Booking gigs is a very time consuming and often frustrating process. We talk to dozens of venues, send emails, make phone calls, and usually don't hear anything back. And then there's the question of how to get paid gigs.
There are two categories when it comes to booking gigs.
One is when you book the gig yourself.
When I booked my first international tour, I sent nearly 1,000 emails to play only a dozen gigs. This is not an exaggeration, and I only mention this to highlight the fact that it can be very daunting and an insane amount of work to really get things running smoothly. But, there's hope. On our next tour where we played even more gigs, around 20, I sent about 500 emails. So only half of the time as before, and for more gigs. The third tour was even easier and was probably again cut in half in terms of the amount of reaching out I needed to do.
It can be easier to book locally because you are able to visit the venues and check out the scene in-person. Often you can meet the booking agent for a venue and pitch your idea to them before sending you application. So they'll remember you.
Before you approach the venue you need to put a band together and get out there. Play open mics, a friend’s birthday party, an office party, play wherever you can. Don’t worry if nobody is listening, or if your band isn’t playing at the level you want. Unless you get lucky and somehow strike it big without putting in the work, you’re going to have to swallow your pride and allow yourself to exhibit the courage you’ll need to get the gigs you dream about.
The second way to get gigs is to get called by other people. To do this you must first meet the people who will hire you. Leave your house and go to where they are. Watch other musicians’ concerts and introduce yourself to them. Go to music conferences and attend all of the networking functions. Go to social environments where musicians, and any artist in general, hang out. Bars, cafes, concerts, jam sessions. Be on the scene and be present.
Have a card you can hand out when it’s appropriate to do so. But be cool and don’t force it. Always have a great attitude and act in a professional manner at all times. Even with all of the activity happening online, word of mouth is still one of the most common ways that people get gigs. So be on your A+ game and you will develop a good reputation.
Record a Demo
Whether it’s a solo project or with a group, you will need a demo if you want venues to even consider you. So make sure to have a quality demo before you reach out to venues to book something.
Also, make sure that the labelling on the front of the demo clearly shows your group name, the genre of music, and contact information. People receiving your demo sift through many at a time and don't want the hassle of searching for your information. In fact, it can be cast aside for this reason alone, so increase your chances right from the start.
Having video representation can go a long way to get you booked. It doesn't need to be anything fancy, a simple iPhone video with a single microphone can be enough. Just make sure it shows very clearly what you do, and make sure your performance is great!
Be on time, prepare for your gigs, learn your instrument, and be the best you can be. Those are great places to start in terms of how to act in a professional manner. If you are reliable in every sense of the word, you will be considered professional and people will call you.
Control your ego so you don’t give off bad vibes. If you are being hired for a gig then your job is to be at service to the people hiring you. So don’t get all huffy everytime someone asks you to do something. Otherwise your phone will stop ringing.
Nail the Gig
No matter how big or how small the gig is, nail it! Show up well prepared with all your gear tuned up and ready to go. Make sure you know all of the tunes and if the setlist is only an hour long, then memorize it.
Be An Opening Act
Find bands who have a larger following than you and ask if you can be the opener. There is often very little pay for these types of situations, but the exposure can be worth your while. You will make new connections in the music industry, and might even make some new fans.
Social Media Networking & Research
Use Facebook, and other social media platforms to network and with other musicians, and also to do research into people or venues you would like to work with. Join the musicians Facebook groups for your area and begin asking questions and commenting on posts. Get into the scene, chances you will meet some of these people face-to-face at some point.
www.gigsalad.com is a great website for getting professional-level, paid gigs.You create a profile stating what type of music and events you specialize in and then you receive notifications when someone is looking for music that fits your specialty. You bid on the gig, and if you're accepted then Gigsalad takes care of the payment and sends you a deposit, with only a very small commission fee (around 2%). I have been using it for years and have made thousands of dollars from this site.
Start small and work your way up. Be diligent and you are sure to persevere. If you work hard enough then people will take notice, they will come to your concerts, and the venues will book you. If you are lucky enough you might even get a booking agent to work with you.
But don't give up! The music industry is a difficult beast to navigate, but it is worth the effort and you can achieve things beyond your wildest dreams if you just simply put in the necessary work.
ALSO, I recently published an article about how drummers can move their careers to the international level, check it out here as there may be some info in there that could relate to your situation as well.
If you have any further questions, or want to add something to this article then leave a comment below!
by: Brandon Goodwin
Montreal, QC, Canada
As I often mention, there is no substitute for a good teacher. If you have questions, or perhaps need clarification then I strongly encourage you to find a teacher and work through these ideas with them. You will develop much more quickly and will eradicate any bad habits that could develop if practicing without guidance. You can always contact me about lessons at my studio in Montreal, or on Skype. But this isn’t about me, it’s about the art of drumming, so find the best teacher you can and stick with it.
Brandon Goodwin Bio
Brandon has worked with renowned jazz musicians such as Braxton Cook, Grammy-award winning artists Delfeayo Marsalis, and Kebbi Williams, as well as some of Canada’s top talent, including Fraser Hollins, Al McLean, and Samuel Blais.
Brandon has studied with some of Canada’s top drummers, including, Nasyr Abdul Al-Kabyr (Dizzy Gillespie), Dave Laing, and Dave Robbins, and has also studied privately with internationally acclaimed drummers Ari Hoenig and Dan Weiss.
He has taught masterclasses at high schools and universities in Canada and the U.S. and is the owner/principal operator of Studio Drum MTL. Based out of Verdun QC, Brandon services Greater Montreal, Lasalle, Lachine, NDG, Westmount, and Cote St Luc with his high quality drum lessons.
Brandon’s group B’s Bees has performed concerts in North America and in Asia, at major jazz festivals and in some of the best jazz clubs in the world. The group has also performed masterclasses at high schools and in universities in Canada, the U.S. and in Asia.