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We all want to book bigger venues, right? It’s the natural progression in any performing musician’s career. Not only does a bigger venue allow you to get in front of more people and grow your audience, it also increases your income potential.

But how do you actually take that step up to playing larger stages? If you’ve ever tried transitioning to bigger venues you probably know that there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye. The difference between a 200 and a 500 seat venue may not seem significant on paper. But the reality is that you’ll have to sell an additional 300 tickets if you want to fill the room. That’s 100 MORE than you currently sell at your 200 seat venue. It’s a big step.

So how can you gracefully transition your way up to bigger venues? The key is to avoid moving up to bigger venues too quickly and to approach it with a strategy. This is exactly what we cover in the How to Book Gigs and Tour Profitably online training. In the course you’ll learn from veteran booking agent Jeri Goldstein and discover how to book your own gigs and make good money from your performances.

But for now, let’s go through the strategy step by step.

Before You Try to Book Bigger Venues

Your interactions with bookers are a relationship – one that requires nurturing and time from both sides. As a musician building a career, you need adventurous bookers willing to risk a night in their venue with possible low ticket and/or bar sales. And once you find a venue willing to work with you, it takes multiple shows over months, or even years, to build an audience.

When your audience starts to grow, the venue finally begins to reap some of the rewards of their initial interest in you. Together you’re selling out the venue and doing well on bar and merch sales.

The next thing you know, you’re too big for the venue. At this point, most artists begin to seek larger venues and bigger bookers to keep pace with their growing audience (we have a whole guide about booking gigs for yourself right here). Growth is good but make sure you grow strategically as you move to the next level.

The sad truth is, most acts move too fast. They believe they have achieved a level of success that they simply have not. And leave that adventurous booker and the smaller venue far too early without exploring other options. So, I suggest that you carefully assess before charging ahead thinking you are ready to move on.

How to Make More Money from Smaller Venues

Getting booked as an opener is a great way to step up to bigger venues. But let’s look at another example so you can see how you can continue working with a smaller venue to make the step up to the next level easier.

Let’s say an act works with a promoter at a 150-seat venue. They have played there often, and now they always pack the room. The act begins to think the venue is too small and they need to move up to a 500-seat venue. But, that 150-seat venue booker has helped the act nurture and build their fan base. They also know how to reach the act’s audience with the right media and promotional outreach.

A different promoter books the 500-seat venue. Since the act has only played 150 seat venues, the booker doesn’t know for sure if they are ready to sell 500 seats. There just aren’t any numbers proving they are capable, and that’s a hard sell to a venue.

So, before attempting to move to the new venue and take your chance working with a new booker, let’s examine some additional options.

Continue to work with the original booker in the 150-seat venue. Try increasing the number of dates per month. If you’re still able to consistently fill the room without exhausting the local audience, try taking the next step and do TWO shows in one night or two shows on two consecutive nights.

A late-night audience would respond well to two shows on the same night. If your audience is more of the 8 pm crowd, work out a good deal for two consecutive nights in the venue.

A big part of successfully booking gigs is contacting the booker at the RIGHT time when they are putting together their gig schedule. Click here to download the free ebook and get a fully comprehensive break down of when different types of venues book their gigs and when YOU should be contacting them:

Give Back to the Venues that Invested in You

So, why does this approach work better than just moving up to a bigger venue?

The booker knows how to market your act to your audience. They have proven themselves over time as your audience has grown.

Your audience is used to seeing you in this venue. This is not to say you will never outgrow the venue and that your loyal audience won’t follow you as you move up. BUT, until the time is right, your audience appreciates the familiarity of the known venue. Often when you change venues, it may take some time for the audience to make the switch. If it is the wrong venue for the act, the audience may not follow you there.

By playing two consecutive shows, you’re reducing the cost for advertising and overhead. That means larger profits for both you and the booker. Whereas the costs and risk factors at the larger, 500-seat venue would greatly reduce profits to both the new booker and the act.

