Whether you’re organizing a concert or looking for performers to give your food fair or market some ambience, the right musicians can make all the difference. From picking the perfect genre — an indie band might be better at an event with a dance floor than a wine tasting, for example — to pinning down the details so that everything runs smoothly on the day of, we’ve got you covered.

How does booking a music artist work?

So, what are the steps you need to take when booking a musician for an event? We’ve broken it down for you here:

  • Step 1: Start by thinking about what kind of artist you want for your event. Is it rock ‘n’ roll to get your guests dancing, or chilled-out jazz to help them relax and enjoy a meal? Once you’ve got the vibe you’re after nailed down, start looking for musicians that fit the bill.
  • Step 2: Found some artists that will fit right in? The next step is to contact them. This is how you’ll find out more about the musicians and make sure it’s a good fit for both parties. Be sure to start by checking their availability.
  • Step 3: Negotiating fair rates with your artists is the next important step in the process. Different artists may have their own ways of doing this. It’s also worth considering what kinds of artists you’re hoping to book when designing your event budget — a bigger band usually means a higher cost.
  • Step 4: Figure out your musicians’ other needs and work with them to set expectations so things run smoothly on the day. You, your team, and your artists all being on the same page is what allows the magic to happen.

Finding musicians for your event

The first step in booking acts for an event is identifying the musicians or performers. This may seem like an overwhelming task at first, but there are loads of places to find great artists.

Whether you’re looking for small local acts to liven up Friday night in the pub, or big names to headline a festival, pretty much every band out there has a social media page of some kind. When looking to book music artists for events, turn to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, which are full of information on different artists, often including videos or clips of them playing so you can get a good idea of whether they’d work for your event. Many bands also have a presence on Youtube, Tiktok, or sometimes streaming platforms like Spotify or Bandcamp, where you can hear samples of their music. Taking a look at an artist’s social media can help you gauge what kind of audience they have so you can consider how that might fit with your event.

Another way to book a band for an event is via their booking agent or management company. This is usually only an option for reasonably well-known artists, as smaller local groups don’t tend to have dedicated booking teams. A band’s management or bookings team will often have their own page or contact details alongside the artist. Dedicated booking websites like Gigmor or Prism are also a great place to find artists who may not have management.

Taking a look at events with a similar vibe to yours can be a source of inspiration. If you’re organizing a live music event and looking to book several artists, checking out what kinds of support acts often play for bigger bands can help you work out who to approach for your event.

Making contact with musicians

Once you’ve identified some potential acts for your event, it’s time to reach out and start figuring out the details. Whether you’re sending an email, a direct message, or filling in a contact form on a website, it pays to be direct with the details. Laying out all of the information artists may need to make a decision makes it easy for them to confirm whether or not they can commit. It also shows them that you’re the kind of organized, on-the-ball event planner that they would want to work with.

Email tips for approaching bands:

  • Subject line: keep it simple, e.g. “Booking in Chicago on (event date)”.
  • If you have a named contact, greet them by that name. If not, stay neutral with “Dear (artist name)” or “Dear (artist name) bookings manager”.
  • Explain a little bit about your event. They don’t need to know every detail, but a general overview will help them decide if it’s for them.
  • If you have any notable acts already signed up, it’s worth mentioning them as a selling point.
  • Clearly state the date, time, and venue.
  • Invite them to ask for any further details about the event.

Discussing rates

Artist rates for booking can vary a lot between different performers. Working musicians — such as pianists for hire — may have standard rates or quote forms published on their websites, while you’ll need to contact others directly to discuss. You may still need to negotiate with bands or agents if your event doesn’t fit the typical contexts that their pricing list covers.

As with getting in touch, it’s best to be upfront about music artist booking prices. If part or all of the rate is based on contingencies such as event attendance, make this clear to artists early on, since they may only accept a flat fee. Include travel and any set-up costs in the agreed payment. Being clear about rates from the beginning means everyone’s on the same page, helping you avoid difficulties or awkwardness further down the road. It’s also the fairest way to work with performers, making it more likely that they’ll want to work at your events in future.

If possible, try to be clear about the frequency of work you can offer. For example, regular restaurant singers might appreciate knowing how often they can expect gigs, while bands for a music festival won’t necessarily expect to play every year.

Negotiations with performers

As well as agreeing on rates, you’ll need to talk to performers about anything else they’ll need in the run-up to the event or on the night. How long will they need to set up or complete sound check? Do they need parking or load-in spaces? Do they need special equipment or a sound engineer?

Smaller bands may need help sourcing larger items like monitors or PAs. If you’re working with an act that involves a piano, they may well want to know details about when it was last tuned or test it out before the event starts. Larger acts may expect backstage amenities like dressing rooms, staff to help them out, or even a bar.

If your event revolves around stage performances, talk to your acts about what kinds of lighting or effects they’ll want and what your venue can provide. Unless they’re bringing their own tech team – which is unlikely for all but the most established acts – you’ll need to work this out with the venue in advance to make sure everything goes to plan once the spotlights are on.

Now that you’re all clear on how to book a music artist, you’re well on your way to organizing a concert — so it’s time to start thinking about promoting your event. Eventbrite Boost has all the tools you need to expand your audience and grow your events.

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