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How To Get a Gig

July 3, 2012

Like many people who promote shows or work within the music business I get an absurd amount of emails from bands asking me how to get on gigs, how to get in contact with certain venues and how they can play on shows when bigger acts come into town. Instead of sending an often frustrated email response I have decided to compile this list of tips and tricks for getting gigs so in the future I will be able to direct any unrealistic band emails direct to this blog.

#1. If you scratch their back they might just scratch yours.
For locals bands one of the best way to get on shows (and I cannot stress this enough) is to go out to other bands shows! Get out to shows to see other local bands and take the time to introduce yourself to the bands playing, the promoter, the bar staff, sound guy, and anyone else you can (I shouldn’t need to add this but do NOT try and talk to them / pitch your band to them while they’re working, setting up, etc…). The truth is that most promoters and bands want to build a community for their scene so if you help them, they will help you. If they never see you at shows you are just another faceless email address or a low res facebook profile photo to them, not a real tangible person who’s supporting the scene.

#2. Give them a reason to care.
Early on it is hard to have a glowing resume but as you start to accumulate band achievements use these as leverage to get into venues or work with certain bands or promoters. Simple things like “Did you know we shared the stage with Band X…”, “at our last 3 local shows we have averaged 75 paid people a show” or “we are being featured in the local paper arts section for upcoming artist” etc… these things can make all the difference in helping you stand out when promoters or venues are looking for bands.

#3. Consider what is realistic for the current stage of your career.
Yes you’d love to play with one of your favourite bands when they come to town but you need to ask does your band really deserve to be on that show? Deserving is usually more than just fitting the genre of music and especially with bigger shows it is about your band’s ability to get people through the doors of the venue. If your band can’t draw a sizable crowd (100+ people) out to your own shows you likely aren’t at the stage where you will be considered for an opening slot on a larger bill.
*- Another important thing to keep in mind with opening slots on larger bills is that the a lot of people often need to approve your band to play that touring act. This includes their booking agent, band/tour manager, the band themselves and possibly their label so although the promoter is able to suggest bands they do NOT get the final say.

#4. You haven’t figured out the difference between ‘Persistence’ and ‘Annoyance’
Chances are it will often take you more than one email or phone call to reach a promoter or venue booker. Don’t let this discourage you, these people are often busy and inundated with a flood of similar messages. Persistence is important but do not go overboard, send follow ups periodically but do not harass people and make sure you are always polite. Again if you are not hearing back after a few follow ups it may be time to re-evaluate your approach.

#5. The approach you are using is wrong.
This is perhaps the most damning for a lot of artists, instead of phrasing your pitch like “It would really help us out if you’d put us on this gig because we love Band X” you need to instead look at what you can bring to the table.  If more bands approached it from the angle of “we’d love to get on this bill as we feel we would not only fit the bill but also be able to help draw in some additional fans” they would quickly see how the responses from venues, promoters and bands changed. Hell if you are being ambitious, which you should be, add in “and we’d love to help poster/flyer, promote online and anything else we can do to make this show a success” and you will see how a little extra hard work and effort is really all that is separating you from the pack.

-Josh

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