Photo by Adele Reding Photography
At this point, Joanna and I don’t have a booking agent. We may never have one and that’s ok. I will admit that there was a time that I secretly dreamed of telling people to talk to our agent. It would just sound so like “we made it” to say that right? Like so many other desires an artist may have for affirmation, having an agent is one of those things. We feel like that would give us the validation we need to say we are too legit to quit. In reality this isn’t the case. As you move forward and find the need to build a team to promote your music and ministry, having an agent may make sense for where you are headed. In the meantime don’t stall your progress waiting for an agent to affirm you. In fact, most booking agents won’t even consider you without your reaching a certain level of self-booked dates per year. They want to manage someone who has already built a following with solid contacts-not build your following for you.
In this post I’ll be talking about how to schedule church events without a booking agent. These steps are very practical and geared towards those of you who, like me, don’t really like making cold calls or self-promotion. Don’t wait to have all of these things in place before you begin. You can start with #1 and work on the other steps over time.
- Start trying to schedule with people you know. Talk with pastors, worship leaders, and friends from other congregations that you have a relationship with. See if there are any opportunities to share that would work for their congregation. Sunday morning, Wednesday evening, Sunday night, a weekend cafe style event, or maybe an upcoming annual event. Getting the opportunity to sing even one song in a service may open up more time to share in a future worship service or concert. Don’t be discouraged if there aren’t any opportunities at some of these churches. You may have close contacts there, but many churches simply will not do events with outside artists and sometimes the timing is just not right. Don’t take a no or not now personally.
- Develop a good song and record it. It can be original or an arrangement of a cover. When decision makers hear your music and resonate with it doors may open. If you are just starting out, you don’t have to record more than one song. Don’t wait to finish a CD before you start booking. It can be a simple guitar/vocal or piano/vocal track. You can do a smart phone voice memo recording or a video shot from your smart phone. It can be simple. Just make sure it is a clear solid performance, that it conveys what you sound like at your best, and that it represents who you are as an artist. Recording is your first step to reaching out to churches outside of relationships you already have. This will help your new contacts determine if you are a good fit for their church and also help them present you to other decision makers in their congregation in order to secure a date. If you are interested in recording your own higher quality demos check out the My Gig Bag page to find a good place to start. If home recording is too overwhelming for you or if you don’t have a budget to hire someone to do it, start with a smart phone recording. To hear the quality of an iPhone recording check out this video or this video or this video. Since the mic and camera are together on the phone you can kinda tell how well it works at a distance. For an audio only recording, putting the phone closer is even clearer. Be sure to record in a room with soft furniture so it won’t be too echo-ee sounding.
- Build an email list. Email is not dying, it is still the strongest virtual connection you can have with your followers. We all miss lots of posts on social media, but most people will at least see your subject lines when they check their email. Writing subject lines that will lead people to open your email is an art form in and of itself. Here’s an article that will help you do this.
- Build a website. A clean, professional website, establishes credibility, allows you to gather an email list, and is fully under your control. This blog and our current band website have been built on the WordPress platform. The My Gig Bag page has suggestions and tutorials on how to build and host your own awesome website. Having and hosting your own site is so important. Social media is great to build connections, but ultimately it should act as a funnel to your virtual home-your website. If your website accurately describes you as an artist and let’s people hear you or see you perform it can act as your electronic promotional kit for churches that are considering you.
- Engage on social media. Social media helps make new people aware of who you are. It helps you maintain a connection with people after an event, enlist the help of others in scheduling new events, and it helps others share your music and ministry with new potential followers. I try to post at least one new post daily to my Twitter account and our Facebook page and then I engage with the posts of others multiple times a day. When we have a new song, product, or website content we typically only allow people to view it at our website. We link people to our site through social media and through our email list. This is something we are just starting to do and I wish we did this years ago.
These steps give you the promotional engine to allow people to know about you, your ministry, and your music. These tools will be invaluable in helping you schedule events, but they won’t book events for you. You will have to ask people for these opportunities. I don’t like making cold calls. Over time I have built relationships with people and church leaders and asked them for referrals. If I can tell a contact that a mutual friend told me to contact them it makes the chance of being considered so much greater. If I can get a friend to initially contact someone for us, even informally, the chances are even greater. We’ve had opportunities to share in churches that never have outside artists because of referrals.
If you have a hard time talking to new people on the phone, communicate through email first. Make sure you put in your subject line the name of the friend who referred you to them to increase the chance that it will be opened, and include whatever promotional links you may have. If they don’t reply within a couple of days, follow up with a phone call to see if they received it. If they didn’t receive it ask if they could give you another email that you can send it to so they can learn about you and possibly consider you for an event opportunity in the future. I do a lot of follow-up communication through email because it is more efficient for me and the person I am contacting, but I will make sure to have at least one personal phone communication if we are headed towards securing a date.
Have an answer ready for the question what do you charge. We ask for mileage reimbursement, hotel lodging or a host home, a meal a day, a donation offering and/or an honorarium, and a good place to put our ministry table. We have always felt if we connect with people and people connect with our music and ministry that we will be supported. Other artists charge per event fees and there is nothing wrong with this either. Choose the method that you feel works the best for you.
I’ve Scheduled an Event Now What?
Once an event has been scheduled make sure you communicate details that are important to your point of contact. We use a Google form to do this. The contact fills out the form and this establishes an agreement for the event. On the form we ask the contact to give us their contact info. and the address and time of the event. We make sure that they have agreed to our financial, travel, and lodging requests. We set a load-in and sound check time, and make our technical sound requirements known. The form also makes sure we have childcare for our kids, and the right amount of volunteers to help the event go well. We like using Google forms because over time all of our event information is loaded into the same spreadsheet. To get started you can use a simple email instead. These agreements are important for us because without them we always miss important details. It is our way of making sure our event is organized well, and to verify that we are on the same page as the event coordinator. We don’t use it to ask our hosts to give us a green room with blue m&m’s
If booking and promotion is not your thing, but you are in a place where you need to do it I hope this has given you some good ideas and motivation to move forward. If you want to sing for more church groups I want to encourage you to contact 5 churches that you have a personal connection with and work on setting a date to share with them within the next 3 months.
Your Turn To Share
In the comments below share some tips that have been helpful to you in booking church events.