How to be a Successful Gigging Musician

How to be a Successful Gigging Musician

With the pandemic waning, many musicians, pro and independent alike, are starting to get back out there to share their music with the world.

Having survived these treacherous times, what can gigging musicians do to ensure they are successful with their ongoing live performance efforts?

“Where Can I Perform Music?”

This is the first question many artists ask, and it is the right question.

For better or for worse, though, there are no magical answers. We need to do our homework to identify the full range of opportunities available.

Here are some of the methods I’ve relied on over the years to find potential gigging opportunities:

  • The first is to go through your local entertainment rags and make a list of where other acts are performing. You may or may not be able to perform in these environments. Some of them are proper music venues, and you will have a better chance of booking with those. Some of them might be community centers, theaters, or churches though. And whether you can book these can be contingent on your budget, availability, personal beliefs, or other factors. But at least you can broaden your horizons by looking at where other artists are playing.
  • Second is you can check local events online. There should be an event site serving your specific township or city unless you happen to be living in a very small place, like a village or hamlet (in which case, broaden your search to a 50 or 100 km radius). And check to see where artists are performing. Again, if it’s things like stadiums or arenas, those may not be immediately accessible to you. But if it grows your awareness of potential opportunities, then it’s not doing any harm.
  • Third is you can check local artists and band websites. So, getting a good idea of the local music scene can only help you and not hurt you. Because you can look up these people on their websites, check out their social media channels, and find out where they’re performing. And chances are most of those venues could be great opportunities for you too.
  • And lastly, don’t forget alternative venues. Just because a specific place of business doesn’t typically book music doesn’t mean that you couldn’t potentially book yourself there. In fact, there can be some advantages to playing clothing stores or restaurants. You might have better luck getting paid what you’re worth, for example. So, even if it seems like a shot in the dark, it can’t hurt to start thinking a little bit outside of the box.

How to Get Gigs

How to get gigs? Now, this is another great question. And yet again, there are no magical answers.

But by now you should at least have a list of venues to target. So, let’s talk about the next step.

The typical process to getting a gig is this:

  • First, you want to find out who books the gigs and get their contact information. You can’t get in touch with them if you don’t have their email address or phone number. So, seek out that information. Oftentimes you can get this information by calling the venue. But you might also want to check their website – festival, event, venue, or otherwise.
  • Next thing to keep in mind is following instructions. That begins with contact method. A specific booker may request that you contact them via email, not phone, or maybe the opposite – via phone and not email. Follow these instructions for best results, and if they have any other requests, such as “please be prepared with music samples” or other relevant information, be prepared with that before making the cold call.
  • Next step is to be confident and proactive with follow up. The gig isn’t always booked upon first contact. This is a little bit of a long game. It doesn’t take forever, but you do need to be patient with the process. Not everyone’s going to get back to you right away. People are busy. So, stick with the process. Be tenacious and follow up every week or every other week. But don’t be too persistent. Don’t keep bumping email threads. This can only annoy people. Follow up intelligently and thoughtfully.
  • And finally, don’t forget to build relationships. There’s a lot of people out there, playing gigs, booking gigs, going to see gigs. These connections can all prove helpful. I found a lot of value in local instrument stores because they often have a sense of what the scene is like. You can go to workshops, clinics, and other music-oriented events. You can also make connections with band leaders; I’ve been set up with a lot of great gigs that way.

Work Out the Gigging Details

Next is to work out the gigging details.

Date & Time of the Event

You’ll want to nail down a date and time for the show. This will typically be on the weekend. And the venue may be booked up to a certain point already. So, it’s entirely possible that it will be a month or two out before you get to perform.

Posters & Promotional Materials

Next is to work out posters and other requirements. Does the venue need posters? Would they like it if you did have posters? Would it help them promote the event? Or do they create their own posters?

Do they have any other types of print material or promotional material requirements?

Promotion

Which segues nicely into the next point – promotion. How is the show going to be promoted? What’s the expectation? Are they expecting you to promote it? Are they going to be promoting it? Are you going to be collaborating on the promotion to get your fans out there?

Payment – Guarantees, Ticket Sales, Food & Drink Sales, etc.

