Since 1996, Jennifer Tefft has worked as a talent buyer and promoter for Los Angeles clubs such as Bootleg Theater, Martini Lounge, Small’s K.O., and Club Spaceland (renamed The Satellite in 2010), as well as for L.A. festivals Poptopia and Sunset Junction. Tefft started putting on shows during her college days at Taylor University in Upland, IN, then moved to L.A. and eventually worked the door for Spaceland in 1999.
As the club’s booker from 2000 onward, she brought in bands that lived up to the excitement of Spaceland’s very first bill in 1995 (Foo Fighters and Beck), including Arcade Fire, Weezer, the White Stripes, the Shins, Spoon, the Black Keys, Keane, and thousands of other bands. She also helped break Silversun Pickups, Rilo Kiley, and Cold War Kids. And in her current role as talent buyer for The Satellite, she’s booked Gotye, Minus the Bear, Jackson Browne, Daniel Lanois, and many more.
For bands and managers looking to book a show at an established club such as The Satellite, there are a few things to keep in mind when lining up an event, promoting it, and playing it—particularly if you want to be invited back. Here are a few tips from Tefft on how to get a good conversation going with a sometimes-elusive (read: busy) booker.
How does a band get on your radar?
I find out about new bands through several different sources: agents, managers, other bands, reading about them, or hearing them on the radio, or by bands just reaching out to me through the booking email address. The best way for any band to stay on my radar once they have a confirmed show is to promote and draw.
How should a band or its manager connect with you about booking a show at The Satellite?
The best way for a band or manager to approach me is to take a night that’s wide open and put a whole show together, or give me a very specific idea of a show they think they fit on. I like to book headliners before I book support, so if a band isn’t big enough to headline and I’ve never seen them live before, there’s a good chance I won’t know where to put them unless they give me some direction.
Once a show is booked, what recommendations can you make for a band to maximize their draw for the event?
A band should use every method possible to promote: posters, flyers, Facebook, Twitter, email blasts, promotional videos, cross promotion with the other bands on the bill, plus personal emails and texts. Most clubs have a press list they will send upon request, and most will also let people come in the club for free if they are coming in to promote an upcoming show. Every person in the band needs to be involved. There should not be just one or two members carrying the weight of promotion.
How often should a band play in a market such as L.A. in order to keep building their draw there?
When bands are first getting started, it’s fine to play every week or two, but after two to three months of that, they need to back off a little. Overplaying is a common habit of most local artists. I usually recommend that an act not play more than once every two to three weeks. If a band has reached the level where they can headline the club, particularly if they just completed a residency, they should be alternating between opening for national acts and headlining or co-headlining strong local shows.
On the night of the show, what can a band do to ensure that the night goes well and that they’ll be invited back to The Satellite?
The best things a band can do are to show up on time, be polite and courteous to the club staff, and follow the club rules. They should not do anything stupid like try to sneak in outside booze or underage girlfriends, get in fights, graffiti the bathrooms, or lock security out of the backstage so they can engage in illicit behavior. If they sound great and have a good draw, that helps, too.