So how do you go about getting a gig? I personally love it when I secure myself a gig and get to put the date up in big letters on my website so that my fans know where I’m playing next, and all this gig love is for two reasons:
  1. I get to perform and sing to people, which makes me happy
  2. I get paid. (Very useful for paying the bills)

There are lots of different types of gigs (music speak for ‘job’) that singers can get, but for this post I’m going to focus on cafes, pubs (or ‘bars’ if you are in the USA) and similar live performance venues. Whether you are a solo artist or in a band, you can use my simple four step formula to go out there and get yourself a gig.

Just to let you know, I personally use this formula all the time. It is super effective in getting gigs and I have booked all my own tours using it.

I set aside half a day a week just to going through this process (again, and again and again)… it definitely gets easier the more you do it and until you have a manager to do the leg work for you (and let’s face it, you most likely won’t get a manager until you get big enough not to need help getting gigs), well the ‘gig hunting’ as I call it,  is going to fall down to you.

If you want the snap shot version, check out the video then scroll down because I’ve gone into more detail for you. I’ve even given you my exact email pitch that I was using at time of writing this post. Feel free to use it for yourself, just change the words around a bit.

Step One
Find venues in your area that regularly have live music and make sure the type of music they put on is similar to yours. Great ways to find suitable venues is by checking out:
  • Street press music magazines.  Live music venues advertise their acts every week so you can go through the list and see if they put on an artist who is similar to you. That way you know they will be receptive to your style of music and the crowd at the venue will most probably like your stuff. There are usually online version of street press magazines. Get to know the local music media in your area and start noticing which artists pop up again and again.
  • Other muso’s websites and have a look at where they are gigging. Then add that venue to your list of places to call. NOTE: This is NOT stealing gigs. An example of stealing gigs would be to target a venue someone was playing at regularly and offer to undercut their price. Please don’t get into doing that because it lowers the fees musicians can charge and hurts everybody…plus its just bad business.
  • Event eNewsletters for your local area. I subscribe to a bunch of these to keep informed of festivals, new venues or any call outs to artists to perform.

I like to keep a spreadsheet of all the venues to keep on track of everything.

Step Two

Call the venue. There is no way around this step. You need to find out who books the music and make friends.

Yep, get friendly with strangers! Most people are actually really cool and are really open to new musicians so don’t be afraid to pick up that phone. PLUS if you have done your homework (i.e step one) and picked your venue properly, you’re no longer just ‘Cold Calling’, you are now ‘Warm Calling’ which means you have a reason to call them and you know that they are looking for what you have to offer.

WARNING: Leap frogging to step three without doing step two is a waste of time!! (Because you’re email will most likely end up being deleted if you have not established a relationship with the booking agent first.

Here’s what I usually say when I call up a venue:

Me: “Hi, its Nicola Milan calling. Can I speak to whoever books your live music please?”

Them: “Yeah sure, that’s Chris. Hang on for a sec”…..

…… “Chris is actually in a meeting at the moment but you can leave a message if you like”

(NEVER leave a message – they won’t call you back)

Me: “Oh no problem. Would it be easier if I sent him through an email so he can hear my stuff?”

Them: “Yep, his email is xxxxxx”

Me: “Great! Thanks so much. Do you know if everything is booked up at the moment, or if there are still some spots open?” (Always try to get more time with them on the phone to establish that relationship and find out what the venue is up to)

Them: “We’re pretty booked for the next month or so but we have spots open in xxx month”

Me: “Ok cool, thanks so much for your help!”

Tips for phone calls:

  • Always be friendly
  • Try to get as much information about the music bookings as you can because you can use that in Step Three)
  • Get the name of the booking agent/ manager or whoever books the music
  • Get the name of the person calling too because you can use that in Step Three too.
  • If you do get through to the booking agent first time, then read out your email pitch (below)

Step Three

Send your email pitch. This should be friendly, to the point and have a link to your music online. I like to hyperlink it so the booking agent just has to click on it to go to your website. Make it as easy for them as possible.

The basic structure of your pitch should be something like this:

  • Reintroduce yourself – casual, friendly but polite.
  • Say what you do and the type of music you play.
  • Ask for the gig. Its really important to state clearly what you want.
  • Provide a link for them to hear your stuff online.
  • Give them your phone number and sign off politely.

Here’s one of the pitches that I am using at the moment. Its not perfection in a pitch but it will give you a good idea of how to write yours:

Hi (name of booking agent),

I am a Perth based singer/songwriter and I perform easy listening music; think early Norah Jones/ Melody Gardot/ Eva Cassidy type stuff – but all my own original material (and with lots of Latin sounds thrown in.)

I would love to perform at (venue name) if you have any openings available soon. I am Perth’s only #1 USA charting jazz artist with my EP Little Rendezvous hitting #1 for several weeks on the charts earlier this year and a Latin track from my latest album Forbidden Moments just got into the finals for the John Lennon International Songwriting Contest and I was also been a finalist in the UK International Songwriting Contest this year.

You can hear my music on my website: www.nicolamilan.com.

Please let me know if you need any more information – my bio, media reviews, video and pics are also available on my site.

I hope to hear from you soon!

Kindest regards

Nicola Milan

(email signature has my website and phone number)

Step Four

Follow up by phone. Yep, get back on the phone and call them up if you haven’t heard from them. Why follow up? Well there is no point spending all that time and effort calling them in the first place just to let an opportunity slip by because you didn’t follow up.

During the follow up call, you really want to get a booking or some definite confirmation from them that you are in for a later date. This is also when you’ll need to have your rates ready. Ask friends what they charge as a starting point and always stick to your local musician award standard rate or above. Please, please don’t get into cutting rates because this just hurts everybody.

On the flip side, the follow up call will let you know whether the venue will come through for you or not. If not, then scratch them off your list and move on.

I actually never really remove venues from my list, I put them into a separate page so I know for later that that venue is a dead end.

Yes I know this process is time consuming but if you’re an indie musician or your just starting out and you don’t have a manager to do all this for you, then I’ve found its the best way to get gigs in cafes, pubs and similar live music venues.
And there is no better feeling than when you get a positive result and you put up the date on your website. 🙂
I hope you have found this helpful. If you have, please share the love and Facebook this post so that other people can enjoy it too.
Happy gigging!!
Nicola x
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