How-to achieve a higher SEO ranking with Yoast for WordPress.

The Learning NEVER ends!

Hey guys! As you know, being an entrepreneur (a Music Entrepreneur, wink) means you are constantly learning about new ways to improve your business. Behind every newly learned lesson are a dozen new questions about something you’ve maybe never even heard of. This is both the exciting and the tedious nature of being your own boss. One area entrepreneurs will eventually need to focus is SEO – or Search Engine Optimization.

This article is about improving your SEO skills, specifically if you build your website through WordPress. I’ve recently just learned this and am in the process of optimizing my site for this. Here’s how:

Search Engine Optimization

SEO is pretty cool stuff. If you clicked to this link then I’ll assume you have some idea of what SEO is and how it works. I won’t drone on about it. I’ve embedded a short video below for anyone who isn’t so familiar with SEO. If you’re just learning about this stuff then I highly recommend viewing the video to gain a bit of context. This will help you understand how Yoast for WordPress can help you take advantage of how SEO works to rank your website higher.

Main takeaway from the above video:

The words and titles you use when creating online content are very important in helping you to get your website ranking high on search engines. It’s not the be-all and end-all but it’s a big part of it. The best part is that with the Yoast plugin (for WordPress) you can do a few things to help Google to recognize your website as more “legit” thus giving you a better ranking.

Using the Yoast Plugin for WordPress:

Using Yoast is pretty easy to do if you know what you’re looking for. I’ll go a step further, because I’m a huge nerd, and admit that I actually have fun retooling my SEO settings on Yoast (I need more friends). I love when it tells me that my SEO settings go from “N/A” (or “Bad”, lol) to “Good”.

I’m going to share a few screen shots below and point out some key places where you’ll need to tweak a couple of things to improve your SEO settings using the Yoast wordpress plugin.

This is my WordPress Dashboard (I clicked on posts to display blogs I’ve written):

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If these pictures are small you can zoom in!

As you can see above, the Blue Arrows indicate the column where both the Readability Score and the SEO Score are displayed. These scores tell you how your posts hits the readers eyes and how it ranks in search engines. You want your blogs, song lyrics, biography, etc to have a good score in both of these areas (and be green).

The first article, with the Green Arrow, has both a good Readability and SEO score. That’s why the little circles to the right are green.

The fourth article on this page, the article with the Red Arrow, has no Readability/SEO score. I’m going to want to improve that so that my readers enjoy reading my blog post and so that Google can find it.

My third article (“How to play gigs…“) actually has a red circle over the Readability Score area. That’s bad and I need to fix that.

How to access and use Yoast for WordPress

You need to add and install the Yoast plugin. Once that’s done it will become a part of your blog post edit page. Select the post you want to work on in your dashboard (or wherever you edit your posts). I’m going to use the example of my “The Etiquette of Listening to Live Music” blog post.

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Now this is one of my best performing blog articles. It actually has the most reads of anything I’ve written. I’m not doing it a justice by not improving the readability or SEO attributes, so let’s change that (Nice, I’m getting two birds stoned at once! Right!?).

I’ll click on the link and scroll down the page to here:

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I’ll stay on the SEO tab and improve the “Problems” Yoast is telling me I have, in Red. Most of these are pretty self explanatory. Don’t forget to clic “Edit Snippet”, which let’s you change a few very important things:

Edit Snippet

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This section controls how people browsing Google will see the title and description of your link. You have TOTAL control over this. Remember to use the focus keyword! You definitely want a clean looking SEO title (in green) such as:

“10 things friends do for one another | The Friendly Blogger”

It just looks clean and tidy. The slug (in blue) also shows up, keep it short and avoid stop words for better ranking.

The description (in Black) is the paragraph people will read. Make this to the point and informative about what the post contains.

Now you’re ready to improve your posts Readability:

Readability:

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Follow the steps as indicated by Yoast in the “Problems” and “Improvements” sections and you will make your articles flow better and be more enjoyable to read, like for instance, having really really long sentences with strange, punctuation definitely won’t help, you get the point! Also, don’t forget to create and add your posts to categories. Finally, click your image(s) to edit the details such as alt-text, etc. “Alt-text” is what the picture will be saved under for people to see when they google a word and select “images”.

Let’s see how I did:

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So now I can go back to my “Posts” page and admire my work.

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As you see, the article name has changed from what it was before. Yoast told me I needed a focus keyword so I added one. It then told me the other places I had to make sure I put my focus keyword. One of these places was the title. My focus keyword had to appear in my article a few times so I chose something that worked well as a title and could be used throughout the article. These are just some examples of how Yoast helped me improve this article.

So there you have it

Yoast is a great tool if you use WordPress for your website. Whether you have a blog on your page, or write your lyrics online for your fans to read, or whatever. You want control over these behind-the-scenes features/attributes and Yoast is your gateway to getting this done. There’s a lot more to SEO than this but this will get you pointed in the right direction (Upward, on Google!).

Excuse me while I head over to improve the readibility and SEO attributes of this article! (Always giving myself more work!).

Cheers!

Brad

Overcoming the crippling fears and anxieties about being a pro musician – Why you HAVE to believe in yourself and focus on your strengths!

Hi Fam!! Today is all about being inspired and overcoming fear.

I want to talk to you if you have doubts that are holding you back. A slight shifting of your attitude could dramatically improve your situation as a pro musician. Please remember to share this article so that we can help as many people as possible…and so that I can become incredibly, massively huge!  😛

First off…try to assess yourself honestly but positively.

