Routing is an art. Plain and simple. Routing is booking in a way that your shows are as close together as possible as to minimize the time you have to spend in a car between shows AND the expense of driving from one town to the next. Too often I see a huge mistake by young comics booking a “tour” that takes them from Tuesday Night in Florida to Wed Night in Ohio then Thursday Night in Arkansas. You would have to be making fucking bank at those shows to make that worth it AND you will be so exhausted that your comedy is likely to take a hit because of it and you are hurting your chances of being booked again. I like to use what I call the 5 Hour Rule. The 5 Hour Rule is as simple as it sounds. Don’t book shows on back to back days if they are more then a 5 hour drive apart. The 5 hour rule can be broken ONLY if the opportunity has a bigger payoff then the cost of the fatigue and travel. Now, this is also the hardest rule to follow because often you are at the mercy of when each venue is willing to do a show. Spend time plotting out cities that connect with a 5 hour drive and start building your tour around that. I HIGHLY recommend using Google Maps for this. Check out this customized Google Map.
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Naming your Tour
Come up with a name for your tour that is catchy but also original. This is the part where you have to step outside yourself and suck it up and accept that you have to market yourself. Yeah, yeah, it gives you the douche chill when rookie comics take off on some ‘tour’ of three cities with some cutsie ass name like “The Super Awesome Dudes of Comedy Tour” or some shit, but that is going to happen. You can get away with not naming your tour and just compiling shows that would equate to a ‘tour’ but your draw and overall appeal to bookers and media is not going to be as strong. I conceived The Crackers of Comedy Tour back in 2008. People didn’t care when I started booking Matt Ward and to do comedy in their venue, but when I told them I wanted to bring my Crackers of Comedy Tour to their venue, things changed. It seemed and was a bigger deal to them. Be smart, Google the fucking names you come up with and make sure the domain name is available before sticking with it. The Saints and Sinners Comedy tour is a great example of a couple of talented comics that have a well packaged tour and are getting booked all over the place as a result.
Where Should I try to book my tour?
By now you should have a general idea of where you want to tour. Now that you have that out of the way it is time to do a venue search. What I DO NOT recommend is just looking up the comedy clubs in the areas you are touring and calling on them first. Start in alternative venues. If you already have an ‘in’ with an agent that books one nighters all over the area you are looking to tour, then by all means, get with them and see if they are interested.
What I recommend is using web searches to determine where you might want to perform before just blindly posting on social media saying “My Crackers of Comedy Tour is looking for shows in your area”. Do some research, find out where the local comics put touring comics when they come through town. Work with them first to bring you to town if you can and they are able to. If not, look for music venues, and if you have P.A. system to travel with, look for restaurants. It is important to consider a few things when picking venues to call on. First, do they EVER have live entertainment? If the answer is NO but they are extremely interested in ‘giving it a shot’ then you will end up being the guinea pig. As long as you are aware there is a high chance some major parts of this show are going to be a failture, then go ahead and book it. If the venue DOES normally have live entertainment, find out what type of entertainment they have, what nights they have it and if they charge a cover for it. In this stage of our economy many venues don’t even pay bands! I know it’s hard to believe, but it happens. Other venues will just pay a flat rate for the performer while some will just give you the door. Do the research, create a call list and get ready to keep doing more research! Really? Yes, you aren’t ready to call anyone quite yet.
Before you Start Calling
So you have found venues you want to call on in the area you want to tour with the comedians you want to tour with, awesome. Well, save your self some time and think about a couple of things before you decide to even CALL a venue. First, does the venue have an online presence? If not, they are not necessarily idiots or super old rednecks, however, you DO have to be concerned with how they market events at their venue. If a venue doesn’t come up in a Google search and you can’t even find any live event listings ANYWHERE online, chances are they are not the best at promoting events that happen in their bar. The ultimate test is to call the venue like a customer and ask them what live entertainment they are having for the week. If they don’t have a clue, move along. You are barking up the wrong tree. Now, the exception to this rule is venues that utilize local entertainment mags or newspaper ads to get the word out about shows. There are some hidden gems out there that have a good word of mouth for shows, but 99% of the time if they don’t exist online, it’s because they don’t promote worth a flying fuck and are not worth your time.