By doing two consecutive shows in the 150-seat venue, there is a perception of a growing demand for the act. If the act can truly document their established track record of sold-out double shows, the risk to a larger venue is much less. That makes it much easier to negotiate a more favorable deal when they move up to the 500-seat venue.

Right of First Refusal

I also want to talk briefly about the “right of first refusal.” This basically means that before you move on to a bigger venue, you should give the booker of the smaller venue the opportunity to do consecutive shows. If they refuse to do the consecutive shows, you can pursue other venues with a clear conscience. You did not go behind their back or leave them out of a potentially lucrative opportunity. You offered them a chance to be part of your next move. This demonstrates your respect and appreciation (remember, a positive indie attitude is key to being successful) for their previous commitment to the growth of your act.

Why is this important? Remember, your connections with bookers are relationships. And relationships should be nurtured and treated with respect.

As emerging artists, it’s tough to find venues that will take a chance on you. When a booker finally catches on to your act and gives you a chance, it is important that you recognize that promoter’s efforts. If success finds you, make sure you return the favor to those who have invested their time, belief and money on you back when first started.

I believe in leaving doors open as you move through career changes. If you burn your bridges as you go, you may be left with very little support when you need it. This business is built on relationships maintained over the years, connections made and nurtured. The first promoter you work with in any city helps build your foundation for growth. I believe it is important to maintain strong ties with past promoters as you build toward your future.

Conclusion: How to Book Bigger Venues

Hopefully now you can see how you can strategically make the step up to bigger venues. Remember, it’s not always about getting to the bigger venues faster. It’s about booking bigger gigs when you’re ready so you can get a good deal, progress your career, and make good money.

By Jeri Goldstein 

Jeri Goldstein was an agent and manager and now an author and music business and performing arts career coach, key-note speaker and seminar presenter. She provides valuable resources, instruction and coaching to those navigating their way to creating a successful touring career. 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.

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 indie attitude or a negative, “why me” attitude. The method you choose of course affects those around you. But it may even be partially responsible for getting or not getting some of the breaks you 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.

Making Phone Calls with a Positive Indie Attitude

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. 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.

That said, it isn’t always easy to maintain when phone call after phone call gets little more response 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. 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. So 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. 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.

Need more tips on how to get your first gig?
Download this free ebook to get a 3-step strategy for booking your first gig

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, it’s easy to get frustrated.

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 them. But you can keep your positive indie attitude in check and remain pleasant. Step outside to blow off steam where no venue staff can see you, and 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 with a Positive Indie Attitude

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. So 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, or 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! You just might 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. 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.

 


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.

tour checklist

Going on tour is a big step in your career as a musician. It’s a great way to monetize your existing fans and reach new fans.

But, it’s also possible that your first tour may not go exactly as planned, so you need to prepare accordingly. Going on tour can be a lot of fun, but worrying about money, lodging, and sales can make things stressful.

Here is a tour checklist of thing to have in order before you head out on tour so you can have more peace of mind and focus on putting on a great performance.

(If you haven’t booked any gigs yet, make sure you read this article first to learn how to book bigger and better gigs)

Bring Enough Money to Make None

When planning any trip, you need to make sure you can afford it. In a lot of ways, touring is the same as a vacation – you need to be prepared for the worst.

While it’s definitely unlikely that you’ll make absolutely no money on your tour, having enough to cover your planned expenses with no income is a great way to be prepared for the unexpected, such as an accident, theft, and canceled gigs. That’s why this is an essential part of your tour checklist. 

Getting guaranteed payouts for your gigs is something you’re going to have to work on over time, but there are some things you can do to get more people to buy tickets and show up.


Feel like bookers aren’t taking you seriously? You might be contacting them at the wrong time. Download this free ebook and learn the best times to contact different venues to increase your chances of getting booked.


