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As a touring musician, you encounter a variety of situations that have the potential to disrupt your day’s plans. The attitude with which you meet these daily challenges can influence your success or failure as you move through your career. There are plenty of obstacles thrown in your path. You may choose to approach them with a positive, “can do” attitude or a negative, “why me” attitude. The method you choose affects those around you and may even be partially responsible for getting or not getting some of the breaks you clearly think you deserve.

I’d like to examine some of the situations that may arise where your positive indie attitude may make a huge difference. I’ve worked with many artists over the years, as manager, agent, promoter and consultant. The one thing that stands out about each performer, above all else, is their attitude about their life, their music, and how they approach each day and every situation. Attitude can be infectious both positively and negatively. If you want to be successful in the music business, be sure that when you leave a situation, your reputation of having an upbeat, positive indie attitude is one of the highlights.

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Making Phone Calls

As you book each date, the first place that your positive indie attitude plays a major role is in your phone conversation. Prepare for your phone sessions — don’t just pounce on the phone with vengeance determined to book the whole tour. Get yourself in the right frame of mind, calm yet enthusiastic. If you are tired or are having a bad day, don’t make booking calls. It is inappropriate to carry your personal problems to your phone conversations. This will not win you many friends nor land you many gigs. Booking calls are a sales pitch. Present a positive attitude and you are more likely to get a positive response. It is not always easy to maintain when phone call after phone call gets little more than “call me next week.” When multiple calls become frustrating, and you feel your upbeat attitude begin to fall, stop making calls and do some paperwork, take a walk or practice, but change gears before you say something you’ll regret.

The way you leave your last call with a promoter or club owner is the way you will be remembered. If they had a pleasant conversation with you, they would welcome your next call, if not, it may be weeks (or never) before they answer your calls. Set yourself up for success. This is especially true in your local market. News travels fast and there is nothing like a bad attitude to completely kill your strategy of owning your home town market.

Arriving at the Venue

When you arrive at the venue, first impressions make a difference in how the rest of the gig will go. It’s not unusual to hit traffic on your way to the venue or have various travel delays that can unnerve anyone. It isn’t anyone’s fault, so don’t take it out on those that greet you at the venue. They have been anxiously awaiting your arrival and are probably looking forward to helping you settle in and assist in any way they are able. Check your attitude before opening the door and make sure the first thing out of your mouth is, “Great to meet you!” or some other pleasant greeting. You must set the tone for the rest of the event. If you are the opening act, this is paramount to your success that night. If you want those at the venue to help you put on the best show you can, you need to set the stage and offer your winning attitude.

Dealing with Technicians

Once settled, the next challenge is sound and light check. This task can be fraught with one obstacle after another, from inadequate equipment, the wrong equipment, inexperienced technicians and unhelpful technicians, not enough time and anxious stage personnel. If you want to accomplish an effective sound and light check, stay upbeat, be very clear about your needs, express them succinctly and be respectful of those who work at the venue. When you run into a technician with a bad attitude, there is nothing you can do or say to change that except to keep your positive indie attitude in check and remain pleasant. Step outside to blow off steam where no venue staff can see you; return refreshed and ready to work.

When it comes to setting your sound, you know your sound best. Be persistent with the engineer until you achieve the sound you like. Don’t badger, just be clear and attempt to win them over. Sound is a particularly sticky issue for all artists, as it should be. This is certainly one area to maintain your cool if you want to have a good show. Unless you travel with your own sound engineer, you are at the mercy of those on the board. This is one person you do not want to piss-off. Again, your attitude can make or break the show.

Dealing with the Promoter

From time to time we all run into a club owner or promoter who is difficult. From the first phone call, it was clear that this gig would be a challenge simply because the promoter offered resistance. It didn’t get any easier once you arrived at the venue. Again, you’re not out to make any life changes in this person. You are determined to get through the gig, do your best show, fill the hall, win over the audience, sell your merchandise. Hopefully, with all that in your favor, you’ll get paid the full amount agreed upon and perhaps you’ll get another gig there in the future. Maintain your positive indie attitude throughout, despite the vibes that may be coming at you from the promoter. Your goals are clear, ignore his/her distracting demeanor.

