Use Reputation, Musicianship & Personal Brand to Get Gigs

The quality of your musicianship, or your craft as a musician, combined with your personal brand make up your reputation. Obviously a good reputation can help musicians get paying gigs, but building a good reputation breaks down to a few best practices that are often overlooked. I’m going to break down exactly how I’ve used reputation, musicianship and personal brand to get gigs. Oh and by the way, I’m talking about good gigs that pay.

Always Be Your Best

There really are no do-overs where live performances are concerned. I’d even argue that the same is true for recording, but this applies to a finished product. In recording, one obviously has the option of multiple takes and editing. This is not the case with live performances. The quality of your performance, is almost always an opportunity to make a good first impression. Yes we’ll make mistakes, and some of those mistakes may  result in something beautiful. Conversely, mistakes can also result in a bit of ugliness. The more mistakes, the uglier the ugliness. Performing at only half of your potential can get a little ugly too. With any instrument and musician, when a personal performance is slightly off, so goes the entire ensemble. It may not be painfully noticeable to anyone if your slightly off; however, the resulting collective sound can produce some truly weak sauce. How do we avoid the making of such weak sauce? Practice, practice, practice. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Focus, focus, focus. As performers, whatever our level of proficiency and musicianship, it’s very important that we always do our best. You can take it a step further, by sharing this philosophy with bandmates. This simple philosophy and approach is simply that we should always strive to be our best (on stage). Even though there are no do-overs, there’s typically is a next time. If you didn’t give your all today, you can work to make it better tomorrow, and better yet the next day. You’re going to have off days and off performances; but you know how to get back on track (practice, preparation and focus). I got some of the best advise from a longtime bandmate recently, when I complained about having an off night at one of our gigs. Most of my complaining and self criticism came after the show had ended. After offering the kind words, “I thought you sounded great,” my bandmate suggested this. On off nights, those nights when I am not feeling confident about nailing those especially complicated fills, he said that I should focus on the groove. He said this knowing that I’m very good at holding, developing, and maintaining a good groove. Focusing on this, I found, allows me to let go of the self-inflicted pain that I cause myself when I’m struggling with at any given show. This advise took me a little by surprise, but served as a great reminder that I can always learn something from other musicians, friends and bandmates. By being open to the opinions and advice of others, you’ll find it easier to grow and always be your best.

Learn, Practice, and Grow

Fellow Mike's Lessons student Simon Stewart's kit - Use Reputation, Musicianship & Brand to Get GigsA wise person I know once said of education, “What else are you going to do with your time?” Some are immersed in learning, by virtue of where we are in life. Some can easily let the learning stop, but there’s no good reason to stop. I can think of fewer things that could bring more joy to a person, especially one who is already musically inclined, than to learn new things on their instrument. As a mostly self-taught drummer, I had great reason to resume my music education in recent years. A big part of me just wants to be a better drummer, but there’s another part of me that is in tune with the huge benefits of stimulating our brain health, by learning. That’s a real bonus. A stimulated brain is a forever youthful brain. I’ve begun to notice, that most of the best drummers, keep learning. Most have drum teachers; and I’m talking about some of the world’s greatest drummers. It doesn’t matter if you play guitar, bass, drums or ukulele, there’s always something new to learn, and someone to learn from. The byproduct of continuing your music education, is that you contribute to your effort of being the best you can be, and at times, you might even shine very brightly as a musician, a that will get you gigs.

