Over the past 18-24 months our music nights have grown in stature and we've managed to attract a really great calibre of local, national and International artists including a few Mercury Music nominees and several BBC Radio 2 Folk Award Winners. As the shops popularity grows we inevitably receive lots more gig requests. This is brilliant!
I love to see my inbox ping with a request. Who could it be? Is it the next local star to shine? Maybe a finalist on Britain's Got Talent? Or possibly a Brit Award nominee?
"Hey Comfy Bookshop. My names Steve Plampton and i love the sound of your shop. i've played at the white lion, the red fox, alfies barn, melbies, the afterglow, dirt and dine, The roly poly, the stevenage butter festival, and loads more and wnat to play you. check me out.
This example is completely made up but one which I receive weekly. Now maybe Steve is fabulous. Maybe his new album got 4 stars in Mojo last week. Maybe he's just about to release an EP? But how can I tell?
Unfortunately not everyone knows how to contact a venue. Well I'm here to give you a few tips on what I look for in a great request. Note that I said 'I look for'. Other venues differ and may look for other things.
1. Research the venue.
Before even sending a message are we right for you? We specialise in folk, acoustic, Americana, Singer-Songwriter. Take a look at who has played here previously. Are they similar to you? If not, do you think that you're likely to get a gig here?
2. Get to know who to contact.
For us this is simple. It's me, Michael. I tweet LOADS and Facebook LOADS and always mention that it's me. My name is on the front page of the website. The contact page on the website says 'Contact Michael'. If, like Steve Plampton above, you write 'Comfy Bookshop folk, 'Mr Bookshop', 'Mike', 'The team at the bookshop' etc it says to me that you haven't done your research. For other venues it doesn't take long to find out. It immediately shows that you've at least spent 2 minutes doing your job. Go even further and start a conversation with me first. I'm always on Twitter. Follow me and chat.
3. Introduce yourself
Before you launch into your spiel, say Hi, ask me how I am, give me a lovely comment about my hair. Just be nice. Break the Ice.
Once you've buttered me up, then go ahead and tell me about yourself. I'm not particularly interested in who or where you've played unless they're notable. I'm much more interested in what you've been up to. Are you touring? Have you got a new record out? How did you find out about us? It's also good to note 3-4 acts who you share resemblance with. If there is a mass block of text about "picking up the guitar at 14", then going through your life story, I'll just scroll past it. Make it snappy.
4. Add a few useful links.
You'd be amazed how many people don't add links to a gig request. How am I supposed to find out what you sound like? You want the gig right? Personally I'm looking for your main website, your twitter and facebook, a direct link to your music that I can listen to, plus 2-3 live videos. I NEVER download anything so don't send anything via dropbox. I much prefer live videos to 'official' ones as they show me what I'll be getting. Quality isn't vital, I just need to hear you live. I'd like your newest music too. If I don't receive any links then I'm not going out my way spending time researching YOU if you can't research US. If I can't listen to you, I won't book you.
5. Be professional.
It makes no difference to me whether you've only played locally for a year or have completed several European tours. The tone, the spelling and the grammar (we're a bookshop) should be correct. Write your email, then read it back to yourself. Change the 'i' to I, make the 1 sentence paragraph into 3 separate sentances. Use spellcheck. It may not change the quality of your music, but if it looks professional, then I'll take note quicker and am more likely to click straight away.
These are things that I'm not too fussed about, but it's nice to have. Maybe a recent interview, some good quotes from good places (not your mum). Extra links such as Instagram.
As a side note, the Big Comfy Sessions are not gigs. I often get requests for a session when what they really want is a gig. A session is where we record 2 songs on the sofa with Redwood Photography. We're not taking bookings for these at the moment.
The bottom line is that as long as you send links to music, I'll listen, but the request will go to the top of the pile if the tips above are followed. Also, although I'll try to support all independent music, if I'm not keen on your music then I probably won't book you. We average 25 requests a week (as of March 2017) and accommodate 6 acts a month so there will be lots who will get turned down, or offered a gig way into the future, but either way, I love receiving details of artists I wouldn't have found otherwise. I often stick artists music on our shop playlist (via Spotify) and follow on social media even if we can't sort a gig. That way we'll be able to stay in touch for future gigs.
So lets revisit Steve's email and write it again.
I hope this finds you well and that you're not too tired from the birth of your little one! Beautiful name she has.
My name's Steve Plampton and I hail from Swindon. I saw that my friends 'The Flips' played at your place so had a look who else you've had and can see half a dozen other acts who I played with last year. It looks such a cosy place.
In October I'll be on a UK tour for my new album 'Flowers' and hope that you'll be able to accommodate me on one of your Comfy & Acoustic nights. The album was recorded in just a week in a barn in Wales. Chilly! I'll stick a copy in the post if you like? I often get compared to Iron & Wine, Bon Ivor and Matthew & The Atlas. One man and a guitar with a bit of cello every now and then.
There is lots of info about me on my website StevePlampton.co.uk including my 3 albums so far for you to listen to.
To hear the new album before it's out, follow this private link on Soundcloud :.hdfyebdhdyhe.com
Last month I played The Harewood in Greenwich so had a few songs recorded on my iphone. It's not great quality but here are the best 2 tracks:
youtube.com/gdtgertd64gh - Called Fishes
youtube.com/bdtwrfbf8 - Called Bamboo dreams (from the new record)
Also here's one from the 500 capacity Hellmouth in Bristol 4 months ago. I managed to get on the bill with Turin Brakes (cool). youtube.com/dyxnmke8jc
Here's my social media links.
Twitter.com/plampton. I'm already following you on Twitter.
I understand that you book up really quick so if you like what you hear, but can't sort an October date, I'd love to play another time.
It's nice and polite, it has links to live music, he offered to send a CD (always great). Think I'll go ahead and listen to Steve right now instead of putting him in the folder of 63 other requests
I hope this helps with contacting us. Apply over on our Contacts page.