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How to Win Function Band Bookings in the Digital Age – Encore Workshop

Last week we hosted a gathering of Encore’s top function bands at our workplace in London to give them the opportunity to network and discuss best practices for getting more bookings.

We had a brilliant time chatting with our members about our plans for the future of the Encore platform, but the highlight for us was the incredibly insightful panel discussion we held with two of our top function band leaders: Sam Burkey, singer and leader of Halfway to New York, and Russ Parsons, singer and leader of Fiddlin’ About and The Deloreons.  

Between them Sam and Russ have over 25 years of gigging experience, across the UK and abroad, performing as soloists up to 9-piece bands, so we were lucky to have them share their knowledge on the most important subject for working musicians: how to get gigs.

Our own Head of Sales, Joel Vincent, asks the questions.

What separates the top 10% of function bands?


  • Personalisation: “You should always have the details of your standard set templated and ready to go, but then you personalise it – you give each client an individual response”.
  • Speed of reply: “Be quick with your response and maintain that response… If you delay someone else might reply”.


  • Great promo: “Clients make up their minds in 20 seconds – if you can get them in 20 seconds then you can answer the “how do they sound live”. After that point you’re reassuring them rather than convincing them”.

Which types of promo videos are best for function bands?


  • Go for quality: “It needs to look the best it can look… If you’re going to a car showroom to buy an Aston Martin, it’s not going to look dirty. It will be polished”.
  • Use social media for live videos: “You should post regular updates on social media which don’t necessarily need to be so polished, to give clients an idea of what you sound like live. But on platforms like Encore, you’ve always got your main selling tool – your most polished videos”.


  • Quality first: “You should put your polished media first and then perhaps some shorter clips of live performances.”
  • Film live acoustic sets: “For videos of live gigs the sound quality often isn’t as good. I’d recommend filming acoustic live sets where you can hear the quality of performance more easily.”
  • Invite clients to hear you perform: “I sometimes invite clients down to my solo residencies to hear me perform live.”

How much should you spend on promo videos?


  • Don’t go cheap: “The quality product that might have cost £5000 or £10,000 10 years ago still costs £1500 or £2000. You can’t shortcut this stuff if you’re aiming for a quality music video, with good audio, that leaps off the page”.


  • Great promo delivers great results: “The band I formed last September, which has quality promo videos, is now getting almost as many gigs as a band I formed in 2005 which has years of word-of-mouth referrals”.

How do you keep your performances fresh and exciting?


  • Audience interaction:In my band, we interact with the audience. It’s about us getting people up and dancing”.
  • Take requests: “When we get a request, more often than not, one of us will know the song. So we’ll play the first 45 seconds of the song and then go into a song which we do know”.


  • Choose your deps carefully so you can be flexible: “There’s nothing worse than if the crowd is loving Times Like These by Foo Fighters and you know they’ll love All the Small Things by Blink 182. You turn to your bassist, who’s a dep, and he doesn’t know it”.

How do you choose your set list?


  • Understand your client’s preferences: “I ask my clients to go through our repertoire and let me know any songs they particularly do like and any song which they particularly don’t like – so I know exactly what type of music they’re after”.
  • Start with oldies at weddings: “If you have a first dance where the friends and family are around of all ages, you don’t want to hit them with a modern song. I would always start with an older song, get the older people dancing because they all leave about 10pm”.


  • Read the audience on the night: “Aunt Sally who’s 80 years old, wants to be dancing at the start because she wants to go to bed early. But the cousins who’ve had some tequila shots want Parklife, Mr Brightside, the rowdy songs at the end”.
  • Be creative with modern songs: “We do Shape of You (Ed Sheeran), and then sing No Scrubs (TLC) or Careless Whisper (George Michael) over the same chords”.

How do you communicate line-up changes to the client?


  • Don’t dep out the singer:It’s too much of a gamble to ask someone else to take my singer position and the band leader”.


  • If you’re careful, you can dep out other band positions: “A client won’t know if there’s a different drummer or guitarist unless it’s visible in your promo. I’ve turned up with different drummers and guitarists and that’s never been an issue”.

How do you encourage clients to leave reviews?


  • Follow up with a thank you email: “What I’ve always done is sent a thank you email a week after the booking (not the day after) saying “thanks for picking us”. If you make it personal, mention the venue, or the food they will send you an email back, 9 times out of 10… You’re just opening the door for them to say thank you.”

Which tools do you find most helpful for your band admin?


  • Use Google calendar to organise your band: “So you know exactly who’s available and when… People expect instant answers, even if you can’t do the gig”.



Thanks again to everyone who came along and contributed to the workshop. This is the first event of its kind we’ve hosted at Encore – if you’ve got an idea for a workshop you’d like us to hold, we’d love to hear from you! Drop us a line with your workshop suggestion to [email protected]

Jonny Venvell

Jonny is Encore's Head of Artist Relations.

He's responsible for supporting and helping musicians on the platform and writes most of the musician-facing articles on the blog. He can usually be found singing in choirs, drumming in bands, or nodding meaningfully to particularly good chords in London's jazz bars.

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