I am not the best singer. I am not the best guitarist, either! I’m definitely not a marketing guru. I don’t have to be all these things to be successful with music! I’m friendly, professional, reliable, have a decent voice, am pretty proficient on the guitar, and I know how to “read a room”. I know what is working for me. Mostly though, I don’t get bogged down by my “shortcomings”. How you look at your situation will have a huge impact on your success moving forward. This is as true about a career in music as it is for anything in life.

Find your strengths and focus on them:

I’ve listed some of what I’d call my shortcomings at the start of this article. It’s good to look at yourself objectively and know the areas of your game that need the most work and improvement. That doesn’t mean to dwell on them or to let them own you. You are bigger than your self-perceived flaws. They are just one part of what makes you who you are. Remember, we all have flaws. The same is true about your strengths. They are another part of what makes you unique. We ALL have strengths!

For example;

Say you feel super self conscious because you don’t like your voice. That’s a pretty daunting obstacle to overcome, I agree with you! Somewhere in your arsenal of strengths however is the key to overcoming this situation. Perhaps you can play some mean guitar and are a social butterfly. You could partner up with a singer – maybe someone you know, someone you met at open mic, a singer from craigslist or the local Facebook musicians’ page. Put together a great setlist and start booking gigs (click to learn how to book gigs).

You are still learning, remember that!

We can’t ignore our shortcomings the way an ostrich “sticks it’s head in the sand” – as the expression goes. That being said our deficiencies can’t be the goggles through which we experience our world!

While focussing on the good things that make you the person and musician that you are, remember that you are still here, learning. Time is a gift that allows you to improve at whatever you dedicate yourself to. If you feel you aren’t a good musician then spend some time in the woodshed (aka practicing…any Charlie Parker fans out there?). If you don’t like your voice you can hire a vocal coach or a singer. If you don’t know how to market yourself watch YouTube vids and reach out to people. If you aren’t making enough money gigging then try teaching as well (Click to learn how to find music students). Nobody knows it allIt takes time to learn. If you are serious about wanting to be a pro musician then keep learning and improving. With this attitude your shortcomings will becomes strengths! (so be patient and you’ll get there).

You’ll get there! Start taking action today and you will see results!

If you think you aren’t ready, keep working. If you think you have too many flaws, keep finding your strengths. If you think you aren’t good enough, know that most of us feel (or have felt) that way! It’s funny how the same situation can appear totally different and have a way better outcome by shifting your focus and taking baby steps to rectify the situation.

Knowing your faults can be useful but being crippled by them is very detrimental to both your progress and your mental health.

Please remember to;

  1. Focus on your strengths and what makes you unique (while acknowledging areas you need improvement),
  2. Spend time improving,
  3. Know you can do it, and have fun with it!

Life’s too short to focus on the scary stuff. There’s definitely a lot of freaky things involved with being a pro musician. Will I make enough money? Will I enjoy it? Will I be crippled by stage fright? These are all valid questions. If you work at it though, it will improve! (And you won’t need 5/6 pints to find the bravery to get up on that stage and kick ass every day at work!). Don’t forget to check out the other blogs articles I’ve written to help you find success. If you need more inspiration, check out this awesome video I had made on August 8th, 2017 in Edinburgh, Scotland.

You got this!

Sweat

Time waits for no one. Live your dream. Be a Music Entrepreneur!

This useful trick can help you to book gigs in your city! Take the “back way” in!

Getting a shoe in the door, as a musician, is a very challenging part of what we do. There are so many musicians trying to gain a spot on the rosters of venues everywhere. When it comes to how to find gigs it’s super important to be persistent and to not quit.

How to find gigs: 

[…”I’ve discovered a way to approach venues and be useful to them before even asking for a gig (and as always my knowledge is your knowledge!)…”]

Getting a shoe in the door, as a musician, is a very challenging part of what we do. There are so many musicians trying to gain a spot on the rosters of venues everywhere. When it comes to how to find gigs it’s super important to be persistent and to not quit. “Who we know” (so our connections) is often one of the best ways to be hired at a venue. But what if there’s a venue that you want to play in that you have no connections to? I’ve discovered a way to approach venues and be useful to them before even asking for a gig. As always my knowledge is your knowledge! I figured this out while living and playing music in Scotland.

Now 99.99% of the time I perform gigs that pay X amount of dollars for a determined amount of time. Exposure doesn’t cut it when you are trying to pay your bills with music. After finding a bunch of good gigs in Edinburgh I started trying something else.

 

The Precursor to “how to find gigs” this method


The farmers markets did not pay me to perform, but they offered me a spot to play where I knew there was a ton of foot traffic. The manager explained that they can’t pay me but that I can leave my guitar case open and that musicians usually make a lot of tips. The farmers markets happened during the daytime where I usually didn’t have any bookings. I figured, “Alright, I’ll give this a try and see if I like it”.

I loved it. The marketplace was vibrant, full of people enjoying their weekends, eating delicious foods, drinking aromatic coffees, trying vegan specialty items, etc. There was so much going on and it was great getting to know the vendors. I ended up making pretty decent money (usually between £80-100.00 which I would not have made if I had decided to simply stay home). On top of this I was handing out business cards and was able to book a few private parties for both vendors and guests of the market.

Another hidden perk of playing the market

The merchants would also give me free foods like cheeses, breads, salads, meats, sweets, etc. I can’t say enough good things about playing the market. The downside was that it rained a lot in Scotland and it would be pretty slow at the market on a rainy day. But as I was pretty busy with actual paying gigs I didn’t mind taking that chance most times. As you can see by my performance schedule I still busk at marketplaces (and love it)!

So how does this equal learning how to find gigs?

This brings me to when I found this “back way” in to perform at venues. From “busking” at the market I had a bunch of change, £80-200 a week sometimes. I wanted to use the money I made but didn’t want to pay in coins. On my way to the bank to deposit the coins I passed by a local pub. I wanted to perform at this pub and never really had an “in”. They weren’t too busy because it was the early afternoon. I decided I’d ask the pub if they wanted to trade my change for paper notes.

