It’s the famous old question on every hungry band’s mind - How To Get Gigs?
I can hear your pain from this computer screen - “Everyone else can get gigs left right and centre but my band is still struggling to figure out how to get gigs…..”
The truth of the matter is that getting gigs and playing live shows isn’t really that hard, you just need to understand the sensitivities of how the live music system actually works.
1. Why Clubs and Bars Host Live Music In The First Place
From the club and bar owner’s perspective, they are not there to make you famous and they are certainly not there just to be nice, they are simply part of the live performance equation for one very blunt reason - to sell more alcohol, get people to play their poker machines and buy cigarettes. Nothing more, nothing less.
Creating a stage and giving bands a platform to play their music in a live environment is really just another ploy on their behalf to keep their customers in their room and get them to spend more of their money before they go home.
Sad but true.
As a result, it’s important to realize this notion when trying to figure out how to get gigs and build relationships with local bars and clubs.
Proving your value to any bar or venue booker is a little bit like building a business relationship with someone. Do not ever expect to get the Saturday night headline spot without the venue knowing what sort of crowd you could pull and what value you are really worth. It’s not a very arty musical way to think about it all, but unfortunately this is how bar owners think - they are in it to make more money.
Once you understand and surrender to this concept, knowing how to climb the “how to get gigs” ladder becomes a whole lot easier.
2. Take Whatever You Can Get In The Beginning
When you realize and understand the above, you are ready to pitch yourself to the local venue booker with an offer that they have never heard of before…
You want to shock and surprise the agent by requesting to take the Monday or Tuesday night headline spot. 99.9% of other bands they come across will always be pushing for the Saturday night headline and wont settle for anything less however when your starting out, the idea is not to play in front of hundreds of people straight away, it’s more about proving your “value” to the bar owner and venue booker and starting that relationship that will hopefully get you to the Saturday night spot in 3 months time.
Additionally, all the bar owners and booking agents talk and once they start to hear that your doing good things in one bar, watch how quickly the other places will start calling you!
Invite your friends and get pumped up to try and help your local bar make more money that Tuesday night than ever before by fulfilling your role in this business relationship between the bar and your band. You need to fill the room with as many friends as you have and focus on putting on a great show that will make the booker stupid for not wanting to invite you back.
3. Personally Deliver Your Demo To Each Venue Booker
This might seem a little over the top and time consuming but it is absolutely critical.
When there are twenty other bands all trying to play in the same five rooms in your town it’s important to have some personal connection with local venue bookers when figuring out how to get gigs.
From my own experience I used to conduct proper research on each venue and find out who the local agents are. I’d get their names and phone numbers and then request five minuets of their time to go down to the venue and deliver them the bands music myself.
I would give them a quick spiel about the band and that they would be happy to take any openings and would keep a big smile on my face at all times.
Remember that the music industry is all about building relationships and networks, that person you just met might be booking another venue in six months time or they might be running the local radio station the following year.
Taking the time to personally deliver your demos and meet these people, even the venue owners is worth a lot more over time than you think
This approach to meeting venue bookers will almost always eventuate in some sort of gig opportunity - just by being personal and nice. Nine times out of ten you will probably catch them at a time when they are filling up the next months spots and they’ll just flick you a few dates for being there.
Definitely a surefire tip on how to get gigs.
4. Network Like Crazy!
The music industry is all about networking and meeting people. However if you really want to know how to get gigs and lots of them? Make sure you are always carrying a ton of your CD’s in your backpack wherever you go and make sure that your band is at the front of nearly every single conversation you have with anyone remotely involved in the music world.
This is a very grass roots approach to getting gigs however it does work
The other benefit of networking like crazy is that when you do get gigs, you’ve slowly built up a list of people to bring along to the show and hopefully some of them will know your tunes because you gave them a CD to listen to
5. Weekly Residencies
Residencies generally seem like a thing of the past but if your trying to figure out how to get gigs and are stuck, then going to your local venue and offering to play for free every Tuesday or Wednesday night is not only a great way to build a relationship with them, but more importantly it’s a great way to rehearse for free!
Again, the idea isn’t to play in front of large amounts of people, it’s a stepping stone to the next level. Do not under estimate the value of playing in front of very few people. It’s a humbling and soul strengthening experience that forces you to really shine in an adverse situation.
6. Contact Other Bands You Like
Again really simple but is always a great way to get your bands name out there. Booking agents and venues get cd’s and demo’s all the time, but how many do other bands get?
Besides from making the band feel special and important, very few people actually try to contact the bands themselves and ask them if they can support them.
The key is to track down bands that you think your band would fit well with musically and slowly warm them into the idea of giving you a support slot.
Another networking opportunity and a great way to get more gigs
7. Go To Shows and Meet Other Bands
If you want a career in the music industry as an artist, going out and seeing other bands and artists isn’t really a choice it’s imperative and part of being involved in the business.
When you go to other gigs, introduce yourself to other people and other bands, get to know the people who work behind the bar, go up to the bands that night if you thought they were good and give them your CD and ask to play with them next time.
Again it’s all about networking networking networking and getting yourself inside a particular scene
Make sure you also go and check out some of the bigger more happening bands in your area aswell. It’s more than likely that industry folks from labels, radio stations, booking agencies etc will also be standing around checking out the talent
So there you have it, seven new ideas to consider and contemplate if you are trying to figure out how to get gigs and fill up your touring schedule
Daniel Kohn is a world renouned writer and speaker on the Music Industry. By age 13 he was touring with Sonic Youth, At 15 his band signed a record deal with the Beastie Boys record label and by 16 they were touring around the world with acts like Foo Fighters, Beck and many more. Check out his blog to discover more tips and industry insights on how your band can sell more, make more and play more music - http://www.inside-the-music-biz.com/blog