Practice, Practice, Practice and then Practice Some More

I heard a fellow student ask our drum teacher how much we should practice each week. I was surprised at what I heard, but it was a response that felt realistic. The answer was, it depends; but that even 30 minutes a week could be very impactful, if it’s 30 minutes of quality practice time. Many drum teachers and drummers would argue that two to three hours weekly is the minimum practice time required to improve. I personally put in anywhere from two to three hours per week. Some of you put in more that that, I’m sure. At the end of the day, it’s just important to practice weekly, and daily if possible. Sure it can be hard for some of us, myself included. For the past four years, I’ve been an apartment dweller. Very recently, my wife and I moved into a studio apartment. It’s a spacious apartment, but no place for a practicing drummer. Real estate in the SF Bay Area is at an insane premium, so rehearsal space doesn’t necessarily come cheap. Before our recent move, I realized that I had to figure out my practice situation, so here’s what I did. I posted on Facebook that I was going to be in need of a practice space, and gave preferred location specifics. I got some good leads on studio rentals, but something fantastic happened. A drummer friend, who lives nearby, told me that I could use share his home practice room. It’s a nice room, in which he has an electronic kit, and now my acoustic kit setup in. In return, I let him use my gear anytime he wants, which isn’t that often. He owns a nice acoustic kit; but who doesn’t like mixing it up with someone else’s nice gear from time-to-time? My point is to get creative. There’s a phrase worth sharing, “put it out there.” If you’re looking for something, or if you need a little help, just ask (put it out there). People love helping others, especially their friends.

Create and Be Your Image

This is a section on personal brand building and reputation, but mostly about reputation. Personal brand building is arguably another eBook. If you’re interested deep-diving into personal brand building, find Chris Ducker on Periscope or at Let’s talk for a moment about reputation. I laugh a little at that last sentence, because it seems so ridiculously obvious. Have a good reputation, right? Duh. But I’ve given this some thought since embarking on the writing of this eBook. A real and genuine reputation is something that happens over the course of months, even years. We’re all human though. Sometimes we deviate from who we really want to be, and sometimes that costs us reputation points. Sometimes, we start off on the wrong foot, and keep using that foot for weeks or months. Reputation can change, if need be. Do a self-assessment check. What do people think of you? What do fellow musicians think of you? What do venues and booking contacts think of you? Don’t freak out on this, but ask yourself these questions. Ask a friend these questions. Maybe your reputation could improve. Maybe you want to make a shift in your reputation. Do you wanna be the guy or gal that takes gigs every weekend? Do you wanna be perceived as a musician that wants to gig ten times a month? Maybe you wanna limit it to three or four gigs a month. Whatever you wanna be, act the part and let it be known. Put it out there. Then do all the stuff your mom and/or dad  or early-live influences taught you to do. Show up on time, look neat, be polite, and knock ‘em dead. Do this with consistency and conviction. Of course, right? The thing is, that if you sustain this approach to your music and life, year after year, it’ll stick to you like gum to your shoe on a warm Summer day. You’ll be known for whatever good things you wanna be known for. People will talk. Word will get around. You’ll get the good gigs. Really! Add to all of this, a reputation for being a great player and someone who’s fun to work with, and you’ll get more gig requests than you can handle, unless you live in LA (just kidding). I know it’s a competitive market in LA, with lots of fantastic players; but if you live there, you know why I jest.

Your Personal Brand

Building a personal brand is something I’m only starting to get serious about as I write this book. How else am I gonna make any sales? :) Although I don’t consider my past efforts to be all that serious, I have done small things to build a brand through Facebook and my band websites. The effort on Facebook has been all about Facebook Pages for each band. I’ve maintained a personal artist website for a few years now, which is this website. This site is starting to come to life a bit more lately, as I post content related to this eBook and explore new ways of building community and a following of fans around my bands, as well as other music related interests. I’ve also recently begun experimenting with Periscope in order to discuss and promote this book.

