Ever wondered how the people that run concert venues decide who they want on stage and when? Booking coordinator for The Studio at Webster Hall, Angela Gonzalez, takes a minute to explain how she does her job.
The Studio at Webster Hall is the smallest of several stages at the famous New York City venue (once the live recording studio of RCA records), but the basement level is well known for giving a boost to soon-to-be big name bands. Everyone from Florence and The Machine to Mumford and Sons have played this stage. Green Day once signed their names above the doorway in the somewhat grungy green room, but maintenance workers have since sanded it off.
The venue is open for business every night of the week, featuring a mix of DJs, comedians and live bands. Discovering new bands and determining who will perform requires more than one approach says Gonzalez. “On a headliner level, we use things like Next Big Sound and We Are Hunted,” she says, “We’ll go through and see who’s got industry buzz going. Who has been supporting major tours.” She also keeps up to date on industry press, from Billboard to more New York-centric outlets, like Time Out, The Deli and the Village Voice.
“For our locals, I go out and scout bands,” Gonzalez says, attending an average of 3-5 shows each week. “I go to a lot of small indie shows. Try to hit up the smaller venues and see who is drawing really well there.” They also keep a database of bands they have previously worked with. Heath Miller, VP of concerts, has been booking shows for more than a decade, and has built up an extensive network of contacts. “We try to go back to the bands that we know have done well before,” says Gonzalez.
Bands will build shows with the team as well. “If a local band comes to us and says we want to do a CD release show,” she says, ”We can either put them on a headliner show, or we’ll help them build a show where they are the headliner and get local support for that as well.”
Gonzalez, 26, has been in her current role for only about 6 months, but she is no newbie in the industry. With a degree from Rollins in International Business, concentrating on Entertainment, she has previously been involved in all different areas of production - as a stage manager, event coordinator, and booking bands for the Florida Music Festival and Barfly in London. Introduced to the right people through her gig as a regular volunteer at the CMJ Festival, she started at Webster as a marketing intern, parlayed that into a job manning the reception and worked her way up. “I just kept my ear to the ground, with all the new bands coming and going, and was eventually offered the booking coordinator position.”
The bands that Gonzalez looks for, she defines as mid-range, meaning that a headliner is expected to draw at least 100 guests, and local acts about 60, but some are unexpectedly huge. In early May, they booked a dubstep violinist by the name of Lindsey Stirling, who has risen up as a YouTube sensation and appeared on the Next Big Sound Social 50 chart. In the month surrounding the concert, Stirling actually declined about 4 percent in the number of views she attracted on YouTube, but still gained by more than 15 million. She attracted such a crowd that the Webster Hall team decided to bring her back and put her on the main stage.
One of the bands performing at the Studio in the coming week is The Neighborhood, who showed up today on the Next Big Sound Top 15 Chart. On August 21st, the California-based band will take to the stage with a velvety, lush sound, reminiscent of many UK artists, combined with the swagger of the West Coast. Their numbers, while still small are on a steady rise, adding 30 percent more SoundCloud followers this month in comparison to the last, saw an increase in mentions on Twitter and another 1200 new likes on Facebook, more than 15 percent of their total.
In most, but not all cases, getting in touch with bands is typically rather straight forward, pinning down their contact information and getting in touch, whether it is through an agency, or if they are unrepresented, checking out their Facebook page and searching for an email. “One of the worst things bands can do, is not have a direct email or a contact name,” says Gonzalez, “A lot of the time we have to hunt for them.”
Photo Credit: Liv Buli
Liv Buli is the resident data journalist for music analytics company Next Big Sound. Buli is a graduate of New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and her work has appeared in Newsweek Daily Beast, The New York Times Local East Village, Westchester Magazine and more.