A Van

If you’re in a 5-person band, it’s probably going to be impossible to fit all of your band members and all of your equipment into a small car or minivan (without everyone hating each other by the end of the tour). With that in mind, your best bet will probably be to rent a touring van.

Unless you’re rolling in cash, it’s probably best to rent for the first few tours. Make sure you can make the tours profitable before you invest too much money. Once you reach the level where you’re touring regularly, then you can justify purchasing one.

Insurance

While it’s mandatory by law to have car insurance, before you hit the road, make sure you add tour insurance to your tour checklist. The last thing you want is to find yourself in a lawsuit because someone fell on the ground and got hurt while crowd surfing, or because they failed to catch you properly during a stage dive.

It’s also important to make sure you have insurance that covers theft of your gear. Many artists have their gear stolen and can’t finish their tours – which not only means they aren’t making the money they otherwise could have, they also have to replace their gear.

Insurance is the best way to keep your assets protected against any unfortunate accidents.

Work Out Payments and Lodging

Even with really thorough planning, a lot of artists will lose money on their first few tours. After all, you’re probably not going to get the venues to pay you any guarantees.

Even if you’re a less known artist, it doesn’t hurt to ask about money and a place to sleep when you’re booking gigs.  The venue owners may be able to help with this – it doesn’t hurt to ask.

While you can sleep in your van, booking a place on AirBnb will let you meet local people. You could even gain some new fans in the process.

Another option is to book house concerts in between your tour dates. Some house concert hosts will actually offer a couch or spare room to crash in for the night. While this isn’t for everyone, if you’re comfortable, it’s a good way to cut down on lodging costs (and make some extra income from the house concert). Adding just a few house concerts (or college gigs) in the mix can be enough to push a tour into being profitable.

Make Sure You Have Enough Merch

For a lot of musicians, merch sales are what make what would otherwise be an unprofitable tour profitable, and the more merch you have on your table, the more you’ll sell. So let’s add merch to your tour checklist as well.

If people like your performance, they’re going to want to support you. Make sure you have enough albums available for sale. But also have T-shirts, wristbands, stickers, and any other items you have in your inventory.

When planning what merch to bring, try to have some low price and high price options. So a low price might be a $3 sticker and a high price could be a $40-$50 hoodie.

Additionally, talk about your merchandise on stage.  Offer bundles, such as a T-shirt/album deal, to increase the average sale amount.  This can help you generate more cash to help you make it to your next gig.

Gigging and playing live can be extremely profitable, but it’s important to remember that traditional gigs aren’t the only options. You can explore house concerts, college gigs, collaborative gigs, events, and any combination of those. If you want to learn more creative gigging strategies, check out the How to Book Gigs and Tour Profitably program

Image via Stocksy

First thing that comes to mind when thinking about promoting your music is probably social media, right?

Social media breaks down so many barriers for indie musicians to reach and communicate with an audience – and that’s awesome!  But sometimes it’s easy to forget about the in-person, experiential facet of music. That face-to-face connection will always be a powerful way to grow an audience, even in the face of technology advances.

With that in mind, don’t limit your efforts to strictly online music promotion. Playing live shows is a great way for musicians early in their career to gain new fans.

Obviously, the first step is booking a great gig, but here are some easy and creative ways to sell out your gigs to get you started.

Got some gigs? Here’s how to sell tons of merch:

1. Play Some (very few) Shows for Free

Not all free shows are bad. The simple fact is that no matter where you are in your career, you need to weigh the benefits vs the downsides of performing for free. You need to assess the opportunity.

Here are some questions you can ask a promoter when you’re asked to play without pay:

  • What other artists are playing?
  • When do we play in relation to other artists?
  • How many people will be at the show during our set? (it’s important to specifically ask about the expected audience size during your set. Many promoters will give totals when asked otherwise, but many people will show up later in the day.)
  • Will we be able to sell merchandise?

