How To Book A Gig Yourself…and Be Invited Back

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rich Nardo. Rich is a freelance writer and editor, and is the Director of Public Relations and Creative at NGAGE.]

No matter what anyone tells you, we have yet to figure out a digital musical experience that can equal the fan connections a band can conjure through their live show. There is something in our DNA that is profoundly impacted by live music. Maybe it’s the shared experience with those in attendance or the nostalgia a concert can create for a certain time in our lives.

Or maybe it’s something more primal; the process of syncing our natural rhythm to live drum and bass as it pulse through our bones. Either way, performing is still undoubtedly the best way to create loyal fans and combat the current “musical-flavor-of-the-week” culture we live in.

Still, developing a live following is no walk in the park. You’re going to need to dedicate hours-upon-hours of time to tightening your set and tirelessly promoting your shows. It’ll get tedious, and success won’t happen overnight, but if you work hard you’ll eventually graduate from dingy bars and VFWs to better rooms. On top of that, I can honestly say nothing can match the indescribable feeling you’ll get from performing in front of a room full of people and, if you’re lucky, the dedicated following you’ll gain from gigging out.

Here are some tips on how to book that first gig, and how to get invited back!

1. Be Professional In Your Pitch

Yes, the promoter knows that you’re self-booking. They still want the comfort of knowing you will take the night seriously. Keep in mind that they’ve probably gotten a few hundred other “booking inquiries” that week. Ask yourself what’s going to make them offer you a slot on one of their nights over those other bands? Some ways to be professional include:

  • A succinct, clear subject line (i.e: Booking Inquiry – The Beatles October Date @ MSG?).
  • Be informative in the body of the email. You should include a description of your music, where you’re from and any performance history. It is also necessary to include a link to where the talent buyer can listen to your music and check out your socials.
  • Don’t have typos!
  • Follow up approximately 3-5 days after reaching out if you don’t hear back. Also don’t hesitate to pick up the phone. Sometimes that’s the best way to cut through the clutter of acts hitting up a promoter.

2. Stay In Touch with The Promoter Ahead Of Your Show

Nothing makes promoters more nervous than booking a band and not hearing from them again until they show up at the venue night of. Give the promoter updates on what you’re doing to get people to come see your band. Also share any promotional assets such as Facebook events or flyers with the promoter as well. This way they can take comfort in the fact you’re promoting and maybe even help get the word out as well.

3. Promote On Socials and Ask Your Friends

Actually promote, don’t just show up! Be active on both yours and the band’s social media accounts. Also don’t discount the value of hanging flyers (particularly in the venue) and calling/texting your friends. Sometimes those IRL invites are more memorable than a Facebook invite.

4. Help Book The Bill

This isn’t as important as a lot of the other points on this list but it’s definitely a plus. Promoters are usually booking a bunch of dates at once. If you can book the rest of the band’s on your bill it takes the work off of the promoter’s plate and gives a better chance of the bill being cohesive.

5. Bring Your A-Game

Put in the work before the show to have a great performance. At the end of the day that’s what’s going to ensure people want to see you again and get your band invited back to play on better bills.

6. Communicate With The Promoter Night Of

Introduce yourself to the promoter when you get there and thank him/her for having you. Thank him/her again at the end of the night and let them know you’ll reach out about subsequent dates.

7. Follow Up After You Performance

Give it a couple of days after the show and then email the promoter. Thank him/her again for having you and then see what upcoming dates he/she has available. If you can get in this routine with a few different promoters, you can put a nice little circuit together for yourself.

8. Don’t Overbook

Space out your dates in any given market! If you play too much in the same area, you’re going to most likely divide your draw. Obviously when you first start playing, do as many low profile gigs as possible to find yourself as a performer, but once you’ve achieved a level of confidence in yourself that you care about draw, try not to play your own market more than once per month.

Promoters will not be happy if they find out you’re playing next door in a week. Neither will your friends and fans be as inclined to come out and support if you’re ALWAYS playing out.


Keep these eight things in mind and you’ll be well on your way to building your live career!

