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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Surf Musician »

Permalink Terrible time getting gigs for surf band

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Im having a horrible time trying to get gigs for my surf band. I either get a place interested we discuss stuff for a bit then right before we book a date, nothing. No response 0. I email em back but no response. I dont know what i need to do to get places booked. Im currently working on recording our 1st album. The band decided to let me do the whole thing by myself and they would just learn the parts.

Id like to know if anyone else has this issue with booking a surf band

It is all about making contacts, and going out and supporting other bands playing in your area. Be seen at the places you want to play regularly, and get to know the bookers, staff, promoters, door people, etc. Make sure you start locally, or as locally as you can, and create your own scene (friends, special events).

When USK started, our first gigs were booked by our friends, and we made sure we put on a heck of a show. Word gets around, other bands asked us to play with them, and then we started to headline. Our focus was our live show, and we didn’t release a real recording until 4-5 years into our existence.

Booking gigs took more time than actually playing at first; persistence does pay off. It is really important to be seen, and get to know people. Face to face is much better than emails, or if that isn’t possible, phone calls.


Home of Surf & Twang

^ Like he said

Its hard to get started in any of the arts (Music, Writing, Acting etc) and really depends more on where you live as well. If I remember right your in Oklahoma, so bands or clubs around that state would be the target area unless your planning of relocating etc.

There are about a 1000 surf bands around the world plus all the other genres thrown in (probably hundreds of times that), so club owners are swamped with email inquirelies for gigs (That's why they don't answer) just like publishers with writers in the book world. If its like writing only about 1 percent ever make it or are good enough to get the gig etc...

Where I live there are about 30 local rock bands and about 325 bands or so of all genre types that come through town here in the summer. But it's no harder now then before. In fact there are more clubs then ever it seems like. But its mainly weekends and certain times (find out how they operate where your at.) Don't forget to offer free gigs on off times and get as many people you can to show up. (then you might get paid). Its a business pure and simple, no draw no interest no matter what the genre.

One big factor is location though, and just like high school there is the in crowd and the nerds (Music is no different). I'm probably in the nerd category myself but love surf anyway.

It seems like to me it takes about ten years to get something rolling and a peak of 4 years for most bands big or small. Even in writing it takes them about ten years to hit if they stay with it long enough. Its a learning curve networking along with skill sets and operations to be successful at anything.

If I remember right this is your band below and the only surf act in Oklahoma it looks like so far

The Full Throttle Cruizers - (Oklahoma) – page 42

Most of the surf bands near you are in Texas, so that would be the best state to go to if you can't find any gigs in your state. About 33 bands in surf around you there.

The Go-Go Rillas (Texas, USA) – Page 19
Total Death Mechanics (Corpus Christi - Texas, USA) – Page 38
The Spoils - (Austin-Texas, USA) - page 24
The Thunderchiefs (Austin Texas, USA) – page 30
The Stone Robots (Austin-Texas, USA) –Page 10
The Reverburritos (Little Rock Arkansas - USA) – Page 5
The Really Rottens (Austin-Texas, USA) - Page 16
The Poi Pounders (Austin-Texas, USA) – Page 24
The Phantomatics - San Antonio, TX – Page 12
The Nematoads (Austin-Texas, USA) – Page 11
The Del-Vipers (Austin-Texas, USA) – page 23
The Deadly Fathoms (Austin-Texas, USA) – Page 18
The Boss Jaguars (Austin, Texas) – Page 24
The Baffles (Austin-Texas, USA) – Page 39
Nuclear Juarez (San Antonio-Texas, USA)- Page 37
Mustang Lighting - (Houston-Texas, USA) – Page 37
Machete Western Austin-Texas, USA) – Page 31
Los Surfvivers (South Padre Island-Texas, USA) – Page 28
Los SuperAvengers (Austin - Texas, USA) – Page 39
King Pelican (Alamo City-Texas, USA) – Page 31
Junior Brown – Austin Texas – Page 17
JJ and Trash Dogs (New Orleans-Louisiana, USA) – Page 13
El Jefe & The Riffs Texas – Page 18
Dude Man Hey (Houston-Texas, USA) – Page 20
Daikaiju (Huntsville-Alabama, USA) – Page 26
Blood Reef (New Orleans-Louisiana, USA) – Page 41
Bat City Surfers (Austin TX USA) - page 3

Personally, I would be very careful/ selective about taking non paying gigs, so you don’t set your band up for always playing free, or undercut the other bands in your gig area. These bands will potentially be great sources of contacts.