If the opportunity really is going to provide a huge leap in the size of your fanbase, it’s for a cause you believe in, or it’s for a huge conference or event – go for it.

If you’re a new musician or band and don’t have much experience playing live, it might be a good idea to take what you can get for practice and even small amounts of exposure.

In the extremely early stages, any amount of free exposure is good. It gives you a chance to figure out who your target fanbase might be so you can figure out how to get in front of more of these people using targeted music marketing strategies. So pay close attention to the type of people who dig your music during any performance. Better yet – go talk to them after the show!

So, if someone does ask you to play for free and you’re early in your career, don’t be so quick to jump on it. Alternatively, if you’re a bit more established, don’t be so quick to say no. Assess, figure out what you stand to gain, and make your decision from there.

2. Play with Established Artists in Your Scene to Sell Out Your Gigs

If you play a show by yourself, it’s going to be hard to draw a new audience, and if you’re new to the scene, it’s going to be hard to get anyone to show up at all.

A great way to add a jumpstart to your fanbase and sell out your gigs is to play with musicians who have a more established fanbase than you. So network with local artists in your area, or in cities you’re touring to – check out their social media followings (both in size and engagement), and reach out to new artists who you’d like to play a show with.

If you’re not sure where to start, Facebook is a great way to find new musicians of a similar size and genre to yours. Here is an easy way to do that:

Go to the Facebook page of an artist in your niche and targeted city, like the page, then you’ll see a whole list of recommended pages based on what that artist’s fans have liked.

These recommendations can be great ways to find new musicians, especially if you’re using this method from your own page because that means there’s some fanbase overlap and you can increase the perceived value of the event among ticket buyers.

If you already like the artist’s page, unlike it, leave the page, come back again, and like the page again to see the recommendations.

Granted, this is just the first step. After that, it’s on you to put on your networking hat and actually form a relationship with them. Start by leaving valuable comments on their posts and engaging to get on their radar and then try messaging them and proposing a joint gig or a headline swap. Have a plan in mind that will benefit you both.

3. Don’t Gig Too Often (So You Can Sell Out Your Gigs That Matter)

If you play every weekend in the same city or town, your shows will lose their value.

Think about it like this – if your favorite band played in your city every weekend, how likely are you to go this Saturday? How likely are you to spend a good amount of money on the ticket? After all, you could always catch them next weekend, right?

Chances are, you’ll put it off.

Separating your shows increases the urgency of each event. Your fans are less likely to put it off, more people will show up, and there’s a better chance you’ll sell out your gigs.

Now, of course there’s a balancing act here. If you’re a relatively new band you’re going to want to play any opportunity you get to work up your performance chops, but as you start developing a local following, start spacing them out.

Another option is to play smaller gigs regularly and do a big, almost event-like gig every few months. Try to make these bigger gigs something your fans won’t want to miss. Maybe it’s a cool collaboration, an interesting theme, or a new release.

4. List Your Shows on Bandsintown and Songkick

Both Bandsintown and Songkick use various databases to find local events, but you can sign up for Bandsintown as an artist to ensure all the information about your events is correct. For Songkick, you can sign up for Tourbox.

5. Send Emails to Local Mailing List Subscribers

When you create your email list, make sure you segment subscribers by location so you can send them relevant links to buy tickets. Just add a form field to your email signup forms for zip code and let them know it’s to send them info about your local gigs.

Sending gig emails to only relevant fans who will actually be able to come is much more effective than simply sending the entire tour dates list to every subscriber and results in less people unsubscribing from your mailing list.

6. Create an Event on Facebook to Sell Out Your Gigs

Create an awesome event photo for free with Canva, set up the event on Facebook, and invite everyone you know. You can also promote the event using Facebook ads.

7. Publish the Event in Local Event Calendars

Check the websites of local churches, newspapers, and other media outlets in your area to see if they have event calendars. If they do, look into how you can be included in the calendar.

 

This article was written by Nicholas Rubright of Dozmia.

