Trying to successfully book a gig can be a frustrating process for a lot of musicians, and is one the greatest challenges of building a successful career in the music industry. Here we look at how booking used to work, how it works now, and how you can be better at it.
Guest post by Craig Kelley of DIY Musician
Most bands don’t get gigs and wonder why?
They look at the bands playing the venues they want to perform at and think: why them and not us?
Bands that don’t get the gig say, “We are so much more talented. That should be us up there!”
Why do some bands get the gig while others just sit in the crowd?
It is not for a lack of effort. Most bands and artists are hustling day and night trying to book shows and performances, but they either write ineffective emails or waste countless hours calling club owners and promoters using old techniques that simply don’t work anymore.
It’s also not for a lack of talent that some bands don’t get the gig. There are plenty of bands and artists that have honed their craft and are their music is far superior to what you see on a lot of stages. That holds true for the big stadium shows as well.
Perfecting your sound and skills is just one part of landing gigs though.
The old way to book gigs
Back in the day a phone call was pretty much the only way to contact venues.
Like every other working musician out there, I spent countless hours trying to connect with promoters and booking agents. It took a lot of time. Hours, days and mostly weeks just to get a response.
Here’s how the process typically worked:
- Call the clubThe phone would either ring endlessly or you would get the answering machine.If someone answered they would write your name and number down (probably on a napkin) and tell you the booking agent would get back to you.
Even when I spoke with the actual promoter he/she would tell me to call back. Some would be nice enough to give me a hint of “when” to call.
- Call the club againThis time when I called, I’d be armed with “I was told to call back at this time” that pretty much got me nowhere. Literally 90% of follow-up calls were greeted with “this still isn’t a good time, call back later.”It took a lot of scheduling to remember when exactly to call.
- Borderline InsanityThe definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
That’s what it feels like trying to cold-call clubs. I had a club owner tell me to call back 4 times. I called every time at the exact time he wanted except for the 4th time. I was at work and couldn’t. When I finally connected with him after many other calls he was angry that I missed his call!
This is common. If it wasn’t obvious already, calling to get gigs just doesn’t work anymore. On top of that, promoters now say they don’t want you to call. It’s the 21st Century.
The best way to book gigs
Emailing venues is by far the most effective way to get new shows.
I’m living proof of this and I’ve booked big shows using just email. I’ve shared the stage with GRAMMY-winning and nominated artists such as Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Rick Derringer, and guitar-slinger Gary Hoey, just to name a few.
Emails work, but you can’t just fire off one email and expect to land the show. What you need is an email sequence.
An email sequence is a set of focused scheduled emails. As a do-it-yourself artist, I will bet you are already sending emails.
Here’s an email sequence that I love to use to book supporting gigs at major venues:
- Introduction email – Briefly reach out and introduce yourself to the venue. If there is a specific artist and show coming to town ask about the possibility of opening for the show.
- Follow-up email – If you haven’t received a response, follow up and inquire about the upcoming show.
- More Follow-ups – If you don’t follow up, you’ll be forgotten. Schedule reminders in your Google calendar or on your phone and be sure to follow up.
Hopefully you already are using emails to pitch your band. Great! This leads me to the reason why most bands don’t get the gig. Again, it’s not for lack of effort or talent. It’s also not because they are using obsolete techniques (even though that’s part of it).
Most bands don’t get the gig because they don’t know how to ask for it.
The focus is solely on how “great” their band is and why they should be playing the venue. Bands look desperate. They feel needy.
You have to remember that the club is the employer. They don’t want needy desperate people who think highly of themselves. Clubs are looking for artists that can bring in more money than they put out. They are looking for people that are enjoyable to work with. It has to be a win-win. It’s a business.
So, how do you get gigs without coming across as needy, arrogant or desperate?
You start with a simple introduction email.
Catch their attention, introduce yourself and ask a specific question.
I see you have BandX playing on November 26th. Congrats, I’m sure that show will be awesome.
Quick question for you, are you guys considering any opening bands for the show?
In this simple introduction email I was very specific, short and asked one question.
I included one link to my website. Again, simple and not overwhelming.
If you don’t get a reply then be sure to follow up as I mentioned above.
Who is your dream gig with? Let me know in the comments below. If you have any questions, drop them in the comments section. I’m happy to answer your questions all day long.
I put together my favorite email pitch that you can grab here for free. I used this simple email to get the conversation started for many my gigs.
Craig Kelley is the main gigmaster at GigFaster.com. He recently released his eighth album, Live at Sellersville Theater, and has supported GRAMMY award-winning artists including Rick Derringer, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Gary Hoey, Joan Jett, Fuel, and many others.