Tips to Draw the Crowd: How Local Artists Can Beat the Struggle

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Adam Young, CEO and founder of Events Ticket Center.  Adam is passionate about live music and hopes to inspire others to get out, see a show and make new memories.]

 

It’s supposed to be all about the music, right? Well, it turns out building a successful band takes a lot more than a decent melody. You’ve been writing, practicing, networking, booking and selling merchandise, and it’s starting to pay off. You’re building up a fanbase and maybe even getting some good press.

This is the middle of the journey, and it has its own unique challenges. We’ve put together a list of some of the most common (and annoying) problems musicians face, and our advice for how to turn them into opportunities to reach new fans and build a name for yourselves.

Struggle #1: The local music scene seems cliquey.

Depending on the size of your city and your genre, it may feel hard to break into the local musician community. Maybe your band just relocated to a new city and you don’t know where to start. Everyone seems to know everyone already and there’s no room for another name on the bill.

Fortunately, you can take steps to make your band known in the new scene. Look for local hangouts where other musicians congregate and introduce yourself. Spend some time getting to know them—after all, you already have a lot in common, and it’s more than likely that they’ll be willing to help you out. Alternatively, you can also connect with nearby bands through social media, which also helps you find potential new fans.

Don’t forget that most bands have been exactly where you are now, working to make a name for themselves and gain exposure. You’ll have to put in some time, but local musicians (generally) love to help each other out. Go see some shows, hang around afterward and introduce yourself. Let the bassist know you really loved his performance. Even better? Plug other bands during your own shows. They’ll be grateful, and they’ll remember it if they’re looking for someone to share the bill with. Community is the key here.

Also, think bigger than just your city. When you meet bands visiting from out of town, offer to host them. There’s a pretty good chance that they’ll reciprocate, and the next time you’re on the road, you’ll have a free place to stay.

Struggle #2: You’re getting low show attendance.

It’s a huge bummer to play to an empty room, especially if you’ve been steadily drawing crowds and record sales are strong. Low-attendance shows can come out of nowhere and really kill your confidence. Of course, there’s so much to say about how to draw audiences, how to market your music and get the word out about shows. Social media is one huge asset for letting people know about upcoming shows, and with the right strategy, it can help you fill a room on short notice. One tip that might be less obvious: Make sure the venue is the right fit before you commit.

Here’s an example: Maybe the booking person at the biggest, most popular venue around heard you play, and they want to book you last minute for a weeknight show. It’s a huge opportunity, and a much larger venue than anything you’re used to. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Your band won’t have the time or resources to draw in a crowd that will fill that venue, and an empty room is not going to get you invited back anytime soon.

Better to fill a small room with fans and energy and gradually build from there. Sometimes the better move is to say thanks and put that contact in your back pocket for when you know you can fill that space.

Struggle #3: People don’t buy records like they used to.

The good news is this is an industry-wide problem, so you’re in good company. The bad news is that there’s no easy answer. Bands make less money from album sales these days, whether it’s digital files or CDs and vinyl. It’s essential to put out new material and have it available for sale, review and airtime. But studio space is expensive, and many bands lose money on records they’ve already poured lots of cash—not to mention hard work—into.

While there’s still a lot of pressure to release solid albums, many bands can’t rely on them to make a living. Your best bet is to diversify. That means any band that wants to be successful needs to:

  • Have hard copies of albums to sell at shows and to distribute to press
  • Sell digital versions and hard copies of albums online
  • Utilize all the popular streaming services out there, like Spotify, Pandora and Bandcamp
  • Promote your music through social media to ensure you reach as wide an audience as possible

Struggle #4: You’re reluctant to accept help.

You may be thinking “I’d have no problem accepting any help that came my way.” And you might be right, but many musicians can get caught up in what they think their musical path should look like. They end up missing opportunities where they could meet new people, promote their music and build their fanbase, all because they thought they’d be able to do it on their own.

I talked with P.T. Banks, a musician from Austin, TX, and he said there’s nothing like your community to help you succeed, if you’re willing to let them.

