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This article offers a strategic guide for musicians to effectively secure and maximize gig opportunities. With a focus on leveraging existing networks and exploring creative avenues, the article emphasizes proactive promotion and thoughtful communication with talent buyers. It also underscores the importance of thorough research when targeting festivals and advocates for collaborative efforts with fellow artists to expand one’s audience reach. Additionally, the article advocates for self-produced gigs, emphasizing the significance of high-quality promotional material and active involvement in the music community through volunteering. A holistic approach to gig acquisition and enhancement is advocated, encouraging musicians to proactively take charge of their gig opportunities.
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“Some artists are content just recording music and releasing it online. However, most people seek a career in the music industry to play shows and perform in front of an audience. Unfortunately, one of the most daunting tasks every musician faces is finding and booking gigs.” –SundownSessionsStudios.com
Where finding gigs is concerned, here are three things to keep in mind.
- Finding and booking gigs can be distilled down to a handful of strategies and reminders
- Getting better gigs is great, but there’s value in getting the most out of existing gigs
- Creating gigs will fill gaps in your calendar and help you book out into the future
Strategies and reminders
Promote every gig! I’ve met several musicians who don’t help their bands promote their shows. Excuses I hear range from I don’t have any friends to I’m not on social media. I call bullsh*t on these excuses. Everyone knows people, be they friends, co-workers, neighbors, or people you talk to every week at the local cafe. You can be on social media without getting sucked into the negativity. Some of these same people don’t list upcoming shows on their website or social media. Don’t discount old-fashioned word-of-mouth marketing. It still works and is still arguably the best type of marketing.
Take your promotional efforts further by creating an email list or leveraging the one you already have. Email still works and unlike social media, email lists are yours. Social algorithm changes can rob your life work, which is not the case with email lists.
Bagging on social media groups aside, I find social messaging groups intriguing. These groups are a great way to stay connected with and inform fans and supporters, especially those not yet on your email list.
Emails to and from talent buyers – best practices
The following applies to any written communication you have with talent buyers. Write thoughtful and personable emails. Templates are helpful, but take time to proofread them at least twice. Trust me on this. Sloppy and impersonal emails can be a turn-off and might even cost you a gig.
Keep your emails short and to the point. Grammarly is a great tool and can help you write more concise and grammatically correct emails. If you need help starting a draft, check out Easy-Peasy or ChatGPT.
Make it easy for bookers to access your music and promotional assets by providing links, verifying that they work, and including a performance video. Respond same-day to increase your chance of getting the gig. Bookers and venues typically wear multiple hats, so the window of opportunity is small. If you cannot take a gig, explain why, offer alternate dates, or offer a referral to another artist or band. Talent buyers will remember you for this.
Festivals need to be researched months in advance because of their seasonal nature. Find the right festivals by targeting the ones that book bands and artists in your genre. Find other bands and artists that have performed at your target festivals. Do these bands have a good social media presence? Do they have press mentions? Are they with a label? Answers to these and other questions will give you insight into the benchmark that festival organizers and talent buyers will measure you against.
Familiarize yourself with the application requirements for each festival. Great-looking promo material and a well-organized EPK are even more valuable when applying for festival gigs. Give promoters everything they need on one page.
Many festivals require an application, which means they have an application process, which means that follow-up emails can be annoying. Follow-up emails can get you black-listed in cases where a clearly defined application process exists. One exception is if something significant has happened after submitting your application, such as landing another big festival or an opening gig with a well-known artist. In this case, a follow-up email might make sense. Update your press kit with these newsworthy events.
Collaborate with fellow musicians and bands
I have personally never toured. Perhaps you have. One bit of advice I read several times is that we should do gig swaps. Gig swaps involve two bands or artists booking a show in their respective hometowns and sharing the bill at those shows. On the surface, it sounds like a great way to seek out new markets. It also seems an effective way to introduce new material to new markets.
Network regularly and nurture your relationships
We all know how important it is to see other bands, meet other musicians, and schmooze with industry professionals and the music community. Here are a few things to remember about networking.
The first topic of your conversation should never be business. First, find out how things are going for the people you meet and reconnect with. Ask them to tell you about the latest in their world.
Consider adding award ceremonies to your events rotation. They offer opportunities to connect with media professionals, producers, agents, promoters, record label execs, fellow musicians, and more. Attend after-parties that offer mingling in a more relaxed environment. But be prepared with objectives and goals when attending events.
Share contacts and insights that could help others. Building relationships through supporting others can lead to opportunities such as introductions, performance recommendations, and more. Most importantly, keep the relationships going by staying in touch.
Rent a venue where you can pull an audience
Performance spaces are often affordable, or so I have read. Think of renting a venue to self-produce a gig as investing in yourself. Breaking even or losing a bit can be worth growing your audience. It can also show promoters you are serious and committed to your endeavors. Like at any gig, remember to have convenient ways that people can follow you, subscribe to your email list, buy your merch, and stay connected.
Create your own gigs
House concerts are a great way to create gigs and income. But you’ll need an email list to do house concerts right, so if you don’t have one, get busy starting one.
Another way to create gigs is by recommending a live music event to venues that don’t typically host live music. An example pitch could be an acoustic event at a cafe outside of regular business or normal peak business hours. Recommending reservations and a cover charge will improve your chances of decent payday.
Consider booking resources like Sonicbids, Gigstarter, and Reverbnation
These sites focus on connecting artists with festivals, promoters, and venues. They can also offer several SEO (search engine optimization) benefits, including increased online presence, quality backlinks, and social proof. Most have free and pro plan options. Ask around to find out who among your peers has experience using one or more of these platforms. Set your expectations by learning the pros and cons of each platform.
Make your promo material great
Invest time or money in quality recordings, videos, photos, and a well-written bio. Start within your budget and consider ways to level up. As a podcaster that receives many guest submissions every month, I see a lot of press kits. One thing I consistently see artists and bands who skimp on is photos. Quality photos will make you look more professional.
Get involved and volunteer
Volunteering is a tip I recently picked up from an artist who has been working hard for several years and who is seeing the benefits. She strongly recommends volunteering for radio-sponsored events, festivals, and anything else that touches music and entertainment.
In the competitive space of music, the ability to secure gigs is often a pivotal factor for success. By implementing the strategies in this article, musicians can navigate the complexities of the gig-seeking process with confidence and even finesse. Emphasizing the value of networking, self-promotion, and a proactive approach, this article should serve as a resource guide for artists seeking to carve a path in the ever-changing landscape of live performance. With dedication, perseverance, and a keen awareness of music-scene and industry dynamics, musicians can leverage gigs to amplify their presence, cultivate a dedicated following, and propel their musical careers to new heights. And thus do more of what we love–make music.