The basics of getting gigs
Getting a gig is not as complex as you think. Trust me.
That being said, there are a couple of short steps involved when you’re ready to attain these wonderful gigs.
Venues don’t look for you. Though, it sure would make your job a helluva lot easier if they did.
Finding a venue is on the simpler side of the gig-attaining process. All you need to do is scout and compile a list of many venues you can potentially perform at.
These can vary a lot: indoor gigs, outdoor gigs, corporate events, etc. (we’ll touch on that more later in this article).
Arguably, pitching is the step that you do not want to screw up at.
If your focus is how to get gigs as a musician, this step cannot be overlooked.
This is the crucial step because it’s so competitive and everything needs to go perfect for you to find gigs for musicians.
No, seriously. There are so many artists competing to find local gigs so why should the venue go with you?
Ahh, they will. Why? Because you read this article and understand the ins-and-outs of getting gigs!
Pitching is the act of reaching out to the venue to communicate that you want to perform with them.
Your businessman (or businesswoman) skills are put to the test here.
What's your potential pay from the venue? Will you even be getting paid? Who is in charge of billing?
You need to make sure you negotiate the rates and so that you can get a good deal.
It isn’t always about direct payment, sometimes the better deal comes in the long-run, which is a key aspect of your negotiation strategy.
You will read more about this later in this article.
Execution is what gives your gig efforts meaning.
You must hit the stage with the passion and expertise of the finest acts of all time.
Does this sound like too much pressure for you to handle? You’re going to practice in advance so that’s not a large issue.
When your gig is executed perfectly, you can expect repeat gigs at the same location while building a great reputation among local acts.
This has the potential to go so far in your music career.
KEY PRINCIPLES TO GET MUSIC gigs
These are the key principles related to getting gigs.
You must remember them, if you can make this a core component of your music career values then success is right around the corner.
These principles are:
Similar to a family, the music industry as a whole is running purely on relationships.
This is especially important for you getting gigs, and this is why:
Local venues (regardless of how big or small they are) don't want a list of 500 artists to perform for them. That’s just too many to manage.
Instead, they have three to five repeatable acts they choose from. We need to make sure you’re one of them!
To capture this opportunity relationship-building is a must.
These top venues pick not only based on musical skill but how much they like the artists themselves.
OVERPERFORM TO GET MORE GIGS
You need to-over perform on your acts like crazy!
A sloppy performance can turn into you never hearing a call-back from the venue again.
Remember, you aren't the only artist that's reaching out to these gigs. At a minimum, there are thousands of artists working day and night to take these gig opportunities away from you for themselves!
"I want to find gigs in my area" is on every other local music artist's mind!
You must never forget for a second that this is a competitive landscape. You’re in a constant battle with other music artists.
When you're fortunate enough to secure a music gig, it’s time to show them that you're worth keeping around.
START SMALL & BUILD UP
The common, confused artist thinks like this:
“Let me reach out to the #1 biggest nightclub in my area, that would be such a grand place to perform at!”
Ah, how foolish. Please, let’s not let this be you.
Sure, it does sound cool but… what are your chances of getting in?
Established places have their tightly-knit roster of artists to choose from. This does not include you, I know it hurts to learn this.
You must learn this crucial fact. The faster you accept this, the better you can orient yourself to what is available to you.
Consider this scenario: You are a fisherman and the gigs are fishes. Considering this when finding gigs for your band (or solo act.)
Many artists go for the big fish first, mess up somewhere and end up on the discarded pile.
To see success in fishing (gig hunting) you must go for this small fish. This is why:
- They are more attainable, giving you confidence
- You can perform in a pressure-free environment
- There is a lot less work involved in attaining them
- You gain industry experience and the stakes aren’t too high
If you can crush a smaller gig, then you should be able to crush a large one too.
Use your smaller gigs as leverage when scouting for larger paid gigs for rappers (and another genre of artists). Slowly but surely, you will see your gigs ascend both in volume and in value.