Home of Surf & Twang

My "advice" is to piggyback on other more popular styles. We tend to play with punk bands often and it works great! Ska bands too. They have bigger audiences and sometimes they need a different style of band for their show. I find surf is a cool "miscellaneous" music style that can fit in anywhere in moderation. All surf shows are tough sells where I'm from but they sometimes work. Our better shows tend to have more variety.

The Obsidians! (Ottawa surf)

And yeah contacts is everything. Getting involved in music community is critical.

The Obsidians! (Ottawa surf)

el_camello wrote:

My "advice" is to piggyback on other more popular styles. We tend to play with punk bands often and it works great! Ska bands too. They have bigger audiences and sometimes they need a different style of band for their show. I find surf is a cool "miscellaneous" music style that can fit in anywhere in moderation. All surf shows are tough sells where I'm from but they sometimes work. Our better shows tend to have more variety.

Agreed. A night of mixed music works really well out here in NS too. We have played with Garage, Ska, Punk, Country,Rockabilly, and Metal Bands. The reaction is always great, plus you connect with new audiences.


Home of Surf & Twang

See if you can find an open mike night to get some kinks out before a paying gig. You can also use the opportunity to get sone video of the band for social media or to show promoters.
As far as networking with other bands, don't immediately push your band on them. Shake some hands, tell them how much you enjoyed the show.
You'll have a much easier time when they think of you as " Those guys that come to our shows".

Most open mikes are usually just one song per band near me, but some really bad nights when other players don't show up you can play longer etc...You have to start somewhere, but all the promo books out there say just offer a free gig so the club owner will give you a chance or ask for a audition which usually is the same thing. Most club owners will pay you after that if your any good. The club operator is taking a risk because they don't know if you can play live or not, can't always tell by a CD. You can't worry about competition, most bands break up eventually anyway.

Yeah piggy backing on other genres works well - that's a good idea. Just make sure the biggest most popular band closes. I saw a band from out of town play after 3 other bands at 11 pm and most people left the club, so the band line up is critical to success too.

I should have wrote this before (I forgot) The best method is just look up all the bands in you area - see where they play (many multi states etc), start going to their gigs to see what they play and try to play something else. Many bands near me all play the same songs it seems like. *Radio songs). Now surf to me is different being most people never heard of Dick Dale yet alone his songs (At least where I live) Its a fine line with all this. But expect to take a long while to get things going just concentrate on your act, don't worry about whose better or worse and how many bands are out there, just work on your skills and your setlist. I've seen bands come and go, its almost like dying, one person dies another is born. Same with bands.

I meant to add the Texas bands list would give you a indicator of what clubs allow surf in the region you are in if that's where your located. You will get vital info on clubs they play at around the general same area, and you will give them some hits on their Facebook account (You can even subscribe as a fan etc) or what ever site has their gigs are listed. Its a win for your band and theirs. The clubs they usually play must allow surf or they wouldn't be playing there. Most bands around me subscribe to all the other bands around them anyway, its commonly done all the time. I would say half the hits they get are other bands or musicians networking, it's that crazy. Plus its a good way to promote your band and theirs at the same time.

All the bands should do that even if your not starting out, its
called co-promotion, people like multiband line ups near me and seem more popular than single act nights.

Last edited: Jul 05, 2019 18:19:23

revmike wrote:

el_camello wrote:

My "advice" is to piggyback on other more popular styles. We tend to play with punk bands often and it works great! Ska bands too. They have bigger audiences and sometimes they need a different style of band for their show. I find surf is a cool "miscellaneous" music style that can fit in anywhere in moderation. All surf shows are tough sells where I'm from but they sometimes work. Our better shows tend to have more variety.

Agreed. A night of mixed music works really well out here in NS too. We have played with Garage, Ska, Punk, Country,Rockabilly, and Metal Bands. The reaction is always great, plus you connect with new audiences.


^That works Cool ...but the more I thought of it there are over 5000 albums of new surf music from all the different waves of bands in the last 60 years. What if all the bands started covering all the best material of all the other bands? What a better way to promote surf bands and their music all at the same time. I have seen where a few players on here were asking Maderia or whoever about how to play one of their songs etc....That's what early 50's and later surf bands did all the time(Cover all the best songs from all the groups.)Everybody did Pipeline - Walk Don't Run - in many cases before the song was famous. That's what I mean...most genres go up with many bands doing the same thing or driving the scene in a way. like New Wave started in the late 70's at CBGB's in NYC just by a hand full of bands. Same with Surf in California we have the internet to accumulate new material on a world level. What if hundreds of band played the best or favorite material...maybe some do already but it seems a majority just play classics of first and second wave bands with their own originals thrown in. Just a different take on it. Smile

One of the problems is a lot of bands play the same songs, if they worked together not to do that there would be more opportunity I would think. Being there are like 5000 albums of surf out there on the net (Even though many are classic covers) there are still like 3000 albums say of original music in the surf genre. There is no way every band could cover that territory of material, so what if local bands worked together on what songs to cover etc. . . not sure how BMI comes into play for clubs paying them for the songs covered etc...but maybe some bands not making anything now with their original music would earn a few bucks from royalties etc...not sure about that part of the equation...but there is a lot of really good new original surf out there...and on top of that you don't have to write new songs etc to be different or have a more individual and original sounding type set list etc.... That's really important I think for any band, To do what no one else does or be more original in your area or region.

