#1
Hey UG-goers. My coverband recently recorded our first song [KOL-Use Somebody]; you can find it in my profile or at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1C2wH70VhEU. We are continuing to record more songs and we want to be prepared for the next step... Booking gigs!

I wanted to ask you guys what the proper steps are in trying to book gigs as a COVER BAND.

Here are my questions:
1. What is the best way to talk to bar-owners or other venue-owners? Should I be going to the venues in person and giving them a demo-cd or should I be emailing them with a link our website?
1a. How long should a demo-cd be for a cover band (We aimed for 3 songs)? Am I supposed to tailor the songs we pick for the demo-cd based on the type of venue? (We do contemporary covers / rock covers / oldies / punk - wide range)

1b. How many songs should be on our website?

2. How many songs should we be prepared to play? (We currently have a solid hour only)
3. Are there songs that bar-owners expect us to have on the list/Any suggestions for songs to make it easier for us to get a gig (We have fun playing anything really - we already have enough of our personal picks - we want to have a good amount of crowd pleasers - please let us know if we don't have enough)

Current SetList
Sweetness (JEW - There for Tomorrow Rendition)
Flavor of the Weak (American Hi Fi)
The View (Modest Mouse)
Tighten Up (Black Keys)
**** You (Cee-Lo - Skyway Traffic Rendition)
Dynamite (Taio Cruz - McFly Rendition)
Use Somebody (Kings of Leon)
Seventy Times 7 (Brand New)
Cute Without the E (Taking Back Sunday)
The Mixed Tape (Jack's Mannequin)
<Foo Fighters Something>

4. Anything else I should know?
#2
- Doesn't hurt to get to know the owners casually before approaching them about business.

- Having a fanbase will be helpful--lots of friends, likes, etc. on social networking sites gives that impression to venue owners.

- Right now y'all are set for doing an openening act. Most places want a 3-hour performance (at least 3 45-minute sets). You have enough material to do an opening set for another band.

- You could start by befriending another band that could use y'all to open shows for them. That'll introduce you to venue owners, too, and also help build a fan base.

- Open mics/jam sessions are also a good way to start networking. Plus you don't need the whole band there for that, or all your gear--you can hit those light.

- It is a good idea to tailor your pitch for different venues. Start by approaching venues that match your basic package, then expand over time.

Good luck and have fun!
#3
1. I'd meet them in person, it's all about networking and meeting face to face is more personal

2. you want probably like 50 songs, at least thats what I would aim for

3. & 4. your set list is nice, but first off it isn't long enough, personally I'd get more songs from the classic stations and the 'everything' stations, its not a bad set list and it is alot of fun playing the best tracks from an album, but you need to remember this piece of info: most people going to bars wont know the secret track off the special edition of your favorite bands 'pre-record-label' album. this means most people only know the songs that were on the radio, unless they were big enough of a fan to buy (or download) the album. id learn at least one zepplin, metallica, green day, stp, soundgarden, aerosmith, and probably also ac/dc.... another quick bit of advice is to look at the track listings in the guitar hero and rock band games, lots of people now know and love these songs
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Some pieces are only meant to be played by people with six fingers on their fretting hand. Sorry.
#4
Jetwash has it about right.

we started with about 1.5 hours but quickly realised you need about 2 hours as a covers band.

The first thing is to get experience as performers which means doing everything you can get. open mic, friends parties, charity events etc etc. None of it will be paid. Open mic is brilliant as you don't need any gear of your own. You will also meet a lot of local musicians. Be under no illusions, you will be judged although by a supportive and encouraging group of people. If you are good or if you show you are improving rapidly the word will spread and the venue owners at the open mic often book bands from the performers they see.

supporting other bands is the next step. You get to play longer sets and the main band will set up the PA. At least help them carry their stuff in though. We try to get young bands to play in our break if we can.

Once you have a few months experience behind you you can start looking for your own gigs. If you are in the UK you'll need your own PA at this point for most gigs. You'll also need to have 1.5 hours well rehearsed set. Getting the gigs is always a slog, even for an experienced band. If a bar has to pay a band £200 then they have to sell 200 extra drinks (it's not all profit) more than an average night or they make a loss. That's at least 50 extra people! When we started we offered the first gig free just to get our feet in the door.

Make personal contact! emails and mailing CD's wont work 9/10ths of the time. Go and see them and take a CD and a business card. They will lose the CD but probably keep the card in their dusty collection. Give it a week and ring back, they won't remember you but will feel guilty about not listening to the CD, ask if you should bring another CD and offer a link to your website. If you are offering a freebie you can be a little pushy about asking for dates but at this point you have to play it by ear. It is better to keep talking and to leave things hanging rather than get a definite no. You have to be persistent but not pushy.

Chase as many venues as you can, 1 in 10 are going to book you if you are good at selling so do the maths. Choose venues that do music and try and find out what genres they cover. Don't bother the folk venues with a punk band.

