What to Do Before Looking for Gigs

[This article was written by guest contributor 

Some do it for the thrill of being on stage. Some do it to see the world, while for others it is one way to make money as a musician.

Performing live is one of the best things about being a musician. However, for independent artists, who don’t necessarily have the support of an agent or manager, looking for gigs can be quite overwhelming.

What some artists don’t realize, and is the one thing that can bring in frustration, is that “gig hunting” is a marathon, not a sprint.

This 3-part series shows you what to do before you start looking for gigs, what to do while seeking shows and what should be done once concert dates have been confirmed.

This first part focuses on what musicians should do before you begin “gig hunting.”

1. Have Your Music in Digital Format

This is kind of a no-brainer, but you want to have your music in digital format. Have your best songs available in high-quality audio files, ideally in a popular format like mp3.

2. Have an Active Online Presence

The second thing to do before you start looking for gigs is have an active online presence. A website should be the cornerstone of your online activity. With platforms such as WordPress, Bandzoogle, and others, it is easy to create a killer site, even without being a coding wizard.

In order to appear more professional, opt for a domain like www.yourbandname.com and avoid domains such as www.yourbandename.wordpress.com. Keep your domain name short, sweet and, most importantly, easy to remember.

In terms of features, your website should have:

  • an eye-catching homepage
  • an email list signup form
  • an ABOUT page
  • a shows page
  • a photo and video gallery section
  • a media or EPK (Electronic Press Kit) page
  • a contact page

You want to have an appealing homepage which is easy for users to navigate and that invites them to sign up for your newsletter. An email list is a very powerful tool (and in the second part of this series you will learn how you can leverage it when approaching promoters, festivals and venues) and it is something every musician should have.

And don’t forget to have links to your social media pages visible on your homepage!

As the name suggests, your ‘About‘ page should be about you. Here’s where storytelling comes into play. This page is where you tell visitors your story.

When it comes to the gallery (like for many other things in life), you should go for quality over quantity. Avoid uploading low-quality videos and pictures, you want to promote yourself in the best possible way. This goes for all the media content of your site, photos, videos and audio files, craft the best presentation possible.

Your ‘Shows‘ page is where you inform fans about upcoming gigs, while the EPK (Electronic Press Kit) is where you have a promotion kit that targets the media and promoters (according to booking expert Jeri Goldstein, not targeting promoters is a mistake many musicians make on their website).

The EPK page should feature:

  • a couple high-resolution pictures. Since your pictures may be used for different purposes, try to have both a photo with portrait and landscape orientation.
  • a short description. This should be a short bio of your band and it should feature the list of “services” you can provide in addition to playing, such as teaching, holding workshops and masterclasses, etc.
  • a few reviews (if you are thinking about how to get a review for your record, check out What to Pitch for a Review with Anthony Dean-Harris.) and/or quotes, and a list of achievements (for example ,awards won and performances at important venues or festivals).
  • yours and/or your agent or manager’s contact information (email and phone) and the links to your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Soundcloud pages.
  • a downloadable pdf version of your EPK.

Once you have your website set up, it is time to start promoting yourself on social media. There’s plenty of platforms out there, but these are the one I recommend you start from: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and Soundcloud.

Facebook remains a very popular social media, so you should definitely be on it. I am not going much in depth into the dos and don’ts (I discussed those in Effective Online Promotion with Bobby Owsinski), but you want to create a Facebook band page that features high-quality profile and cover pictures.

If you are not Photoshop savvy, you can still easily edit your photos using free tools such as Canva and PicMonkey.

Twitter is a great social media platform for interacting with fans and networking with musicians and other people in the music industry. Again, Canva and PicMonkey come in handy to adjust your images for Twitter.

While on Facebook you can’t reach all of your followers for free, you CAN do that on Twitter (quick advice: organize you Twitter contacts in lists like “musicians”, “venues”, etc.).

In terms of user growth, Google+ is growing much faster than Facebook. However, but the main reason why you should start using it is Hangouts on Air. In fact, through Hangouts, you can stream your gigs for free.

YouTube is the #2 search engine and the #1 platform used for music search. Same as for your site’s gallery, on YouTube you want to have videos of the highest quality possible.

In addition to your videos, you may want to consider uploading audio tracks that feature an image. After all, as Dave Cool said on the podcast, “Your music is likely to end up on YouTube anyway, so you may want to upload it on your official YouTube channel.”

For videos you may want to consider Vimeo as well.

Soundcloud, on the other hand, is a popular platform for music promotion, especially among independent musicians. At the moment, it has over 250 million users. This alone should push you into signing up for it (if you want to learn more about Soundcloud, you can read this guide and listen to this interview with Budi Voogt, the author of The Soundcloud Bible).

These are the platforms I recommend you start from, before signing up for other popular services likes Pinterest and Instagram.

3. Build a Fanbase & Connect

Now it’s time to start connecting with people in the music business and build a fanbase.

There are different ways to build and grow a fanbase, but the bottom line is build real connections.

Try to get to know other musicians and people in the music business. You can do this both by attending music conferences (don’t forget to get some business cards done, so that you can hand these out), festivals and concerts and online – on social media and forums for example.

This is what you want to avoid doing: being spammy! One of the biggest mistake musicians make when promoting themselves online is being spammy.

4. Different Kinds of Gigs: What Do You Want to Achieve?

Before you start looking for gigs, you should spend some time thinking about what you want to achieve with your shows. Do you want to gain experience? Do you want to build a loyal fanbase? Do you want to make money?

Time and places are also something to consider before embarking on gig hunting. Do you prefer to play house shows, open-air festivals, at clubs or music halls? And what about the time of your concert? Would you rather perform late at night, in the afternoon?

If you’re planning a tour, you should also think about how you want your tour(s) to be. Would you like to be on the road for several months or you would rather travel for a few weeks and then head home before hitting the road again? And don’t forget weather conditions in the cities you would like to perform in.

Thinking about these things is really important, because it will help you understand what you want to achieve with your gigs.

If you want to learn more about different types of gigs, you should listen to the podcast episode with Nicola Milan. Here below is Nicola’s Gig Matrix, which gives an overview of the different kinds of gigs:

Gig Matrix

So, to recap, here’s what you should do before you start looking for gigs:

  • have your music available on digital format
  • have an active online presence (with a website, email list and social media)
  • build a fanbase and connect with other people in music
  • think about what you want to achieve with your shows and your “touring preferences”

The next step (and the next blog post in this series) is all about starting the actual research of available gigs.