If you’ve not done much on this front or are just getting started, like me, my advise is to start simple and above all, just start. The easiest place to start is arguably on Facebook. The only upfront investment required is time. Start by setting up a Facebook Page for your band and/or yourself. If you don’t know the difference between a personal Facebook account and Facebook Page, use our good friend Google to learn more. Search these two phrases.

facebook page versus profile
facebook page versus group

Once you understand the distinction, create a Page and use it to post content about the band, and especially about your gigs. Posting daily is great. Posting three to four times weekly is also very effective, but even if you only post monthly, and let people know where you’re playing and whatever else is new with your band(s), you’ll develop a following over time. Likes, shares and engagement are what you’re after, but remember quality over quantity. It doesn’t do much good to have 10,000 Likes if only 25 of those are people who actually care about you or your band. Start with your local fan base. Promote your Page within your own Friends network, and encourage bandmates to do the same. Create Events on your Page for your gigs and release parties, then share the event on your timeline and/or send invitations to specific friends. Encourage your bandmates to share the Events. This activity can provide great exposure, especially when all band members get involved in sharing.

This is a very basic approach, but it does produce results. You can easily take it to the next level by using Facebook ads, page boosting, or paying for a little expert advise. Social media experts in your area are likely doing free events on how to use Facebook for business. Search for blog posts on how to effectively use Facebook to promote events. There are a ton of experts writing great content on this subject. I’ll be getting more serious about brand building in the coming months, but what I’ve done has already worked. How has it worked? Many of my fans and followers stay informed about my gigs and often attend, because of Facebook posts. Others have sought my bands out and found us on Facebook, to inquire about booking. So Facebook brings people to gigs and can also get you and your bands booked.

A personal or band website can be used as a great compliment to your Facebook Page and email campaigns. The easiest thing you can do is include this phrase at the end of all gig emails and Facebook Events.

“Find out where we play next at [LINK TO YOUR WEBSITE]”

If you have a specific page on your website, that’s dedicated to gig dates, then that page is the link you’d use in the above statement. If you have a page dedicated to your gigs, I recommend highlighting near term dates on your homepage, and all upcoming dates on your dedicated gig page.

Here’s another important component for personal branding. Inject your voice and personality into these efforts. Are you a creative or humorous writer? Do you have fantastic photos of yourself and/or your band? Is there something unique about your personality? Something that’s reflected in your music? These are the things you want to consider answering as part of your online marketing. Let it show, and let it shine on your Facebook Page, in your email campaigns, and at your gigs. I just went from the online world to the offline world. That’s right, you can show your brand offline also. In fact, you should show your brand offline. It might be the way you dress, or it might be something about your gear. The point is to let your personality shine in every facet of your music and marketing. Then be genuine with people. Show an interest in them. Foster relationships and let those relationships converge with your personal brand. Decide who you are, and you’ll attract fans, followers, and friends. Remember though, that not everyone is going to be into who you are and what you’re about. But you don’t need everyone. You need to build your own following, your tribe. Let the people who like you love you.

Be conscious of consistency, so that your brand is present and consistent across social networks and in-person. Mixing things up too much can and will hinder the growth of your fan base. This applies to online marketing, and all the way down to the product you deliver on stage. Keep things as consistent as possible, so that when you hit your stride and put forth your best product, people will more easily remember you and your band. Here are some ways that you can maintain consistency.

  • Use the same logo across all media
  • Use the same fonts in your band name and related elements across all media
  • Use the same colors across all media
  • Use the same personnel onstage

Items one through three refer to treatment of your brand on websites, social media sites, email campaigns, mobile and print collateral. High quality images and photography will also help you maintain consistency. The last item in the above list is about developing a consistent sound and onstage look. I’ve known bands that constantly substitute members, at the expense of developing a well known sound and repertoire. Subbing is often necessary, which I’m thankful for–I get a lot of gigs filling in for other drummers, but overdone, it can force bands to alter their repertoire and sometimes sacrifice musicianship and hence consistency , all for the sake of getting the next gig. Bands that maintain a consistent stage personnel lineup will always be a better band, assuming of course that they have the right players from the get-go.

Finally, presenting yourself for the appropriate part, and maintaining a specific look can help also. I had someone tell me recently that a band who’d offered to hire me would appreciate the way I present myself on stage. I don’t do anything super special, but my advice is, no matter the gig, class yourself up a wee bit. People will remember you for it.