“I refused some managerial and financial help early on in my career because of pride,” he said. “Working on your craft is the most important thing, but accept help and let people believe in you.”

Maybe that looks like setting up a Kickstarter to get your new album recorded or accepting when friends or family offer to support your music financially. Getting to the next level may be as simple as getting out of your own way.

How To Tap Into the College Music Market

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog post from our friends at IndieU, an online music platform that connects independent musicians to colleges and college students across the nation. Learn more about what IndieU has to offer independent artists at the bottom of this article!]

 

Radiohead. Queen. Vampire Weekend. John Legend. These are just a handful of the high-profile stars that launched their music careers in college, sprouting from DIY hopefuls to industry heavyweights thanks to the thriving local fan base universities supply.

College followers are important for a number of reasons: they’re enthusiastic as ever, hungry for music discovery, and have a growing appetite to go against the Top 40 grain. Most importantly, they’ve become steadily averse to record execs hand-selecting what they listen to, and are increasingly turning to friends to unearth new music finds. They’re also an important foundation for building credibility before focusing on a national stage.

In recent years, the internet has made tapping into these markets even easier for rising acts. Just look to the meteoric ascent of Chance the Rapper, whose young, fervent hometown of Chicago helped him make history as one of the most successful independent artists to date.

So what’s the secret? That’s a question IndieU has made its mission as a one-stop platform for up-and-coming musicians. Below, we share our tricks of the trade for making it big on campus.

Make a website and stream your music

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First and foremost, set up a website where people can access your music, bio, and social media in one spot. Have a photographer friend take professional-looking pictures and feature sections for an about page, music, concert dates, contact information, and merch if you’ve got it. Add in a toolbar with all of your links, making sure to include your SoundCloud, BandCamp, YouTube, or wherever else you post your music. As the industry shifts away from record sales, it’s important to be on streaming sites, especially as a lesser-known act. You have to get people on board with your sound before they’ll shell out money for it.

Get On Social Media

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Social media, social media, social media, and did we mention social media? This one’s kind of a no-brainer, but if you’re not on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like, you’re passing up hundreds of thousands of possible followers. Think of it like those pedigree charts you glazed over during biology class: a student stumbles across your page, likes it, it pops up in the newsfeed of one of their friends, they like it, and so on. Soon, you’ve amassed a substantial audience rife with local fans to attend your nearby concerts. Make sure to post often to keep them engaged, and don’t be afraid to show a little personality.

Play Local Shows

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This brings us to our next point: play often and play local. College offers an unlimited number of opportunities to score gigs, whether it be at a student group event, an off-campus party, or nearby coffee shops and bars looking to fill live slots. The more you perform, the more exposure you’ll rake in. This is a great way to both save up money for a tour and build a reputation for can’t-miss live sets when you finally hit the road.

Network On Campus

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Networking isn’t just for the corporate crowd, it’s key to making it in the music industry. Start by forming relationships with your college radio, newspapers, and student group leaders: Spread your music and your story. Then target local publications and stations, especially if you’re near a big city, and reference back to the concerts and coverage you’ve already accomplished. That way, you have a résumé that gives you credibility.

Don’t Get Defeated

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No matter how talented you are, catching a big break isn’t going to happen overnight. Music is a tough business to be in, and it takes patience, luck, and a hell of a lot of hard work. But if you stay positive and put in the time, there’s no reason you can’t make it happen.


About IndieU: IndieU is an online music platform that connects independent musicians to colleges and college students across the nation, with the ability for users to follow the music tastes of their friends, create playlists, and stream/download thousands of independent songs for free. With over 50 student representatives in 20 schools across the nation, IndieU helps artists grow a strong localized college fan base while providing students with everything they need to know about their local music scene. With hundreds of articles to browse through, as well as a recently launched interactive digital magazine, new music discovery is endless. In the coming months, IndieU will be launching an event creation tool in which students can create their own events, book local artists to perform, and share in the revenues generated by ticket sales. Learn more on IndieU.com.