Making a good impression at gigs

Guest post by Jonathan Sexton | CEO Bandposters

Before I ran a company, I played hundreds if not thousands of gigs all over the US. I’ve played to 10,000 people (2 or 3 times) and I’ve played to 10 people (more than 2 or 3 times). As important as learning how to book gigs, I’ve learned 8 things NOT to do when showing up for gigs, especially to a new venue in a new town.

Everyone of these tips come from cringe worthy personal experience. Here are some great ways to make a good impression on your next show or tour.

1. Don’t Be Late for Your Gigs

Everybody is late, be different. This is the baseline of professionalism, if you show up on time, are professional and easy to work with and don’t have a huge crowd your first time out, it is more than likely you’ll get a few more shots at it. Venues and sound teams have a million better things to do than come and find you. If something happens that you can’t help (van breaks down etc.), then call as soon as you can. Then be on time next show.

2. Don’t Hangout in the Green Room All Night­

Your show and your career completely hinges on how many fans you can earn. Fans love your music and they want to know you. If you are new to the market, you need to get to know the sound guy, the bartenders, the regulars; you’re playing gigs to earn fans and build a business.
Don’t hide, get out and talk to everyone, be friendly. Relationships are the key to the music industry and this where those relationships are made. Don’t hide. Get out there with the people

3. Master Stage Volume­

If you play a show, and the crowd can’t hear the vocals, you’ve lost (this includes punk and metal). There are a million scientific reasons that the human vocal cords cannot compete with drums and amps. Some big clubs have the power to get the vocals up over anything, but most small clubs do not. In my opinion, it starts with the drums, you can play great without playing as hard as you can. Then guitars have to get over the drums, and the vocalist is generally screwed, let the PA do the work, so you don’t have too.

4. Talk to the Crowd

­You may have played your songs 1000 times, but that new person in the crowd or in a new city has no idea who you are, what your songs are called, and what your twitter handle is. Tell them, thank them for being there, introduce the band, say something funny. You have to engage the audience. It’s a show and you are earning their interest. The best bands plan when they are going to say something in the set, and what they are going to say. Not scripted, but at least a general idea.

5. But Don’t Talk too Much­

Don’t ramble on before every single song, also, my pet peeve is when people say “this is a new one” it’s like a reverse apology. 9 times outta 10­­ they are all new ones, even the old ones, because most people haven’t heard you before. I prefer to play 3 songs, then say a little something, then play 3 more. It seems to be the right mix. Find what works for you and your audience. In the end it’s a music show, engage your audience, but don’t monologue.

6. Don’t Get Wasted­

This screams amateur hour. It’s not even about acting like a fool, you also lose awareness of how you are performing. No one in the industry wants to babysit you. Have fun, but don’t fall off the stage.

7. Thank the Crowd (even if it’s just the sound guy)

The first 15 minutes after your gigs are your best opportunity to collect new emails, thank fans and sell merch, especially if you are the opening band. Once the next band starts, it’s harder to talk because it’s loud and people’s attention is elsewhere. In my band, we had a deal that we’d divide and conquer. 3 bandmates would get the gear taken care of and 2 of us would immediately hit the crowd or get to the merch booth. That way we could maximize the small window of opportunity and have contact info for the people that we would reach out to when we return.

8. Thank the Venue­

Taking 5 minutes to find the manager or head bartender after your gigs, look them in the eye, and thank them for having you can do wonders for your career. You are building relationships and it’s something that most people do not do. It’s a great way to stand out from the hundreds of other bands that play at the venue around the year. Same with being on time and professional, venues will remember it the next time that you want to play at their spot.

Bandposters lets you design, print, and ship customized posters everywhere in seconds. We make it easy, in just three simple steps. First, use our powerful design tools to create a custom poster. Next, choose your tour dates or other destinations, and we’ll print that data directly on the poster (no more magic markers!). Then we take care of the rest – we print every poster with care and ship directly to the venues or wherever else you’d like. 

