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An Insider Guide to Booking Gigs

A guide to get your live performances up and running

Booking gigs can become a hassle , but the more musicians I’ve spoken with, the more I’ve learned about the importance of having a method. Once you have a method you’ll save energy and be more productive. This article isn’t about international tours and festival performances. These take a lot of planning and are very important, but most of the year you probably aren’t touring abroad. Most of the year the opportunities you have are actually not that far away from you, and these are your local venues/bars/promoters/bands, who can be a huge asset.  You should be concentrating on gigging around your local area, make connections with other artists, and open local doors for yourself. When I say “local” I’m mainly talking about places you can get to within a 2-3 hour drive. Places where you can perform, but the travel costs will still make sense. 

For starters, if you are a beginner, or if you have a new project that you want to test out, the recommendation I hear from many musicians is – just do it. Book a gig! Don’t think about it too much. Book it in a place that fits within your genre and that is close enough to your friends and family. This gig will teach you so much about your next move. Do even 2 more of these in different formats. Like a vocal coach has once told me “One gig is like 20 singing lessons”. This tip applies to any musician, singer or not. 

After doing that, or if you’re already experienced enough and just want to book gigs these following tips are for you.

As artists, we book gigs to: 1. Promote our music . 2. Promote an upcoming concert through smaller gigs. 3. Meet more talents/people from the industry to collab with in the future. 4. Cause we freakin love it! 

Like most things in music, the return comes after a while. The idea is to keep the ball rolling all the time. But if you’re patient this is the strongest way to build a strong fan base: by grabbing them one by one.

Tips on doing it right:

  1. Have an awesome online appearance. Have a great looking website, and make sure your music is available anywhere that counts.
  2. Invest yourself in 1-2 social assets . You don’t have to be the best everywhere. You may be a musician in a country where facebook dominates, and most of your fans are there on your page. You may want to get into a new market where most people don’t use Facebook, but use Twitter. Does that mean you need to be on Twitter? As the cliche says: don’t be someone you arent. This applies also for social. If you’re not a savvy tweeter, or if it will take you a year to start building an audience there from scratch, don’t be there. It’s better sending links to where you’re presence can really be seen.
  3. Plan your desired acts- Are you a band? Are you a single singer-songwriter that plays with a band but can totally do open mics on your own? If you create different versions of your music, you broaden the variety of venues you can pitch to. Sort of like a brand of bags that manufactures small hand bags, laptop bags, and travel bags. Have a full band live performance? Have an acoustic version of your songs? Can you pull off a solo performance? Plan what you can give out, and then go to the next step. 
  4. Research- ok, now that your infrastructure is ready and you know what you’re offering, you can create an excel sheet with the following: a. Big venues or small venues (depending on your capacity) around you for ticket selling concerts (you bring your own audience). If you’re an established band, this should be running every month or two at least, depending on your ability to fill up a place with people who love your music. If you have an audience also outside of your home town, you can definitely increase your frequency.  B. Similar bands- similar bands give you a few things. First thing, you can see where they’ve played in the past . This may indicate that the place is suitable for your music. Secondly, you can give a similar band a shout , call them in for a mutual performance and get exposed to each other’s audience. Don’t forget to make some noise about this on social media. C. Promoters- some venues have open mics or nights with specific genres. Making a list of promoters or curators can be great. Some promoters may even work with a few venues and whats best is that the audience is already there! How can you find these promoters ? You can either find these by contacting the specific venue where you saw an event that may be relevant to you. Or you can also check artists similar to you like you did in the last step and see if they’ve played in some sort of band night you didn’t hear about. Afterwards contact the promoter/venue and continue from there.
  5. Contact! Scary right? Those ridiculous butterflies that arrive when you’re about to click “send”.  Don’t be scared. Just be professional. Subject line: booking a gig at |venue_name| in |month_name|. “Hello |contact_name| “ . A sentence about your band and music, a sentence about any achievements. A sentence about expected audience if necessary. Links to your main social platforms and of course , to your music. If you have a landing page that showcases all of this properly, even better. 
  6. The follow up. So the venue didn’t answer you? Forgot cause they wanted to check something before responding? Your email ended up on their “promotions” tab? Remember that these people do what they do cause they love music, and if you’re a good match you may be playing at there venue more often. Be nice. And again- be professional. Send a follow up : “Hi, just wondered if you got my previous email. Looking forward to hear from you. Have a nice day!” . Keep track of your follow ups, and emails sent. If after 2 follow ups the place doesnt answer, drop it. 
  7. Ok, you got a few dates scheduled. Thats great! Make sure that there is an agreement between you and the venue. More specifically: what technical gear and human  resources do they offer (don’t be surprised on the day of performance)? how much do they pay you if at all? Ticket sales : where does it take place? Is there a split? What time is the sound check and what time is the performance? Is there another band playing that night? Minimize surprise factors, you’ll have enough to worry about on the day of the performance.  
  8. On day of performance- people are people. Some can be nice. Some can be douchebags. Don’t get into any unecessary rivals with people from the venue. Keep a positive energy and think long term. Some places will be welcoming and professional, others wont. Essentially you’re there for the audience not for them. 
  9. A nice thank you email and follow up can be nice the day after your gig. Building relationships is everything in this industry. Every point of contact matters.