THE IMPORTANCE OF GETTING GIGS
You may not see yourself ready for gigs right now... but I think that's a load of nonsense.
The only thing that separates you from an artist that’s gig-ready are three things:
- Education around getting gigs
- Gig experiences
- Gig opportunities
The best practice is to bend your knees and dive into the world of gigs.
Here are a couple of good reasons to start performing gigs asap
GIG MONEY MATTERS
Royalties don’t come fast enough
If you've been uploading and releasing music on the top streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music then you most likely already noticed…
Royalties don’t amount to very much as you launch into your music career.
It can take time to grow your streaming numbers. For a long-term approach, it’s great, but you want to be earning from your music today!
This is why gigs are so crucial to your transition into full-time music.
With gigs, the event coordinator pays you immediately.
This means that if you have a variety of consistent gigs lined up, you can expect consistent payments. Woo hoo!
This consistency allows you to slowly transform music income into a larger part of your total income.
NETWORKING BENEFITS IN MUSIC GIGS
Want to know a killer music industry secret?
The secret is: nobody likes to tell their secrets.
A lot of the time you have to discover it yourself, there isn’t a website that lays it all out for you.
Boost Collective is your closest bet but even then - the industry changes daily.
There is always a lot to learn from other music artists. Who else better to learn the music gig secrets than from artists who gig frequently!
Now the question you’re probably asking is, “great, now where can I find these artists and learn from them?”
The answer: at gigs.
Most sets include multiple artists. This is an amazing opportunity to network and form connections with these frequent performers.
If you play your cards right, the networking alone may lead to you getting future gigs.
Since relationships matter so much in the music industry, a referral from an artist friend to a venue has limitless value.
It’s time to get some experience under your belt!
Are you thinking, "hmm... I'm looking for gigs near me."
If that's the case tap the button right below this and see how we can find gigs for you.
LOCAL EXPOSURE FROM LOCAL MUSIC GIGS
Your ability to amass local exposure is crucial.
This local exposure open up the pathway to more gigs. Let me explain:
Imagine you’re performing at a wedding for a close friend. Sweet, you’ve already secured a gig!
That isn’t all.
There is potentially somebody in the audience that is getting married soon. That person is going to want a live DJ, performer, or band to play.
Since they already had the pleasure of experiencing your performance you’re going to be their go-to music artist.
All you need to do is hand them your business card and social media, then you’re all good!
These may not happen suddenly, but the audience becoming your clients should be an increasing trend and you perform more gigs.
The trick is to market yourself correctly.
THE FULFILLING FEELING FROM PLAYING GIGS
Do you remember that feeling where you finally reached a milestone for your Spotify streaming numbers?
It’s quite a glorious occasion. So much bliss, pride, and joy.
Now imagine that… but 100x stronger! That’s the feeling of performing live. All DJ's should look to find DJ gigs.
See, when you get 10,000 or even 50,000 streams you’re feeling a humble pride.
You don’t get to feel the raw energy that comes with performing live in front of an audience! You need to know how to get gigs as a singer!
Watching people vibe and dance to your music is a whole other feeling that cannot be matched.
As a music creator, nothing is more wholesome of a feeling than to witness your fans to enjoy something you worked so hard to create.
To fully grasp this, we need to get you playing gigs asap!
HOW TO FIND A VENUE
This is very obvious but you may not understand its significance just yet:
you need to know where you're going to perform. What does this mean exactly?
Don’t just pitch anywhere all willy-nilly. You must have a concrete strategy to accomplish your music gig goals.
Here I show you the #1 proven strategy to get you music gigs and find the right venue.
You would never show up to a random event and start playing an instrument on stage. Security will kick you to the curb faster than you can spell “gig.”
You need a decent-sized list of venues to systematically approach. Here is the strategy:
GOOGLE SEARCH METHOD
What can’t google do at this point? Google is the best friend to all musicians looking for gigs.
Just open google.com and type in “events near me."
As smart as Google is, it will retrieve a list of events and the venues hosting them.
