Good gigs are hard to get and in this economy, it’s getting even harder. 99% of the time, I’m like you, a musician looking for bookings—but once a year thetables turn and it’s me booking the talent.
I’m the namesake and a co-producer behind the Aiken & Friends Fest, an Americana / Roots / Country music event consisting of two free outdoor, daytime stages and a ticketed indoor theater show in the evening. We have a four person booking committee.
In 2008, we decided to give Sonicbids a try. I’ve had my EPK there for years now. It has worked well for promotion, but I haven’t had great results getting booked through their submissions. So I found it very interesting to be on the receiving side of the submissions and I learned quite a bit. It was like back in school when you had to grade your classmates projects and they graded yours. Let me share what I learned, try to list pros, cons and a few dos and don’ts of EPKs.
If you aren’t familiar with Sonicbids, it’s an electronic ‘meeting place’ for artists and promoters. As an artist, they provide a method to host your EPK (Electronic Press Kit), as a promoter, they provide a method for posting your event to the pool of potential talent. There are others providing similar services but Sonicbids is the most widely used and known. As a musician, you can submit to any number of hundreds of gigs. Fees range from $5 to $50 making it tough to decide where to spend your hard earned dollars, on a chance to perform. Where’s the gig? What’s the exposure? Is there any compensation? Is the event prestigious? Are the promoters organized and serious about their event? Is what I do what they are looking for in the event?
From my past experience submitting as an artist, you rarely receive a response for the event (at all) and your submission dollars just sort of disappear. Having been on the promoter side, here’s how it works and hopefully this will help you make your submissions more productive (I should clarify that anyone who wanted to submit a hard press kit to the Aiken & Friends Fest directly was welcome to do so).
Overall, we received 40 Sonicbid submissions. As a promoter, our goals for using Sonicbids were:
• To find talent that was new to us and genre specific. The key here is ‘genre specific.’ This is an acoustic roots type of fest and that’s what we stated we wanted. Instead, we received a mix of styles. Some weren’t even close and got rejected after the 1st listen. While the music may have been good, it didn’t fit. Having an acoustic guitar somewhere in the mix of a pop or rock song isn’t rootsy. If you don’t fit the genre requested, don’t submit, unless you like donating to the cause.
• To find talent out of our immediate geographic area. This way we could offer festival goers talent they couldn’t readily see locally. This worked well for us. The event is in Smithfield, VA and we received EPKs from up and down the east coast and west to the Mississippi. As an artist, make sure that the compensation matches the required travel. We received submissions from Chicago and Texas. As a one off date there was no way the gig would even cover the travel expenses. Look at where the gig is and if it fits your routing and schedule before you submit. Otherwise you’re just making a donation (that we really appreciated but…)
• To make some dollars from submission fees to use toward the compensation of the chosen acts. We had a $10 submission fee. After paying a setup fee and splitting the $10 50/50 with Sonicbids, we took in $160. This helped offset some of our time. As an artist, you can’t send a hard press kit for $10 and it may be out of date by the time it’s reviewed. An EPK can be updated regularly.
• To have a convenient and green method of reviewing artists press kits. This was a win/win for everyone! As a promoter, we didn’t have stacks of papers and folders laying around (potentially slipping into the unknown.) I could review submissions from the road, while the committee did the same from their homes. The artists didn’t have to spend $$ and resources on printing, paper, postage and fuel going to the post office.
• Lastly, to book at least one artist from the pool of submissions. This worked well as we booked two slots as a result. So, overall the method worked and we will use it again next year. After reviewing many EPKs, here are a few tips on what worked and what didn’t. Provide the best audio possible, it makes a huge difference. Many EPKs were turned down from poor quality audio tracks, which does not necessarily reflect how someone performs live but we can’t know that. Use concise descriptions of yourself. Let someone else do the talking if possible by including reviews and quotes. Spouting “I’m the best or the coolest” just doesn’t do it. Facts always speak loudly. Use good photos, they will be viewed!
Finally, respond to the promoter when they contact you. We had two artists make it into the final round but they never responded to our emails. Again, we appreciated their donation but you may as well save the $10. And if you’ve booked the date in the meantime and are no longer available, let us know that. It makes you look professional for responding and desirable because we missed you. I hope this gives a little insight from the promoter’s side of the coin. Keep pushing and plugging yourself and get those gigs! Cheers, Mike