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Artist Advice Column: How To Get Gigs Pt. 1

Getting on the road and bigger gigs can be hard, but here are a few tips that might help you on your way.
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Getting gigs is the lifeblood of most musicians. Unless you are someone who is able to make a living as a songwriter, producer, engineer, composer, or something similar, you will need to tour. When you are just getting started as an artist, it can seem impossible to get the big gigs you want at your favorite local venues. It may not happen overnight and there is no foolproof method that works for every artist, but we will offer some tips to helping you get some gigs and work your way up to getting bigger and better shows along the way.

1. Practice:

This may sound obvious, but if you think you are ready to go out and play a show within a few months of forming your band or getting your start as a DJ or singer, think again. If you get a gig and then bomb it in front of some important people because you didn’t know your music well enough or weren’t prepared, then you may not get another chance for a long time. If you want to be a career musician, practicing is something you will do for the rest of your life, so you will learn how to do it well. To get started, you will need to make sure you can execute your songs and your instrument as well as you can. There will inevitably be problems that happen, so you need to know your music like the back of your hand, so you can focus on your performance and how to adapt to changes and mishaps. People remember the failures often times more than the successes. Don’t allow them to be there for it.

2. Build Your Music Output:

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Unless you have somehow gotten yourself a super agent right off the bat or signed to a major in your very early years as an artist, then you probably won’t be able to get many concerts without putting out music. Promoters will want to book bands and artists they like and artists they know will sell tickets. So even if the shows aren’t coming your way, continue to write and release music, because one of those songs could be your break to getting you on the road. You can hustle all you want in your local market or get a great agent, but unless you are a DJ or a cover band, you will need your own music. That is what fans will want to hear when they pay money to see you perform.

3. Build Your Social Media Numbers:

We understand, social media is largely a cesspool of people arguing back and forth at each other over issues they will never agree on, but it is important for your career. Numbers aren’t everything, but they are increasingly how artists are measured. If a promoter or venue doesn’t know you, then they will have to rely on the numbers to see if you can sell hard tickets. The more fans you have, the more likely (in their eyes), you will be able to bring in people to their venue. This doesn’t mean ignoring everything else just to be a social media star. Yes, those people are being signed to become artists and it is incredibly frustrating to see as a musician, but you will have to work on this.

4. Play Small Venues:

Don’t think you are too big for a gig. When you are starting out, be prepared for some small and crappy venues. That doesn't mean you should get bosses around and abused by promoters or venue owners, but these types of shows will be important on your journey. You may play as the opener with only a few people milling around the bar or at a corporate event where you are the background entertainment. Don’t phone it in then to try and just get a check, but instead use those opportunities to see how many of those largely disinterested people you can get on your side as a fan just for the night or for life. Those may be the people who show up to your next show. Every big act has those stories of playing for no one at a small venue, so think of this as your step to becoming the next big act.

Think about playing house parties unofficially for a small fee or even getting involved with Sofar Sounds to get yourself in front of more fans in an intimate setting. Link up with local art collectives to try and combine music and art even if you are the secondary aspect of their show. If you provide the soundtrack to their art show or exhibition, they may provide art for one of your shows later on. 

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