Gigs Again

If you look back over my blog or do a search for ‘gigs’ you will see a few articles I have posted now on getting gigs, strategies for developing relationships with venues,  ideas for alternative thinking (create your own gig space), what others do (house concerts etc)  and other ideas on this topic.

I have also posted my opinion about how you should operate if ‘you’ as a gigging musician is to be a business, full time and sustainable. What that could mean/might entail (basically working your business with a mindset of a self employed contractor rather than just a creative  – or have people around you who will do that for you).

And you can check all those out………

However, recently I have been told that in a couple of areas that performers were operating (regional versus main city for the most part)  – they

  • couldn’t do the number of gigs per week I was suggesting (or get that many) and
  • couldn’t get the money per gig I was quoting

So I thought I would develop these areas a little as again it seems needed (there will be a little repeat but go with it).
To be clear, I am not talking about the hobby or part time performer who only wants to gig a bit or as fits with work etc  – nor in this case am I talking to the corporate/big events acts (although the basis applies).
This is directed at the solo/duet/band out there full time, doing their own music and/or some covers looking to get gigs in the normal venues around the traps.

So in this article I will concentrate on one of those   – Getting a number of gigs a week (finances again in next article).

So let me start with – Sure, I might agree  –  if you live in a town of 200 people with 1-2 pubs and there is nothing within 1-2 hours drive of you, getting 3-4 gigs as I have suggested might be a hassle.

However, let me be a little blunt in my opinion here:

  • if you are any good at all (others critical opinion outside family and friends)  – and by that I mean genre appropriate, can entertain/perform rather than just be a musician, but even so musically pretty good and especially are audience engaging (ie they enjoy you and want to see you again after seeing you once)
  • if you are full time and performing is your main, or equally main, income/activity source
  • if you live within 1-1.5 hours of a major city (or in it)
  • and you are not getting 3-4 gigs a week on a regular basis …….

I personally don’t think you are really trying – OR you are not working your music business – it is working you………. OR you don’t know what to do … OR… havent read and really put into practice the information in the articles here and the plethora of information on the web.

Why do I say this? Well,

First, there are a heap of musicians/singer songwriters/duos and bands (and I don’t just mean those doing covers in pubs) who are proof of this -currently booking 3-5 gigs (of one sort or another) a week all year round, doing it consistently, for reasonable money (or more) and booking 9-12 months out (secure knowledge of cash flow). And most do not have management or a booking agents etc So how do they do it?
They know they are self employed, relying on the income and have to make it work so ….. they know they can’t just be ‘the creative free spirit’ and they work their business (well they can but means they are a function of the tides and winds – not influencing countering or adapting). They set time aside, regularly and consistently to do the hard work themselves (or their partner does, or have a friend involved at a % etc to help).

As a general formula – they

  • put the effort in to think of all the possibilities, options, alternatives for gigs
  • do their research – find not just ‘places’ but ‘compatible places’ – that will be aligned with their style of music (or potentially will be)
  • find out a bit about those venues (or research that through internet and others) so they can personalise the approach with a bit of knowledge
  • and make contact in a way appropriate for the venue to receive it
  • then follow up
  • then get the gig
  • then develop the return booking possibility**

Yes, is no different to a sales person cold calling, a tradesperson new to the area, a new business or service company looking for clients – that’s how they get clients and business too.

** I mention ‘return booking possibility’ because that is where it starts to become easy and the flow happens. If you have performed at a venue and they like you – how often can you go back that is comfortable for them??? Don’t know? – ask them.
Here is a tip  – if you get booked at a venue more than 2-3 times and the management and clientele like you – you can ask for a regular spot (not necessarily weekly) as their clientele have become your ‘following’ in that place.

Let me give you on very simple. but often not considered/implemented, idea
If you could find 18 venues that were compatible with your style of music (wouldn’t have thought that was hard in the geographical zone I described) and who would put you on every 6 weeks (so not asking a heavy schedule/get bored with  booking just you)  – – – that’s 3 gigs a week right there isn’t it?  (and you only have to adjust your sets occasionally if preparation time was an issue).
And also now you have 18 pockets of ‘following’ that will regularly see you and should be able to be developed so they will buy product etc as it comes out – some of who might want to book you functions and can be encouraged to promote you to others (and other venues?).

