In 2023, global live ticket sales are expected to soar past $25 billion. As an emerging musician, you’re probably a long way off from the seven-figure sums that top-tier artists can pocket from live performances. Nonetheless, if you’re looking to make money from music, booking gigs should be a priority.
Getting gigs as independent musicians isn’t always easy. If you’re brand-new to the world of live performance, reaching out to venue owners and networking with booking agents can take up a considerable amount of your time. However, it’s a vital next step in your career. Once you’ve mastered the art of pitching, performing, and promotion, landing gigs becomes increasingly effortless and lucrative.
Preparing for Gigging Success
Before you start worrying about how to get music gigs, you need to make sure you’re stage-ready. If you’re a solo artist, taking charge of your personal development is straightforward. If you’re part of a band, it’s a two-part process. Individual skills need to be mastered before a band’s performance can be pulled together. Once you’ve honed your musical ability, you need to then work on your live performance skills. When playing live, this is just as important as your setlist.
In order to secure live music performance opportunities, you need to be a bookable artist. This means establishing a marketable musical identity. A well-oiled performance is all well and good, but your promotional material also needs to be on-brand and set you apart from other artists vying for a spot on the stage.
Creating Professional Promo Materials
When reaching out to booking agents and venue owners, you’ll need a compelling artist bio at your disposal. This introduction needs to engage, inform, and inspire. Make sure it provides the recipient with essential background, an overview of your music, and your independent artist career highlights. If you’re just starting out, you’re unlikely to have too many media mentions to use here. However, even the odd quote from a music blogger or event organizer can be included.
Having an electronic press kit (EPK) ready to go is also a must. This is your true calling card and provides an easy way to bring all those promo materials together in one place. Along with your artist bio, it should include links to your best tracks, performance videos, website links, social channels, and contact information. If you don’t have many multimedia assets to call on, now’s the time to invest in some. High-quality promotional photos don’t always come cheap, but there’s an essential addition to any EPK. What’s more, you can repurpose them for other music promotion efforts in the future.
Don’t have the resources to shoot a music video? A HD recording of a polished live performance is a solid substitute. Alternatively, you can use music promotion tools like IndieFlow’s Instant Video Creator to create professional-looking visuals for your Spotify Canvas or social media.
Finding Gigging Opportunities
Ready to start booking live shows? You’ll need to find suitable venues and events to play at. Rather than canvas every local venue with your EPK, it’s best to take a more targeted approach. Are you a solo artist who specializes in stripped-back acoustic sessions? There’s no point reaching out to a venue that only books metal acts.
If you’re struggling to find local venues that tally with your genre and musical style, there are other avenues to consider. Open mic events tend to cater to more diverse genres. However, the tradeoff here is you generally won’t be paid for your performance and you’re typically limited to a short set. Nonetheless, they’re worth thinking about if you’re just starting your music career.
Alternatively, you can explore the festival scene. Unless you’re already working with a heavyweight music promoter, you’re unlikely to secure a spot at a major event. However, organizers of smaller festivals may be looking for independent artists to fill lineups.
There are also industry showcases. So-called showcase festivals bring together industry conferences with public performances. If you’re fortunate enough to land a spot at one of these, you’ll be able to network with industry professionals. If you’re lucky, you might even catch the eye of a booking manager with the right connections to take your live performance career to the next level.
Tapping Into Online Platforms
Hitting a brick wall in your search for gigging opportunities? You can take the search online. Platforms like Gigmit, Sonicbids, and Indie On The Move take away a lot of the effort in connecting with performance venues and festival organizers. You can advertise your availability or answer calls for applications.
If you’re already active on social media, you can also use your channels to connect with organizers and promoters. If you are thinking about leveraging the power of social media, make sure your pages are making the right first impression. An organizer isn’t going to take you very seriously if you’re barely engaging with your followers or rarely adding new content to your pages.
Effective Gig Booking Strategies
If you want to book more gigs, you need to nail the art of pitching. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to secure many face-to-face interactions at this stage, so you’ll need to lean heavily on email and letter pitches. When crafting a pitch, spend time perfecting the subject line. This can be as simple as your artist or band name, a few descriptive words, and the dates you’re available. You’ll also need to include a brief intro. This shouldn’t be a retread of your artist bio. Instead, it’s a few sentences that introduce you, your sound, and why you’re making contact in the first place.
Now you can bring in some persuasion. Add a testimonial from another venue, along with a hero shot from your promotional photo inventory. It’s also essential that you include a link to your EPK. Wrap things up with a closing statement that reinforces why you’re such a desirable booking. Be sure to include all relevant contact details. Even if you’re reaching out via email, it makes sense to leave your phone number and social media handles here.