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how to get more gigs

In today’s music industry, gigging is a huge revenue for a lot of indie musicians. Unfortunately, there’s also a lot of competition for the limited gigs available. Just standing out of the crowd of talented performers can be a challenge, especially when you’re trying to grow into cities and towns you’ve never played before.

If, however, you are dedicated and have a strategy in mind when looking for gigs, you’ll have a much better chance of getting noticed. I’ve broken it down into 5 basic tips that you can follow as you’re trying to get more gigs.

After you read through these tips, check out this article for more ways to book your own gigs.

1. Collaborate

Collaboration is the first step to this equation. I’m sure you know how hard it is to get a spot in new venues, especially if you’re not yet at the point where you’re working with a booking agent. Venue owners and promoters just feel safer booking a band that they know can fill the room. If, however, you can connect with the bands the promoter knows, you might be able to get more gigs you wouldn’t normally have access to.

Let’s say you want to be able to play in a new city or even a new country. Make a connection with a band or musician with an established fan base in the area. To make the most of this strategy, target a musician or band with a similar style to you who plays similar size venues. Propose a headline-trade. In other words, you’ll open for them in their home city and they’ll open for you in your home city. This puts both of you in front of a new audience. It’s a win-win!

2. Network

A headline trade also puts you in front of promoters, booking agents, and venue owners in new areas, but its up to you to actually make the connections! Don’t be that band who just plays, takes the money, and leaves. There’s a lot more to gigging than just playing the show! If you really want to make the most of each gig, you need to be networking with anyone you can before and after your show.

Introduce yourself to the venue owner or promoter. This is the person you need to impress if you want to play at that venue again. You want to go beyond this and introduce yourself to the other bands and musicians playing that night, and even the crew in charge of lights and sound. Take the opportunity to meet everybody you can.

3. Be proactive

Unfortunately, the days of getting “found” by a record label in a small club are over for the most part. Unless, of course, you take a proactive role to orchestrate the connection. Industry people may not be hanging around the local clubs looking for artists, but they might be there if you invite them!

This strategy worked for a New Artist Model student Tomas Karlson, and it can work for you too. His band was looking to connect with a booking agent to help them get gigs in new cities. Agents get contacted by hundreds of bands looking for help booking gigs. If you really want to stand out, don’t tell them about your gigs, show them what you can do. Invite them out to the show. They will be able to see first hand how many people you can draw and the energy of your performance and the audience. Tomas’s band now works with a great booking agent who is helping them book other gigs in Europe.

4. Be prepared

First impressions are everything, so you need to make sure you’re prepared. It’s a good idea to have a short “elevator pitch” ready in case anyone asks about your music. This should basically be a few sentence sum-up of your sound and what you’re working on. You don’t want to bore them with your whole life story – just give enough information to pique their interest. Give them a phrase that they will remember and hand out a business card.

From here, you should also be able to direct them to a website or online press kit for more information. This will give them access to a more detailed bio, photos, music, and most importantly, contact information. You shouldn’t leave the contacting completely up to them, though. Ask for business cards or email addresses and propose a meeting over coffee. After all, a great connection isn’t worth much if you don’t follow up.

5. Play your best every single night

This may seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. When you’re in the business of playing small club gigs, you need to be on top of your game every single night especially if you live in a city where there is so much competition for one spot.

You may be playing a similar set every night, but someone out there in the audience is probably experiencing your music for the first time. This person could go on to be just a regular fan, they could go on to be your biggest fan, or they could even be a local booking agent interested in your music. Either way, if you don’t give it your all every single night you will fail to make the great impression that will make that person believe in you and your music.

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The New Artist Model is an online music business school for independent musicians, performers, recording artists, producers, managers and songwriters. Our classes teach essential music business and marketing skills that will take you from creativity to commerce while maximizing your chances for success.

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