The manager behind the bar was delighted to have the change since bars always need change and I saved her a trip to the bank. As we counted my coins we chatted. I knew they had live music in there very frequently so I mentioned “ya, I made this money playing music at the market on the weekend, these were my tips”.

Providing value changes the playing field

I was able to introduce myself as a musician while offering something of value to the pub. It’s great to go to a venue and ask for a gig. You might get a good response or you may get shot down. Using this trick really gotten me a shoe in the door though. Offering something of value to the venue’s manager allowed me to establish a great rapport. It wasn’t long before she booked me in to perform. She also spoke about me with some of her friends who were managers at other pubs. I was booked in to play paid gigs there as well.

Maybe this method can help you!

That’s how I discovered this method. I’m not saying you can only do this if you busk, that’s just how it worked out for me having that link to the market. I’m not really a busker, as I’ve mentioned, but I was able to use the change I made busking to legitimize myself to a venue. This resulted in me being hired in as a performer. Whether you get change by busking, or from tips at paid gigs, or by saving change, it’s all the same.

I applied this trick to a couple of other bars and it worked every time. It even worked in places where live music wasn’t really a thing. the manager/staff would recommend other places I could go looking for work. They even put in a good word for me.

Providing something of value sets you apart from the competition who is going in “asking for something”. If you go in “giving something” you stand a chance to have that “giving” reciprocated.

I hope this articles has helped you to learn how to book gigs new places as well as forge some new relationships in your city’s music scene. Good luck!

Additional Resources about how to find gigs

Click here: to Lean how to book gigs in bars/pubs

To Learn how to book gigs in non pub settings

For inspiration to be a pro musician

-Brad

How to get paid tips while playing gigs

“…Flat out asking for tips can be a little tacky (in my opinion) and I try to avoid doing that. I’ve heard some guys and gals that are really good at doing just that. Unfortunately for me though, I’m not a natural salesman. That’s why I really love this method…” (excerpt from this very article 😉

What If I told you that you could be making more consistent tips at gigs WHILE also beefing up your social media following? 

I’m really excited to be sharing this with you today. It isn’t hard to do and you can start right away.

Playing live shows is a great way to make money as a musician, (One of the best if you ask me. For sure there are entry barriers when you begin. You have to be good enough that people will enjoy what you do. You have to have a good set list. You need to have a good professional attitude. These are all things you learn as you go though. You’ll never know it all from the onset so the most important thing is to just GET GOING WITH IT!

Now that you are performing gigs (Click here to learn how to find gigs:  PART 1   PART 2) here are a couple of easy tips that I know will seriously enhance this part of your game. Every little bit helps in this day in age where prices seem to be rising on everything. If this article is useful to you then I invite you to please like and share it. If you have something to add please comment down below...wayyyy down there!

So HOW do you inspire people to be generous and give you a few bucks as a tip?

When people make song requests they will sometimes tip. It’s hit and miss really. Sometimes the most demanding person whom you spend the most amount of time catering to will stand up and leave without dropping you a thanks, let alone a tip. Lest they lose a pretty shekel, but I digress. It kinda sucks, in a perfect world they would really appreciate your efforts and make it rain, but this isn’t a perfect world. This just means you have to;

  1. Tamper your expectations, while
  2. Using some strategies that will make people more likely to tip.
  3. It’s good to think of tips as a bonus and not something that you use to measure your own worth.
  4. Most importantly, find a way to make people request songs more frequently, and  find a way to make sure you will know the songs they ask for. As I’m about to show you it isn’t that hard.

 

This very specific trick worked like a charm in both Scotland and Canada:

As some people will leave a tip when they request a song, let’s use that to our advantage. You need to make a song book. A song book is great because it let’s people chose requests from a list you’ve pre made. I think it has an edge on simply telling people, “Hey folks, feel free to make requests”. In my way people feel more in charge, it’s interactive (so…it’s fun), and you avoid awkwardly telling people “Sorry, I don’t know that song…(Crickets)”.

Try this:

  1. Get a binder and some plastic sheet covers.
  2. In a word processor, make a list of all the songs you know how to play. I recommend alphabetizing this by artists (See the Example of a Song Book down below). Save the file, people will hold your book upside down and you will lose pages to trampling and wet floors from time to time.
  3. Print off your song list and place the pages into the clear sheet covers.
  4. Make a “Title/Social Media Page”, whatever you wanna call it. On this title page you can say a little about yourself (fight the urge to write a novel, lol it’s tough I know) Include your social media links. Put a little message on there inviting people to take a picture of the page so that they have all of your links saved in their phone (Instagram, Facebook, website, etc.). This is where you can increase your social media following easily and effortlessly while providing people with some info about you, followed by your song list. See below (under the “Example of the Song List” for my “Example of Title/Social Media Page”.
  5. You now have a Song Book…look at you!
  6. So now you are at a gig with your Song Book. You have your Intro/Social Media Page followed by the pages that make up your Song List. Now you need a tip jar. If you are unsure, ask the manager if it’s alright to put out a tip jar. You can have your own (with cool artwork on it) or you can just ask the bartender for a clear glass where tips will hopefully go. If you use one of their glasses then make sure to make a little sign saying something like “Band tips, Thank you!!!”. Lean that up against the tip jar and you’re in business. Next is where the magic happens…
  7. I like to start the night off with a 2-3 song medley of tunes that I know people will respond well to. “Sitting on the Dock (at the bay)” is a great song to start with, for example. When you see people smiling, singing a long, or tapping their feet then you know it’s working. Starting with a medley has the psychological effect of taking pressure off of the audience. It’s not like they have to clap for your right off the bat. After a 2-3 song medley you will have proved yourself to the crowd more, and given them a better value start, without require anyone to be the “first to clap” right away. You may be laughing but there is definitely a crowd psychology that exists in a venue full of people watching an artist perform.
  8. Warmly introduce yourself and let everyone know that it’s “great to be here to lay down the soundtrack of your evening. Please folks, feel free to help out by making requests from my Song Book over here”. Point out your song book which you’ve strategically placed RIGHT BESIDE your tip jar. People may not take you up on it right away. That’s the crowd psychology at work again. Once one person decides to have a peak in your book, others will follow. You can even pass the book to someone close (establishing a rapport with a nearby table of people while setting up helps break that ice, but make sure it’s appropriate. This doesn’t always fly, especially in ritsy venues).
  9. Throughout the night, reference your song book. As your audience gets more drunk they will be more bold and will be more likely to come make a request. People will be more likely to tip you as the tip jar is sitting right beside your song book. You will never have to tell people “I’m sorry, but I don’t know that song…(more crickets). Once one person tips…well you get it, crowd psychology comes into play once more.
  10. Before your last song give this a try… Let everyone know “This is my last song folks. It’s been so great playing for you tonight, and thank you so much for all of your generosity, I really appreciate that. My name’s Bradly Mitchell and you can follow me on social media. I hope to see you around again, have a great night” and then launch into your last song. That kind of references the tips/tippers and let’s people know that this is their last chance to tip if they were considering it.

