Have you ever complained about some of the lackluster live performance opportunities you've had? I know I have.
Maybe you played and didn't get compensated fairly for your time. Maybe the crowd wasn't that into what you were doing. Maybe the gig ended with someone getting hurt or a guitar amp blowing up.
Look, unfortunately, you can't stop bad shows from happening. What you can do is expand your prospects by thinking outside the box. You can play in more places, be seen by more people, and grow a more adoring fan base by going where others don't even know they can go.
Whether you know it or not, your region is full of all kinds of gigging opportunities, and you're not going to uncover them if you keep playing at that bar that pays you just enough to cover your gas. Hunting around on Sonicbids doesn't exactly count either, although it is good to check sites like it from time to tie.
Here are some steps you can follow to find untapped live performance opportunities right in your own region.
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Make A List Of Potential Venue Types & Research Them
All of the following could be considered live music venues:
- Bars and pubs.
- Coffeehouses and cafés.
- Hotels and lounges.
- Churches and community halls.
- Other people's homes and places of businesses.
- Backyards, garages, and basements.
- Stadiums and coliseums.
- Theatres and cinemas.
- Schools, colleges and universities.
- Music and instrument stores.
This is not a complete list, but what I want you to see is that a venue is not merely where people book you to play – it's simply a place that can potentially host live music.
After you've made your list of venue types (use the provided list as a starting point), research your locality for each – and I don't just mean your own hometown. I mean every single city and town within a three to five hour radius.
Your research process (you can use Google) might look something like this:
[Town or city name] + [venue type] = the search term you would enter into a search engine
As you are taking note of the kinds of places that exist, don't write any of them off – you never know when this information might come in handy. You
Talk To Local Decision-Makers, Event Planners & Tastemakers
This can be a little harder to define, so I'll give an example.
A friend of mine recently called up a small town in my province of Alberta (in Canada), and by some coincidence he ended up talking with the mayor of that town.
It just so happens that the mayor knew about a local annual get-together that drew a crowd in the hundreds. But every year, they booked the same entertainment, and they were starting to grow tired of it.
Because my friend was willing to put himself out there, however, they were interested in having his band in to play instead of the same-old, same-old tired act. Not only that, but the compensation was touted to be in the mid four-figures!
I don't think that gig has panned out just yet, but the sentiment holds true. If you can get in touch with people you consider to be decision-makers (mayors, wealthy residents, etc.), event planners (i.e. at colleges and universities) or tastemakers (i.e. radio DJs) in a nearby town, they might be able to point you to a few overlooked opportunities.
Another great place to go to find mostly untouched opportunities is at instrument stores. If you build a relationship with the ones in your region, and continue to stay in touch with them over time, they can forward some work your way (they often get asked about live music but don't necessarily have the time to connect the dots for those people).
Cross-Promote & Create Your Own Opportunities
Who has more marketing power? You, or the local pub, place of business, or university?
I guess that depends on how much notoriety you've gained over time, but in many cases businesses have this figured out better than you do – otherwise, they wouldn't be in business for long.
What I'm getting at is that you can partner up with businesses, entrepreneurs, or wealthy individuals to draw more attention to your gigs. This is most beneficial when you're doing things on your own terms (i.e. when you book at a community hall instead of at a pub).
For instance, you could have a show booked at a theatre, and have the local eatery provide food and drink for the event. They could even host an after-party, luring everyone in attendance back to their venue with a free drink or the like.
It should go without saying, but you do need to make sure your value proposition makes sense for both sides. You need to make it a worthwhile venture for them, and they need to do their part to promote and provide the right kind of service for the event.
As for creating your own opportunities, you could go to networking events and meet people who are hosting events of their own. You could tactfully insert yourself into a situation like that. You could look into arts and crafts festivals that don't currently have live entertainment and see if they would be willing to book you on a trial basis. You could look into business events and ask if some music before and after would liven up the seminar.
I know it's cliché to say this, but if you want to find untapped opportunities, you have to think outside the box.
If you're serious about this, you're about to tread where many acts dare not, and that's going to mean doing some of the legwork. Sometimes that's going to mean negotiating deals, brining your own PA system, coming up with unique digital marketing ideas, and so on.
But the rewards are often worth the effort. If you can corner the market in a town, city or venue where there's little to no competition, you can quickly establish yourself as the go-to artist or band for that event or venue, which can lead to other similar prospects.