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February, 2014

Booking Gigs

by Webmaster

Let's get this straight, right up front. I don't know much about booking gigs.

Or more precisely, I don't know much about how to book gigs for myself.

I have, however, booked performers for festivals, and helped local clubs book performers. And, I've gotten other performers booked into clubs looking for talent.

When I was a computer consultant, I was asked to interview prospective employees, to see if they'd be a good match for the company. I read everything I could find about how to do an interview. I even learned some tricks on my own. As a result, I got more jobs because I knew how to be interviewed.

Want to know how to land a gig? Volunteer to book entertainment at a charity event and learn what to do (and what NOT to do).

It's interesting to notice what things happen, that might be dismissed as coincidence. In the last two weeks, I had a discussion with a friend about booking gigs, and was part of two threads on Facebook concerning how to get gigs.

One question was, "What's the best way to contact people who might hire me?" The options are face-to-face, email, mail, phone, text, web site. Everyone responded with their favorite form of contact. Face-to-face might not be geographically possible, and it's hit-or-miss unless you book an appointment first (and hit-or-miss even if you do have an appointment). One person does not like to phone because he considers it "confrontational." It's tough to be shy in this business. I prefer email because I have a visual memory and a record of what happened. Mail is slow. Watch out for auto-spell in texts.

The correct answer is (drum roll please) "whatever the person doing the hiring prefers."

But, how do you know that?

  • Do they have a web site? If so, do they have any information for performers to apply? Use their published method. Send them all the info they ask for in the format they want.
  • Do you know personally anyone who has played there? Find out how they got the job and do it that way.

Other options:

  • Go to the venue and look for opportunities to show them what you've got. Open mic nights at clubs, jams and open sessions at festivals, doing a short set while the band (hopefully someone you know) takes a break, sit in with a band or performer.
  • Get to know the performers at the venue and ask them if you can substitute for them at that venue when they have a schedule conflict.

Another question was, "How do you get so many gigs?" The answer was "Use personal contacts and take non-paying gigs." The rationale was that it is important to get your music and poetry out to the world.

Well, I believe that performers need to be heard and need to be paid.

Having said that, I also believe that it's important to give back to the community that supports you. I'm a firm believer in volunteering. Volunteer to play at a charity event (volunteer to book it and hire yourself). Charity events frequently attract people with money and people connected to other organizations. When someone hears you and likes you, you could get paying gigs out of it—private parties or corporate events. Hang around after your set and schmooze.

In addition, it might get your name out in print ads, posters, and web sites. You might get your name in lights on a marquee. You might get links from their web site to yours. And this event might show up in various calendars on the web, in newspapers, on the radio and TV.

You can use those events to pump up your resume. Some venues require that you have been a featured performer at other venues before they will book you. Charity events count.

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