Ill provide you with a great list of tips in which you can use and implement to find gigs for your band. If this post is one step ahead of you, try checking out my post on how to join a band.
Tip # 1 : Compile A List Of Venues
Compile a list of possible venues a Google search of venues in your home town is a good way to start.
Tip # 2 : Contact The Venues
Contact the venues on your list by email, telephone, social media. Always keep records of who you spoke to and when, I use a spreadsheet with the name of the venue, address, name of the contact, phone number, maybe a few notes about the contact, date(s) you contacted them. If they gave you a gig make sure you note down the agreed fee, times you are required to play, time you can get into the venue for load in and sound checks. If they didn’t, and you still want to play there, put a note in your diary as to when to contact them again. Whilst I suggested email and social media to contact venues, I always recommend sending the message first via whichever platform you choose and then follow up the message with a phone call a little while after. Taking in person over the phone is a much better way of building trust as well as a relationship with the people who run/own the music venues you wish to play at.
Tip # 3 : Hire An Agent
This is completely optional and up to you however,If you want the better paying gigs you’ll need an agent.There are plenty of these around some good some not so good. Do your webs earches carefully. See if the agents are actually suitable for your band. Some agents will need to see a website with photos, mp3’s and video. Make your offering as slick and professional as possible as agents often won’t give you a second look if they don’t like what they see initially. Even if you are fantastic live, you can let yourself down badly with a quickly prepared website. See how to promote your band here for more information on this.
Tip # 4 : Play Showcases
Showcases are pretty much always non paying gigs which is something to keep in mind. However I believe that these showcases are in important investment into networking and eventually finding better paying gigs. These are where a number of acts all play for a bunch of people who may be interested in booking you. Often it will be social club entertainment secretaries. I quite like playing showcases (or “shop windows” as they used to be called in the UK) it’s always a bit of a scramble to get several acts worth of gear into the venue and get sound checked.
Usually there’s a pre-decided running order, but the acts themselves often organise who’s setting up where. But I find it great to connect with other performers and hear some of their road stories, and who knows you may either share a bill with them one day, or even join their act, use this opportunity to get to know as many people as possible and take plenty of business cards with you. One last tip on showcases, if you end up playing on a Sunday lunchtime, try to avoid the last spot, you might think that would be the headline spot, it’s not. You’ll often see people leaving in droves during the last spot, nothing to do with the act that’s lumbered with that spot, it’s just they are off to their Sunday dinner and you won’t be talking to those people about booking you if they’ve already left.
Tip # 5: Promoters
I’m not talking about the Harvey Goldsmith level promoters here. In recent years in the UK there seems to have been an explosion in the number of people calling themselves “promoters”. The way they seem to work is as follows. They will agree to organise bands for a venue, which in itself is fair enough, and I’m sure there are genuine people out there who take on booking bands for a club. The scenario I’m talking about is, the “promoter” will arrange to get three or four bands to play each night. Most of these bands will probably be playing original material (and to be totally honest it is very hard to find paying gigs for new bands playing original material). The “Headline act” or as I prefer to call them ” the last band on” will be asked to provide the backline and drums with the venue itself taking care of the PA. Each band will be given a time slot for their performance and also a time slot for their sound check, if you are late for the soundcheck, you won’t get one. All sounds reasonably okay so far, sounds a bit like an indoor festival. The main catch is that you will only get paid any money if you get loads of your friends and family to come to the gig, and then you will only get a percentage of the ticket price. The promoter will usually provide you with tickets to sell. Do not lose these as any unsold ones you do lose will have to be paid for. At the end of the night the promoter will work out how many tickets were sold for which band and you will be given your cut, provided you actually brought someone with you that is. I’ve played a few of these gigs over the years with an originals rock band and the most I’ve ever come away with in my pocket is about £3 or £4, and it’s usually cost me more than double that to park my car.
