How To Get Better Live Music Gigs.
So, you’re a solo artist or band performing your own music. You want to get better live music gigs. But, how do you get to play to bigger audiences, get paid, and gain new fans in the process? Keep reading to find out how.
As an artist and band member who has been managing live music bookings for well over a decade; I have a few tips.
Live music events are multifaceted affairs with lots of moving parts and hard work from venues, promoters, staff, engineers etc… You need to give the same level of dedication and hard work to your approach when booking shows.
Plus, when you arrive at the venue on time, prepared with the right gear and mindset, people will notice.
Failure To Prepare Is Preparing To Fail…
Being prepared before approaching venues or promoters saves time for everyone. It will also benefit you in the long run. Below are some preparations that are key to standing out as a serious gigging musician.
Have A Competent Stage Presence With A Suitable Setlist
This means you know how to play your songs without any major fluff ups (it’s a technical term). Plus, have a set list written down with any notes for your performance (e.g. capo 4th, plug latest release here).
Consistent Looking Social Channels
When contacting venues and promoters for gigs, the first place many will look is social media. Having a consistent look across your platforms gives them a clue of what to expect from you as a band or artist.
Hi-Quality Promotional Shots
This ties into my point above. But, you don’t have to pay for professional photoshoots (although this can help). Having high-quality photos gives booking agents a sign of your suitability for an event. (e.g. a “death metal looking” band may not be suitable for a pop festival)
Core Set of Fans
You may think this is a chicken and egg scenario. You won’t have fans until you play gigs, especially if you’re starting out. But, we all have a network of colleagues, friends, and family (no matter how small). Call upon these people to be your core set of fans until you’re selling out arena tours.
Whether it’s your mum sharing a Facebook post or your mates turning up and having a few pints. These people will be ambassadors of your music as you grow.
Live Music Video
In the same thread as keeping your social profiles consistent with on brand images. Having a live music video will give booking agents a first-hand experience of what they can expect from you. (Even if it’s recorded on a phone at home).
You will need the audio quality to be acceptable and without distortion. Plus, make sure your videographer (or tripod) captures a stable shot.
(NOTE: If you’re interested in getting a professional live music video done, check out this link)
Electronic Card Reader (Bonus Tip)
As a bonus, you can get hold of card readers that plug into smartphones for taking card payments on the go.
This is great if you have merchandise or CD’s to sell. It gives music fans another easy way to pay you if they don’t have cash.
How to find the right gigs…
So now you’re all prepared to approach venues and promoters. What next?
Use Your Existing Network
You may have friends, family, or acquaintances that are part of a local music scene, start there. Head out to gigs and talk to people to find out who books the acts and start a conversation with them.
Not part of a music scene? Facebook is full of groups for connecting venues & promoters with musicians.
Always be polite when contacting promoters and take the time to build relationships. Once you’ve built trust, you can ask how to book yourself for one of their events and negotiate your fee.
Find BOTB’s & Open Mics
There are always open mic nights and battle of the band events. Use these to hone your live performance skills and make connections in your music scene.
The downside to these events is that they are usually free to attend and acts are rarely paid to perform. I would recommend being a member of a performing rights union such as the PRS. They collect royalties on your behalf for all venues who have live music. This means you can submit your setlists online and get paid for playing to drunks in your local pub.
List & Approach Venues & Music Promoters
With the power of the internet, you can find anything. Use Google & Facebook to search for venues and event promoters in your area. Make a list and find the best way to contact them.
Use the same approach of building a relationship first. Then use your online profiles to back up what you can do. Again, always remember to be laid back but professional in your approach. If you can arrange a meeting or phone call this always beats an email.
List & Contact Local Festivals
The same as above but searching for festivals. The key here is to start with obscure festivals that are growing.
Some festivals may have an application to perform. But, you should look to build a direct relationship with the Artistic Director. Once you’ve done a few of these it’s much easier to approach bigger and more popular festivals.
Look For Support Slots
Being part of a music scene you will find other artists or bands that have a similar sound to you with a good following.
Becoming friends with these acts can lead to getting support slots for them when they book gigs.
Set Up Your Own Event
Another route that will need extra work and effort is organizing your own event.
Music promoters have existing relationships with the venues they book. But, there is nothing stopping you contacting a venue and organizing your own event.
You may have to front the cost of the venue hire. But, you could negotiate with a venue willing to take a cut of ticket sales or let you hire the place for free.
You will also need to do your own promotion, booking of support acts, ticket management, cash handling, p.a. & lighting setup and a host of other possible duties unless provided by the venue.
Make sure to take your time organizing your own events and be meticulous in your planning.
Impressing Promoters Or Talent Scouts
Playing shows and being consistent with your approach will build your popularity. This will gain the attention of other music promoters and talent scouts.
This is the point where your hard work is paying off and bookings will come flying your way. Well done… But, be wary of any deals that sound too good to be true. As always, strive to build relationships with the people who show interest in what you do.
Some Final Points To Consider…
Thank you for reading this far and I hope you have found value in this post and can apply the knowledge I’ve shared. I would offer some final considerations for getting better gigs.
1. Supply is greater than demand. Always find ways to stand out.
2. Build your credibility over a sustained period of time.
3. Start small.
About the Author:
Alex Dudley is an award-winning entrepreneur, record producer, musician, software developer, inventor, husband, and father to three kids with a passion for collaborating with other creatives.
Currently based in Hollywood, Birmingham. Alex has been involved in various aspects of the music industry for over 18 years.
He studied Sound Production at the University of Wolverhampton under the mentorship of renowned Birmingham engineer & producer Phil Savage. Alex later went on to obtain his Master’s degree in Audio Technology and founded dAudio Music Group in 2015.
Alex’s accolades include the Studley High School Musician of the Year in 2004 & dAudio Music Group winning the BAA Graduate Start-up of the Year award in 2017.