If these other musicians can get gigs then there's a chance that you can too.
If you're ever wondering "how to find gigs near me", then re-reread this section.
SPREADSHEET LIST METHOD FOR MUSIC GIGS
Here are the simple steps for this method:
- Take the name of each venue from the google search (and local promoters)
- Take the email address and phone number of each venue
- Put all this info on a spreadsheet
The bigger the better! Add as many names as possible.
You can’t get them all so it’s important to start with a large number of venue prospects.
With this information, you can research each venue to understand which ones you have a higher chance of getting into.
The trick is to tackle the smaller ones first and move your way upward.
REFERRAL METHOD FOR GIGS
Considering you’re a music artist, I believe it’s fair to assume that you have music artist friends as well.
Have you tried asking them for referrals yet? If not, go take a shot. They can help you find singing gigs.
Ask if they have a couple of good places they like to perform at and if they don't mind referring you to the venue.
Their referrals mean much more than a cold outreach so make sure that you can at least give this an attempt.
It’s not 100% going to happen every time but there is no risk and all rewards.
PRIVATE VS COMMERCIAL GIGS
No two snowflakes are alike, the same applies for gigs.
That being said, the industry has two basic standards for gigs: private and commercial.
A private gig is one that’s hosted by a non-business. You want to know how to get more gigs in the private sector.
Examples of private gigs are:
- Bridal parties
- House parties
Private gigs are generally easier to secure since there are fewer legalities involved.
A commercial gig is one that is hosted by a corporation. You want to know how to get corporate gigs.
Examples of commercial gigs are:
- Corporate events
- Bar/lounge open mics
- College/high school events
The main difference you should know is that commercial gigs give you higher earning potential yet they take an insurmountably high amount of work needed to attain.
Also, private gigs generally have less competition because the information of them is generally hidden from other music artists.
The goal is to have a good balance between the two, slowly transitioning more towards commercial gigs.
HOW TO PITCH TO GIGS
Now that you have the venues’ contact information we need to reach out!
How else will they know about you?
Like mentioned before, they won’t reach out to you out of the blue. They don’t know you, unfortunately.
It’s an uphill battle but you’re ready to conquer using these strategies.
INCLUDE YOUR EPK (ELECTRONIC PRESS KIT) TO GIG PITCH
Unless you started just recently, you should have an EPK by now.
If you don't then I have two things to say to you
- Make one ASAP, it’s crucial
- Your electronic press kit is a small document (generally a PDF) that gives a full summary of your music career.
Your EPK includes the top highlights such as:
- Streaming numbers
- Past venues played
- Industry Experience
- Anything of value in your career
- General booking rates (keep it general, there is more negotiation involved)
Your EPK is significant when pitching for a gig since it allows the venue to get a bigger picture of your music career.
They can evaluate if you’re a compatible match for their establishment.
With a good EPK you’re standing out heads above the crowd of lazier music artists who don’t even have one. (There are many of them.)
Utilizing your EPK is very simple: All you need to do is attach your EPK in the email pitch.
It's that simple, honestly!
To claim your free EPK template, tap here.
#1 FACE TO FACE METHOD
Venue promoters and hosts are humans.
Human beings are naturally wired to remember faces, so if you want to be remembered, get your face out there dammit!
The best practice is to walk right into the establishment and request to speak with the manager or person in charge of booking.
(You should already have researched them based on their website and LinkedIn).
Face-to-face is the optimal way because you can start a good vibe connection. Relationships matter most and this is the easiest way to get it started.
Build a strong rapport and get an edge above your music artist competitors.
#2 PHONE CALL METHOD
This method is not as simple as it may seem at first.
A lot of things can go wrong really fast, so you should be careful and know when to retreat from using this strategy.
If you keep persisting with calls you’ll become a nuisance to the venue at best, and a blocked number at worst
The trick is all in the timing. This is the secret for how to get music gigs by phone.
See, the last thing you would want is to call them during their busy work hours. How can they servie you while dealing with busy operations at the same time?
