A Guide to Booking Gigs
Secure your first live show as an independent band or solo artist. Connect with promoters the right way and expose your music to new audiences.
Technological advancements are becoming increasingly more omnipresent, yet no digital music experience is quite like a live show. There is a certain magic to being at a concert, listening to and feeling live music, getting a performance delivered right in front of our eyes, and connecting with other fans in the crowd. Though watching a recorded show on YouTube is fun, it doesn’t compare to the impact an actual live has on the attendees.
For musicians, it’s just as much if not more of a unique and exhilarating experience to play live to an audience. In addition to the warm fuzzy feeling of performing and meeting fans in real life, live concerts also serve as one of the best promotional opportunities. Through shows, artists get exposure to audiences they otherwise may not reach through online marketing tools.
But how exactly do you, as an independent artist, take the leap from creating and playing music at home to landing a live show? Let’s guide you through the key steps towards getting booked for your first gig.
Prepare a Demo
Professionally recorded and mastered music is costly, so it isn’t something that every musician has on tap, especially beginners and artists on a budget. It’s important to have at least a demo record to let promoters know what you sound like, what’s your style and overall vibe.
Ask around about cheap recording studios that independent musicians from your area use or turn your room into a home recording studio if you’ve got the opportunity. You can even record a song on your iPhone and remove background noise with a voice cleaner, as well as use Audacity and other free audio editing software to tweak the sound of instruments and mix all stems together.
Use any means you have to give promoters and potential concert goers a good idea of what they should expect when they see you perform live. Upload your demo to SoundCloud to make it easily accessible and attach the link to your pitch.
Before you set foot in the first venue, make sure your band or artist pages are available online. It goes without saying that in the current day and age you basically don’t exist unless you are on social media. Lack of online presence is considered to be suspicious, so create accounts on Instagram, Facebook and other platforms.
You don’t have to worry about music marketing strategies and all that jazz (yet), just share photos of yourself/your band and some information about your progress and goals. Press pictures, logo, designs, videos from rehearsals and other visual content are always good to share too.
All of this is going to help distinguish you from your artist persona and sell your artist brand to promoters and venues further down the line.
Do Your Research
Your goal is not to just play in any venue, it’s to find specific places and events that feature artists like yourself. Nobody would put a rapper in a lineup of a metal festival, right? By the same logic, you shouldn’t try to get booked for all available gigs. For something more random, you can always go to an open mic. But in order to get exposed to an audience that is likely to love specifically your style of music, you need to approach the matter strategically.
What events are most relevant to your music? What shows do your potential fans frequent? Do your research with these questions in mind. Start small and keep your expectations at bay – as an artist/band who never played live, you won’t book a show that features only you alone or become a headliner the first time around. Look for venues where local independent musicians often perform and make a list of promoters that work on such events.
Write a Good Pitch
Once you’ve collected enough contact information of promoters, it’s time to work on your pitch. Keep in mind that promoters receive a lot of booking inquiries and think on what can make you stand out from the rest. Be honest, don’t say you will bring a crowd if you aren’t sure you can. Beginners don’t usually have a unique, distinct sound and/or hundreds of devoted fans, and that’s okay! All you need to do is be polite and explain why you are a good fit for a specific show.
Let promoters know you take into consideration the genre and demographic the venue serves, including age restrictions. Make a succinct email subject line (for example, “Booking Inquiry – <Your Artist Name> <Date> @ <Venue Name>), include a description of your music and where you are from, and add links to your demo and social media handles. Be professional, look for typos and other issues before you hit the send button.
Contact each promoter individually. Don’t send one group email to multiple promoters at once! They can see multiple addresses in a BCC field and perceive it as a desparate attempt to be booked anywhere, with no regard to the specifics of each venue.
Stay in Touch
If you haven’t received any response to your booking inquiries, you are free to follow up in 3 to 5 days after you first reached out. It’s also a good idea to call – your message may have just been buried under tons of other emails and DMs. Though we may think of phone calls as a communication tool of the past, it’s now one of the best ways to cut through the clutter of musicians hitting up a promoter. Being (professionally) persistent, it shows how much you care about a show.
Once you get a gig secured, don’t disappear on a promoter. Musicians that dip as soon as they land a slot in a show make promoters nervous, and that’s the last thing you want if you plan to work with them in the future. Check for new messages regularly, at least once a day and don’t be shy to give updates on what you’re doing to prepare and promote the show.
After all of the above is done, there is nothing left but rehearse and bring your A-game on a scheduled date. When you arrive at a venue, network with other musicians and staff, it will help you get new opportunities and ensure positive environment in the future.