Getting Better Gigs

By NationWide Source
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Let’s talk gigs.

Playing shows is key to gathering more fans. As the digital age marches on, some may argue that posting videos of your songs can replace gigging. There is absolutely a place for garnering fans through conduits such as YouTube, but I would submit that there is still a prevalent place for the live show. “Why?” you may ask. There’s something remarkable about being at a great show. You can build a rapport with your audience – they’ll see a side of you and your band that doesn’t translate or may be edited out of video performances. That’s the stuff – the “je ne sais quoi” that starts a budding fan’s devotion to you. Live performing also allows you to develop relationships with promoters and booking managers and cultivate community among the bands with whom you share the stage. Hooray! Winning. So, let’s talk about how to get some gigs.

Create a Press Kit with Demo!

This is actually a subject that needs it’s own article (and we’ll be covering it in depth soon). But, in a nutshell your press kit should look professional. If you’re looking for radio play as well as gigs, you may as well get your demo replicated, as many radio stations won’t even look at duplicated CDs. If you’re band is not quite ready to seek out radio play, go for duplication. They look great and you can order them in smaller quantities. Include – printed – on your demo song titles, and artwork (if you have it) and contact information. In fact, you’ll want to include your contact information on all the materials you submit. This is huge. Don’t give your recipients an excuse not to call you by skipping this step. From there, you’ll want to include a cover letter, as this press kit is basically your band’s resume. It would be a good idea to mention the times and days you’re willing to work. (Hint: Any day, anytime is encouraged.) Also, submit your band’s bio, lyrics to the songs on your demo, a list of artists who have a similar sound as your band, high-resolution press photos of the band and of logos, website and social media pages and, if applicable, tour dates, promotional videos, and press coverage – reviews and interviews. Also, contact information. Did I say that already? Album specific artwork or your band logo is a bonus. You can get a professional logo done for a relatively inexpensive price on freelance sites. It’s not a bad idea to have honest outside input concerning the look of your press kit. Have someone proof read all of your printed material. Then, once you’re press kit looks like the professional masterpiece you desire, it’s time to…

Do your research

Consider you genre and the audiences who tend to gravitate toward your music. If your tunes cater to the classic rock-loving over 50 crowd, you probably shouldn’t approach a tween honky-tonk. So get the names and websites of venues in a 50-mile radius (or however far you’re willing to drive for a gig) and find out if you’re a good fit for the crowds they draw. If your fans tend to be under age, consider whether the venue is 18 or 21 years and up. If you want to expand your reach, consider looking into charitable organizations in your area that hold fundraisers featuring live music. Other outside the box options might be checking into whether food truck parks or microbreweries need musical entertainment. Don’t forget open houses, private parties, and retail grand openings. Heck, some sandwich shops feature live performers, depending on your sound. Keep your eyes open. When you’ve narrowed down your options, it’s best to take your press kit to them in person. In order to communicate a respect for their time, and in an effort not to waste yours, find out who makes the booking decisions and ask to meet with them. Ideally you should set this meeting up over the phone, though it can be done through email. Keep in mind, however, emails are easier to miss or ignore. Engaging them face-to-face, even if brief, ensures your demo gets in the right hands (and isn’t lost in the mail) and puts a real-live person with the music and biographical information. It’s much harder for anyone to say “no” to a personable human with whom they’ve interacted – especially, if all the other demos were mailed in. In that way you are competing with other bands. But, on the whole other bands should be viewed as commiserators, potential collaborators, and resources. Just saying.

Take ANYTHING you can get.