Flat out asking for tips can be a little tacky (in my opinion) and I try to avoid doing that. I’ve heard some guys and gals that are really good at doing just that. Unfortunately for me though, I’m not a natural salesman. That’s why I really love this method. It is more organic and has led to countless great nights where I have built a great rapport with my audience. I’ve made tons of tips as well as increased my social media following.

There’s one thing I didn’t mention yet. I either know the songs of my songbook by heart or have the lyrics and/or chords in my iPad. You should see how quick I bring up the chords or lyrics to the next request while I’m still playing. That kills dead time between songs and is a generally good practice anyways. Dead time isn’t fun for anyone. Using an iPad for chords or lyrics has another advantage of helping you rapidly grow your song list. Every once in a while you are going to want to update your song list.

Give it a try and please let me know how it is working for you. Check out the two examples below

 

Example of a Song List:

Abba:                                                                                                              Dancing Queen

Mamma Mia

Beatles:                                                                                                           In My Life

Billy Joel:                                                                                                       New York State of Mind

Piano Man

Chris Cornell:                                                                                                Doesn’t Remind Me

 

(and so on, and so forth)

 

Example of a Title/Media Page:

Hi! My name is Bradly Mitchell

 

I’m a singer/songwriter from Toronto. I play shows in all kinds of venues for a living. Tough life…I know 😉 It’s great to be here playing for you tonight! Have fun choosing songs from this list for me to play.

Below are my Social Media Links. It would be really friggin’ awesome if you would follow me online and perhaps come out to see me again sometime! Feel free to take a picture so that you have all the links in one place.

Instagram: @themusicentrepreneur

Facebook:   the music entrepreneur

Twitter:       @ domusicforlife

Website:       www.bradlymitchell.com   and

                        www.themusicentrepreneur.com (It’s a blog for musicians I do, it rocks!)

Any tip donations are very much appreciated. Most importantly, I hope you have a killer night tonight and that I see you again soon!

Cheers!

Bradly

So that’s it! Please smash the like and share using the buttons below to spread the good gospel to our musician friends around the world! This was a fun article to write and I sincerely hope it really helps you to do great work and make some extra dough. Getting tipped is super flattering too! Keep up the great work.

-Brad

How to play gigs for agencies/booking agents. Tips and tricks to get yourself on the roster and be in demand.

This article is designed to educate you (and give you tips) about how to perform gigs for booking agencies. I’ll talk about the Pros and Cons and give you an overview of my experiences in this world. Hopefully there is a lot you will be able to take out of this article and apply to your own lives. Playing for agencies can be great but I want you to understand it and know what you’re getting into.

Some PROS and CONS about using a booking agency.

PROS:

  1. You get to work in venues you may not typically have access to perform in
  2. Agencies book all kinds of venues and events. You can be working on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. You may have mid day or early afternoon work. I often can squeeze in an extra gig after these shows
  3. You work in great venues, sometimes in a suit. This is great for being taken professionally. It goes a long way if a client is thinking of hiring you to perform their wedding and you invite them to see you play in a ritzy venue where you’re all dressed up
  4. You can fill in some holes in your schedule where you didn’t manage to book anything
  5. You are the backup for a long list of performers and there are tons of instances where artists have to cancel or can’t perform for whatever reason (obviously, try to limit cancelling if you’ve agreed to perform a gig). It’s nice to get calls to cover for other people, especially last minute!
  6. You can hand out business cards to high end clients (See point 2 in cons).
  7. You are building relationships and increasing you network
  8. Access to great new opportunities such as performing on cruise ships, hotels, casinos, and resorts (domestic or abroad)
  9. You learn tons of stuff and your game will get better. Playing in-demand venues and high end places teaches you next-level lessons in professionalism, reliability, and presentation. The devil is in the details and this will help you be a pro in all your other gigs. Great training for booking and playing corporate gigs and weddings of your own.