Dealing with the Audience

When you are finally on stage, this is certainly not the place to air your problems, be unkind or disrespectful. These are the people you have worked so hard to stand before. This is the moment when your absolute best is tested. No matter what happened backstage, in the dressing room, on the phone before the show, in the car driving to the show or during sound check, if you display an ugly attitude here, you are done. These folks won’t forget, and it will be all over social media. The audience deserves your highest regard.

After the Show

After the show, you may be tired. The gig is not over, though. Now you have an opportunity to win over more fans. Meet them at your merch table, sign autographs and greet them. Set aside your fatigue for a little while longer. When you perform in venues other than clubs, you may be working with volunteers. If you are invited to meet the presenter and some of the workers who spent weeks preparing for this event, take the opportunity, and you’ll solidify a return gig. You don’t have to accept invitations to parties you are not interested in attending, but a short meet and greet after the gig will go a long way to creating a good reputation. If you must meet a travel schedule and are unable to stay for a meet and greet, let the venue personnel know that before you arrive so, there will be no expectations for you to stay.

Conclusion: How a Positive Indie Attitude Will Advance Your Career

You can be a very talented musician, have a fabulous act, be a savvy businessperson, but if you sport a bad attitude, your successes will be hard won. Remain clear throughout all your dealings with each venue and relationship and build respect for your group as a testament to your level of professionalism. Maintaining a positive attitude during each and every situation will set you apart from the crowd and make you stand out as someone to work with as you develop your career. Remember, that people hire people they know, so be that person that someone thinks of kindly and you can reap the benefits of a positive attitude throughout your career.

By Jeri Goldstein. Copyright © 2019 Performingbiz, LLC. 

Jeri Goldstein was an agent and manager and now an author and music business and performing arts career coach. She is the author of How to Book Gigs and Tour Profitably a new online course from New Artist Model. Having worked with some of the top touring acoustic artists on the circuit for 20 years, she booked national and international tours for artists performing in music, theater, and dance.

On Tuesday November 19th she is hosting a special live training on:

WEBINAR: 4 Proven Strategies to Book BETTER Gigs

>>> Register for Free Here


how to book gigs as an indie musician

Gigs – before a booking agent will work with you every musician has to start out booking their own gigs and concerts. But, as you’ve probably realized, this is a lot easier said than done.

Especially since there are SO many musicians and bands competing for very limited performance spots. It can feel like a hopeless game of cold calling promoters and venue owners only to get turned down (or ignored).

Venues want to book bands with experience. After all, for them it’s a game of risk management – they want to book bands they know will fill the room. And that means getting the spot as a new or unestablished band can be very tricky.

But NOT IMPOSSIBLE. In fact, today I’m going to go through a bunch of ways you can get on the radar of local venues, get on the stage, and how to get more gigs as an independent musician.

But first…

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.

So, how do they make money? The venue will usually get a percentage of ticket sales and also make money from food and drink sales.

As you can see, the business of venues 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 and make the night profitable for them as well as yourself.

Having some kind of track record or EPK (electronic press kit that details your gigging accomplishments and experience) will really help you pitch your case.

If you can show them that you can fill similarly sized local venues, that you have an email list of 500 locals that you can use to promote the show, and give them a live video to show how great your performance is, you’ll make a much more convincing pitch.

If you don’t have much experience gigging and performing yet, keep reading. We’ll cover a few strategies for breaking into the gigging scene in just a minute.

Want to know the best time to book your gigs?

The best time to book gigs

1. Finding the RIGHT Venues to Book Gigs

The first step of the booking process is always research. Most venues prefer to work with professional artists, and the best way to prove your professionalism is to show that you care enough to take the time to do some basic 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?

With that in mind, the BEST way to get a feel for the venue is to actually go there. Go to some gigs. Get a feel for the vibe and the demographics. Get to know some of the staff. If you’re not involved in your local music scene as a fan, you’re going to have a hard time getting involved as a musician.

