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How to Book Gigs on Your Own as an Indie Musician

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 book 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.

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 and book more gigs today!

How to Promote Your Music

How to promote your music

The internet has opened up endless possibilities to promote your music. And, while that may seem daunting, it really allows you to experiment and let your creativity run wild!

The key to successfully promoting your music in today’s music industry is to try new things, learn from the promotions you run, make changes, and fine-tune them to your unique career.

Let’s take a look at some basic strategies you could be using to promote your music right now.

1. Live Music Promotion

With everything moving more and more towards digital, it’s easy to forget about the value of that person-to-person interaction. After all, these days you can create great quality music, release it, distribute it, promote it, and even play live without ever leaving your room.

But, just because you can release something entirely online doesn’t mean you should! In fact, these personal interactions are still extremely important in the music industry.

Let’s take the live show as an example. Sure, it’s a chance to make some money and perform your music and have fun. But it also presents some really unique marketing opportunities.

Gigs are a great place to promote your new album or song. Tell your fans that you’ll be premiering a new song (or the whole album if you want to go all out) before it’s released. Choose one local gig and turn it into an event. Maybe fans who come to that show will be able to buy the album at your merch booth before anyone else.

You could also use gigs to grow a fanbase in new cities, states, or countries. Work with a local established band and propose a headline swap. You’ll open for them in their home town and they’ll open for you in your home town. Just make sure you pick a band with a similar musical style. Do this a few times and eventually you’ll be able to do your own headlining show.

If you want our free guide on
How to Promote Your Music with 3 Social Media Checklists (Click Here)

2. Use Social Media the RIGHT Way

We all use social media. If you’re not on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter these days, it’s almost like you don’t exist. However, you may not be using social media to it’s full potential to promote your music.

Social media is NOT a straight-up marketing platform. It’s really a catalyst for conversation and word-of-mouth marketing. About 80% of your posts should be funny, conversational, and interesting, leaving about 20% for promotional material.

That’s not to say that conversational posts can’t be promotional! You just need to learn how to frame the content in interesting ways. For example, if you’re in the studio recording a new album, try sprinkling little updates on social media. Tell a story about your studio experience that day, share a photo of the mix, or post a short teaser video of a song.

If you’re out on tour, take photos at the venues or share short videos or photos of the audiences. These things aren’t obviously promotional, but they still let fans know what’s going on.

It’s important to remember, though, that social media isn’t the end-all-be-all when it comes to promoting your music. It can easily become a huge time suck that takes you away from your music if you don’t manage your time properly (Hint: get social media time management tips here).

3. Promote Your Music and Sell it on Your Website

Your website shouldn’t be a static thing. It should be ever adapting and changing to reflect new events in your career. Basically, you want your fans stopping by your website as often as possible. The more often they’re on your site, the more they’re exposed to your albums, merch, and tickets.

If you’re just starting out, you probably don’t have a lot of big updates other than the occasional album release and tour. Starting a blog is a great solution.

It’s fairly easy to set up a blog on the homepage of your website. Most website tools like Bandzoogle, and WordPress, have blog capabilities. Plan out blog posts at regular intervals like once or twice a week and share anything you think your fans would find interesting. This could be the inspirations behind certain songs, new lyrical ideas you’re working on, a funny story from the last band practice, or even a run-down of the gear you use.

Another idea is to create landing pages on your website. Landing pages can be used to collect email addresses, to raise awareness, to give your fans more information, or to make a sale.

4. Reach out to Music Blogs

If you want to promote your music, it isn’t just about sharing things with your fans. You also want to reach out to new audiences and convert them to fans. And music blogs are a great way to do that. Bloggers are always looking for fresh, new content, and the cool thing is, there are a ton of smaller blogs that are totally within your reach as an indie artist. Blogs also tend to have a pretty niche following. This means that if your music is run on a blog, it’s guaranteed to be seen by people who already like the genre!

Do some research, find blogs that cover your type of music, and send personal emails out to the bloggers. Are there any interesting stories about your new album, song, or tour? Having a unique story will definitely help you stand out from the thousands of other musicians releasing an album. Make it as easy as possible for them to cover your story and treat them like people. Remember, it’s all about establishing a relationship.

5. Collaborate with Other Musicians

Collaboration is an often overlooked aspect of music promotion. It’s a great way to get your music in front of a new group of people and grow your fanbase exponentially. You can collaborate on pretty much anything. Just make sure you collaborate with musicians whose fans would appreciate your music. Choose to work with bands in a similar genre or with similar fanbase demographics.

Of course, the headline trade strategy we looked at earlier in this article is a great option. But let’s talk about some things you can do online as well.

Obviously, you could also work together on a song or album. Try recording a cover song or two together and release them on your YouTube channels or Facebook pages. The key is to drive your fans to each other. If you create a song or video, link to each other’s website and social channels.

An even more easy-mode option is to just agree to give each other shout-outs on social media. Share each other’s newest track and tell your fans how much you dig it. (Obviously work with artists whose music you actually do dig.) The power of a recommendation is one of the best marketing tools out there.

6. Promote with Email

Your email list is an extremely valuable tool to promote your music. Unlike collaboration and blogs, your email list is marketing to your current fan base. If someone signed up for your email list, they want to hear from you, so take advantage of it!

Remember, your emails should be driving your fans to your website, so you want to include links.

So what do you send to your email list? The obvious use of an email list is to let your fans know when you have an album coming out or a tour. BUT you can also use your email list to send fans to your blog when you have new content. (Remember, you want to get your fans on your website as often as possible.)

Of course, you need to get fans to actually signup for your emails before you can start using it as a music promotion tool, right? An easy option is to trade something of value for an email address. Keep in mind this doesn’t have to be a free song (in fact there are a TON of more effective ways to grow your email list)

If you’re not sure where to even start when it comes to growing your email list, here are 10 easy ways to build an email list for your music.

 

“No matter how many followers you have, you can’t eat a tweet. Get New Artist Model and learn how to turn traffic – into fans – into money.” – Dave Kusek

How to Promote Your Music: Conclusion

Your music promotion strategy is going to be something that you refine over time, so don’t get frustrated if things take some time to come together.

The important thing to remember is that you should be taking advantage of all the different promote your music tools you have right here at your finger tips instead of relying on just one thing.

If you want more music marketing guidance, download this free ebook. You’ll get a roadmap showing exactly how different elements like social media, email, and your website come together into a music promotion machine that will help you grow your fanbase and make more money. You’ll also get 3 social media checklists with easy post ideas you can use on your own social channels.

 Click to get the free eBook:

How to Promote Your Music Ebook cover copy

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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.

See what thousands of independent musicians are excited about. Learn different ways to promote your music with free lessons from the New Artist Model online music business school when you sign up for our free video training series.

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