CONS:

  1. You usually make a lower rate of pay. That’s undeniable, but playing early on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday makes up for that I think.
  2. You can’t always hand out business cards (I know this contradicts point 6 in Pros, some agencies stipulate this, use your judgement. There are some instances where it’s possible, be smart about it).
  3. Red tape. You have to send in invoices and wait a week or two for your pay. You often have to pay for parking. It’s not as simple as finding a gig on your own, playing it, and getting paid.
  4. Your music can be in the background. People may not clap and cheer you on. Thats just the way it is. Doesn’t mean it won’t happen. The ball is in your court as the musician but generally we shouldn’t interact with guests until approached. These gigs really aren’t about us and being offended by someone not caring about the music is super redundant and unnecessary. It accomplishes nothing. Your job is to sound great, look great, and not extend yourself too much into the guests’ evening. This brings me to my next point,
  5. It’s a job. We all love music and it sucks to think of it “as a job”. But it’s so much better than actually having to go work a “job” that you hate, that has nothing to do with music. Try to take away the good side of things and you’ll have a good time and learn a TON of shit to REALLY make you a more valuable and sought after music entrepreneur.

Here are things you should have to increase your chances of working for agencies:

  1. A good reputation
  2. A good network of musicians
  3. A good attitude
  4. 3 X 45 minute sets of upbeat covers (You won’t always need that much but having tons of tunes in your repertoire is never a bad thing). It doesn’t all have to be party music but you can’t be a downer. Your music will often not be in the forefront but they still don’t want quiet minor chords with depressing lyrics. Think cocktail style (so jazz is great, old school RnB, well chosen top 40 covers from the last 5 years, easy listening basically. Instrumental works too often).
  5. A website
  6. Business Cards
  7. Good sounding gear for rooms that do not provide a PA
  8. Some promo really helps too, especially when there aren’t auditions being had
  9. The desire to grow, learn, and expand what you do, and how well you do it.

Below is my personal experience regarding this matter (There’s tons to takeaway from this to apply to your career). It’s about a 10 minute read but I think the benefits you will reap extend way beyond the time you’ll spend acquiring the information. Please enjoy! 🙂

It is so rewarding to find gigs on your own. It really sharpens your tools as a businessperson and you learn a ton from getting out there and convincing venues to give you a chance to perform for them. You are your own boss so what you get out of it relates directly to how hard you hustle to find the gigs, and how pro you are to keep the gigs re-occuring. That being said there are some really great music venues that deal exclusively with music booking agencies. The door closes pretty quick in these places when you try to book a gig directly with the venue.

It’s great to hustle and book your schedule with as many gigs as possible. Never stop that. That being said, when you become a trusted member of the roster of a booking agent/agency the work comes to you. Instead of chasing venues you receive calls and emails to perform regularly in some pretty great venues. I’m going to talk a bit about what it is like to play for booking agencies and give some tips that should help you become a member of a booking agency in your area.Thanks for checking out my list of pros and cons…now it’s story time.

What is it like to play for a booking agent/agency? What to expect…

The first agent I ever played for was an independent booking agent and he was pretty sleazy. He used to pay me and a buddy $200.00 as a duo (The venue paid out $300.00) and would pocket $100.00 to himself. That is pretty shady. I mean, I get that it’s a free market and all, but there’s a reason why this guy got fired from booking that venue when the manager caught wind of the extortionately low rates he was paying the musicians to play there. I want to issue a word of caution to you all, stay vigilant and don’t let yourself be underpaid because people will start to expect that you’ll work for very little. On the flip-side, I was pretty new to the biz back then, and I had a bunch of openings in my schedule so I would take the $100.00 rate to play for 4 hours (yikes! “It” really does float :P). When playing for agencies you have to walk the line between being underpaid and receiving a fair pay for your services! I’ll also touch base on this further in this blog post.

So when did things get better?

Basically, I would accept bookings with the sleazy agent whenever I had a hole in my schedule. After all, $100.00 was better than nothing when I started out. I constantly hustled to find more work though as I knew I deserved better. One day I tried to book a gig in a venue that used a booking agent and so I asked for their contact info and got in touch. I also have friends in the business that worked for that person and I was introduced that way. As I was pretty new to the business I still had a pretty open schedule and I remember getting a call from this new agent one day and he offered me like 15 gigs over the next 2-3 months. I hung up the phone feeling like a champion. The gigs paid $125-150.00 which was an improvement for me at the time. I kept working hard and learning new things and I got better. Eventually I was booking more gigs for myself and did not require the agent as much. Outgrowing an agent is great thing!

Whether you have a connection to the agent or not, they’re always looking for new performers. You find them by networking with other musicians (Open mics, etc) and by looking for venues in which to perform (So a pub manager might say “Hey we actually book through an agent and here are their details, get in touch!”.

This is what the business is like. Don’t expect to get into this knowing how to handle playing the best steakhouse or most swanky cocktail bar in town. There’s baby steps you need to learn to attain the next level, and there definitely are many levels.

Fast forward to now

In Edinburgh I was a lone wolf. I used a couple booking agents here or there but generally I really learned to hustle and make it happen for myself there. Now that I’m back in Toronto there are a bunch of venues that were taken over by various booking agencies. You can’t play direct without an agent in these places anymore. By using my network of musicians I was able to play a gig as the duo partner of an artist booked in to perform at one of these venues. We did a great job and I sent in an email to the agency letting them know that I was the duo partner and that I would love to be considered to perform more gigs. I provided my website details and they looked into me and got back to me offering me some work. I also heard about another agency that books a ton of super high end gigs and so I wrote an email to them and managed to be booked in to play a room for them.

The way it works is like this: Some agencies require you to audition, so google “music booking services in” your area and get in touch to try and set up a rehearsal. Other agencies will give you a booking (if your promo checks out) and will use the feedback of the venue to determine if you are good enough to continue booking. This is pretty par for the course so go in there and be the complete image of what a pro is! Do whatever they need and do it with a smile. You want the best review possible and that comes from sounding good and being easy and great to work with. Provide the service they are paying for. Thats basically how you get your shoe in the door. Work with your musician network, find out who books what venues, get in touch and be friendly, try out/book a gig and crush it, await more gigs, and repeat. 

