If there is one thing that can drive a musician insane, totally flatten down their optimism and generally leave them feeling dirty at night - it's booking shows.
For the most part, setting up a show can be done easily in your hometown. You know folks who know folks, you know?
But the minute you try to go beyond the gates you are vulnerable.
Some music scenes are closed up tighter than a frog's ass (i.e. Cleveland, Toledo, Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, even Columbus lately). So if you want a show, you have to swap with another out of town band.
But 9 times out of 10 you give a band a show in your hometown and they won't return the favor. When you call to collect, they stop returning your emails and you're stuck back at square one. All you have to show for your work was some sucky band getting rid of your crowd (since you nicely gave them the 11 p.m. well-populated slot). If you are one of the bands screwing people over, keep in mind that Karma is a bitch. It always comes back around.
When I started this site, I tried to do a whole article on touring bands in the region. I'm talking the bands that pack up and hit the road for an entire month or more. More specifically, I noticed at the time that Columbus band The Receiver was touring out west. Unfortunately, they never answered my emails. So I gave up on that.
Fast forward many months, and young Leo Maymind, who goes by the band name Spanish Prisoners started catching my eye. He released his debut CD "Songs to Forget" and has since toured all over the country. I just assumed he was getting these gigs with the help of a booking agency. Turns out he's been doing all this shit on his own. I thought that was commendable and perhaps he could offer some insight for other bands looking to tour more often.
"I do all my own booking, press, everything. I'm a one-man, DIY operation over here, literally. My last tour I drove for two weeks around the country alone. It's been challenging, and sometimes frustrating, but at the same time, it's rewarding when I connect with people because I know I am the only one responsible for it," Maymind said. "It is hard to book out of town shows, but you just have to be dilligent about it and plan way ahead. It is also helpful to find bands that live in the cities you want to visit and try to get them to help you set up the show. I get some help from friends in bands that way."
I had assumed that Maymind was hooked up with Insomniac Booking, because of his ties to Athens, OH. But he has not worked with any booking agencies before.
"I think the best advice I would give to bands is the old adage: Just Do It. Seriously. Plan it out, and do it. Set goals. Have a system. I wish more Columbus bands toured, because there are a lot of great bands here that NEVER play out of town. When I was on my first tour with Adam Torres (Nostra Nova) we had a show in this coffeeshop in upstate New York and no one was there. Literally. So we took our guitars outside and saw a group of about 20 people down the street and we went down there, introduced ourselves, and just sang on the sidewalk for a while. This led to being invited back to one of the guy's apartments where we played another set each. Was one of the best nights of the tour. You just have to go out there and get the music heard."
When it comes down to it, no self-respecting band honestly enjoys the booking process. Often times it's akin to begging on a street corner. You deal with attitudes. You deal with liars. You deal with people who could give two shits about you and your music. The rest of the time they don't even return your calls. God help you, if your band is not even very good. Because this is the crap that GOOD bands deal with too.
Ultimately, bands with any hopes for touring are secretly looking out for booking agencies that will take them on. Hell, these days most indie bands want to get signed SOLELY because they want to tour.
Maymind is feeling the pinch too, "I'm hoping sometime soon some people will start seeing the worth in my music and want to take me on. We'll see. I always find this interesting too - I think it really changes the game if you have a PR firm, as they can do way more than I can on my own."