On top of that you have

  • there are the one offs, the festivals, the private function, the……..
  • maybe there is a residency at an upmarket hotel, a restaurant or quaint bar – a weekly spot where you become better known, build a closer following etc
  • There are gigs you organise on the way to/from other gigs or festivals
  • there are house concerts, gigs you organise yourself or a friend does for you,
  • online shows you put on (see StageIt and similar). – – and the list goes on

Does that make sense? Inspire you to try  – it should – and that’s only one strategy (there are a couple of others in the previous blog articles).
So start thinking of the possibilities, the options, the different avenues rather than the dead ends, the ‘I’ve tried and I’m tired’, the ‘that’s them maybe but I can’t’ – What have you got to lose? Seriously, if you aren’t gigging enough anyway – what have you got to lose?

Still need help getting in to it? Here is a basic action plan to help get you underway 

  • set Tuesdays (or whatever day works for you) aside as the day you will do the hard yards (or you and the person helping you)
    Don’t do it on any other day – just one day a week but lock it in and be ‘at work’ for that day (not distracted by song ideas, whats happening outside etc – this is not creative time  – its working your business time)
  • start by thinking of all the possibilities and options for you to gig at/with/for – blue sky it, be open to anything that the mind thinks of – at the end get rid of the ridiculous
  • research venues that fit that – and then check they fit you/your style of music (which acts are they booking is a good start for both of those)
  • research those venues more (maybe even talk to some of the acts that have performed there to find out more – so you can be more personal in your approach by talking about ‘their venue’ not just ‘a venue’ )
  • and set up a call/approach schedule for all those that fit

That may take a few Tuesdays alone- or be done in a couple – don’t rush it.

  • then start approaching by phone, visit, email and follow up call – whatever you think will work
  • and then don’t stop!!!! once you start getting gigs – keep going week in and week out
  • and while you are going through that list, continue to keep your mind open to possibilities and research other areas, options

    Soon you will be full in the near future and booking 6 months, 9 months or more out

3 points on this before you kick off

  1. Expect knock backs – but don’t take it personally – and if you can find out why
    They might be full – so when would be best to ring back to them? ….. or when might they like to book you? (even if 6 months from now, lock it in)
    They may be in a critical time and can’t talk/be bothered – so when to call back?
    They might not like your style of act – move on, you chose the wrong place!
    They might be rude, dismissive, just not nice – move on, the booking would probably be more hassle than it’s worth!
    Just remember  – they actually cannot not like you (yes a double negative) because they don’t know you (unless you have developed a bad name) – so don’t take it personally
  2. Make sure you keep your word, be prompt and be professional
    Your word is your bond  – if you say you are going to do something – do it, if its ‘no worries mate’ , mean it and deliver
    If you agree to ring back at a certain time – deliver
    If you say you are going to turn up at a certain time – do so
    If you say you will start at a certain time, be ready and do so – -audiences, clients and especially venues are getting pissed off with fashionably half hour after billed starts
    All of this will build confidence and trust in the venue and help them considering booking you again
  3. (and a biggy) Get referrals and testimonies from venue booking persons – not friends and audiences.
    Noone gives a referral name to someone unless they are going to give a positive endorsement – everyone knows that and expects it. So another (unknown to the venue you are approaching) audience member saying ‘he was great’ ‘she was unreal’ ‘we would see them again’ statement is worthless (good for other potential audience members maybe  – but not for getting gigs)
    However  – a statement from another venue who were really happy with you – that says you were professional and pleasant in your dealings, were on time, engaged the audience  – and that they would have you back  – and that gives their name and venue name – – – THAT is gold in helping your approach

Now read the other articles – consider and maybe give it a go – what have you got to lose?

Till next time