Draw near. I have valuable words of wisdom to share with you. While bar managers, club owners, and venue promoters may adore music – your music, even – they do not feature live tunes for any other reason than to draw more alcohol-purchasing people and make money. They may, but probably don’t care about your aspirations. Sorry. Now, this may not be news to you. But if it is, this means if you are building your fan base, there’s a great chance that you should not expect a weekend slot on a stage at a venue – unless they’re open at five in the afternoon. Thus, if you get a call from a promoter who has listened to your demo and wants to book you, you take the Monday night opening they have for you. Or, better yet, as before hinted, express your eagerness to take Monday (Tuesday, Wednesday, whatever day or time) gigs in your press kit. This allows you to build a reputation with the bar managers that says you’re willing to work. Then promote that show to all your existing fans. Use your social media, your YouTube channel, and your newsletter to let people know you need their support. Offer free swag or a free house concert or some other promo to the people who bring five or more of their fellow music lovers. Then be professional and do your very best. Be the band the Monday night regulars invite their friends to. Play to the Wednesday afternoon audience like they’re your greatest fans. You never know who is in the audience or if they’ve ever heard your music before. You could be winning over new fans or promoters looking for talent. As you play more and more in time slots like these, the further you will increase your chances of playing more desirable days and times, thus being more accessible to your fans and their friends. Again, winning. By the way, the word tends to get out about dependable bands that bring in money spenders. Once you’ve built a solid reputation with one or two promoters, other venue owners are more likely offer you gig spots when asked.

Get to Know Your Fellow Musicians

I’ve said it before (even in this very article) and I’ll say it again. Other local bands are your friends. Getting to know bands and artists who are established in the local scene can only help your chances of playing more live shows – especially bands who have a similar sound as you. Attend their shows. Get on their mailing lists. Reach out to them outside of their shows and see if they’ll meet with you. Ask them if you can pick their brains about how to break into the scene. Have a demo with you wherever you go and share it with the bands with whom you’re building relationships. These are the people you can collaborate with. Then, in time, you will be top of mind when that band needs an opening band or are asked by booking agents if they know anyone else who has a similar sound as them. This serves the purpose of both engaging in community and cultivating new leads into your sure-to-be illustrious music career.

Now go get those gigs!

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I’m a saxophonist, not a band. All I wish do do is to work with a decent group. I’m doing praise and worship in my Church and helping with fundraising. My love for all music.

There’s one issue that isn’t addressed with this article: the market.

Here in NY, I could perform in Brooklyn to a decent size audience; which we did a few Saturdays ago when Guns & Roses took most of the rock fans out of NY. 35 miles to the east, a friends band who was playing in Long Island performed for a whopping audience number of 5 people. Certain areas just don’t have a market of people that are willing to go see live shows, and Long Island is becoming one of the them. (Case in point, Judas Priest playing a CLUB called The Paramount in Huntington last November.)

Related to that subject, as far as taking whatever booking you can get, good idea, IF you can guarantee that SOME people will be there. However, if the “gig” turns out to be just a live rehearsal in front of the bartender, the custodian and the bar’s collection of rats & mice, don’t expect to “gig” there again. The club owner will feel more than jerked off, as he’s already lost money paying staff that he might have been able to give the night off to.

Pay to play definitely sucks, and I’ll never do it, however, this is why it exists. Unless there’s a market to SEE you, video is a much better medium for any band, especially the ones starting out

Clubs are a dying thing. I’ve been in the business 40+ years and I can tell you there aren’t many clubs left to play. All these one nighters and jam sessions are the club owners way to screw bands and not pay them. Professional press kit? Yeah right. For what? The local dive bar that tells you they can pay you $50 for the whole band?? Keep dreaming up these articles folks.Your “professional” press kit will most likely end up in the garbage, especially if you come off as a band with their shit together. Club owners don’t want that. Why? Because they know that a well established band is not going to be cheap. They look for those starved out bands who’ll do anything and take anything just to play at their club. Of course if you have a following then they’ll book you because of “your” draw, not the clubs regulars. The clubs put all promotion in your hands and do nothing. You have to market your band and the club at your expense. Trust me, I’ve been down this road many a time. If you’re going to take chances on a dead monday night at some dive, you might as well rent a small 200 capacity hall, order some tickets, sell them a few months in advance and throw your own gig. Stop begging these clubs for bullshit paying gigs. If thats what you need to do for your band…Pack it up and get a day job!

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