Next thing to work out is how you’re going to be paid. The most typical sources include guarantees, ticket sales, a percentage of food and beverage sales, or a combination thereof.

So, how are you going to be paid? Are you going to be paid at all? And what’s the agreement around it?

Contracts

In some cases, you may also want to have a contract but in my experience, you don’t want to bring a contract into a situation where you can do without.

I’ve booked many shows at friendly local coffeehouses and bringing a contract into it would have been complete nonsense. Sure, they may not have paid me a lot of money to play at their venue. But bringing a contract into it may have prevented the opportunity altogether.

And always bring a contract into situations where professionalism is a requirement.

Merch Table & Email Signup

Also, there’s a few things to work out on your side. You want to prepare your merch. You want to prepare your email list signup forms. Check with the venue to see if they’re okay with you bringing in merch.

Quotes, Testimonials & References

You may want to prepare quotes, testimonials, and references so that you can get future bookings.

Focus on Relationship

And don’t forget to build a relationship with the venue, event organizer, booking agency, etc. Relationships are what get you gigs, not emails or phone calls.

Prepare for Your Next Band Gig

There’s a certain amount of preparation that goes into every gig.

You’ll want to spend some time rehearsing and learning new material unless you’re especially tight and already on tour. It’s generally a requirement that you prepare and be as good as you can possibly be for the occasion.

You’ll want to get your online presence in order. Whether it’s venue owners, event organizers, or show bookers, they don’t typically want to work with artists that seem like they don’t have their act together.

So, if your website looks like it was last updated in 2017, you might not get the gig. And even if you do get the gig, the venue is thinking they probably can’t count on you for any promotion. And then they might back down on their agreement to pay you a guarantee in the first place.

You want to make sure that your YouTube channel is loaded up with recent videos. This is one of the most common places for people to go to learn more about your band, to listen to your music to see what you’re like.

It can’t hurt to have some good live videos. Music videos are fine, but you don’t want to give the false impression. Gigs can go sideways if people think you sound a certain way, but you show up and don’t sound like that at all.

You want to make sure your music is available on all the major platforms. This doesn’t mean you have to distribute your entire album or EP, but you should still have singles on SoundCloud, Spotify, Google Play, Apple Music, and so on.

Not everyone is going to check out your YouTube channel, not everyone’s going to check your SoundCloud account, not everyone’s going to listen to you on Spotify.

So, having a few different options for the people who want to book you, as well as the fans that are going to want to check out your music before they come to the show is word to the wise.

You also want to make sure you get your promotional materials together. That might include posters, banners, graphics, emails, social media posts, etc.

Another good thing to do is to prepare your gear.

Have everything ready to go, and preferably have backups for things like cables, capos, batteries, guitar strings, drumsticks, and so forth.

You can even practice your load in and load out process. See how long it takes you so you can be at the venue on time for soundcheck.

And it can’t hurt to develop checklists and systems for all this, because it can make it easier on you the day of the gig, for instance, if you don’t forget your music stand at home or something silly like that.

7 Ways to Maximize Musician Gigs

Now here are seven ways to maximize musician gigs.

1. Promote

The first is to promote. if there is an agreement that you would promote, or if it’s the type of show where you’re required to sell tickets… whatever the case, if promotion is part of the deal, then engage in promotion.

And if the show date is not on your website, you’re doing something wrong. You want to make your fans and potential fans aware of the opportunity to see you.

2. Make a Large, Physical Banner with Your Artist / Band Name & Web Address on it

No matter how many times you announce your artist’s name or website address from the stage, people sometimes still can’t hear you.

The microphones aren’t always set up perfectly for talking and speech, especially if they’re heavily coated in reverb.

The much simpler and easier way for people to find you, even those who only stick around for five or 10 minutes of your show, is if you have a big banner with your band name and website address on it. That’s going to help you maximize opportunities.

3. Set up a Merch Booth

Unless you have an agreement with a venue not to put up a merch booth, be sure to bring your merch and actively promote it throughout the show. Have someone running your merch booth the whole time if it all possible.

Have everything priced out, prepare some spare change. And have Sharpies ready to go in case someone asks you to sign something.

