Playing Gigs in Belgium
Check out our Greater Region Live Music Directory, with more than 300 concert bars, venues, festivals and concert promoters.
A regional directory for Belgium (Wallonia) can be found on the website of Court-Circuit a non-profit organization providing information & resources for bands in the French-speaking part of Belgium.
When you set out to play in a new territory, you certainly ask yourselves where to start. Here a few tips on what locations you might want to choose first and which partners to team up with:
Contact Belgian acts you like and which might attract a fanbase similar to yours. Co-organize and co-promote your shows on their and your territory respectively.
MJC (Maisons des Jeunes et de la Culture):
A number of Belgian Youth Centers (MJC) promote gigs. This might be a good way to get started. Although the venues are small, they manage to attract a certain audience.
These are often like-minded artists working together to promote the music they like (promotion, label-like services, booking). It's great to try and team up with these collectives to get started in a territory or a certain scene, as they know their way around. Check out collectives such as JauneOrange or Honest House in the Liège area, for example.
As a foreign act, you might want to consider playing festivals as they are quite interesting due to an extensive promotion of their line-up and the larger audience they generally attract. Moreover, some of them might be specially dedicated to showcasing emerging acts or even organize newcomer contests. Besides the databases of Court-Circuit, Club Plasma and Club Belge, you can check out the website www.festivals.be or download the Festival Booklet edited by the Province de Luxembourg. Make sure to be ready, though, as playing a big festival stage might be an awe-inspiring experience the first time!
Obviously, booking agencies provide you with a service that comes at a certain cost: the booking fee (a negotiable percentage of your artist fee). Generally, you must claim a relevant background in DIY (do-it-yourself) before getting their attention.
Once you have identified a number of music professional (bookers, agents) you intend to get in touch with, make sure to pay attention to these essential elements:
> make sure to present a decent concert curriculum (at least) in your country of origin
> locate the people with helpful resources & contacts:
Within the Greater Region, the members of the Multipistes network (in Wallonia: SDAC Province de Luxembourg) are committed to deal with inquiries from their neighbours. You also might want to seek information at your export office about available support devices.
> identify and get to know the bookers and the local audience for your music
> always customize your correspondence:
- show your interest with the targeted venue with no particular flattery
- select and point out formally your significant live background
- be accurate and concise
- embed relevant links (audio, video, electronic press kit)
- record, track and follow your correspondence with care
> make the most of networking opportunities (Music conferences like Sonic Visions for example):
Avoid wandering around with a pile of CDs (be creative & pragmatic regarding your promotional material) and schedule some meetings with targeted professionals.
> be polite, be on time, be responsive
Make sure your paperwork is in order, whether you are expecting payment or not. In Belgium, there are generally 4 ways to proceed in a legal way based on a contract:
RPI - REGIME DES PETITES INDEMNITES (small expense compensation system):
This is a procedure conceived for the payment of small amounts of money for artistic purposes. Unfortunately, this does not work for foreign bands.
You can sign a volunteering contract. But you will not be entitled to anything: no salary, no fee, no advantages. Theoretically, you can't even claim catering.
CONTRACT IN BELGIUM:
You can sign a contract with a Bureau Social Pour Artistes (which works as a temporary employment agency in this case. Check out t-heater, for example). Although technically possible, it's tot easy to register with a BSA as a foreigner as the various international labour legislations are not always compatible with the Belgian one.
CONTRACT IN YOUR COUNTRY OF RESIDENCE:
If you have your own company or structure (Asbl for ex.), you can directly establish your contract with it, so that the company/structure only has to invoice the Belgian concert organizer.
In any event, whenever you sell your act in a DIY mode, you might be requested to prove that you indeed pay taxes and act legally in your home country by presenting the A1 form (Statement of Applicable Legislation).
Keep in mind that many of the shows/concerts scheduled in bars, in small and occasional venues – whatever the capacity and kind of promoter (profit or non-profit) – don’t necessarily meet those legal requirements and might suggest alternative offers to consider.
Next to settling the contract, you have check if the concert organizer pays the Belgian collecting society SABAM (author & composer rights).
As you are leaving your homebase for a new territory, make sure your gigs are properly promoted, or else no one will notice you are around!
> work with the right promoters, which are into your style and have the credibility to sell your show
> have a decent EPK (electronic press kit), including contact information, short & extensive biographies, links to 2-3 representative tracks, link to a live video, high resolution photographs in different formats
> at a certain point of your career, you might want to consider hiring a professional PR agent for a specific territory you are touring in
> be clever, if you have a promotion deal for a certain territory already, with your label for ex., don't spend your money on extra PR/promo work. See what your label can do
Regional journalist collectives such as the AJP for the Province de Luxembourg often list press contacts on their websites. Try to identify the relevant journalists for culture and music and get in touch.
Next to traditional paper music magazines, there are a number of websites and blogs which are interesting from a promotional point of view:
Have a look at Court-Circuit's list HERE.
These practical info sheets have been edited in collaboration with our partners from the Multipistes network. The information contained in these sheets is based on the various presentations held during the "Oberkorn, it’s a small town - Touring in the Greater Region" workshop during the Sonic Visions Music Conference in 2014.