Tip # 6 : Paying To Play
I remember a time back in the 1980’s and 1990’s when I was chasing gigs in London I was forever being asked to pay if I wanted to play in a venue. London was always seen as a place to make it, to be seen and hopefully spotted by some A&R man looking for the next big thing. I’ve never believed in playing to play, it’s all on the side of the venue it’s like asking the bar staff to pay to work behind the bar. With the advent of the internet you are more likely to get spotted on YouTube, Twitter or Facebook these days. There is however a market in paying to play when supporting headline acts. I’ve heard even medium level acts are charging new bands thousands of pounds for the pleasure of supporting them for a couple of nights on their tour. Back in the day, it was the record companies that stumped up the money for this as part of their band promotion drive. With fewer new bands being taken on by record companies, it’s now the bands themselves that are paying to play these gigs. If you can afford it then great, what a brilliant experience to say you’ve supported your favourite band, and played to their audience (or at least the ones you can prise from the bar before the main act comes on). You might win some new fans, and if you are really set on doing this, have some merchandise and CD’s to sell, get loads of flyers printed and make sure everyone gets one when they enter the venue, be available after your spot to sign autographs pose for photos, do whatever you can to get email addresses off people as they may just be your future fanbase. So what I’m saying is, if you’re set on doing this, make sure you make the most of the promotional opportunity.
Tip # 7 : Festivals
They are mainly advertised well in advance so do a Google search for festivals that cover your genre, there are loads of folk, jazz, blues, rock festivals throughout the world to choose from. Do your research carefully, look to see what sorts of bands they take on, certainly at the lower end of the bill. How do the bands that you’ve never heard of get on the bill? Who are the festival contacts? Are there any stages for lesser known acts? Is there an application form on their website? Festivals like Glastonbury are probably wildly over subscribed, but I’m sure you’ll find plenty of smaller festivals that are really cool to play and you will have a great time. I love playing festivals, there’s usually very little money involved, but the whole vibe of playing them can be wonderful. There’s often the chance to meet other bands and share stories and more importantly contacts. This is a great opportunity for building your fanbase so don’t forget the business cards, flyers, merchandise, CD’s etc and try and obtain as many email addresses for your mailing list as you can muster. The real great advantage of playing a festival for me, is you get to see the other bands on the bill for free. If you are in it for the money it may not be for you, but I believe the experience far outweighs the money side of things in this instance.
Tip # 8 : House Concerts
I believe this is something that has proved popular in the US so I would really hope it will become popular here in the UK over the next few years. Basically people open their home up to friends and family and invite their favourite musicians to play (for a fee). The host prepares the room, chairs and refreshments. The performer will also have the chance to sell their merchandise, CD’s etc. It gives the host and guests the chance to meet the performers and allows the performer to play in a more intimate setting and get to know their fans. It can be a handy extra gig if you happen to be playing in a particular area anyway.
Tip # 9 : Social Groups
There are many different social groups out there performing all kinds of hobbies and pursuits. Most clubs will have at least one function a year, it may be a ball, prize giving or Christmas party these are ideal gig opportunities and the chance to earn some money. You’ll probably need to tailor your set to reach a wider audience than just your regular fans, so general cover bands or tributes to popular bands would probably be better suited to these kinds of occasions. Examples of social clubs could be: Sports Clubs (any kind of sport: football, tennis, golf, sailing, darts, etc) Biker Chapters, Round Tables, Nudists (trust me, I have a buddy who regularly plays for nudists), Works Do’s etc
Tip # 10 : Charity Gigs
A good way for any new band to start to get noticed is through charity gigs. Charities are desperate to raise money for their causes and will often hold do’s to try and keep the funds rolling in. These are good gig opportunities for the new band as you are guaranteed free press. The charity will do some promoting but make sure you contact the papers, television, radio yourselves to give you the best chance of exposure and to show the world what nice people you are supporting the charity. It may sound a bit mercenary and that you are ‘using’ the charity to suit your own ends, but why not? The more you promote your band for this event, the more advertising the charity gets too, so it’s win-win really.