If you’re like most artists, your live gigs are your bread and butter.
Unfortunately, many musicians get stuck in a rut, playing the same clubs over and over again to dwindling audiences. The local circuit may be a crucial part of your concert calendar, but it’s time to start thinking outside the box when it comes to your booking strategy.
Want to earn more money each and every time you unload the van? Here are some suggestions:
Play corporate events
Not all corporate gigs have to resemble the air-base scene from Spinal Tap. Plenty of companies are looking to boost their “cred” within the community. They allow their younger employees to choose music for their events, functions, and parties. Musicians are usually treated well, fed well, and paid well at corporate gigs.
Who to contact: Most larger corporations will have designated event planners. You might have to do a bit of cold calling and internet research to find out who these people are and how they like to receive promotional material/press kits.
If you’re the type of band that has a large and diverse repertoire of songs, you might be overlooking a real cash cow—weddings. But even if you’re not into playing Sinatra tunes and the “Electric Slide,” there are thousands of folks every summer who are looking to throw the most unique wedding ever. Metal bands? Barbershop quartets? Avant-Garde feedback manipulators? I’ve seen them all at weddings. Your act could be next.
Who to contact: Check out a book by Anne Roos entitled The Musician’s Guide to Brides, a great resource to get you started. Ask friends and acquaintances who are getting married if they’d like you to play at their wedding. Once you’ve played a few weddings and figured out if it works for you (and the audience), you can attend local Bridal conventions, place ads with links in bridal magazines, and get the word out to anyone else in the industry (DJs, wedding planners, caterers, other bands, clergy, florists, banquet halls, etc.)
Book some college shows while on tour
Similar to corporate events, these gigs generally don’t offer you the full glory of smoke machines and light shows, but they can pay well, and you’re generally treated like a professional. Intersperse these kinds of shows throughout a tour of higher-profile (but oftentimes lower-paying) club gigs. Whether you’re playing a lunchtime gig at the student union, a Saturday night frat party, or an evening in the campus bar, the $500-$3000 you can earn here will go a long way for your band morale on those long stretches from town to town.
Who to contact: It depends. If you’re routing a tour and you know a specific region in which a college gig would be ideal, you might want to get in touch with each school’s campus activities director (info should be on the school’s website). Speak with them about what kinds of opportunities are available and how they like to receive music and press kits. If you’re intending to do a more widespread campaign, you may benefit from attending conferences held by campus activities associations like NACA.
Meeting people is easy
Like most things, the music business thrives on interpersonal connections. It all comes down to who you know. Build strong relationships with the popular artists in your town. Without overselling or coming across as a social climber, demonstrate to the more popular artists how YOU can benefit THEM as an opening act. Once given the opportunity, prove it! Bring all your fans out to the show and perform like your life depends on. Soon, all the popular local bands will want you opening for them.
Where should I start? Simple is best. Go to a show! If you like the music, introduce yourself. Also, be on the lookout for industry mixers held by local record labels, music stores, distributors, publicists, recording studios, licensing agencies, etc. These are great opportunities to meet people without all the post-performance sweat and nerves.
Ask plenty of questions
Talk to the club bookers in town and ask them what they see other successful bands doing. What is working? What is NOT working? How are they consistently drawing a crowd? What kinds of bills seem to make the most money? Don’t pretend you have all the answers. There is a certain mature assuredness in asking questions. The booker might just take this as a sign that you’re serious about your music and give you a show.
ARTIST ADVICE: “Start by announcing that you’ll play house shows on your website and explain what is expected of the host. Take the guesswork out of the booking process and be approachable. Then, once you have a few shows under your belt, fans will see house show dates on your calendar, see pictures of the events on other fans social networking sites, and they will be more comfortable approaching you to book a show. Once we changed people’s perception of the kinds of shows we’d play, we started getting approached for more types of gigs.” – Cameron Mizell
ARTIST ADVICE: “Don’t believe all the crazy bridezilla hype that TV shows would like you to believe. Weddings are very lucrative, viable gigs, and you don’t have to spend your hard-earned money touring and trying to make a name for yourself. There are many musicians out there quietly making a living playing weddings.” – Anne Roos