They won’t multitask - instead you, and your potential music gig opportunity will be dropped.
Equally bad is calling them right before they close up shop for the night.
They’re tired from a long day of grinding, the last thing they want is some random artist preventing them from going home early because they want a gig.
That’s the fastest way to lose a gig opportunity. Don’t believe me? Just try it.
(just kidding, please don't.)
The optimal way to approach this is to google their business hours.
Another superpower google has is that it tells you what time they are most/least busy.
Call when they are not so busy but not before closing hours.
This is the proven best way to get the call set up for success.
#3 SOCIAL MEDIA RAPPORT - HOW TO GET GIGS FOR YOUR BAND
A lot of your music business activities happen online in the modern-day. It’s the same for these venues. This is how to get gigs as a band.
Almost all venues have some sort of social media they use prominently to promote their events and keep their following up-to-date.
This means if you can build rapport by communicating and engaging with these accounts, they are quickly going to notice you.
This attention you’re sparking through social media interaction highlights you as a music artist of choice.
A good way to bring the possibility of gigs up is by commenting/messaging them for info on upcoming events.
As you get more information from the venue, you’ll begin to understand what their goals are.
All you have to do is find a way to align your goals with theirs then the rest is history!
Warning: don’t be too hasty with getting gigs.
Gigs are not just a one-time thing. It's best to play it cool and take your time instead of messing up your chances due to short-sightedness.
#4 THE EMAIL GIG PITCH
Emailing is the last resort, assuming the other options are not viable.
Though, just because it’s a last resort doesn’t mean it’s so bad (if you do it correctly).
Here are some principles to emailing venues to set up gigs:
Don’t write them an essay.
Trust me, dude, they do not care as much as you think.
Instead, give them a brief email that’s warm and gets straight to the point. They run a business NOT an email support club.
Don’t waste their time, rather help them with their booking issue.
Don't forget - these venues NEED performers.
If you can be there when they need you, they will be there when you need them as well.
#5 CONTACTING PROMOTERS
The idea isn’t to get in contact with the venue owner.
No no no. You'll want to find gigs online as well, the business owner generally isn't involved with this.
Rather you want to get in contact with the person who is directly in charge of bookings.
They can sometimes be the owner (depending on the scale of the establishment) but not always.
Here is a formula to find promoters:
Hashtag + Location + “promoter” = your best promoters
A good place to search is Instagram and Twitter. Here is an example of me searching for a Toronto promoter for a club venue:
Not all venues have promoters, keep that in mind.
You can also check the venue’s Facebook page and find some activity from their promoters there.
BECOME A FOLLOW-UP MACHINE
The thing that can make you a successful artist in terms of gigs is: following up.
There are so many places where the gig pitch can go wrong.
Here are common examples:
- Your gig pitch email didn’t reach their inbox
- They did not pick up the phone
- All the promoters are busy
- The manager wasn’t in when you came
- Infinite more reasons
Unless they tell you NO, then follow up.
It may be the 4th, 7th even 20th approach but you may still get the gig.
HOW TO NEGOTIATE THE GIG DEAL
To start things off: music artists aren’t known for their savvy negotiation skills.
If this isn’t your thing no worries - you’ll become skilled enough to negotiate gig deals in no time.
You need to be able to negotiate so that you walk out with a fair rate (there’s more to this than the dollar amount).
You’ll find that in many deals you won’t have the upper hand in gig deal negotiations, especially as a beginner.
Still here are a few concrete negotiation principles that will help you walk out with better deals, without coming off as stingy.
PROVIDE IMMENSE VALUE
If there is only one thing you remember from this entire guide is: provide as much value as possible
When reaching out to your first couple gigs to get your foot in the door there isn't much experience you can dote on as your value proposition.
At this early point, think of different things you can use as leverage.
Having a decent local social media following is a great example of value.
Key tip: Don’t bite off more than you can chew. That isn't how to get your first gig (or any gig for that matter).