Building Relationships and Music Networking
If you’re serious about a career in the music industry, you need to network. Even at this early stage, connecting with other musicians and industry professionals can prove fruitful. Events like industry showcases and music conferences are going to expose you to a world of opportunities. Even watching other artists perform can be useful, giving you an idea of the level of competition that you’re up against.
Use these events to improve your gigging strategies and expand your network. It might seem counterproductive to connect with other artists producing similar music. However, there’s always a chance they’ll call on you if they need to source a support act. Of course, the main people you’ll want to forge relationships with are promoters and booking agents. Connecting with these kinds of professionals is going to significantly boost your credibility, making it easier for you to secure more lucrative engagements.
Nailing the Live Performance
Now you’ve started making connections and landing gigs, you need to ensure you’re in a position to deliver a performance that’s going to lead to many more bookings. Never underestimate the importance of the rehearsal. Not only will rehearsal time develop your skills and ensure you’ve mastered your setlist, but it will also guarantee that your performances are as tight as possible. This is crucial when playing gigs with a packed schedule. If your set runs short or over, it’s not going to reflect favorably on you as a performer.
Are you more at home behind a microphone in a home studio setup than on stage? Now’s also the time to familiarize yourself with the sound equipment you’ll use and the engineers you’ll depend on to deliver standout live performances.
Engaging the Audience
You also need to think seriously about stage presence. Stellar vocals are one thing, but without stage presence, a performance can fall flat. There’s a lot you can do to overcome this, from dressing the part to making full use of the stage. If none of this comes naturally to you, focus on audience interaction instead.
If you’ve booked a longer gig, you’ll need to engage with your audience throughout. Punctuate songs with a bit of background behind each track. If you’re part of a band, turn to anecdotes about how you met. Keep it light and lean into humor when you can. A hint of self-deprecation will also play well. Taking a local interest will also help you foster a better connection with your audience. However, you need to be sincere with this kind of interaction.
Promoting Your Gigs
Once you’ve landed a gig, you need to start promoting it. Venue and festival organizers typically expect this of the artists they book. Fortunately, this is easily done with social media. If you already have a sizable following on Instagram or Twitter, use these platforms to promote your upcoming shows.
You can even run promotional campaigns to drum up interest and increase engagement. Speak with venue organizers about securing guest list admission for select fans. You can then offer spots as prizes to your most loyal fans who in turn will deliver invaluable word-of-mouth advertising and social media shoutouts. It’s also worth creating event pages for your gigs. You can use existing social channels for this, or create event pages separate from your main website.
Offline Promotion Tactics
Offline channels can also be leveraged for promotional strategies. Turn to tried and tested marketing methods like printed flyers and circulate them in local establishments. Although flyers are pretty cost-effective, it makes sense to target places that are going to be frequented by the kind of audience you’re looking to land. You can even explore cross-promotional strategies with local businesses. However, you might be limited here by what venue owners and event organizers allow.
Expanding Your Gigging Opportunities
Feeling like you’ve outgrown live gigs in your corner of the world? It’s time to extend your reach with touring and regional gigging. This can take a lot of planning, but the results can be surprisingly lucrative. You’ll need to establish connections with venue owners and event organizers in neighboring cities and make sure the dates work. If you’re struggling to piece together a workable tour schedule, look for support opportunities instead.
You get increased exposure with minimal effort on your part while forging valuable connections with venue owners and organizers in other cities. Even when playing in a small venue, opening acts can pocket up to $1,500 from a single performance. That’s hardly a small change if you’re struggling to make ends meet.
Start Getting More Gigs Today
Making the jump from a home recording studio to the live circuit is daunting, but gigging is a crucial step in the career of any aspiring artist. However, before you can start booking gigs, your performance skills need to be at the right level. This goes behind being able to sing and mastering an instrument. You need to get to grips with the finer points of live performance. Do you have stage presence? Do you know how to work a crowd? All of this and more needs to be polished before you can confidently command an audience.
Securing gigs also takes work. You’ll need to invest heavily in your marketing materials. If your online presence is thin and you’ve yet to create an EPK, now’s the time to do so. These calling cards are vital for getting you noticed. However, you’ll need to explore offline promotional strategies to drum up interest once you’ve landed a gig.
Knowing how to get gigs as a musician is only half the battle. Once you’ve landed a spot at a live venue or festival, you’ll need to actively promote your performance ahead of time. The more engagement and exposure you generate, the more likely it is you’ll secure a second gig.
Live performance is the logical next step for any aspiring musician. It unlocks new revenue streams, opens up a multitude of music networking opportunities, and helps you expand your fan base.