By Yannick Ilunga of The Jazz Spotlight
As discussed in the first part, before you start looking for gigs you should:
- have your music available on digital format
- have an active online presence (with a website, email list and social media)
- build a fanbase and connect with other people in music
- think about what you want to achieve with your shows and your “touring preferences”
Once you have done all this, it is time to start looking for gigs. Now you have to decide whether you want to carry out the actual gig search yourself or you want to outsource it to a booking agent.
This article focuses on the first option: getting gigs as a do-it-yourself musician.
How to Look for Gigs Offline
Are you dreaming of performing at a venue in your town? Then stop sitting on your hands and take action!
The best way to get a feeling of what the club is about and what kind of acts its promoter(s) are interested in is to physically go there. Once you have an idea about what the place is looking for, reach out to its promoter(s).
Here’s what to keep in mind when approaching promoters.
1. Introduce yourself and ask permission to send music
Be polite, honest and upfront but don’t be pushy.
Remember that you are trying to get something (a gig) from the venue. It is not the other way around. Introduce yourself, hand out a business card and ask the promoter permission to hand out your EP (if you have one with you or to forward a digital copy by email) and to email a link of your live performance.
Make sure to submit your best sounding EP and best quality video!
Remember: as jazz promoter Tony Dudley-Evans explained on the podcast, it is important to contact promoters first and ask permission to submit your music rather than forwarding it right away.
2. Be clear on what you can do for the venue
Be crystal clear on what you can provide to the venue. Have your goals in mind, be aware of the venue’s and think about how to create a win-win situation where everyone benefits from the agreement.
3. Leverage your email list and social media
Use your email list to your advantage. Keep track of your subscribers and sort your contacts out by location. Leverage this when approaching promoters.
Inform them of how many subscribers you have in a XX-mile radius (for example a 20-mile radius) and about how many people in that area are following you on social media.
Make it clear that you would help promote the venue and the gig to all those people (Dave Kusek talked about this on the podcast, you can find out more about that here).
4. Provide extra value
Go beyond that!
In order to stand out from the crowd, provide extra value to the venue. In addition to helping out with the promotion to your email list and on social media, why not hosting a special masterclass? Or if you want to go further than that, you could event suggest you and the venue live stream your performance.
Promoters want to get people through the door and live stream your concert can actually do more than that. It can reach people around the world.
And it doesn’t have to be free.
This means that, depending on the terms you and the venue have agreed on, you can bring in additional (virtual) patrons who pay to see your show online
5. Don’t be afraid of the phone!
Many promoters are still “old school,” so you may want to consider giving them a ring. But this is not the only reason why you should make a phone call.
Remember that a promoter may get hundreds of emails every day, so it may take some time for him/her to reply to yours. However, if you give him/her a ring, you have good chances of talking with him/her right away.
How to Look for Gigs Online
As popular singer Jen Chapin discussed on the podcast, the Internet (combined with phone calls) is the go-to tool for her and many other musicians looking for gigs.
The first thing you can do as an indie artist who is “gig hunting” online is a simple Google search. Create a list of venues you would like to perform at (Google Maps can help you with that), write down their contact information and export everything into an excel spreadsheet.
You can also export relevant contacts from your social media (you have remembered to organize your Twitter contacts into lists, right?).
Another great way to start looking for gigs online is to search for venues artists similar to you are playing at. Use tools like Songkick and BandsinTown to track similar musicians and compile a list of music venues you are interested in.
Depending on your niche and the kind of gig you want to have, there are different platforms worth checking.
Planning a house show in the Seattle area? Check out to Seattle Living Room Shows.
Other platforms worth looking into to get gigs are ReverbNation Gig Finder, Sonicbids and Indie on the Move.
According to its creators, ReverbNation Gig Finder simplifies booking gigs. It gives musicians access to a 600,000 venue listing and help them customized their search based on location, name of the venue you wish to play to, places similar artists have played and clubs you have performed at before.
Among other things, Sonicbids allows artists to search for live gigs based on geographic location and gives them access to popular festivals such as SXSW, CMJ and Bonnaroo.
Indie on the Move is another site that provides a directory of music venues in the U.S.. Venues can be sorted by music genre, state and city.
You may also want to consider getting in touch with non-profit organizations and discuss a possible collaboration.
Getting gigs is a marathon, it is a process that requires patience. There are plenty of tools out there, so choose whatever works best for you. It can be overwhelming and frustrating, but if you take your time, eventually you will get the gig of your dreams.
Regardless of the way you use to look for gigs, here’s what to remember:
- have a clear goal of what you want to achieve with your gig
- keep in mind that you want something from the venue or promoter, not the other way around. Try to create a win-win situation
- state what you can do for the venue, leverage your email list and social media
- blow promoters away by providing extra value (great for standing out from the crowd!)
- don’t send unrequested materials – like your EP – ask permission before emailing your demo
- forward only your very best songs and high-quality pictures and videos
- people are busy! If you don’t hear back, wait for a few days and follow back with a polite email
- keep track of everything and export into a spreadsheet
Now it’s time to get to work and get the gig search started!