Not only are live performances fun and energizing for a rapper on the way up, they bring in money once an MC becomes established enough to tour. Rappers and other musicians sometimes fail to recognize that their performance is a business venture as well as an art form. Conduct all dealings with club bookers, promoters and club managers in a professional manner.
Research venues in your area. The Internet is the best way to search because club websites will identify upcoming shows, which will tell you what kind of acts the club books. Rap won't be a good fit for every club's clientele. A place that's big on country or coffeehouse jazz, for example, will likely have no use for a rap act. A place that books rock acts or a wide range of acts might be more interested. And of course, there are clubs that cater primarily or exclusively to hip-hop fans.
Create a promotional kit. A successful package sells the rapper to the promoter. Bookers and promoters typically prefer to have it sent to them electronically, which also saves time and money.
A typical kit includes: a cover letter, cover page, bio page, pictures (industry standard is an 8 x 10 black and white), a contact information page, three or four demo songs (for email delivery, post the songs on a video site such as You Tube and include links in your packet), song list and gig sheet, a lyric sheet to go with the demo songs, a review sheet for any reviews done on you, and a business card. Every page of the promotional kit should include contact information.
Find the booking agent or promoter in charge and get acquainted. Making visits to nightclubs helps get to know booking agents and promoters. Ask for times and phone numbers for bookings.
Call during the time specified and pitch your act to the booking agent. If the call goes well and the agent shows interest, ask for an email address to send your promotional kit.
Email the music link and packet to the booking agent immediately. These people talk to several acts daily, so sending the information soon after speaking with the agent may keep you from getting lost in the shuffle.
Wait to hear back from the venue. If you have not received a response in a few weeks, make a follow-up call or email to find out what the booking agent thought of the demo. Don't become annoyed if they don't remember or didn't have time to listen to your demo. Seize this as another opportunity to remind them about your talents. Offer to email another package. Remain persistent until you get your booking -- or a firm no.
Get and agree on the details before the show. Type up a contract and go over it with the booking agent. This assures both parties know what the expectations are. The most important information is the estimated performance time slot, date and set duration. When first starting out, most rappers perform for free or for drinks, but with gained popularity and professionalism, paid shows will soon follow.
Earl Smith has been writing since 1996. His articles have appeared in "Focus" and "On the Scene" magazines and the "Rio Rancho News." He is an Air Force veteran and has a B.A. in business administration from Illinois State University.