2. Make a Spreadsheet

Now, don’t get let your eyes glaze over at the mention of spreadsheets.

It will take a little extra effort up front, but in the long run you’ll be saving yourself time. You’ll be able to come back to this in the future when you’re looking to book gigs and have everything you need right in front of you.

Create a spreadsheet for yourself with information on local venues. Here are some things that would be useful to include:

  • Venue name
  • Website
  • Email
  • Phone number
  • The name of the booker
  • Venue size, address
  • A short description on the type of music and audience they cater to
  • Have you played there before

If you want a free action plan to help you achieve your goals in music, click here.

3. Make a Connection

Personal connections are everything in the music business. And I’m not just talking about your connections with booking agents and venues.

Your connections with other local bands could be your biggest asset when it comes to booking gigs or breaking into new music scenes or larger venues.

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. Pitch your band as the opening act or do a collaborative 50/50 set split.

When dealing with more local-level venues, the bands often have more liberty to organize their own opening act, so they can be your ticket to getting your foot in the door. Play there a few times as an opener. Make sure your live show makes a good impression on the bookers and venue staff. Get to know the decision makers. Use these gigs as a chance to grow your fanbase. And eventually you’ll be able to leverage all that to book yourself as the headliner.

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 booker.

4. Contacting Venues

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. Here are some best-practices:

  • 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 booking- My Band + Opening Band.”
  • Use actionable language. Seriously. If you’re vague and don’t ask for the gig, you’re not going to get it. Tell them what you want.
  • Address the booker by name.
  • Be brief and stay relevant. They don’t need a novel on your life to book a gig at a local 250 person venue. Only include information that will directly help your cause. Link to a gigging EPK with information like other local venues you’ve played, how many tickets you can sell, the size of your mailing list / social following, and a live recording or video so they can hear your live sound.

5. Make a Promotion Plan

Especially if you’re playing smaller, local venues, you’re going to be doing most of the promotion yourself, so tell them how you will promote the show.

At the most basic level, you can set up a Facebook event, put up some fliers, and share some social posts and emails promoting the gig.

But we can do better than that, right?

  • Come up with some incentive to get fans to buy tickets early (as opposed to at the door). Maybe you can give away a merch bundle to anyone who buys early. Or maybe they will get a coupon that they can use to buy cool stuff at your merch booth at a big discount.
  • Give the show a cool theme. Maybe all the bands in the set will cover one of each other’s songs. Maybe you’ll all cover a song from a particular band that inspires you. Get creative and see what you can come up with. Try to make the show seem special.
  • Let your fans vote on the set list/order. When fans feel involved in something they are much more likely to financially support it.

6. 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 regularly. So introduce yourself to the venue’s booker and staff 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 one show is everything.

7. Think Outside the Box

As an end note, keep in mind that you don’t need to only book gigs at traditional venues. Live music is something so embedded in our culture. And that means there are A LOT of opportunities.

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 than traditional venues.

House concerts are also a great option if you want to skip the gatekeepers all together and take your performances straight to your fans.

Another option is college gigs. There’s a whole industry dedicated to booking college performers, and it can actually be an extremely lucrative venture.

While there are a lot of opportunities outside traditional venues, always keep your goals in mind. Doing corporate parties or college gigs ins’t going to be for everyone.

Always ask yourself, will this gig take me closer to my goals? Or is it just a paycheck? Of course, sometimes you have to take those just-a-paycheck gigs, you know, the ones where your heart’s not really in it. But doing too many will get you discouraged and running out of drive.

Conclusion: How to Book Gigs on Your Own as an Indie Musician

Hopefully you’ll be able to use these tips to book bigger and better gigs for yourself both in your local music scene and beyond.

Remember, the most important element to booking great gigs is planning. Click below to get a free ebook on how to achieve your goals today! This planning guide will help you organize yourself and focus in on goals in every aspect of your music career.