Booking gigs can be tricky for new or even established acts. We’ve put together a list of tips on how to get music gigs as a musician, whether you’re just starting out or been around the block a few times.
Getting a gig is a key skill on your path to success: It’s where new fans can experience your music for the first time; an opportunity to sell merch; a place to connect with other artists; and the chance to get heard by promoters and other music industry folk.
Not only that, playing live is where musicians cut their teeth, deepen their skills and – most importantly – have a lot of fun. Whether you’re looking for how to get gigs as a solo artist or as a band, this article is for you. Let’s get started figuring out how to book your first gig – or your hundredth!
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Getting a gig is useless if you’re not ready to play one! If you want one music gig to lead to another, you better make sure you’re sounding great. The best way to get gig ready? Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!
Get your songs nailed, your set-list sounding good, and your transitions from one song to the next on point. If you’re in a band, avoid on-stage fumbles by making sure everyone knows who is coming in first on each song, and that everyone can see a copy of the set list.
Playing gigs live is always different to practising in the rehearsal room. If you can, get a small audience of friends to sit in on a rehearsal to get your adrenaline going – that way, you’ll mimic some of the effects playing on stage will have on your performance, and give you a better idea of the weak spots in your set so you’re ready for that first music gig.
Setup social media
Chances are, you’ve already set up some social media for your musical act. Any – yes any! – social media platforms can be used to get more gigs as a musician. Choosing platforms you most enjoy using is the best approach to developing your online presence to book more gigs.
Sticking to the social media platforms you most enjoy means you’re more likely to engage frequently, keep your profile up to date, have fun, attract followers, and make like-minded connections. It’s better to have one or two healthy social media accounts than lots of profiles with low engagement and out-of-date information.
Developing a visual brand across your online presence can help make your band more recognisable and memorable to potential bookers. A simple starting point for this would be using a distinctive colour palette, font and photography style. You could even go one step further and design a logo for your band.
Using a Linktree means you can provide booking agents, venues and other potential clients with just one link to all your social media profiles and other links – such as your website, YouTube, or Bandcamp.
Related: SEO tips for Musicians
Make a “demo” recording or video
Having a demo recording or video you can share is key to booking gigs. It gives the venue owner, booking agent or festival the chance to see what you sound like and if your music’s a good fit for them. You may decide to use a professional service aimed at musicians to create your demo recording or video, or you might try to do it yourself. Either way, remember that the more professional the quality, the better your chances are of booking a gig. If you can’t afford a professional video, DIY artist music videos can be engaging and a great way to show off your creativity – as long as the sound quality is decent!
Creating a music video is also an opportunity to show off your performance style, whether that’s bold and brash or more intimate. Giving an authentic sense of yourself as a musician is the best approach to booking shows that are the right match for you. After all, you want to be put in front of the audiences who are most likely to dig your sound.
Add your demos to YouTube and Soundcloud and keep a copy of the URL so you can share it. I advise only putting your fully finished (and properly produced) tracks on Spotify and other distribution services.
Compile a list of all venues in your area
Research the venues online
Decide which areas you want to perform in and research live music venues online. You might want to start with local venues and build support in your area. Or, you might want to target niche venues further away that you know attract a crowd that would be interested in your sound. Either way, do your research on the venue. Are they booking similar-level artists to you? If not, save their details for later. If so, reach out to them…
Reach out to venues and pay them a visit
For the best results target small venues, visit them in person first and then follow up online. Venue owners receive many cold calls and emails from musicians trying to book more gigs. Making the effort to introduce yourself face-to-face increases your chances of being picked out from the crowd.
At the venue, ask who the right person is to talk to about booking a gig. Have a one-line description of your act ready to go so you can give a snappy introduction to yourself as a musician. Make sure you walk away with a contact to follow up with and send them your Linktree and/or music demo or video. If you can’t visit the venue, call up and ask to speak to the person in charge of booking. If they aren’t available, get an email address, send them a personalised email, and mention that you called the venue and got their contact info directly. This helps to show you are proactive and specifically interested in their venue.
Find open mic nights
Open mics are a great way to try out your music, particularly as a solo artist. They can also help you to book future gigs through networking with other artists, developing your audience and finding like-minded people. Most open mics allow you to just turn up and play. Arrive early to get a good spot, and get the chance to chat with other local musicians before the event starts. Ask them for their tips on how to get a gig locally. Remember to share your contact info with other artists!
When you perform, be sure to mention your social media and online presence, as developing a healthy online following can positively influence a booking – and every follower counts!
