Playing live is one of the most important things musicians can do to start creating buzz around their music. If you’re just starting out and are wondering how to get your first gig, you’re in luck.
Today we’ll be talking about how to go about landing your first gig and we’ll be doing it as efficiently as possible.
Step 1 – Find Venues
Before you get a gig you obviously need to find the places in town that have live music. Please don’t email every bar you know asking if you can play there. That’s like asking every woman you meet whether she wants to go out with you.
I’m not saying you won’t get a date. I’m just saying that there are more efficient ways to narrow down your criteria.
Think of it like a marketer looking for his target market. Marketers might aim their new widget to:
- People between 18 – 35 years of age
- That live in a certain geographic area
- That really like the competitors widget
Instead of aiming the widget marketing to “EVERYONE!” the marketer can save money by only directing their marketing dollars towards the people that are more likely to buy their product.
You should do the same when you’re looking for places to play.
Look for publications in your area that have listings of live show. For instance, in Tucson we have the Tucson Weekly newspaper. The Weekly lists a lot of the concerts that are happening every week. All you’d need to do is go to the show listings page and make a list of all those venues to contact.
Another way to find shows happening around you is to use the Gig Finder on Reverbnation. It will list all the venues in a certain radius around whatever location you choose. It’s a great way to get a fairly comprehensive list of all the places that have live music in your area.
However, be aware that the venues listed in the Gig Finder include auditoriums and concerts halls. Unless you’re extremely sure of yourself or know you can book a sold out show at a concert hall maybe you should limit your search to smaller bars and venues.
Of course, there are multiple ways to find the venues in your town for your first gig. These are just two suggestions. If you have some great suggestions to add, please leave a comment to tell us about it.
Step 2 – Find Email Addresses
Once you’ve made a list of all the venues you can play at it’s time to find a way to contact them. Find their website and see if they have a specific booking or live music page. If you’re lucky you’ll find an email address. If you’re less lucky you’ll find a contact form. If you’re really unlucky or the venue is terrible at online marketing you’ll only find a Facebook page.
Make sure you add each email address or contact to your list of venues. You can use any of the methods I outline in my resource guide to keep track of all these venues but you can also create a special spreadsheet for this particular purpose.
It’s a good way to keep everything in one place, especially if you’re going to delegate the tasks to multiple band members.
Step 3 – Save Time With Your Emails
Once you have all the emails and/or contact methods it’s time to reach out.
The emails should not be long but they do need to include some important information.
Here’s a template you can use:
“Hi [Name of person]
My name is [Your Name] and I’m the [Role] in [Your Band Name]. We were wondering about your gig schedule and whether we could book your venue for a date sometime in the near future?
We play [Description of Your Music or Genre] that’s similar to [Other Famous Artists They Might Know]. You can find examples of our music at [Your Website or Site With Your Streaming Music].
We are looking to play [Any Date That You See Open in Their Calendar or Any Day That Has Live Music On Their Website]. We can play a short set as a part of a lineup with other groups or we can play a longer set by ourselves.
Please let us know what dates you have available in your schedule.
Looking forward to your reply,
[Your Name | Your Band]”
That’s the bare bones of it and should be enough for the first point of contact. If you have played shows before be sure to mention other appearances. If you have any other accolades make sure you mention them if it makes sense in the context of the email.
Things to Avoid:
Spelling an Grammer mitsakes – Proofread your email and make sure you don’t have typos and bad grammar making you look unprofessional. That email script you see above? After writing this first bullet point I proofread it again and noticed it was missing an article so please double-check everything you write before sending it out.
Lying – This should really go without saying but don’t lie about what you can or cannot do. If you can’t actually play a long set by yourselves, don’t say that in the email. You might get an email back that says “Great! We need a 3 hour slot filled next Friday. See you then!” Then what are you going to do?
Writing like an idiot – “Hey I wuz thinking if u needed anybody 2 play at your place soon dude?” What do you think happens to emails like that? They get deleted. Be professional and write like a professional.
If you use Canned Responses in Gmail then emailing every venue in town should take you less than 20 minutes, unless you live in a huge city, at which point you should narrow down your venue search even further.
This will get you started with creating a relationship with the venues in town and it will hopefully land you that first gig. If you don’t hear back from anybody feel free to follow up after a couple weeks. Venues can book months in advance so they might not have needed you at that exact time. It doesn’t mean they hate your music or don’t care about you.
It just means they’re busy with other things and you’re not a priority for them at that time. When you’re following up make sure you’re persistent but don’t be a pushy asshole. If you’ve never played a gig before it’s hard to get started, but keeping a list of who you’ve contacted and whether they’ve returned your message is important to keeping it all together.