Booking Overseas Events
Posted Mar 6 2006
There’s no secret to getting gigs overseas. As with anything else, a little bit of hard work and persistence can go a long way. Unless you’re already well-established, or hooked up with a good manager or booking agent, it’s up to you to bring your music to a wider audience.
The first thing to figure out is why you want to go. Sure, everyone wants to be global and say they’ve been overseas, but what’s your point other than to say you’re “world wide?” Do you want to book shows? Get distribution for your CDs? Just feel things out? Anyone can blow a few hundred dollars to go abroad, the question is what did you accomplish? Once you know, this will help guide the rest of your trip.
With today’s technology, your networking can start right now. Simply get on the internet and start doing searches for hip hop in the area that you want to visit. Finding information on places like England is going to be a lot easier than finding it for places like Tibet. Only speaking English will hinder your search obviously, but there are more than enough opportunities out there. Starting out, you can take the shotgun approach and e-mail anyone remotely related to hip hop. The person you contact may not be able to directly help you, but may be able to refer you to someone who can. Tell them a little bit about yourself and what you’re interested in doing. Keep it short, but interesting. Saying you’re the next big thing, you’re a thug, blah, blah probably won’t work. What genuinely makes you stand out? What are your credentials? Why should anyone give you the time of day? If they’re interested, they’ll write back. Don’t get caught up in the name game. While it might be nice to say you were “bubblin’ in Dublin,” you might get a much better response in Cork, another city in Ireland. Don’t overlook smaller cities just because you don’t recognize them.
Even before you establish some connections, you need to start preparing. Do you have a passport? If someone expresses interest, do you have a package to send adequately representing yourself? A well-written bio? Business cards? Sampler CD? Part of “luck” is when preparation meets opportunity. Once you get some things in order, make sure you have enough product and business cards to sell, give out, etc once you get overseas. Beyond the music, research the country so you get an idea for the weather, local history, and even being able to find it on a map. While you will be working with others, ultimately, you are responsible for your own well-being and how smoothly the trip runs. Put an itinerary together. Be flexible enough to adjust as needed, but without doing your research and putting together some structure, you will waste a lot of time, energy, and money.
4. Be humble
While you may be a living legend on your block, people elsewhere probably don’t know you from Adam. You’ll probably get the best response from smaller promoters, at smaller venues, with little money. They can pay, but you won’t be buying that yacht anytime soon. Book multiple shows to increase your cash flow and maximize your visibility. Doing one show won’t pay for your trip, but doing several will. If necessary, be willing to crash on someone’s couch to help them save money and to be able to put money in your pocket. Kicking it with the locals instead of locking yourself up in a hotel room will go a long way, both personally and professionally. The more flexible you are, the more options you have. Remember, making money shouldn’t be your only objective. Sometimes the experience and connections are worth taking a smaller cut or even a bit of a financial loss. This game is about making sacrifices and there is no such thing as an overnight success! Think long-term.
Have respect for the locals and be grateful that they found you interesting enough to book you. Just relax and kick it with them! Like everywhere else, some people will be jerks, others will be great. Don’t fall back on stereotypes. Respect local tastes and customs. Americans have a tendency to think the world revolves around us and get resented for it. Opening your mind will improve your experience immensely.
If your stage performance isn’t tight, should you be traveling half way around the world to perform? If you happened to get interviewed, do you have anything intelligent to say? You don’t just represent yourself, but also your city, country and community. Are you up to the task?
That aside, even if you don’t have a show it might be worth taking a trip overseas once you start connecting with folks just to broaden your perspective. Often enough, people are helpful and just enjoy interacting with new friends. Places like Detroit are on a pedestal and people will want to compare the music scenes and seemingly normal things like your neighborhood. With this in mind, be informed! Not only of your host cities, but also of your own, whether its politics or history. You’ll have a much more meaningful trip and won’t come off as an idiot. The key to all of this is network, learn from your mistakes, and have fun!