Compile your Call List
Make sure you have a call list on paper (if you can’t bring yourself to an app on your phone) or on a spreadsheet that way you can track your calls and follow ups. Get warmed up before you call. It sounds stupid, but say what you want to say a few times before you dial. Flubbing your words makes people immediately distrust you. Make a phone call to the other dude you have on this tour and run over your spiel with them.
Getting through the Gatekeeper
It’s important to remember that you have to get through the gatekeeper first. “What the fuck is that?” you may ask. That is the person that answers the damn phone. If the place gets a lot of calls like yours, this persons job is to keep you from talking to the decision maker because that person is busy making other decisions or avoiding having to make decisions (most frequently). Typically when this person wants to avoid putting the decision makers on the phone, they will say something like “Well, you need to talk to Bob/Jane Owner and he/she is not in right now.” At that point my might ask, “Well, when will they be in?” To which they will likely respond, “He or she is in and out all the time, they don’t have any specific hours..” Best this to do after you find out who the owner/decision maker is would be to say something like, “Would it be better to call back when you first open, is that a better time to reach him/her?”
NOTE: Often Gatekeepers ARE the decision maker, they just don’t want to talk to you right then. So that kept in mind, be as polite as possible and NEVER blow off the gatekeeper. They should be able to here you smiling so they don’t think you are an asshole.
If the venue is doing entertainment often, they may direct you to the web site and have you send the booker an email. Make sure you get them to spell the bookers/decision makers name so you don’t send them an email with it misspelled. DO NOT stop to send them an email RIGHT THEN, finish up the rest of your call list. Have a separate email contact list (another sheet on your spreadsheet) and prepare a very concise exact email for them because you likely have just ONE shot via email. I will go over emailing folks about gigs tomorrow, so tune in then for more on that.
One of the tricks to calling back is to change the time of the call back depending on what information you got from the venue. And don’t be a fucking douche, when you call a restaurant/bar, don’t call in what typically would be peak hours. If you call a busy successful bar that has a good lunch crowd at 11:00am-1pm, you are a fucking idiot. They will blow you off and you likely won’t have another chance. By the same token, don’t call during dinner rush.
|Article in Athens, GA Student Newspaper in March 2011|
Talking To the Venue Booker
When you finally do get a hold of the person in charge of booking the venue be very specific for when you are looking to book the show based on where/what you have booked before or after it already. Don’t compromise and shift your entire tour around unless it is a guaranteed pay gig or the crowd is going to be more your target or something that would make it worth calling other already booked shows back and asking them to change (which is a pain in their ass). Make sure that when you first start talking to the booker you are friendly and allow them to talk more than you. Ask questions about the venue and their entertainment booking history and take the time to explain how your show is going to be financially beneficial for them. The job is pretty easy once you have gotten a hold of the right person. However, a big rule exist here I call the 150% rule. If the booker/owner is not on board 150%, don’t bother booking the gig. I don’t care how bad you need the gig, if the booker and owner don’t really give two shits and a fuck about your show, it will be a show that ends up not being worth 1 shit and half a fuck. They won’t put the posters up you send, they won’t tell people on their facebook page and you will be left with a small crowd and a disappointed venue that doesn’t want to pay you anything. Guess who is to blame in the end. You.
Booking By Email
A ton of bookers are booking exclusively by email and surprisingly, facebook messaging. Make this email answer this simple question in one paragraph with NO attachments “Who the fuck are you and why the fuck should I book you?” Write your email like a letter with a greeting a body and a salutation that includes all ways to get hold of you. I can tell you right now, without someone going to bat for you with the venue 10-20% of the emails you send out for booking will ever even get responded to. That means it’s a numbers game, send out 10, get one YES or NO. This ratio varies, but often it is nearly impossible to get with someone via email.
That’s all for now. If you enjoyed this read and would like to make a donation to my Sardines and Gas Money Fund for my upcoming Dork for Life Comedy Tour, do that HERE>>
Metion me on twitter @mattwardcomedy AND/OR come check me out if I am in your area on one of my upcoming tours!