4. Collect Email Addresses Proactively

You need to have an email list signup form at your table. You can take advantage of technology these days, whether it’s an iPad or a laptop, but typically the more reliable way is to get people to write down their name and email address on a piece of paper.

5. Ask for Referrals

Ask the organizer or the booker or maybe even the sound engineer. “Hey, do you know of any other venues where we could play? Are there any other opportunities you’re aware of?”

If you ask for referrals and don’t get any, you’re in the same position you were before you asked. But if you ask for referrals and get some, you win.

6. Write a “Thank-You” Note

Write a “thank-you” note to the organizers, booker, or venue.

Be thoughtful, be considerate. Let them know that you appreciate the opportunity.

Repeat performances can always help you maximize your opportunities, so write thank-you notes when and where applicable.

Repeat performances can always help you maximize your opportunities. Share on X

7. Send a Post-Show Email Campaign

After the show, you want to welcome new subscribers. Say hello. Let them know how much they’re appreciated.

And if there was something specifically you mentioned at the show they can access, then send them the link. Whether it’s a link to your music on Spotify, a new music video on YouTube, or some other special offer they can claim.

Get Your Gig on, Gigging Musician

Well, that’s all there is to it. Get out there. Identify your opportunities, do your outreach, organize a date, promote the show, have fun, and maximize every opportunity.

If you do this, you’re sure to make more at every gig and grow an email list much faster than if you hadn’t carried out a plan with intention.

And if you’d like to learn more about my approach to gigging, pick up a copy of my first best-selling book, The New Music Industry.

Climbing Your Way Out of Obscurity as an Artist

Climbing Your Way Out of Obscurity as an Artist

Nobody would know the best guitarist in the world if they didn’t network and market themselves.

It seems unfair. It seems unjust.

And yet, the part that’s often overlooked by artists is just how fun marketing can be.

I get that you’d rather hand it off to someone else. Hope they know what your music is about. Pray that they know the best way to promote it.

But most of the time, it doesn’t work out that way. Just ask John Oszajca.

The best person to promote your music is you! Because you know what it’s about, why it matters, who you were influenced by, and all the subtleties that make your music what it is.

So often, we rely on others (like reviewers) to weave a word picture so beautiful and so clear that it makes the job of marketing our music a triviality.

And sometimes that happens, but it’s quite unrealistic to expect it.

See, the person most qualified, the person most in tune with who you are and what your music is about is you. And that makes you the best person to describe, explain, share, and promote your music.

Yes, hopefully you will collect quotes and testimonials, get played on the most prominent of radio stations and playlists, get booked at the premier music venues in your town, and so on. And hopefully you’ll remember to put all that back into your marketing engine to generate a fresh bundle of opportunity.

But it’s got to start with you. You’ve got to be your biggest fan. And that’s the toughest job you have, to keep your energy, stay ignited, and bring it with you everywhere you go.

I remember when I would sit around a dinner table with friends sneaking in a sentence about how great I was ever so often, provoking laughter in the process.

It’s not about being arrogant. It’s about realizing that being down of yourself is mostly a losing formula, unless the specific type of emo or shoegaze act, you’re a part of requires it of you. And then it’s just about playing a part like an actor plays a role.

You’ve still got to be your biggest cheerleader though!

Figuring out what you’re about is sometimes the hard part. But there’s still plenty of time to discover that in this guide.

Once you’ve uncovered your identity, marketing gets so much easier. Because your identity informs your marketing!

Your identity informs your marketing. Share on X

Figuring out who you’re appealing to, where they like to hang out online, what blogs they read, throwing your hooks in the water to grab their attention – that’s the fun part, and anyone can learn to do it!

So, make friends with marketing. Your marketing hat looks good on you.

How to Create Your Own Live Performance Opportunities as a Musician

How to Create Your Own Live Performance Opportunities as a Musician

Are you trying to get into the same bars, pubs and clubs every other band is trying to get into? Does it seem like all the good opportunities are already spoken for? In this video, David shares how you can begin to create your own live performance opportunities.

Transcription:

Today, I’m feeling kind of exhausted and under the weather, so instead of getting behind the camera, I decided to hop on the mic to introduce today’s video.