In the last month I’ve been driving into the city from my suburb to perform in a suit and tie up to 2-3 times a week. It feels great to be taken seriously and to be respected. The money can still be hit and miss. It’s never under $150.00 and often more, but it’s early and mid week work. The thing is that the more good work you do for the company the more valuable you are to them. You have the right to request more money if you feel you deserve it. It’s up to you to feel it out and request a higher pay and to deal with the agencies response however you see fit.

I hope this was all very helpful. I would love to hear from you for your candid input about this topic. Please Comment below or on the Community Page”Also PLEASE LIKE and SHARE this article if you know people that might benefit from it. The better our network of musicians do, the better we do. Not only is there enough work to go around but by being great at what we do we are creating more jobs! Keep kicking ass, good luck!

Bradly

My List of Live Music Faux-Pas. Please don’t do these live music faux-pas to performers!!!

Most people are great, as I’ve said. You always get those few who have to spoil it for everyone. It boils down to basic consideration. We chose to be live performers. We never chose to be treated like crap. If you’re going out for an evening with your friends then appreciate their company, the venue, the staff, and the musician that is working hard to make your night fun and memorable. Don’t do anything on my list of live music faux-pas

List of live music faux-pas

An actual conversation between a musician and an audience member;

Audience Member: “Play Some Johnny Cash!!!!”

Artist: “I don’t play any Johnny Cash!”

A.M.: “What!? You don’t!? You shouldn’t even have a guitar if you don’t play Johnny Cash”

*Artist finishes next song*

A.M.: “Mate, play some Johnny Cash”

This is an actual conversation between a musician mate of mine in Edinburgh (Shoutout to Ross!) and a member of the audience at one of his recent gigs. The fact of the matter is that often while we are performing live music we (very frequently) have to deal with assholes. This is my list of live music-faux pas.

For the most part people are lovely. Unfortunately, however, a certain percentage of the population just haven’t learned manners. This gets exacerbated when alcohol comes into the mix, which is not an excuse, but rather a word of caution to all musicians! There are several forms of bad treatment that musicians are subjected to regularly and I’d like to share with you all some of the situations I’ve encountered (or heard of from friends). Here’s a list of ways not to treat a musician who is trying to provide you with the service of entertainment.

Here’s my list of ways not to treat musicians:

Uhhh, this song SUCKS!!!

This one is a huge pet peeve of mine. When people right in front of us nag at us and feel the need to let us know they do not like the song we are playing. We are doing our best to please everyone. Bear in mind everyone has different taste and we really are trying. We aren’t going to stop playing a song because you feel the need to have an overly verbalized negative attitude. You’d be surprised how often people get my attention and say “Stop playing this song it sucks”…lol…THANKS!

Can I play your guitar?

At least once a week I have a listener in a venue approach me asking if they can play my instrument and/or sing a song. Of course this is the discretion of the artist but I generally don’t allow people to do this. This often causes said person to get angry or aggressive towards me and that is not ok. I often hear things like “ya, you’re afraid everyone’s gonna know I’m better than you!”. That’s wrong on so many levels. This persons friend also love to give me a hard time.

This is why I don’t want you to play my guitar/sing a tune:

  1. I don’t know you, and I don’t know how much you drank.
  2. If you damage my guitar or any other equipment you will just walk away after saying “sorry” (and taking no actual responsibility). Sorry doesn’t fix my instrument. I saved up and paid a lot of money for my instrument and I play music full-time. My livelihood is directly affected if you break my guitar. I’m not willing to take that chance so that you can be self-indulgent or impress your friends. (My mate had his guitar broken by a staff member at a venue that asked to play his guitar, so be really careful lending it out). By saying no we aren’t being assholes.
  3. I’ve been hired by the venue to provide a certain standard of live music. When you come up and actually can’t sing or are too drunk to sing properly (or are just taking the piss) then it reflects super poorly on me, and the venue/other listeners don’t appreciate being subjected to that!
  4. If I let you play who else is going to want to come up and play/sing? In a room full of drunken people you can lose control of the situation. Eff that!
  5. I’m hired to play and nowhere in that dynamic am I obliged to grant you access to come up and perform. I’m not being rude, I’m not scared you’re better than me, I’m just doing my job. Please respect the fact that I’m trying to get through my shift and provide my audience with a fun night of musical distraction from their everyday lives!

Hey pal can you play a song by the band “Punk Wielding Fire Pit Swell Dodgers? ….you never heard of them? Cmon play the song man!”

Uhm, sorry, I never heard of the band “Punk Wielding Fire Pit Swell Dodgers”. It’s impossible to know every song by every band ever. I try, as I’m sure most musicians do, to have a varied eclectic mix of songs. I also try to take requests where I can. That doesn’t mean it’s ok to have a go at us for not knowing a song, it isn’t personal, we just can’t play a song if we don’t know it. I’ve had the following conversation with Audience Members more times than I can count:

A.M.: “Play the song “random request” dude!”

Me: “I’m sorry, I don’t know that one”

A.M.: “C’mon man ya you do, just play it”

Me: “I can’t play it if I don’t know how to”

A.M. “Yeah you can, how do you not know that song?”

Me: “I never learned it”

A.M. “You can play it! Uhhh you suck dude” or some variation of insults designed at putting me down for not catering my performance to you and you alone.

