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The Hard Times Breakdown: How to Book a Punk Show

Booking a show is one of the best ways to support and/or steal from your local scene. But where do you start? Can any idiot who wants to plug a mic into a bass amp and doesn’t understand what “you are responsible for incidental damages incurred during any show you promote” really book their own show? Yes, and double yes. Follow these simple steps and you will be on the fast track in the thankless world of musical promotion.

Step 1. Find a Venue

First off: Forget about securing a PA. Who cares? Finding the perfect place to hold a show is key. Most professional music venues have age restrictions so that just won’t work for a proper punk show. Real shows have 12-year-olds and 45-year-olds intermingling like there is nothing weird about that at all. So what are your options?


It is essential that every punk has a friend with access to either a basement or garage. This is where having rich friends really comes in handy. Their parents can often afford more space, which means you have a spot for your show. Also, their rich parents have a higher likelihood of travelling. Once they are on vacation, it’s time to party. Plus, who cares if you break their water heater, they have the money to fix it.

Pros: Basements and garages make for the perfect DIY show because chances are nobody else is showing up besides the other bands and maybe whoever they are dating at the time. When you look back on photos of these shows they will look packed, but in reality you played to zero paid.

Cons: Before you finalize any basement shows make sure this is a full sized basement. The last thing you need is to be trying to drag a bass cab through a spider-infested crawl space. Also be wary of pesky neighbors. If you see a set of eyeballs suspiciously peering over a fence that probably means the cops are on their way. Be proactive and take the neighbors out of the picture entirely. A running van and a 50 foot garden hose can often do the trick. Make sure all their windows are closed and their carbon monoxide detector is unplugged. Then feed that hose right into their bedroom window. They will be sleeping so peacefully that they will never hear your Cro-Mags cover.

VFW/American Legion Halls

Want to try for something a little bigger? You need a venue that has fluorescent lighting which cannot be dimmed so it guarantees the bands play under bright lights with no sense of mood, or in pitch black. VFW halls are the perfect place for shows like that and often also have giant parking lots so people can just stand outside in a giant circle until their friend’s band is playing.

Pros: Other than the occasional low budget wedding or sad family reunion these venues will always have dates available. They will also have tables to set up merch, which is perfect since you will undoubtedly have black t-shirts with your bands logo printed in white ink across the front of the shirt for sale. Another added benefit is these venues always have metal folding chairs leaning against the walls, so when the second band is going on their 75th minute of setting up you can still be comfortable.

Cons: There will be old guys hanging out at the bar. Not just sort of old, really fucking old. Older than you ever thought possible. They won’t bother you much, they will occasionally turn around from the bar to watch the band and then go back to nursing their beer. Some of these walking corpses might say things like “teenage girls didn’t look good when I was their age” or “I wish I could tell my son I was sorry. But we are both so stubborn, he gets it from me. I just want to see my grandchildren before I die.” You can ignore all that. These geezers will be dead soon.

Abandoned Building in Bad Part of Town

This is the ultimate venue for any punk show. Something where the cops won’t bother you, that doesn’t actually have an address, and it won’t matter if you destroy anything because it’s already trashed.

Pros: Throwing a show in an abandoned building just makes you feel cooler, because how did you even pull this off? You can play all night, you can charge whatever you want, and it doesn’t matter if there is underage drinking. This is the wild west and you are Wyatt fucking Earp baby.

Cons: You will almost certainly get attacked by squatters who don’t want you there. They might slash you with a broken bottle or stab you with a dirty needle. If humans aren’t living there then raccoons most certainly are and that is a whole other can of worms. Electricity could be an issue so bring a generator or a friend who went to trade school who isn’t afraid to try to tap power off a nearby building. And finally, if you pull this off you will be getting laid so much you might die of dehydration. So be weary of all these things when booking that abandoned building show.

Step 2. Booking the Bands

Congratulations, you have a venue locked down and now it’s time for the fun to begin. Booking the right bands is paramount to putting on a great show. Below you will find a complete breakdown of what kinds of bands you need to make your show stand out.

Your Band

Of course your band is playing. But you aren’t playing first, that spot is for losers. Playing first is a death sentence. Everyone will either still be outside, or browning the merch table to see what they should pick up. The opening band might have a few loyal friends that will try to start a pit for them, but it will be a sad display and only serve to piss people off. Remember, you took the risk in booking this show, your band plays right before the headliner. It doesn’t matter that your set is only eight minutes long, you deserve this spot.