5 Tips to Make Your Local Shows More Successful

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by David McMillin, singer, songwriter and frontman of Fort Frances (check out their latest release, “Alio“). He holds several songwriting awards and has helped to soundtrack shows on PBS, NBC and The CW.]

Every band wants to experience the glory of the road—seeing new towns, meeting new people and feeling the thrill of a new stage night after night. In most cases, though, the first steps toward success are only a few miles from the front door. Before building a national or global profile, it’s important to create the buzz that turns you into one of the most talked-about bands in your town.

If you’re aiming to climb to the top of the scene in your market, here are five tips to make your local shows feel like major events.

1. Book Small

Tom Windish, founder of the Windish Agency, offered some expert advice in a Los Angeles Times interview last year. “The right place to play is the place that sells out,” Windish said.

Every band should aspire to play the legendary clubs in their respective towns, but it’s important to balance ambition with reality. Selling tickets is super challenging. My band worked our way toward selling out our favorite 200-capacity club in Chicago, and we decided to make the leap to the 500-capacity room we all loved. We weren’t ready. We sold 260 tickets. We made less money—due to much higher production costs—than the smaller room, and the half-full show felt like a bit of a disappointment. After that mishap, we played our next release show in a sold-out 300-cap room.

The lesson: when you’re at home, you don’t want open seats. You want a line waiting outside the door to get in.

2. Think Big

You may be booking a small room, but you should strive to make your show feel massive. In fact, don’t think of it as a show. Consider it an experience. Don’t just go play your songs. Bring them to life in a bigger way than you might be able to at the other end of the country. Since you’re in your hometown, your overhead expenses are much lower. You’re not paying for gas or a hotel. Invest that money in something that will make the evening more special for everyone in attendance. When we’re touring outside of Chicago, we’re a four-piece, but our hometown shows are a six-piece that includes a horn section. It’s become one of the favorite pieces of the night for our fans.

Think about what can take your show to the next level. Can you hire someone who really knows your songs—the hits in the chorus, the tempos, the out-of-time sections, etc.—to run lights? Have you always wanted to have a string quartet on your acoustic songs? Is there a special guest you can bring out to appear in a verse?

Whatever that piece of extra magic is, your hometown show is the place to make it happen.

Fort Frances TuneCore Blog
Fort Frances playing a local gig in Chicago

3. Get Personal

As you’re putting in extra care for how the evening will sound and feel, there’s another area that needs your focus: marketing. In your hometown, promotion shouldn’t simply rely on mass communication. Your social media presence is a critical piece of building your community, but you need to use a more intimate approach to connect with your friends, family and neighbors. Set time aside to send individual emails to everyone you know.

Make them feel special with a personal note about the new record you’ve been working on and why you want them to come to the show.

4. Act Confident

One of my favorite books that I regularly consult on my coffee table is The Musician Says, and it includes some wise advice from Marilyn Manson: “If you act like a rock star, you will be treated like one.”

You may be playing a show for an audience that includes 30 of your closest friends, your cousins and your roommates, but when you take the stage, remember that you are in a coveted place: on the stage. So let yourself go. Embrace the spotlight. Dance. Sweat. Shred. Do whatever verb is best done to your music.

Because when your friends wake up the next morning, you don’t want them to say, “I went to see my friend’s band play last night.” You want them to tell their friends, “Holy shit. I saw the next [Bob Dylan/Beyoncé/The Beatles/whatever Hall of Fame-level comparison that makes sense for your act] play last night. You have to check them out.”

5. Be Scarce

Once you start finding success in your hometown, it can be tempting to accept every offer that comes your way. It’s good to get on-stage as often as possible, right? Wrong. You need to create some demand around your shows. If you’re playing in town every other week, it becomes easy for your fans to say, “I’ll just catch the next show.” Give some healthy distance between your dates, and each time you play, do something different.

Debut new songs. Learn unexpected covers. Crowd surf your way to the stage to start the night.

Make people cry or scream or pump their fists to your songs. Be unforgettable, and they’ll always come back for more.