Every musician has to start out booking their own gigs, but, as you’ve probably realized, this is a lot easier said than done. After all, there are so many musicians and bands competing for very limited performance spots. For promoters, it’s a game of risk management - they want to book bands they know will fill the room - so getting the spot as a new band can be very tricky. There are, however, some things you could be doing that can help you get those gigs!
What is a Promoter?
A promoter or venue owner is someone who buys talent. Depending on the size of the venue, they work independently or with booking agents to book bands and musicians to perform. For local clubs and venues, promoters and venue owners get a percentage of ticket sales and also make money from food and drink sales. As you can see, the business of promoters is really all about numbers - if they don’t fill the room, they don’t make money. This is where you come in. If you want to get the gig, you need to be able to prove that you can bring an audience, therefore lowering the risk for the promoter.
1. Finding the Right Venues
The first step of the process is always research. Especially with venues, there are so many variables. Some venues may cater to a certain genre, others tend to serve a target demographic like college students or working professionals, and many have age restrictions you need to consider.
You need to make sure your music and audience matches up with the venues you choose to contact. If your fans are mostly teens, don’t book clubs with age restrictions. In the same way, if you play upbeat country, contacting a venue that tends to book rock and roll gigs is a really good way to make a bad impression. An easy way to get this information would be to check out the venue’s website. If they have live music, they’ll probably have a page listing some upcoming or past acts. Do you fit in?
Often it can be easier to get gigs if you step out of the traditional venue scene. There are always plenty of community or charity events, store openings, and company parties that are looking for great live music. These markets tend to be much less saturated.
2. Make a Connection
Personal connections are everything in the music business and your connections with other local bands could help you book gigs in new or bigger venues. As we mentioned before, promoters are really in the business of minimizing risk, so they will book bands they know can draw a crowd and put on a good performance. But, that doesn’t mean getting a gig at a new venue can’t be done!
Think about all the musicians and bands you know in your area. Where do they play? If you’re interested in playing any of those venues, get in touch and suggest a collaboration. You could pitch your band as the opening act or do more of a collaborative 50/50 set split, especially if you can bring your audience. When dealing with more local venues like bars and clubs, the bands sometimes have more liberty to organize their own opening act, so they can be your ticket to getting your music in front of the promoter. If you want to learn more about this collaboration strategy, check out this free video lesson.
Open mic nights can also be a great way to make yourself known. There may not be a huge audience and you may only get to perform a few songs, but they give you the chance to make an impression on the venue owner or promoter. If people seem interested in your performances they may give you a whole set.
If you’ve had the chance to play at the venue, the best way to connect with venue owners or promoters is in person. However, if you’re writing an email you want to be short and to the point. Make the subject line clear. If you’re inquiring about a certain date, include that as well as the lineup. As an example, your subject line could read “Nov 7 - Opening Band + My Band.”
Your pitch goes in the email body. If you’ve met the promoter before or played at their venue, reference that meeting. If not, briefly introduce yourself and link to your website. If possible, try to have a live video or recording on your site so they can actually see your performance. Let them know if you’ve played gigs in the area, in their venue, or with other bands they tend to book. Tell them how many people you can draw to the show. To figure this out, look at some of the other gigs you’ve played in the area. What was the turn out? Look at your social media following. How many people live in a given region? It’s all about communicating your ability to minimize risk for the promoter or venue owner.
4. Make a Promotion Plan
Especially if you’re playing in local venues, you’re going to be doing most of the promotion yourself, so tell them how you will promote the show. There are many creative ways to promote a show, but your social media channels and email list are perhaps the most valuable assets. If you’d like to get more marketing ideas, you can check out these two free ebooks.
Another marketing strategy would be to work with a sponsor. The right local sponsor can help you reach a wider audience through their promotional efforts. The key is finding a sponsor whose customers have similar demographics and psychographics to your fanbase. We have a whole webinar on sponsorships that you should check out if you want to learn more about finding and securing sponsorships.
5. Follow Up and Be Professional
The process doesn’t end after you get the gig. If you want to really connect with the local audience, you need to play the venues as often as possible. Introduce yourself to the venue owner or promoter and keep in touch.
On top of that, the best way to build a good relationship with local venues is to be professional. Always be on time for shows - in fact, be early! Make sure all your gear is working properly. Treat any sound or light technicians with respect and follow any venue rules. Above all, be prepared for your set and play well-rehearsed songs. Sometimes the gigging grind can get tiring, but you need to remember that for the promoter and the fans, this show is everything.
Of course, in addition to these, there are more ways strategies you can use to get gigs and ignite your touring career. In the New Artist Model online music business courses you’ll discover how to turn your music into a successful business - a business where you’re the CEO! You’ll create an actionable and personalized plan that will help you achieve a sustainable career in music, and you’ll be able to do it all with the resources you have available right now.
If you’d like to learn even more great strategies from the New Artist Model music business courses, download these two free ebooks. You’ll learn how to think of your music career as a business and get some great marketing, publishing, and recording strategies for free!