Industry Spotlight: Chris Seth Jackson (BamDing)

Hello, everyone! This is our second post of the day, as well as the second in a two-part series of guest posts from music industry blogger Andrew Jones. He shared this interview with us several days back and we thought it was too good to not share with all of you. 

This blog exists to promote the future of the music industry, and to do that we need input from people like you and your music-loving friends. If you have any questions about the content in this article, or if you have an artist you would like to see featured on this blog, please contact james@haulix.com and share your thoughts. We can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

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A little while ago my friend Chris Seth Jackson (you probably know him from the now defunct howtorunaband.com) told me about a new service he started that automates the booking process for bands, allowing them to take some of the heavy lifting out of booking shows. I was intrigued and thought you might be as well, so decided to ask him a few questions about his new venture:

1.So Chris, What exactly prompted you to start this new automated booking venture?

I’ve had the idea in the back of my head for a while. I decided to just do it after staying up until 4am sending out booking requests for my own music project. Much of what we do when sending out booking requests is just copy and pasting the same thing over and over again. When you do that much repetitive work, that’s just screaming for a computer to do it for you.

I’d rather spend those hours spent booking on better things…like sleeping. Haha!

Plus, I like having a system to follow up with venues on a regular basis. Once I’ve narrowed down the venues and dates I want to play, another chunk of time is just making sure those venues saw your booking request in the first place. Silence is what you usually get when sending out just one email. To get booked, you need to have a systematic way of following up with that first email. Again, this is a perfect problem for a computer; not a musician.

2. How exactly will this help artists book shows? How does it work?

My service sends out booking requests on your behalf. It then follows up with those venues once every two weeks (or however long you specify).

The emails I send to the venues look like they come from you. When the venue responds to a request, it goes to the musician’s inbox like a normal email.My service just sends that email for you, and it looks like it comes directly from you. The booker is none the wiser that the musician is using a service to send emails.

To set up venues, I have an easy form where you can set up the venues you want booked. You give me an email address or a contact form for the venues. Then, we set up an email template that we send to venues. You know, the basic “We are The Awesome Rockers. We’re looking for shows for August and September. Here’s our music….”.

You can personalize this template however you want. You can also set up separate templates for different venues. So, if you have more of a personal relationship with a club, you can have something like “Hey, John! It’s Seth again. Just seeing if you have anything for us for August or September.” Once set up, my system will send out the initial booking requests. By default, it will then send another email every 2 weeks to those venues unless you specify otherwise.Some places only want to be contacted once a month. Others only want to be contacted once…ever. You control that.

I send out a reminder and a text message to you a couple of days before sending out these bookings, giving you enough time to add more venues, change your dates, or quit sending to some venues. Right now, the service is mainly me doing things manually for you on your behalf. It’s very personalized at this point. I try to make sure I’m doing the right things for musicians and making an awesome service to get musicians more shows, and, more importantly, save them hours of time each month.

3. Last time we talked you didn’t have a name put to this yet, is the plan to do a slow ramp-up or…?

The service is now called BamDing.

I’m really focused on getting musicians signed up to it and seeing what they want from the service. I suppose the analogy is making a full album. There’s bands that spend a ton of money and months upon months making a full album. Then, when it’s done, they find out no one wants it. Instead, if the band did quick demos in their basement and some live recordings, they could find out what people would buy off them. Once they figure out the winning songs, then put a price tag on it and see if people will buy the album (like KickStarter or doing a “pre-order”). That’s kind of what I’m doing here.

I’m figuring out what musicians want and then delivering it to them without all the bells and whistles. As I get more customers, the service will get more features and cool designs. So, it’s all coming! But hopefully not too slow of a ramp-up!

Luckily, I’m also a software engineer, so I can code up quite a bit on my own. But it’s more important to understand what musicians want over just writing a ton of code. So most of my time is spent going back and forth with musicians in emails understanding how they want to book their shows.

4. Finally, as people start into the booking process, especially if it’s automated, I think it’s pretty important to be aware of how the industry works and what kind of e-mails to send. If you could give to tips for booking e-mails, what would they be?

I do supply a basic template with my service to make it easy to get started.

But here’s a few tips when writing your own email template.

  • Bookers are busy. Get to the point. (Give them links to your full bio and press releases. That info should be on your website, not in your email.)
  • Know your draw and be honest about it. Don’t lie to get a show. If you promise 20 people and no one shows, you’re not going to be asked back.
  • Venues book months in advance. Trying to get a show for next month…or next week…can be difficult. Be flexible enough to book 2 to 4 months out.
  • Make your genre simple. A booker can understand “rock”. They may have a difficult time figuring out how to put you on a line-up when you say you are “experimental psycho-gressive jazz rock core”.
  • Have live video. Not glossy, over-produced music videos, but live videos. Bookers want to see how you look live.
  • Have easily streamable music. * Don’t add attachments to an email. Some bookers won’t even open an email with an attachment for fear of viruses.
  • Only have one person doing the booking. Two people will mess it all up and end up either overbooking or double-booking the same date. * Have a website. It’s more important than an EPK.
  • Be prepared to get a full line-up yourself. In addition to venues in a market, it’s important to know other acts you’d work well with. If you’re having trouble getting a show, put a full line-up together yourself. This makes it easy for a booker, and they’ll be more willing to book you if it’s already set up.
  • Be persistent. That’s another reason I set up my service. To automate persistence. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get a reply. Bookers are busy. Just follow up with the venue again in two weeks if you don’t hear back from them.
  • Be organized. (My system helps with this as well.) Keep a spreadsheet of venues you contacted and when you contacted them last. Also mark the last times you’ve played that venue.

Thanks Chris! That is solid advice. Any final words?

If anyone is curious about my automated band booking service, just go to http://bamding.com and put in your info. I’ll get in touch with you and see if this is something that works for you.

This post was written by Andrew Jones, editor of Checkered Owl. It originally ran on his blog, but we loved it so much we felt it deserved to shared once more on ours. If you like his work and want to read more of his writing, or if you want to be super cool and offer him full time industry employment, reach out and connect with him on Twitter.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.