How do you get gigs? This is the big question that I get asked by so many singers and the short answer is…
I get my gigs through a variety of sources.
Ok, I can hear you sighing so to make it simple, here are a few ways that I use to get my gigs with some real life examples of things I’ve done to score paid work.
1. Make friends with other singers
Tip #1 – Get a support act
It is common practice to have two to three bands in a line up for a show and the best way to get in front of potential fans is to do a support act for another local band with an established following. Get involved in your local music community and get to know people because friends book friends for support gigs. Simple as that.
Tip #1 – Join forces with them to create a show
I’m a jazz singer and in the jazz world it is rare to find more than one band on a bill, but I still managed to pull together a gig with not one but two other jazz singers. (It is different for pretty much every other genre where you will often find three bands per night doing one set each to make up a three hour show.)
We decided to create a gig and called it ‘Jazzdezvous’. A singer I was friends with called Juliana Areias sings Brazilian jazz, I sing my sultry originals and another friend, Jen de Ness, sings cabaret jazz so doing a show together just made sense.
We didn’t want to rehearse (jazz musicians are lazy) so we each booked two instrumentalists each to accompany us which made for a grand total of nine musos up on stage.
We each invited fans on our email lists to the show and people were really interested because they would get to hear three jazz singers in one night plus the novelty of nine musos up on stage each improvising with eachother’s songs attracted a bit of media attention.
Here’s the promo poster we used for the show just to give you an example: (I think my eyes look really sly in this pic. Haha!)
So how did the show go? It was fun! I thoroughly enjoyed the gig and made friends with Juliana’s instrumentalists (one of them ended up recording percussion on my album for me.) So new friends = awesome 🙂
We got quite a good crowd but financially we had to split the takings nine ways so it didn’t end up being a big earner. What I would do next time is just to book one band to play for all the singers and it would work a treat.
Your local music industry association is a great info source for gigs. It’s their job to promote local music so they will have a bunch of opportunities throughout the year PLUS they will know all the people who mean anything in music to your local area so get in there and make friends.
You can expand your networking to café owners, marketing and events staff and venue booking managers who can book you for a gig. I made friends with the owner of a lovely café called the Wild Fig and they booked me for a gig every week for three years. They still book me to sing there to this day (although not every week now because I’m busy with other stuff.)
3. Get a booking agent
Booking agents have to promote their business to survive and they get the lions share of the corporate work. Corporate work is awesome because it pays really well, usually comes with a sound guy and PA (so you don’t have to set anything up) and you get a decent meal out of it. Plus they are fun and you meet a heap of new people.
Now I bet you’re thinking ‘Sounds great! Where can I get me one of those?!”
Weeeelllll, booking agents have their favourites so you have to get to know them a bit before they will trust you enough to throw you some work. Once you do get that work, just make sure you do a good job because the agent will seek feedback on your performance from the client. A glowing review = more gigs.
4. Get on the phone
This is one methods that I use allllll the time… and I hate doing it but it’s the most effective. I get on the phone and call up venues in my area that I know have live music. If I’m touring, I just look for live music venues that might be suitable and the best way to find those venues is by looking at popular singers that are similar to you who are already gigging in that area. Singers put their gigs on their website so just Google something like ‘Jazz singer Melbourne’ and a few will come up.
Then it’s a matter of calling the venue and pitching your stuff (I have a pitch worked out that I just reuse for each venue) and building a relationship with the voice-at-the-other-end-of-the-phone from there.
5. Get social
I’ve managed to score quite a few gigs through social media by contacting venue owners directly or musicians I want to perform with. Twitter is awesome for this. For some reason, it just seems to make everyone accessible and you can approach bands you want to gig with really easily.
You get 140 characters to make your pitch so use something along the lines of:
‘Hey @(add band), I’m in your area on (date) and I’d love to gig with you. Any chance?”
It seriously works really well. Just give it a try (and don’t forget to ‘like’ or ‘follow’ that band in the process. It shows you care and are open to being buddies 🙂