The video itself was only created a year ago, but the blog post it was based on was written all the way back in 2009. It even got picked up by Indie on the Move a couple of years ago.

Its message still seems relevant, as musicians continue to compete to get on the bill at the same venues, not realizing they can create their own opportunities as bands like King’s X did as they were getting started.

So, let’s get into this video and rest assured I’ll be back with more, as I’ve got plenty of content ideas.

How to Approach Venues to Get Your Show Booked

Hey, music entrepreneur!

Jordan Gates of Megaphone Agency is back with another great post on the topic of booking shows.

With that, here’s Jordan to fill us in!

Booking shows can be difficult, especially if you don’t have an experienced booking agent working with you. If you are lucky enough to have an agent, it can be a game changer. A good booking agent can help find bigger opportunities, increase your earnings, and fill more dates. Agents are scarce though, and there are way more talented artists around than there are reputable booking agents.

Most artists start out booking their own shows early on in their career. This can be a time-consuming and sometimes frustrating process. There is a lot to consider, like finding the right venues to play, scheduling dates, and striking a fair deal. Knowing how to properly represent yourself to venues and get booked is an essential skill for independent artists.

There is no definitive playbook for getting gigs, but here are some things that can help get your foot in the door.

Play With a Purpose

Before you start reaching out to venues, do your homework and create a plan. Figure out where you should be playing and why you want to play there. Ask yourself how each opportunity will benefit you and fit into your overall strategy. Seek out opportunities in the right venue at the right time in the right market and for the right price.

Right Venue

Choosing the right venue means one that aligns with your genre of music and one that is an appropriate size for how many people you can draw.

If you are in a four-piece rock band, you probably don’t want to play in a small coffee shop that typically books acoustic singer/songwriters.

You also shouldn’t be playing in a big music hall or theater unless you can draw enough people. It may sound cool to play in a bigger venue, but if you can’t fill it, it will make you look bad and the venue will lose money.

Right Time

Picking the right time to play a show is also important. Pay attention to day of the week, time of year or seasonality, other events that are happening, and timing of your own music releases or other notable milestones.

In a perfect world, you would be playing Saturday night on a beautiful summer evening where you’re the only entertainment in town. Of course, you won’t always be that lucky, but aim for dates that work for both you and the venue.

Right Market

Picking the right place to play is more than just the venue, but also the market or city you are in. It doesn’t make sense to drive across the country to play to an empty room in a city where no one knows you.

Choose markets carefully and develop them strategically over time. Developing a fan base in your home town is important, and then work your way out to nearby cities or other locations where you know you have fans and listeners.

Right Price

Price is another key factor to consider. This includes the ticket price for the show and also your own compensation. Know what you are worth to the venue and to your fans.

Think about the size of the venue, whether you have played in the market before, and price sensitivity of your fans. You will likely set ticket prices differently for a show in New York City than you would for a small college town.

Make sure you are also being compensated fairly. Being able to sell more tickets should translate into earning more money for your performance.

Pay attention to the terms of the offer you’ve received as well. Make sure you are getting a fair deal whether it’s a flat guarantee, percentage of ticket sales… or just free drinks.

Crafting the Perfect Message

There is no silver bullet to get an instant response from a talent buyer, but there are a few best practices you can follow.

It is hard enough to even get a talent buyer’s attention. They get flooded with booking requests every day. So, when you do have their attention, make sure you are getting your point across and making a clear case for why they should book you.

When contacting a venue, you should present yourself in the most appealing way possible, communicate with the right tone and format, and be concise.

Flaunt What You’ve Got

Provide the best information you have available to the venue. Obviously they are going to want to hear what you sound like, so be sure to link to somewhere they can listen to your music.

They will also be paying attention to your marketing presence and the quality of your live show. Take the time to keep your social media pages updated and highlight any recent major achievements or press coverage in your message.

It is also a good idea to provide links to high-quality live performance video. Additionally, any past show history or ticket sales in the market would be great to include.

The main goal is to highlight your most positive qualities to be attractive to the venue’s booking person. Don’t be afraid to brag, but definitely don’t lie about your stats.

Be Professional

Your message should be sent with the appropriate tone and format. Be professional. Use complete sentences, and don’t ever come across as arrogant or entitled. You will get a better result if your message has a more respectful tone.

