Let’s not fool ourselves: The live music business is no cakewalk. When we talk about club mortality, we’re no longer just being prophets of impending doom; it’s already happening, and bands have to fight over each and every one of the remaining available venues. In the end, only a few will get to that place where everyone wants to be. They do say that competition livens things up. Does it, really? Hell yeah!
Though I really hate to type these words, we need to get serious for a bit: romantics and idealists get no gigs! From start to finish, a gig is a business transaction. I know what some of you are surely thinking: that it’s more about the quality of the music. That may well be true, but how are promoters supposed to know that you’re good when they know nothing about you? In business terms: you gotta sell yourself!
It all starts with some professional marketing; it continues with a reasonable sales pitch, and culminates in the negotiation of a profitable deal. But don’t let all that scare you! It’s not as hard as it sounds; all you need is planning and a strong will, and it will all work out when it comes to gigs.
How to get more gigs
1. First impressions count!
The first impression is not only decisive when it comes to dating; the first few seconds also count in your first contact with a new promoter, with new fans or with music lovers on the lookout for some new tunes. Take a critical look over your social media profiles, your website and your Electronic Press Kit. Make sure that your videos and sound files really showcase who you are and what you’re capable of. Check if your band photo is still good or if you need to get a new one, one that represents the kind of music you play and makes you stand out. It may feel superficial to focus so much on appearances, but you’ll see - these appearances will play a decisive role when it comes to your next on-stage appearance.
2. Networking is King!
You can no longer afford to be shy - time to butter those parsnips. Grab your keyboard, and pick up the telephone. It’s time to make some contacts, because you’re gonna need them. Create a small mailing list with club contacts, concert organisers, bookers, and promoters. Write an e-mail that is brief and to the point. Promoters get loads of e-mails from bands, and they rarely have time to read them all. So come up with a snappy subject, keep your message brief and get straight to the point. Don’t forget to add a link to your EPK, as it will let promoters see all the important information about you in one click. A couple of days later, pick up the phone for a follow-up call. That may feel a bit like cold-calling; you’ll surely get brushed off a few times, and other times your calls will go straight to voicemail. But even if it takes 20 or more calls to get you there, at least one of your contacts is bound to show some interest.
3. Failure? Breathe. Persevere. Keep going!
Don’t let yourself be discouraged by the first failures in your cold-calling quest for gigs. It’s perfectly normal! Any salesperson would tell you the same. Success rates are low. Failure is part of the game, if you want to find the right contacts and partners who will help you get your next live gig. Don’t let yourself think “It never works out! My calls keep going to voicemail”. That’s not the way to go! You’ve only tried a few contacts so far. Keep going.
4. Make the most of every opportunity!
Cold-calling and cultivating your existing contacts and networks is hugely important, but you also need to keep your eyes peeled for any other opportunities that could help you get gigs. For example, there are loads of Facebook groups where touring bands search for local support acts, or where private clients look for musicians. You can find similar ads on other platforms, too. Have a look around. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket - make the most of all tools and all avenues available to you. It’s worth it! In other words: you have nothing to lose - you can only improve your chances of getting a gig.
5. Say yes to every gig!
Don’t be a diva! Hop onto any stage that’s available to you. No gig this weekend? Get that guitar out and hit the streets. Show yourself - be present! That’s the only way for people to see you, to discover you and to become your fans. You do need a fanbase in order to make yourself attractive to promoters; they need to know you’ll fill up the joint if they do book you. Promoters can no longer afford to risk booking a band without fans. That’s precisely why you need to go on a fanhunt, and put yourself out there. Your buddy has a bar? Ask if you can play there. A friend is celebrating her 30th birthday with a big shindig? Sing her a couple of songs. There are loads of opportunities to showcase yourself and your music. It doesn’t always bring in loads of dough, but that shouldn’t stop you. It’s an investment in your career.
You see how important it is to let your inner businessman shine through from time to time. Especially if you don’t have a manager or an agency to fall back on and have to rock everything DIY style, it’s even more important to sideline the musician from time to time and approach the live music business strategically, with your eyes on the prize.