Booking your first gig? Take this advice from a venue owner first

Putting on your own gig can be scary, even if you’re not actually the one who’s going to be on stage. There’s about a million things that can go wrong, but even more that can go right, and programming a killer show can be one of the music industry’s most rewarding experiences.

Happy Mag has been putting on events for over five years now, with a reputation for shows that fill out early and spill out way past the entrance. Together with our friend Alison Avron who owns and operates The Newsagency – a venue and bar in Camperdown – we ran a free workshop last week all about putting on great music events.

alison avron the newsagency Jess Gleeson gig booking
Alison (left) with Venue Booker Niriko McLure and Marketing Manager Brooke Olsen. Photo: Jess Gleeson

Gigs are probably the most fun you’ll have as a professional musician, but if you’ve never booked one before, there’s a lot you could accidentally get wrong. Heed this sage advice before walking into your first show.

The Newsagency plays a super important role in Sydney. As a smaller venue with a group of tuned-in regulars, it’s often the first port of call for new artists booking their premiere show. Ali relishes the opportunity to fill that need for emerging musicians, but it does mean the venue receives a lot of gig requests that need a bit of work.

We asked Ali if there were any common missteps she sees all too often from newer artists.

“The most common mistake younger or less experienced bands make… they don’t really give much information, and they also assume that we already know them, but we don’t. The other thing is that they don’t actually tell us how they’re going put the event on. So it might just be ‘hey, we’re this band, we want to book a gig!’ And ok, everybody wants gigs. The most successful younger bands we’ve had at The Newsagency have had really great photos, so they attach that in the initial email, they’ve got links to all their social media, to their music, they make it really easy for us!”

“So I’d say that the most common mistake is no links, no genuine information – and you know, for some bands it might be their first gig, and it’s ok to admit that! It’s ok to say ‘we don’t have links at the moment to the music, but our plan is to do this’ and ‘here’s our phone number, let’s have a conversation.’ The more information, the better.” 

A press kit – your bio, press photos, social links, and any other relevant information – is essential for any band, not just for booking shows. You’ll need one to send to media and radio, plus you’ll likely need the assets for your social channels anyway.

Putting together that information will make you seem a lot more professional to any venue, which always helps. On the professionalism front, Ali had some more advice:

“Send more information, but also be patient, you know? I think the reason I started The Newsagency was because I wasn’t getting any emails back from other venues – I went to the extreme! I started a venue instead of just maybe waiting. I’m glad that I did obviously, because I think there is a genuine need for venues like The Newsagency, all emerging artists need a friendly face to work with, as in a venue that will take them on board and it’s not the end of the world, we don’t have overheads like other venues.” 

“I think be patient but also I’d focus a lot on what my promotion strategy was. You know, it’s all very well to do an EP launch, but once the EP launch is done, you really need to have a plan of what you’re going to do after.” 

For more information about how to speak to venues as well as putting on your own gigs, you can rewatch the Building Your Own Events workshop above.


Find out more about The Newsagency on their website.