Armature artists don’t see the big picture so they demand high contracts for a gig… When they’ve never performed a day in their life.
Don’t be this guy.
With this, you’re a walking lead magnet for the venue!
PRESENT YOUR GIG VALUE PROPOSITION
Most venues you reach out to have only one goal: sell as many tickets as possible.
This is their bottom line.
When you approach them with a value proposition (essentially, the benefit you’re giving the establishment) remember to relate it to this one goal.
Try to show them different angles and how you can assist them with this.
Show them how much growth potential you have (as well as the number, potential doesn’t mean squat without the numbers).
Present how you will bring in more ticket sales to them over time.
Every business at the end of the day is thinking of the long game.
You must go ham with this, always reiterate how you’re going to promote it across your social media profiles and invite your network to come to attend.
If you can show them how you’re going to potentially bring in future cash flow, they may give you a chance!
Most artists are selfish and think only of their interest, you’ll stand out like mad.
COLLECTING YOUR GIG PAYMENT
Don’t be shy to talk about money. You're wondering how to get PAID gigs, no?
You’re dealing with businesses so money talk is not off the table.
Venues are generally credible and pay all their dues on time so this isn't a concern.
Make sure that you specify these essential elements:
- To whom the venue must pay
- Chequing or banking deposit information
- Total amount pre-tax
Don’t forget to send them an invoice as well.
Claim your free gig contract template here!
Claim your gig invoice template here!
A key tip is to leave a paper trail for all transactions.
Albeit rare, sometimes a venue can refuse to pay for any reason. If you have a paper trail (either physical documents or email archives) you’re fully covered.
At the end of the day, it’s nothing personal, just business.
EXECUTING THE GIG SUCCESSFULLY
Getting the first gig is only 50% of the battle.
Having the venue keep you in their roster of consistent acts is the hard part (it’s also the fun part!
Because of this, I want to show you a method I've personally used, it’s helped me so much over the years and I know you’ll benefit as well.
You should write a “thank-you” letter to the venue (include the names of the owner and who helped get you booked).
It doesn’t need to be a poetic piece like Shakespeare. Just thank them for the opportunity and wish them goodwill in their business.
At the bottom of the letter attach a gift card.
Don’t stress, It does not need to be $1,000 even a $50 gift card works. It’s the thought that matters anyway.
This is just to show the venue that you appreciate them so much for the opportunity. They will remember you for this, I promise 100%.
95% of other artists wouldn’t even think of doing this.
OVER-DELIVER IN YOUR GIG PERFORMANCE
The most important aspect of everything.
You need to give a show that blows the audience’s minds! The more effort you put into this, the higher results you will get back in return.
Key tip: It's better to fill up a small venue than to go halfway with a large venue.
The promoters analyze you based on ticket sales, if you’re doing good then they’re doing good.
This is part of the reason why it's good to start small as you're still building your local fan base and getting gig experience.
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
You need to keep steady communication with everybody involved in the gig.
This can include:
- Backup dancers
- Backup singers
I advise you to create a text group-chat so everyone can stay-up-to-date and on the same page.
Inconsistencies and stupid mistakes are avoidable, the accountability is on you to manage it.
Making stupidly avoidable communication mistakes damage your reputation and potentially your further chances of getting gigs at that venue.
You should also make it a priority to communicate with the venue themselves! They can help to correspond to your activities and get set up.
Remember, venues are on your side unless you give them a reason to not be.
They always say that practice makes perfect.
If you happen to have a spare garage then you should practice your entire set from beginning to end there.
This lets you discover any kinks and problems early on.
USE A CHECKLIST
There is sometimes a lot of logistics involved.
There’s the microphone, instruments, transportation, speakers, etc.
Who’s going to carry all of that? How will you transport it?
These are just a few of the many problems you’re sure to face. This is why it’s essential to have a checklist.
Simply jot down all of the critical tasks and systematically go through it one by one.
You must be a perfectionist with this checklist because if something doesn't go well it has huge negative effects.'
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