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The Biz

Published: 2006/04/07
by Allen Ostroy

Old Friends, Promotions, Promoters

About eight or nine months ago a guitar player friend of mine started a band. Recently he called me quite discouraged with how hard it was for his band to get gigs. He asked, “Am I missing something?” I assured him he wasn’t. The most frequent questions I get here and in my workshops are about getting gigs and booking a tour. I wish I had some magic words or formula to share but the reality is that everyone goes through the uphill battle of getting a date. I told my friend my story about sending a press kit to a well-known club only to follow up and find out from the talent buyer that he lost it before listening to it. I sent him another and followed up a few weeks later only to be told it was “lost” again. After getting the same story for a third time I realized “lost” meant “thrown away” and that I was going to have to approach getting a gig there in a different way. I contacted a local band who was playing that room and offered them a gig swap. If they would let the band I represented open for them at the venue I wanted to play then they could come open for us in our market. It turned out they had been trying to get a gig in our market so they agreed. The band I represented was Percy Hill and the band we did a trade with was Strangefolk.

If you’re in a band trying to get “out there” just keep in mind that everyone had their first gig, and second gig, and third gig, and so on. Don’t get discouraged, keep plugging and if something isn’t working then try a different approach.

Following is part of an email I got about a guy sticking with what he loved and seeing some success. If you have a success story please send it to me at because there are a ton of people interested in the music business that can get a lot of encouragement from reading about you and your struggles to success.

I want to thank everyone who has contributed to this Q&A and If you have any questions please send them to me. Also if you are an agent or manager looking to increase your roster shoot me an email with a pitch or resume. If you are a promoter or talent buyer shoot me an email with a resume and which market you are promoting in. I’ll post them next month.

Greetings Allen,

First off, great articles, chock full of helpful information. Many thanks from those of us in the Biz. Second, I am currently living in Austin, TX, but grew up in eastern Mass and went to college at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine. The bands listed in your bio under previous bands managed by you really brought back some great memories… LOL Nice work! Incidentally, after attending numerous Phish shows during my college days, with Percy Hill et al sprinkled in between, it was at a show that I decided something. I had decided to get into lighting design as a career. How I was going to do this, I had no idea. I moved to Austin in ’96 with some friends I met in school. I had no idea where to start. Through friends of my friends, I slowly made connections learned about working with the gear and people on the crews, worked some gigs. I got a job mixing sound for a local cover band specializing in funk-disco-rock-party music, and they were actually damn good! Dysfunkshun Junkshun was their name. So I toughed it out with them in the trenches, playing shows in dirty bars downtown, as well as debutante balls in decadent mansions. I began to build a modest lighting rig, since that was what I really wanted to do. Surreal wouldn’t begin to describe a DFJ show.. but I digress. After three years of that roller coaster ride, I scored a gig at a local lighting production company. Alright!! Now I’m doing concerts, major events, big shows, hard work, all that good stuff

Thanks again for the great Q&A on the Biz.


-Ethan Balmer

Hi Allen,

I am now living in Tampa Florida imported from the great city of Chicago. I have been here well over 3 years now and have only been able to get to a few good shows because there is about one twentieth of the shows that I would be able to see if I were back home. There is a serious lack of promotion for the Jamband scene down here and I would like to help change that. My question is where do I start and what can I do to promote good bands that do not have much of following down here as they do up north? Is there a problem with playing in Florida? It seems that everyone goes into the Tabernacle in Atlanta and then heads back north or west. Thank you for the help.

Jeff Vallecorse


Good questions. If there is a market for a "beat the street" promotion company maybe you should look into starting one and you could work for local venues – there are definitely a bunch of Tampa Bay venues. These types of companies are desperately needed because many times the only local promotion bands receive is to be part of a strip ad. Services you could offer could include hanging posters all over, hitting the schools, flyering shows, hand delivering CD’s to local radio etc. For example, you could set up a meeting with the talent buyer for Skipper’s Smokehouse and explain the services you offer and determine a price for a "package" – like $200 for hanging 150 posters (50 every week for three weeks) and handing out 2000 flyers (pulled these figures right off the top of my head – you need to determine the numbers on your own and negotiate what works for you and them). However, you may end up working for bands you don’t like or care about. If you specifically want to work for certain bands you can still offer a Tampa "beat the street" promo company and contact the bands management directly through their web site and offer similar packages – literally being the "advance team" for the bands you want to work for. Another thing you can do is set up meet-and-greets between local press and the bands.

If you want to be a promoter then that’s a horse of a different color all together and you need to start small and learn how. See my 3/21/05 answer to a question about talent buying and promoting to learn more or come to one of my workshops or take it online when I finally get it up there.

There is no problem with Florida except that it is LONG! Keep in mind that many bands tour in a van. Now with gas prices so high consider how much it costs a band in a van to travel? Its about seven hours from Atlanta, GA to Tampa, FL. As you pointed out the market there is thin and not a jamband hot spot so bands pass on going "in" for a seven hour trip and another long trip out. But, if you help make it a hot spot you’ll start to see more bands.

Thank you for your questions. Keep them coming and keep in touch! I hope I helped.


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