Looking to get more gigs?
Beyond putting together a press kit and sending it to every venue and promoter you can think of, there are many other ways to drive interest in your music and find new performance opportunities.
Here are four underused tactics for getting more gigs.
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1. Highlight Your Gigging Experience With A Résumé
Have you ever used a résumé to book a show before? I have.
Here are some of the items I included:
- Number of shows played. This can really add up over the years, which can look quite impressive.
- Covers I can play. I didn’t say I wouldn’t play originals, but I did make mention of the many covers I could play, in a variety of different styles.
- Career highlights. Notable venues or festivals I had the opportunity to perform at.
- Testimonials. Quotes from real audience members that had good things to say about me. I collected these with hard-copy surveys at shows in the early days.
I put this all together into a neat package, complete with a demo CD (three to five tracks) and gave it to venues.
Did it work? Absolutely. And when you think about it, it makes sense. Venue owners – especially bar or pub owners – regularly have to hire people (servers, dishwashers, etc.), so they’re used to looking at résumés to figure out whether or not someone is a good fit.
Plus, they might have no idea what kind of music you play, but they will probably recognize some of the covers you mention, and that will also give them a better idea of what they’re booking.
2. Walk Into Venues With A Contract In Hand
If you’re serious about your career, you’re probably using performance contracts already. If not, then it’s something you should be doing.
When it comes to booking shows, there’s something musicians often don’t think about doing, and that’s walking into venues they want to play at with a contract in hand.
There’s an air of professionalism about contracts. It says, “we take ourselves seriously.” Again, event coordinators and venue owners are businesspeople. They understand the language of negotiation and making deals.
Does this always work? No. But your odds of being taken seriously will go up drastically. You won’t be seen as just another band that “wants in.” You’ll be seen as entrepreneurs that care about their craft and reputation.
Just don’t make a multi-page contract at tiny 8pt text with all kinds of ridiculous demands. Create a single-page contract, and if you anticipate that there will be some moving piece with each venue (as there often are), leave certain fields blank so you can fill them in later (i.e. how many sets you'll play, how much you'll get paid, etc.). Make it easy for venues to say “yes” to you.
3. Create Relationships With People Working At Music Stores
In this case I'm talking about instrument stores specifically, although you might have some indie vinyl stores in your location too, and they might be worth looking into.
Music stores get approached with a lot of different ideas – especially stores in smaller towns. People are looking for musicians for a variety of different occasions – festivals, fairs, networking events, holiday celebrations, and more.
I’ve worked at a variety of studios teaching guitar in my time. But one store in particular kept telling me about solo gigs because I had a lot of experience performing on my own. As result, I played on the street, in libraries, at parades, at community talent showcases, and more.
Note: depending on the types of gigs you want to play, and what you’re good at, these opportunities may not be right for you.
Also, if you aren’t well-branded, you’ll probably get passed up in favor of others, so you’ll need to clearly define what you’re up for. I got a lot of solo gigs, because that’s what people were looking for.
Seek out community-minded music stores. Create connections with the people that work there. They get a lot of requests, and they might be able to hook you up with a few gigs, especially if you don’t mind playing in unusual settings for various causes.
4. Just Show Up!
This is a simple but powerful concept many musicians don’t understand.
We have a tendency to look at other local artists and go, “Wow, they’re playing [insert big event or venue here]? Why wasn’t I invited!?”
But if we just got into the habit of showing up more often, we would actually see more opportunities come our way.
I’ve gotten gigs at cafés simply because I showed up and played the open mic regularly. I’ve gotten gigs at festivals because I happened to be in attendance as a media person. I’ve shown up at friend’s shows and been invited up to play because I had a guitar with me.
So, how do we put this into practice? Here are a few suggestions:
- Show up at various open mics. I’ve had nights where I’ve practically taken over the stage because no one was there to perform besides the hosts.
- Show up at your friend’s shows. It doesn’t happen that often in the folk or rock scene, but in the jazz and blues community, it’s not unusual to be spontaneously invited up to play if you have your gear with you. If nothing else, you’ll learn about a new venue to play in and maybe make some new connections.
- Show up at local events and festivals. It’s better than sitting alone at home wondering why your phone isn’t ringing. And some people might actually go, “oh, we should have thought about booking you.”
Just keep showing your face, believe, and good things will happen. Accountability is a huge deal, and if you can be counted on to show up in low-pressure situations, you will get booked more in higher pressure scenarios.
If you’re still in the early stages of building your career and establishing your band, I would suggest taking any gig you can get. Why? Because saying “no” could mean months upon months of waiting around and doing nothing.
It’s better to be out there gaining experience and getting in front of people than sitting in your basement, don’t you think?
When things start getting crazy, you can start cutting back and saying “no” to low-value gigs. Then, start focusing on your chief aim, whether that’s playing at larger, high-paying clubs, or getting booked at major festivals.