Musicians: How To Get Gigs

 
 
By Matt Turner c/o www.kurb.co.nz
4th July 2008

One of the best ways to build up a fan base for your band is to get out there and play live as often as you can. But often bands find themselves between a rock and hard place - to get a gig you need an audience but to get an audience you need a gig. You can rise above that however and get your band in front of the crowd if you follow the right steps. This how-to guide will cover getting a single show but many of these steps can be built upon to book your band an entire tour.   1. Think Locally - The best place to start looking for gigs is in your own backyard. Get to know the music scene in your area. What venues and promoters are willing to give up and coming bands a chance? What bands in your area play live often and might need a support act? What venues in your area put on touring bands who might need a local opening act? To get a gig all of these factors can come into play. Approaching the right venues will open doors to you and there is strength in numbers so working together will the other bands in the area will increase the opportunities for everyone. (Plus you can share gear!)   2. Get your Promo Package Together - [or “media kit”] Have a standard package ready to introduce yourself to venues and promoters. Much like the package you use when you send a demo to a label this promo package should be short and sweet. Include a short demo CD a short bio or one sheet to introduce the band and some press clippings if you have any (especially ones that review live performances). If you’re going to approach people by email instead cut and paste the info into the body of an email and include a link to a site where your music can be heard. Don’t send attachments - most people won’t open them.   3. Approach the Venue - To get a gig directly with a venue call and find out who is in charge of booking bands and send them your promo package. They may tell when to contact them again. If not give them about a week and follow up by phone or email. Keep trying until you get an answer. If you’ve haven’t played live much your best bet is try to get on an existing bill with a band that already has a bit of a following. Keep in mind that if you book with a venue you may be in charge of promoting the show yourself and paying venue rental fees unless you are invited on to an existing concert bill.   4. Approach the Promoter - If you’d rather not self promote and take on venue fees you can approach a promoter to get a gig. Send your promo pack to the promoter and follow up in the same way you would with a venue. If a promoter agrees to get you a show they will book the venue and promote the show for you but you may need to send them posters you have made yourself to do so. If the promoter doesn’t want to put you on by yourself yet ask them if they have any shows you could play as an opening act. If they say no check in from time to time to remind them you are always available as a support act. [Matt - lets not pussyfoot about. If you’re not established and there’s a big promoter guy who’s running game in your scene you’ll have to offer to play for free. Rememeber promoters are often people who like to feel important. work with that.]   5. Understand the Deal - This is the trickiest part for most bands. First understand that when you are just getting started you often will not make money on your shows. In fact you may even end up out of pocket. That doesn’t mean it was all for nothing - building up your fan base will mean you do make money on future gigs. If you do make money you will either have a deal where you get paid a pre-agreed amount no matter how many people turn up or you will have a door split deal . Either deal is fine and fair. Focus on building your audience and not the money right now.   6. Play the Gig - Sounds obvious I know but the way you handle the gig can have a lasting impact on your ability to get future shows. Show up on time for the soundcheck and if there are other bands playing remember everyone needs time for their soundcheck. Be professional - there is likely to be free drinks around but remember everyone is there to hear your music not to see if you can handle your beer. Don’t sell yourself short by getting on stage in anything but your top shape ready to play a great show. Play a good show be courteous and professional and you’ll soon be getting more show offers! [Matt - this is a big one. If you’re just starting out don’t be all anal about soundcheck and free drinks!!! You’re just there to fill in the gap before the guys everyones coming to see plays. The promoter will look at you like the amateur you are if you stat getting huffy and making demands.] Tips:
1. Don’t Get Caught Up on the Deal - This is worth repeating. Your goal is build up your audience. Promoters and venues are taking a chance on you when you are just getting started - they will be more willing to give you a chance if you don’t have a lot of financial demands. 2. But Don’t Pay to Play - If you’re putting on your own show of course you may have to pay a venue hire fee and you may to pay some promotional costs. However don’t pay money simply to get on a bill and don’t trust anyone who asks you to. 3. Invite the Press - Keep the entertainment writers at your local papers informed about your activities and always invite them to the show. Also keep your local radio stations up to date on what’s happening with your band and when you’re playing. 4. Respect the Guest List - Guests lists have a way of getting out of hand fast. Don’t push it with promoters with the guest list when you are trying to build up a name for yourself. If you’re part of a larger bill you may not even have any guest list spaces. If you do use what you have and be done with it. Don’t try to get 50 of your closest cheapskate friends into every show for free. You’ll get a bad name for yourself. More How To’s from your Guide To Music Careers

Playing live may be the most important thing a band can do. If your band is unsigned playing live is a great way to build up a loyal fan base get some media attention and attract record label interest. For signed bands gigs are the means by which you can keep building your audience while promoting your new releases. Booking a gig can seem like an overwhelming process however especially when a band is doing all of the booking themselves. If you’re in a cold sweat wondering how to get some shows for your band never fear. Take a deep breath relax and follow these steps that are sure to get your band on stage. The Basics - Let’s go right back to the beginning. Before you even can think about booking a gig there are a few things you will need to have in place: • A demo or a finished CD or a website on which people can listen to your music • A press pack including information about your band and clippings of any press coverage you may have had. You should also have an idea of when you want to play a show - approaching a venue or promoter and asking for a gig “whenever” isn’t very helpful. Come up with a window of preferred dates and make sure everyone in the band has their calendar clear for those days. Find the Right People - So you’ve got the promo package and demo ready to go - now who should you send it to? There are two ways you can go about booking a gig: • Book directly with the venue in which case you as a band take on the costs and responsibilities of promoting the show • Book with a promoter who takes charge of promoting the show Sometimes venues work with a specific promoter and sometimes they don’t. Give your venue of choice a call to find out how they do things. If you don’t know any promoters ask the venue for advice or ask around to find out with whom other bands in your area work. If possible get the names of a few different promoters and venue booking agents and send them all promo packages - nothing wrong with people fighting to give you a chance to play right? Tired of booking gigs for yourself? Try getting a manager or agent on board who can help you get the shows you want. The Deal - A good deal is part and parcel of a good gig. You should prepare yourself however for the fact that many shows lose money. If you’re just getting started and don’t have much of a following yet you should think of your gigs as promotional opportunities for your band rather than money making opportunities. Your willingness to work with a promoter and/or a venue to try and minimize the financial risk involved in a show will only help you convince people to work with you. Your deal should detail how any income for the show will be divided as well as confirming information about things like accommodation for the band riders backline and soundchecks. If there is something you’re unsure about or you don’t think is fair speak up well in advance of the show.
• Door Split Deals
• Before you Sign a Music Promoter Contract
• Backline
• Rider
• Should I Pay to Play a Gig? Show Up and Play - Now all you have to do is show up and play a good show. Be professional treat the promoter and the people at the venue with respect and if you can’t handle drinking all of the rider before going on stage then for goodness sake don’t do it. If you happen to have an off night but you have treated people well most promoters will want to work with you again. If you’ve given everyone working to put on the show a night of utter chaos and stress well then you’ll probably be looking for a new place to play. Make sure you take full advantage of the audience at the show and promote any releases new websites or any other news the band may have. Encourage everyone who enjoyed your set to sign your mailing list so you can let them know when you’re playing again. www.kurb.co.nz