If you are in the UK join Lemonrock as a fan which is free. You can then search it for local venues, look for the ones with the most bookings as these are most active, some only do one or two events a year. Go to the gigs to sus out the venues and the competition and talk to the band in the break. Be nice and you'll get loads of help.

When you get the fist gigs take posters to the pubs and put them up yourself. Make sure all your friends, family and neighbours come to see you. You need a friendly audience and the reputation for bringing a crowd.

Good luck
#5
1. Your first line of contact should always be the telephone, it can usualy save you a lot of leg work. Ring the venue up and ask to speak to, or for the contact details of, whoever books the bands, then ask them if they have any bookings free and what they require of you to be considered for a spot.
Quite often a venue will be almost fully booked for the entire year, so it'd be a waste of time sending them a demo that will probably be forgotten about by the time they come to fill the diary for the next season. However, venues often differ in the way they book bands. Some may not require a demo at all and will prefer to start you off on a night that's usualy not too busy or in a support slot, just to try you out. Others may require a showcase, where you go and play a couple of tunes for the venue owners while the venue is closed, others may require just demos while some may also require photos and examples of poster designs.
It all depends upon the venue, so ring first and find out what they require from you.

1a. A demo should have roughly 3 songs on it that best shows your set in a nutshell, for instance, if half your set is fast stuff and half your set is slow stuff, there's no point in putting 3 fast songs or 3 slow songs on the demo because that doesn't give an accurate portrayal of what you do live.
1b. Entirely up to you, you can opt for just putting your demo on there or a recording of your entire set, but personaly I would just put the demo on there.

2. An hour and a half (which can be played as one set or split into two 45 minute sets) is generaly considered to be the standard, but this can vary with venues, so it's best to have 2 to 3 hours of material ready which will cover any eventuality.
It's also useful to have more material than most gigs require so that if you get a return booking that isn't long after your first booking, you can easily replace the songs that didn't go down as well as the rest of the set on your first booking with different ones.

3. Again, depends on the venue really, but it's not usualy an issue. The thing to remember is the clientel of any venue. For instance if a venue leans towards a bluesy clientel, then play more bluesy songs, if they are more of a metal clientel, play more metal.

4. The main thing to remember as a covers band is that your job is essentially to help the venue to sell beer. That means pleasing the regular crowd enough to make them hang around and buy that venue's beer instead of going and seeing what the band in the venue down the road is like.
It's no good just playing your own personal favourites and hoping they like it (and being pissed off if they don't) you have to be able to tailor your set to the audience to be a successful covers band.

Try to read your audience. This can often be done just by looking at them and noticing what they are wearing and the age group, for instance if they are mainly wearing biker gear, play biker music (usualy classic rock and blues with a spattering of metal) if they are young, play current music, if they are older, play older music. But you can also read an audience by their reaction. If a metal song gets no reaction, try a classic rock tune or even an old rock 'n' roll tune. By starting the set with a varying array of styles and judging the crowd's reaction, you get a better feel of what kind of music you should be concentrating on.

I've personally done gigs where we have two setlists that have been pretty much thrown out and re-written on the spur of the moment. Infact, in one covers band that I play for, we don't even have a set list anymore, we have a 'suggestion' list. Just a list of songs that we know we can do but not in any particular playing order.

As we add songs to the list, we colour code them to certain genres so that regardless of the 'feel' of the audience, we can look at the list and instantly see a song that will most likely suit them. Once the list gets to around 50 songs, (ours is about 150 songs long) you can happily start asking the audience if they have any requests, and it's fairly probable that you'll have a couple of songs on the list that they are shouting for. But what is better than asking for requests for particular songs is to ask what bands they are into because it's even more likely that you will know at least one song from a band than one particular song from a band.

Of course, this is all stuff that you'll develop over time, with experience, as a covers band. Don't try to go for the whole thing on your first outing, start small and build up your set. If you find yourself constantly being asked for particular songs that you don't do, get back in the rehearsal room and learn them.

Sometimes it's fun to take risks. We were once doing an out of town gig when someone shouted out 'Play Paint it Black!' (Rolling Stones song) I (being the bassist and one of the vocalists) knew how to play the song but I didn't know if the rest of the guys did, so I looked at the guitarist and gave him a face that basicaly asked if he knew it. He replied by going into the opening chords and before we knew it, we were all playing the song. Unfortunately, I was expecting him to sing it and he was expecting me to sing it, and neither of us actualy knew the words.
So while we were playing an extended intro, I went up to the mic, asked who had requested it, asked him if he could sing it, and invited him up.
As it turned out he had a pretty decent voice, and because he was a local guy that had just been plucked out of the audience, it went down really well, especially with his buddies.

But don't push it with the risk taking until you are really experienced, or you will screw it up and look silly.
#6
Hey thanks for the feedback everyone; I gathered that we basically should start learning more songs - which is awesome because that's our favorite part of being a band!

It seemed like we lacked some diversity... so I was hoping some of you could give some suggestions on songs/genres to branch out to so we can evolve from this college-demographic we currently having going on.

I made a new thread asking about this; you can post in there: Questions about Diversifying Set