job is discovering great talent – namely you.