Creating Demand for Your Musicianship
Be Seen and Heard
Getting yourself to a place of being in relative to outright high demand is an exercise in exposure. By exposure I mean simply, getting yourself both seen and heard. Put another way, you must create demand for your musicianship. There are several was to do this.
- See other bands
- Attend and signup to play at open mic nights & jams
- Make yourself available for subbing
- Sit in for a song or two at other other band’s shows
Getting out and seeing other bands is a great way to network, and to talk about the fact that your a gigging musician, or a musician looking for gigs. Seeing other bands also fits in nicely to your schmoozing activity. You’ll not only have an opportunity to meet other musicians who are hopefully glad to meet you, but you might also meet a great venue contact. Remember to take business cards, or at least be ready to exchange contact info. While a nice business card can make you look serious and legitimate, smartphones make it very easy to exchange contact information, which should not only include your email and phone number, but also your website.
Attending and playing at open mic nights and jams can be huge. Not only will you meet other musicians, but you can show them your stuff, so to speak. If you’re practiced and good, you’re almost certain to have someone ask you for your contact information. When they do this, remember to get contact info in return. It’s a great idea to carry business cards, a pen, and something to write on. You may be all about your smartphone and being paperless, but don’t assume that every musician you meet is going to be the same. I’m sure you know by know that not all musicians are tech savvy.
Playing at a blues jam in San Jose California was huge for me as a confidence builder and served to help me meet new musicians. At the time, I was very new to the San Jose music scene. People at jams are generally very friendly. Even if it’s a “pro” jam, organizers are accommodating, and do their best to make sure everyone has fun. That said, pro jams can get quite serious. Egos can run high, as well as expectations. If you decide to play at a pro jam, just make sure you really know your stuff, and that you’re really professional.
Making yourself available for subbing can be accomplished in many ways. Often it only takes one or two contacts to result in lots of subbing opportunities. As you’re meeting other bands, players, and venues, let them know that you’re available to sub, should the occasion ever arise. Convey your interest such that you see subbing as a great opportunity–it genuinely is. Be specific about the type of playing you’re both interested in and good at. Don’t volunteer for a jazz gig, if you don’t know the first thing about playing jazz.
Subbing can get a little tricky though. You’ve not only got to be well rehearsed, you should also be well organized. If you’re booking gigs for one or more bands that you regularly play with, your gig calendar can get complicated. Just make sure that you keep a gig calendar, and that you update it regularly. Update it as soon as you confirm a new gig. I use Google Calendar, but one can just as easily use a paper calendar. Keeping your scheduled gigs on your band and/or artist website can be extremely helpful also. Venues and other musicians may refer to your website gig calendar before approaching you. Again, it’s very important to keep your calendar(s) up-to-date.
Subbing can also be an awesome way to get new exposure to a new fan base and new venues. I’ve had individuals start following my regular bands, after catching me at a sub engagement. Quality exposure is largely about putting your best foot forward, and being well rehearsed. Talk about getting one chance to make a good impression, subbing is all about making a good impression. However, I try to approach every gig that way, whether it’s a sub gig or a regular one. There really are not take-backs or do-overs at a live performance, even though the bands I work with are not above having a little fun with on-stage screw-ups. You can have fun with blatant mistakes, by messing up with bandmates on stage and with your audience. Doing shows your human and vulnerable side, which people can appreciate. I wouldn’t recommend doing this at a first time sub-gig, unless of course you know the band very well, but it can help build rapport with an audience. Your fans are likely to enjoy the banter and have a good laugh with you. Then again, it depends on the gig, so use your better judgement.
I’m about to slap you in the face with a recurring theme and a bit of old school repetition. Here it is. Everything in this chapter is made much easier when your well practiced and good at what you do, so work on your craft. I’ll be frank in saying that I’m an intermediate drummer. Some might tell you I’m an advanced player, but I can assure you, I’m in the intermediate realm. I’m studying my instrument and practicing regularly. This should be your routine, no matter what level your at, simply because it will make your life easier. Well that’s not the only reason, but if you want to fill your gig calendar, you’ll give yourself a huge advantage by learning and practicing. Take lessons and practice, practice, practice.
I read something recently about confidence, and the idea of building your confidence account. One way to do this is to be really good at whatever you do, so that you can deliver truly high level value. In the gigging world, this means putting a smile on the faces of your bandmates and audiences. Sometimes it means really wowing them. Don’t overdo it though. Remember–don’t show off (too much). The other thing I read about confidence recently is that the person with the most confidence always wins. Build your confidence account by taking your playing seriously. It’ll help you get the good gigs, and lots of them.
Promote Your Availability
Promoting your availability can be as easy as emailing your musician friends and saying, “Hey, I’m looking for some opportunities to sub with other bands. If you know anyone, please share my contact info.” An old fashion classified ad can be super helpful also. I’m referring to Craigslist, but you can run ads in print publications. Community newspapers typically let you do this for free. There are tons of music communities on Facebook. Speaking of which, there’s a great music community called Balanced Breakfast. I highly recommend checking it out.
Funny name for a musicians network, but they’re all over the country. Don’t forget good old Craigslist. There are also a few sites dedicated to musicians looking for gigs. I’ve not tried any of these, so I’m not going to recommend anything other than a Google search for “musicians looking for gigs.” Get the idea? Seek out networks and channels in which you can advertise your availability. Just put it out there, as the saying goes.
Here’s another suggestion with regard to promoting your availability. Keep an eye on the calendar ahead. This year, I actually have fewer gigs than I’d like to have in the months of October, November, and December. There are less than two weeks left in the month of August. Guess what I’m doing today? Reaching out to the bands with whom I work regularly, as well as others with whom I’ve subbed. I’m also reaching out to musicians who who have asked me sub for their drummer, but with whom I’ve not been available yet. What am I specifically telling them? Here’s my email (slightly customized for each individual).
I’m looking to add a few gigs throughout the months of Oct, Nov, and Dec. If anything comes up, please keep me in mind.
Pretty simple and straight forward. As simple as it sounds, I wonder why many of my musician friends don’t get as many gigs as they’d like. Perhaps this question of why many of my musician friends don’t gig as much as they’d like, can be answered by this. They’re not willing to diversify, meaning they’re too rigid about what and with whom they’ll play. Your criteria should be this.
- Do I like the band?
- Does it pay well enough?
- Can I play what they need?
That’s it. I play dance covers, classic rock, blues, modern rock, and pop/rock originals. This is all in my wheelhouse. Would I turn down a country gig? No I wouldn’t. If it meets my criteria, I’ll play at the gig. Will I turn down a jazz gig? Probably, because I’m not well versed in jazz. I’m not even that diverse as a player (yet), but my point is, don’t rule too many things out. I’m not a huge classic rock fan, but much of it is challenging and fun to play; and the gigs are generally quite good within this genre.
Let’s move on and dive into the dreaded by many, sales and marketing aspect of getting gigs.