Finding a gig can be a Catch-22 for a band. To improve your performance and build your fan base, you need more gigs. But venue owners want someone with more exposure and poster value so they can draw bigger crowds and make more money.
So, what is a bandleader to do? Every band must pay their dues to make it big, and it all begins with lining up that first gig. These tips will help you get your first gig and many more. Before you start pounding on venue doors, you need to ask yourself…
Are You Ready for Steady Gigs?
Here is a short checklist to see if you’re ready for the world to see you play.
- Are you confident about the quality of your music?
- Can you play your sets without mistakes? (or at least one's folks will notice)
- Do you have a professional Electronic Press Kit (EPK) for your band?
- Do you have a website, social media, and a Soundcloud or similar music site?
- Do you have professional logos and related artwork?
The idea is to present a polished, professional image, even if this is going to be your first gig. You should already have a website, optimized for your band’s keywords and style of music. Not sure what that is? Read, SEO For Musicians and Bands.
Having these items in place shows potential employers that you are no longer a garage band.
A Word of Caution About Showcase Gigs
A showcase gig can be an opportunity for a new act or an established band to present new material. However, you need to know who is putting on the event.
Showcase gigs or concerts, put on by established labels or promoters, can sometimes help you to get your music in front of the right people. Do your homework before agreeing to do the show. Never get into a deal where you must pay to play. It’s a scam.
Six Steps to Getting the Right Gigs
To get your band booked, you need to market it just like any other business. As we said above, always project a professional image no matter what type of music you play. The reason Gene Simmons could wear 50 pounds of gear while playing in KISS and became one of the wealthiest promoters, was that he never drank or got high.
Stay professional whatever you do, say, or wherever you post a message on social. Your fans and promoters are watching.
1. Promotional Materials
Even if you’re just starting, you need to put together a professional electronic press kit along with recordings of your band. Get professional-quality photos and well-written biographies to go with them. It’s worth investing in a promo video/showreel. It shows that you’re serious. Have hard copies made and upload everything online, so your prospects can view or download it.
2. Compile a List of Prospects and Venues
Keep a list of local radio stations, contacts, promoters, events, night clubs, and anyone who hires your brand of musical talent. Start locally to keep expenses low and to build a following. Continuously invite entertainment writers and music podcasters to your shows.
List your band on appropriate sites. For example, if you are an event and/or cover band, list yourself on sites like weddingwire.com, gigmasters.com, or gigsalad.com. If you prefer a bar, club, and tour gigs, try sites like sonicbids.com, bandsintown.com or reverbnation.com.
3. Approach the Right Venues
Go to venues and ask for the person in charge of the booking. Most likely, the owner or manager. Get an email address if you can’t see them in person and send them a promo package. Make sure to follow up and keep calling or emailing until you get an answer.
One approach is to get on with a band that already has a following. It’s easier to get started, and you can split the venue fees.
4. Approach a Promoter
You can find local promoters and send them your package. You’ll still need to follow up with them to get an answer. Remember, you need them more than they need you, so be courteous but persistent.
Chances are they won’t put you on alone if you are new. Ask about being the opening act. If they turn you down, keep checking with them for future gigs.
5. Don’t Worry About the Money, Yet
Many of the highest-paying positions in the world start as lowly, unpaid internships. Think of your first few gigs like that. You’re gaining experience and exposure. Once you’ve built a reputation and following, you can be more assertive about getting paid.
It’s always a good idea to use a music performance contract, even if you’re not getting paid. It still helps to protect you, and you gain valuable experience negotiating the deal.
6. Polish Your Act and Play the Gig
Again, be professional. That means showing up for sound checks and the gig on time. You only have one chance to make an excellent first impression. Your audience and the venue owner appreciate a well-rehearsed set.
Although your venue may offer alcohol, leave it for after the gig. No one wants to pay to see a bunch of drunken fools pretend to make music.
You want the audience and venue promoters to remember you for a great show. Courtesy and professionalism go a long way in the music world, and they will help you get more gigs.
Manage Your Band Well
Even if your band has enough gigs to sustain and thrive in today’s music industry, you need to manage it well. For a bandleader, that means managing communications, staff, band members, setlists, calendars, contacts, contracts, invoices, and payments.
The best way to do it without losing your creative time is by automating all those routine tasks. Doing so will keep you organized so you won’t miss those important calls and contacts that lead to your first gig. Check out the Back On Stage app. It can automate almost all your management tasks such as filling in contracts and invoices, responding to contacts, as well as communicating with and assigning band members for separate gigs.
In short, it’s like having a full-time assistant with you 24/7.
It’s an excellent resource to tie down those contacts for your first and subsequent gigs.