Stranger Danger

One time I even had my life threatened. I played 2 requests for one guy and I didn’t recognize the third song request. He gave me the regular “yeah, cmon man you know it”. When I assured him I didn’t he said he was going to get his gun and shoot me. No word of a lie. He didn’t do anything but he stood in front of me staring me down as I put away my equipment after I was done performing. I wanted to deck the guy. This is a very extreme case but it is to give you some kind of idea what we deal with sometimes while trying to entertain folk. It’s a fun job but we aren’t there to take people’s abuse. To some people we are an easy target and that kind of thing isn’t cool!

I can totally grab/touch/fondle the musician, no problem there!

This one really isn’t ok. It’s pretty high up on my list of live music faux-pas.

I laugh it off sometimes as listeners approach me with their hand up waiting for a high five while I’m in the middle of playing a guitar solo. I can’t shake your hand or high five you if I’m in the middle of doing my thing as musicians need their hands to make the sound keep going. Unfortunately that is just the tip of the iceberg.

It happens to guys and girl musicians alike. We do get quite a bit of attention playing music for a crowd but some people think it’s ok to act inappropriate and behave in ways that cross the lines of what is normally considered sexual abuse. You have no right to uninvitedly touch a performer. Whether grabbing their hand, rubbing their head, or grabbing their ass. I’ve had people do all the above. I’ve had a member of a hen party try to put their hands down my pants while I was playing once.

I get it, you’re excited. But we are just normal people so stop coming up to us and grabbing us, or being creepy towards us. The same rules and social conventions of everyday life apply when you deal with us. Keep your hands to yourselves folks, my goodness.

Let’s dance!! (right into the musician knocking him/her over).

Nothing makes me see red during a performance like having dancing people forget that I’m standing there and swirling right into me. It’s happened numerous times. I try to set up my mic and stuff in as good a position as I can to give people room. If you want to dance then great but please remember that we are there.

I’ve had countless people fall into me, or knock my mic stand over (With my iPad attached it it). When this happens the microphone can smash us in the face. I’ve gotten multiple bloody lips this way and know artists that have had their front teeth chipped. If you’re dancing then for the love of everything holy, PLEASE don’t fall into us. It hurts, damages our equipment, stops the song, and is the most annoying thing ever.

We ARE allowed to stop playing whenever our shift is done.

I’m always flattered when a crowd wants an encore, but sometimes people demand more even if I’ve played one, two, or three extra songs. Again, it’s super flattering but we don’t owe you it. Some musicians play 2,3 gigs a night and we get tired too. We don’t go to your place of work and insist you work past the time your shift ends. Even if we did you wouldn’t care and might tell us where to go, seeing us as the wrong doer. Why is this any different. If the musicians gives an encore they’re a class act. If they don’t thats their right. I’ve been cursed at for not continuing to play after already offering up an encore. I don’t want to stop offering encores when I’m able so please know the flip side. Appreciate when you get one and please don’t be a jerk if you don’t.

Just generally being rude to the musician

I never understood people that go out for dinner and are just upset and pissed off the whole time. Treating the wait staff terribly. Isn’t the whole point of going out to dinner to unwind and relax and share a pleasant meal together? I feel the same way about people being rude to bar staff and to musicians.

We aren’t punching bags for you to unload your verbal abuse after a tough week, or whatever the problem is. Just the other day some man drinking in front of me went around asking everyone around if they knew the song I was playing. He then walked up to me and made the “cut it out” sign with his hands saying “mate nobody knows this song, shut it down”. What a prick! It’s especially funny since I had been playing songs like Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of you” and a ton of other upbeat covers. It was incredibly rude and showed no respect. There’s many instances where people are rude like this and all musicians should know that it’s going to happen.

Let’s help the musicians out…

We want everyone to have a good time so use your proper judgement. We all know there are those people who behave terribly in public with or without alcohol. Keep an eye out for the musicians if you see them being abused. It’s an awkward spot to be in as many musicians are scared to lose a gig if they say something rude to a (deserving) customer. Not everyone is confrontational so it’s nice when other people in the vicinity have our backs.

Most people are great, as I’ve said. You always get those few who have to spoil it for everyone. It boils down to basic consideration. We chose to be live performers. We never chose to be treated like crap. If you’re going out for an evening with your friends then appreciate their company, the venue, the staff, and the musician that is working hard to make your night fun and memorable.

These are just some of the things we go through as we try to make a living as music entrepreneurs. If you have anything to add please comment below, and share this article to spread the word about proper etiquette towards musicians. Cheers.

(For inspiration about being a pro musicians, click here to view my “Day in the life of a music entrepreneur” video.)

(For my article of about live music faux-pas for musicians click here)

I’ll also give myself a plug here, Check out my musician website here!

 

Ways to avoid vocal cord problems like I had! Warning: Graphic content.

How-to avoid vocal cord problems like I had! Warning: Graphic content (meaning a photo of my vocal cords pre and post surgery, looks like something from outer space.)

(This was me in April 2017 right after having surgery to remove polyps from my vocal cords. A before and after photo of the polyps are down below so scroll slowly if you’re squeamish!)

vocal health
How to avoid vocal chord problems as a singer

In January of this year (2017) I went home to visit my family in Canada for a week and when I returned I started having problems singing at my gigs. I completely lost the ability to sing any falsetto notes (use my head voice). It would just come out as air struggling to push through. My vocals cords would not properly connect at the top to produce falsetto. I thought it was a cold I had but when I got over it I still couldn’t hit notes that were easy to hit a couple of weeks before. I resorted to cancelling some gigs and hiring singers to sing for me. It was a scary time not knowing why I couldn’t sing.

