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Artist Advice Column: How To Get Gigs Pt. 2

Getting your start touring can seem impossible. We want to help you with that.

We started on the topic of how you can get more shows as artist, recommending you do some very basic preliminary things outside of the live realm that will build a base for those who are looking at you as an artist. Make sure you practice constantly and know your music so you don’t blow your chance, build up your musical output and if an offer does come, don’t feel like you are too big for the gig. Now it is time to dig into some more tactics that will help you get started getting gigs. Don’t expect Madison Square Garden tomorrow, but unless you can make your living in the studio, you will need to get on the road and this should help.

1. Pitch Local Venues:

When you are first starting, you probably won’t be playing shows well outside of your hometown or city. Unless you are a rare case where your music has really translated somewhere else in the world more than in your hometown, then you will likely want to start by sticking to local venues. Learn everything you can about your local venues from the smallest 50 cap places to the large 3,000 capacity and arenas. Go to shows there, which you probably have been doing, and learn how they sound and who they book. If you are a rock band and one place primarily books hip-hop or DJs, they probably won’t book you. If you play techno, asking right away for a large room at 7pm won’t work. Learn the right venues and then find out who the bookers and promoters for that place are. Go on LinkedIn, Twitter and use your network to figure out who works there and pitch them. They will likely get loads of emails a day from musicians like you, but if you pitch right, you may have a chance. They will also be looking out for promising talent, so if you position yourself as that, then they may reach out to you.

2. Throw Your Own Parties:

This is a more creative way to get your foot in the door with live shows. If you throw your own parties, you don’t have to worry about bookers controlling your access to playing live. This can be in a house or a small art space, but learning how to throw your own parties will help you understand the other side of the business. You can book other talent and then make invaluable connections if they want to help you out when you want to tour. A promoter may want to get involved if it goes well and once that happens they may want to book you for other events outside of your own party. If you can throw your own party, those fans will likely come to your own gigs.

3. Invite Media & Industry People To A Show:

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Once you get a promising show, make sure there are important people there to see you perform. Many talent buyers and promoters will be out quite frequently to judge artists based on how they sound live. They can’t just listen to upcoming albums or singles and determine if an artist is worth booking, they also have to see if is a musician are worth risking a night at the venue for. Whenever you get a good gig at a venue, be sure you have industry people there in the venue and if you still need a label, label heads. Also invite journalists to see how you sound live and potentially review your show to generate buzz. If agents are interested, have them along as well.

4. Take More Creative Deal On First Gigs To Get Them:

This may sound like compromising, but it may be the only way to get out there. This doesn’t mean flying across the country for a show “for exposure.” However, if a venue wants a higher cut of the door because they aren’t sure you can sell many tickets and this is all you are able to get, then maybe this is what you should do. If promoters consistently ask you to take bad deals, then put your foot down. If you have the ability to bring discounted liquor to help pay for a show at a smaller, less conventional venue or work at a security company and can have some of your co-workers come for cheaper, then offer that to convince the venue to book you.

5. Look At The Streaming, Buying Data:

This may seem a bit wonkier, but use your released music to see how you will want to approach your live touring. If you are a Los Angeles-based band and you have a lot of fans in Nashville because your music translates well there, a local radio station picked you up or some happy accident put your music in front of a lot of people there, then think about going there for a show, even if you may not make much or any money in the process. You can use the data to see jumps or lags in your popularity on the services and help dictate some of your set list. Metallica have been doing something similar, using streaming data on Spotify to help dictate some of the songs they play on large tours.

6. Find An Agent:

Yes this sounds super obvious, but once you have established yourself a bit, you will need to find yourself an agent. They will take a cut of your live earnings, but plotting tours, dealing with promoters, festival lineups and poster placement and dealing with last minute changes is something you want someone else to do. Hire a professional to take care of your touring so you can worry about actually doing the tour. When you hire an agent make sure you are on the same page and you communicate regularly about priorities for where you want to tour, the amount of shows you want / can handle and what gigs you are willing to take. If your agent has other bigger acts, they may be able to put you on their tours as an opening act or leverage their artists to help get you on the road. 

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