One of the reasons The Beatles started writing their own songs and wiped surf out ironically was because on the multi-bill shows the opening band played all their best covers first, and they just got tired of that, so wrote their own songs instead or just played B side covers being all the other bands played A side singles only etc.... but there again it comes down to covering songs other bands in your area do not cover. I think that would work if local network of bands worked together in that way. Maybe even just covering each others originals of all the bands in your region would work best or just cover everybody no matter what part of the world. I like some of the Latin American, and Mexican type stuff, so many from other parts of the world too.

Maybe bands should start a local chapter or association like many businesses or just a new thread here on SG101 would probably work to carve up the empire, but many times things get political or one handed, but I would think it would be a good idea to exchange ideas on set lists or organizing festivals or whatever concern is at hand.

I guess my point is if your starting out, playing the same songs older acts already cover or perform a lot, the club owner will pass on your band. He doesn't care if you spend a million hours practicing etc...he's already got a band that does that. Its like any other business you don't hire what you already have. I think that's the biggest stumbling block for any band.

Last edited: Jul 06, 2019 10:01:42

Oy Vey

Danny Snyder

aka El Viejo Gringo of Combo Tezeta
aka Mycroft Eloi of The TomorrowMen
aka Shecky Shekels of Meshugga Beach Party

I want buns of steel. But I also want buns of cinnamon.

So took some of your advice and. My plan is to book us once every month
So i got us booked in August,September, October and November
And a few are opening fir some serious acts

That's great Cool ....So how did you get the contacts? Was it in person - phone - email etc? or somebody you know already? Are you piggybacking other genres etc on multi bill shows etc? Is it open mikes? I thought the open mike was a good idea he had.

I think the hardest way to get gigs is not starting scheduling in the spring or even the year before. There are so many bands beating down the doors at clubs its overwhelming for organizers. Many time slots are full by Summer least near me (its seasonal here)

Pretty much, I messaged about 20-30 venues a day everyday and didnt let up.
Also made our social Media presence very professional looking. Got some professional recordings of us playing. And got a professional logo made.
With all if that i just emailed venue after venue and never let up and i pretty much let the music do the talking.

That's a good idea "The Shot gun effect" Cool Your bound to hit something

Yeah sometimes bands cancel gigs because they lost a band member or they broke up no shows are good times to step forward to a club owner etc

It seems to be a tough time for getting gigs these days, especially for any bands that are outside of the jukebox band with a vocalist genre. A lot of audiences these days now expect a band with a singer to sing songs they already know.

Emailing venues is an utter waste of time. Pick up the phone and talk to them. It's much harder to turn someone down in person. But if they do, at least you're not left wondering. Much easier to ignore an email. Far too easy in fact. Facebook messages may be a better option than emailing, as their business rating is affected if they don't answer messages.

Use the telephone, and while you're at it, sort out who's promoting the show - you or the venue. Some venues are awesome, some are lazy. Offer to send some posters, it'll make sure they remember the booking and help avoid cancellations and double bookings. The proper way is to pin them down with a contract, but this seems to be a rare thing these days. It certainly helps you look less like an amateur band.

The best thing is to get someone else to do the booking. It's much easier for someone that's not in the band to hassle a venue owner and big up the band as well. It also makes you look a LOT more professional.

Yeah da-ron that's good advice.

I was thinking the same thing, with emails its more of a shot gun effect where your bound to hit something with hundreds of emails. Most club owners don't have the time to read them all being there is so many bands.

The next best thing is knowing people that know the club operator. Usually restaurants and bars operators are all members of local business associations and know each other etc. I know one guy like that and he knows everybody in town that hires bands even though he doesn't at his restaurant etc.

The real problem is just keeping the gig now. If your band has a low draw at the door, you will disappear off the stage fast.

But not only competition is a factor with bands, venue availability is at times. A good example is a restaurant where I live just burned up. They hired a lot of bands on their out door stage, about 30 bands in the summer almost everyday, sometimes multiband nights. I don't know how they did that being it must have cost a lot to do that, and not many clubs did that here. So it was a big downer for local music in this area.

Last edited: Aug 13, 2019 03:06:42

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