Your Friend’s Band

Yes, your friend’s band kind of sucks. You know it, they know it, but if you don’t book them they won’t book you. Besides, you never know if they might somehow defy the odds and get big and then you are in a primo spot to be their opening act. Everyone knows this won’t happen, and your friend’s band will break up when the singer fucks the drummer’s girlfriend and then lies about it. Then the drummer will try to be a big man and fight the singer, but the singer will beat the tar out of him and the drummer will be so demoralized he will move to New York and start a DJ night where he plays remixes of The Smiths songs. Also, your friend’s band makes for the perfect opening act. They better be grateful for this, and now they owe you a favor. It’s perfect.

The Feature

Time to book that up and coming band that everyone is hyped on. You want that band that the “cool kids” came to see. Maybe they just sent a demo to Pure Noise that is getting a little buzz, maybe they feature a former member of an actually popular band. Either way, this band could make or break the show. These bands can often be hard to book, they are starting to get opportunities all around your state. The best bet to lock them in is lie. Tell them Gorilla Biscuits is the secret headliner and when they show up just say GB canceled. No harm, no foul.

The Headliner

Great news, you just saw that your 37th favorite band is hitting the road and you noticed that in their tour announcement they have a few TBA slots. That is where you step in. Sure, your town is 90 minutes from the city they want to be playing, but beggars can’t be choosers. Now it’s time to start sliding into their DMs on Instagram and letting them know you can help them out. They might ask about a guarantee, all you need to say is “I guarantee you will have a good time” and they will be putty in your hands. If you can’t find a nationally touring band, don’t fret. Every scene has that one band of dudes pushing 45 that have opened for every good band in the world, but still have no actual following. They are your best option. Yes they might have played the same exact venue the night before, but they are willing to play again and you don’t have any other options.

Step 3. Promotion

You have made it this far, there is no turning back. Now is the time to let everyone know how stacked your lineup is.

The Flyer

If graphic design isn’t your strong suit then you will need a friend to help you out. Maybe you can entice them in doing some free labor for you by telling them they can get into the show for half price. Who wouldn’t jump at that deal. Make sure you include every band’s name. If one of the bands has opened for Terror six years ago feel free to mention Terror on the flyer. It can’t hurt. You will also need the date, time and place of the show. People are stupid. Hold their hand. Guide them to your show.

Once you have your flyer start printing. Hang them up all over town. Every telephone pole is a billboard. Go to the nearest record store and hang a flyer on their bulletin board with all the “drummer wanted” and “I will pay you to watch me jerk off” flyers. Finally, stand outside every show you can handing out a flyer to your show. People love that. Being handed a show flyer is the perfect mix of “thanks for this info” and “what the fuck am I supposed to do with this?” Don’t be afraid to forcefully stuff a flyer in someone’s pocket. People that don’t accept flyers are often too shy to admit they want one. Help them out. If they run, chase them. Don’t let any opportunities go by.


Creating an event on Facebook is the best way for all your friends to let you know they are “interested” in attending. There is good news and bad news when promoting through Facebook. The good news is Facebook has 2.45 billion active monthly users. That is a hell of a lot of people that you can invite to your show. The bad news is that Facebook won’t show your event to a single fucking person in the world for free. Time to pay up. “Boosting” your show is a great way to potentially reach more people. For just $20 the Facebook algorithm might actually show your friends the flyer. But it probably won’t and you just gave $20 straight to Zuckerberg. Nice job.


The photo sharing platform seems like the perfect place to promote a show. A nice flyer will really pop in anyone’s feed right? Wrong, Instagram is owned by Facebook and they want all your sweet sweet cash. Instead of paying Instagram any money just send your promotional budget to us at The Hard Times and we will scream the show info out of our window. You will probably reach more people that way than throwing your money into this black hole.


Yeah, nobody goes to Twitter to learn about shows. You’re wasting your time even thinking about it. If you want to learn about negative engagement then post a show flyer to Twitter. The best way to get attention is to pin the flyer to the top of your feed, then accuse a prominent member of the scene of abuse. It’s organic, and it will draw eyes to your show. This may get you beat up, but you also might be considered a hero.

Step 4. Enjoy the Show

You’ve done everything right. The venue is locked down, the bands are booked, and everybody in the surrounding counties knows to come out to this blockbuster event. Nobody can take this away from you, other than the fire marshal. If you don’t make any money from your first show then try booking the next one as a charity event. People love to support a good cause and if you guilt the bands enough they won’t expect to be paid. Nobody will follow up to see if you actually donated the money, it’s the oldest trick in the book.