Use Gig Finder apps
Creating profiles on gig finder apps or websites can be one route to booking more shows. Many sites allow you to register for free and even give you guidance on how to shape your profile to attract bookings. Others you have to apply to be listed on. Gig finder sites are essentially directories that booking agents or individuals use to find musical acts for festivals or live music events – whether you’re playing your own music or covers, as a solo musician or a band. They are also sometimes used by musicians trying to find support acts. Usually, the sites will take a booking fee (like a booking agent would) when you are booked. Avoid apps that ask you to pay to be listed, unless you get a direct recommendation from another artist who can confirm they are legit. Services vary from country to country, so search for music booking apps serving your area.
Promote yourself with a press kit
Creating a press kit is a great way to get booking-ready and make the process easier. A press kit (sometimes called an EPK – Electronic Press Kit) contains everything a venue needs to promote your gig: promotional photos of your act; an artist biography; links to your music and videos online; and your social media links, plus contact information. You should also include quotes and links to any press coverage of your work if you have any.
Keep your artist biography to the length someone coming to watch your show might read (e.g. a couple of paragraphs) – just enough to get them interested to buy a ticket. You can also include a list of past and upcoming shows once you have them!
You can download Bandzoogle’s EPK template here.
Related: Music Marketing Tips
Build your network
Use the connections you already have
Your existing network can be a great place to start. Do you have a friend who works in a local cafe, bar, or even a shop? Ask if they are interested in having you play your music there. Know someone who runs local events? Ask them if they have any performance opportunities for you. Perhaps someone you know has a birthday party or work event coming up that could use a musician. Let the people you have around you know you are looking for gigs, and you might be surprised at the opportunities that arise.
Ask your connections in other bands
Do you know other people in bands? Fellow musicians are a great source of tips on how to get music gigs. Most musicians are happy to give advice to new artists or new bands. They might know of a booking agent interested in original bands, or be in touch with other industry professionals in your local area.
You could even put on a gig with other bands: joint shows are a great way to share audiences. You could DIY a gig in your rehearsal space, or approach a venue with a full line-up. 3 or 4 small bands each with a handful of fans soon fills up a room. If you each get all your friends and family together, imagine what a great crowd you could gather! Venues can be receptive to this idea because you are bringing in your own audience – especially on nights where the venue is quietest, such as earlier in the week.
Networking is great for finding gigs
The more people you know, the more opportunities you’ll find. Use social media to connect with other musicians and see where they are getting booked. Grow your audience online and ask your fans where they’d like to see you play. Share your contact details with performers at open mic nights and share tips on great spots to get gigs. Look for free music industry events you can attend and ask music industry professionals for their advice on where to perform. Go to gigs and talk to people about your music project.
Ask for support gigs
Find acts you like and ask to be their support act. Being the opening act for a similar artist allows you to get in front of audiences who are more likely to become hardcore fans! Major bands are unlikely to have a new band open their gig, especially if they are booking shows at large venues – but look at who is supporting them, and approach that band. If you can, approach artists in-person (i.e. at their show) and follow up online. Or, if that’s not practical, approach them online. Be sure to mention what you like about their songs, and why you think you’d be a good fit for them in particular – a personalised approach is always best!
Become a promoter
Why not put on your own gigs? Hosting shows is a great way to network and guarantee yourself gigs. If you have good organisation and communication skills, this could be a great option for you. You’ll need to approach acts to play, find interested venues, create promotional materials, generate ticket sales, know how to get people excited about your event, manage the guest list, manage time slots, pay everyone and do a lot of leg work to get the word out there. But it can be great fun and very rewarding! As well as being a fantastic way to network.
Promote your band
Promoting your band doesn’t have to be limited to social media posts and creating a website. Posting engaging content regularly and having a cracking website is great, but it’s not the only way to get your band name out there.
A mailing list is a great way to develop a more direct relationship with fans and to keep your music at the forefront of their minds. Your newsletter shouldn’t only be about self-promotion – share other stuff your fans might like, such as music recommendations, articles you’ve been reading, some artwork or even poetry!
Use a print-on-demand company like Printify or Vistaprint to create Merch, stickers, business cards and flyers to promote yourself as a musician in the real world. Create an attention-grabbing flyer with your artist bio and where people can find your music online and hand them out at events or leave them at venues. Promoting yourself across both the digital and non-digital realms is a great strategy to raise your profile and lead to booking more future gigs.
Another way to promote your music is to busk! Take yourself to the streets and show the public what you’ve got. Busking is a great way to showcase your talents, create exposure to your brand and also make content for social media. When you go busking ensure that you have your social media handles and website address clearly displayed so that people can follow you. Busking is also a great opportunity to hand out your merch, business cards & sticker promo!
Note: Busking laws vary from country to country so ensure you are legally allowed to busk 😉