The format is important too. A lot of business is done over email, but some talent buyers may want to communicate over the phone instead. Make it as easy and friction free as possible for the talent buyer to review your message. They will be more likely to respond to a message that is to-the-point and has all the key information they need to make a decision.

Tying it All Together

Packaging all this information into a well-crafted message can be an art form in itself. Keep your message direct and concise.

At this point, you should know what you want, so be purposeful with your request. Prove that you are the right fit for the venue, and suggest available dates that work for you.

Try to condense the message to make it as concise as possible. It should only take a few sentences to get your point across. Your music and other links will speak for itself if the talent buyer wants to find out more.

Finally, don’t be afraid to follow up multiple times. Be persistent, but not annoying. If you are truly a good fit for that venue, they will be in touch.

How to Book Gigs on Your Own

How to Book Gigs on Your Own

This guest post comes to us via Annabelle Short.

If you think you have what it takes to contribute to The Music Entrepreneur HQ, check out the guidelines here.

Now, here’s Annabelle to talk about how to book gigs on your own.

Playing live on the stage in a room full of people can be exciting. But booking gigs can be a very challenging process – particularly if you are doing all the booking on your own.

If you have a new band, playing live in front of a crowd of people can be the easiest and quickest way to build up a loyal fan base, get some attention from the media, and perhaps, attract a record label deal.

Gigs are often the most effective way to build an audience and promote your new release.

But if you’re not feeling up to the challenge of booking gigs on your own, don’t worry, just follow these simple steps and you’ll land your band onstage before long.

Booking Gigs on Your Own: The Easy Way

Here are four simple steps you can follow to book your own gigs.

Step #1: Prepare Your Promotional Materials

Before you even book gigs on your own, you need to take care of a few things. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

First, you’ll need to demonstrate your abilities as a musician or band. For this, you’ll need some promotional materials, such as:

A website, a finished album (CD) or a demo, your band’s contact information, and any media coverage your band has received.

Once you have these promotional materials ready, you’ll also need to have a good idea of when and where you want to play. You can’t just approach a promoter randomly for a gig and hope to get one. You’ll have to send a clear message that you’re a professional band seeking regular work.

Let them know your availability and preferred dates for the gigs, and make sure all members of your band are available for those days, too.

Step #2: Get in Touch with the Venue or Promoter

So, you got your promotional materials ready – a what’s next? Whom should you send it to? The answer is simple. You can either:

  1. Call a venue of your choosing and book directly. You can call a venue of your choosing and learn how they run events there. You can also ask them for advice on how other bands in your area are working with a venue agent or a promoter. Remember, if you opt to take this route, you assume all the responsibilities and costs of promoting the show.
  2. Contact a promoter who’ll manage your show. If you can, get the names of a few different promoters from a venue and send them your demos, CDs, and promo packages.

Step #3: Strike Up a Deal

A good deal is part of what makes a good gig. But there’s something you should be aware of – you might not make money playing gigs, and sometimes you can even lose money.

So, if you’re a new band and don’t have hundreds of fans following you yet, focus on making fans instead of trying to make money.

Demonstrating to your promoter and/or venue that you are willing to minimize financial risk will also give them another reason to keep working with you.

What should your deal detail? Well, your deal must explain how any income generated from the show will be divided. It must also include information about accommodation for the band, backline, riders, and soundchecks.

If something is bothering you because you’re unsure about it or you think it’s not fair, you should speak up with your promoter and/or venue well in advance to clear things up.

Step #4: Show Up & Play a Good Show

Now all that’s left to do is show up at the venue and perform. Be professional and treat everyone with respect. Though alcohol can be a major temptation at bars and pubs, go easy on it if you know it can affect your performance.

And, even if you have a bad night, if you treat everyone with respect, most promoters will want to work with you again. On the other hand, if you make a big mess and stress everyone out, you probably won’t get a call back.

Final Thoughts: Book Gigs on Your Own!

No matter what happens, see every gig as an opportunity to showcase and promote new releases, and share anything of interest with your fans. And, last but not the least, ask people to sign up for your email list so that you can let them know when and where you’ll be performing again.