I ended up seeing a doctor and then an ENT (Ears, nose, and throat specialist) and they stuck a camera tube up my nostril and looked at my vocal cords in my throat. To my astonishment I had developed vocal polyps. (For more info about Vocal Polyps, click here). Basically they are a growth that inhibits the normal use of your vocal cords. Polyps are not as bad as vocal nodules at least, but they still required surgery to remove. I stopped singing before my surgery and had a period of about a month afterwards where I also wouldn’t be able to sing.

Graphic, here’s a pic of my vocal cords before and after surgery:

I know this picture is a little gross but I want you to understand that vocal issues are very real and can strike out of the blue, seriously affecting your life!

(The Top photo is before the surgery, notice the polyps on the upper right side which made using my falsetto impossible. The Bottom photo is right after having my polyps snipped off by doctors. Not a very fun ordeal and I’d hate to see anyone else go through this!)

IMG_6034

I hope i didn’t traumatize any of you, lol…moving right along.

I’m not sure exactly why I developed the polyps. The doctor said it could be from singing with improper technique, or too often, or could have started while I was sick with a cold and trying to sing through it. Part of my recovery involved seeing a speech therapist. The speech therapist enlightened me about the importance of warm-up and cool-down exercises for before and after singing. She also suggested I take a couple vocal lessons to make sure I was using proper technique (which I recommend if you’re unsure about your current vocal technique). I’d like to share some things I’ve learned that will help you maintain proper vocal health and reduce the likelihood of you going through what I went through.

Things to stop doing immediately:

There are several things that contribute to poor vocal cord health and a poor vocal performance.

Whispering: Whispering is very bad for your vocal cords and should not be done habitually.

Throat Clearing: I’ve very guilty of this one as I clear my throat more than I should. Since my surgery I’ve made a conscious effort to reduce/eliminate unnecessary throat clearing. It basically makes your vocal cords smash together and can cause damage over time.

Dairy and Cold: Eating/Drinking dairy creates mucus in your throat which makes it difficult to sing. Cold air conditioning (for example in your car on the way to a gig) or drinking iced water will constrict your vocal folds. These aren’t detrimental to your vocal health like whispering and throat clearing but will negatively impact your performance if you do either in the hours leading up to a performance. (Come to think of it spicy foods can also reduce your singing abilities in the short term.)

Things to start doing:

Vocal warm-ups and cool-downs. This one is easy, loosen up your vocal cords before and after periods of exertion such as singing a gig. IT will make a big difference in your performance and will contribute to long-term vocal health.

Keep yourself properly hydrated: It’s important to drink enough water or tea (I love hot water with honey and lemon squeezed into it) on days when you will be singing. If you arrive at the gig dehydrated than it is already too late and you will be playing catch up. It’s important to remember that coffee and alcohol definitely won’t help your vocals as they dehydrate you.

Maintaining a basic level of fitness: This isn’t to say you need to be a gym rat to sing well as there are tons of examples where I can easily be proved wrong here. For me though, I’ve notice that I have more lung power during periods when I incorporate some form of regular exercise into my schedule. I don’t know if it’s “a thing” or if it’s mental, but it’s something to consider if you’re looking to take every step possible to improve your singing.

How-to Warm-up/Cool-off: (With Videos Demonstrations)

  1. First loosen up your body a bit. Rotate your shoulders in forward circles 10 times. Then reverse the direction and rotate another 10 times. Repeat this 2 or 3 times.
  2. The “Scooby Too”: It sounds ridiculous but stick your tongue out as far as you can. Its almost like saying “ahhh” for a doctor/dentist but without the noise, and then keep pushing your tongue out. This stretches and loosens the muscle. Repeat this at least 10 times. Stick your tongue out and reach downward, then repeat. (People next to you in traffic will get a giggle as you head to your gig).
  3. Pretend the tip of your tongue is a camera and you need to take a picture of the back of each tooth individually. This movement will also loosen up the tongue. (No video as this is pretty self explanatory).
  4. Hum a note and hold that note as you exhale. Repeat this a few times.
  5. Hum scales. You can use the major scale melody. DO-RE-MI-FA-SOOO…SO-FA-MI-RE-DOOO. Hum this melody then move up a semi tone. Keep doing this until you hear the break in your range then work your way back down until you bottom out (and can’t hum a lower tone).
  6. Repeat these scales but using a lip trill, or a brrrrrrrr  sounds. If you have a hard time doing the brrrrr sound then use your thumb and pointer finger to apply a bit of pressure on both cheeks right above where your molars are.
  7. You can do the scales once more using words like GUG, or MUM. Gig-Gug-Gug-Gug-Gug-Gug-Gug-Gug-Gug with the DO-RE-MI-FA-SO-FA-MI-RE-DO melody.
  8. Raise your shoulders and breath in. This next step happens all at once. As you release the air let go of your shoulders so that gravity can pull them down naturally while making the brrr sound with your lips. While this is happening hum a high pitch note that slides to a low note as your shoulders are descending. I’ll post a vid of this later today!

CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO DEMONSTRATIONS (Will open a new window)

Using these warm-up techniques before and after singing will greatly improve your abilities as well as help with your long term vocal health. Remember that your voice is an instrument and our instruments can’t be neglected! I learned all of this because of problems I had that required surgery and a speech therapist to fix which is why I know what I’m talking about now. Also my fiancé just completed her masters degree in speech therapy so I’m getting a ton of help with it at home as well.

As always information is everything and it isn’t obvious if you haven’t had any vocal issues. At some point along your path I would recommend booking a lesson or two (or however many) with a vocal coach to make absolute sure you are using proper technique that isn’t damaging your voice. I know they aren’t always cheap but a couple of sessions to make sure you’re not using bad habits is an investment i seriously recommend you consider at some point!

If you do have vocal issues:

If at some point along the way you do encounter problems with your voice then please see your doctor and let them know you rely on your voice to make a living. I was sped through the process as I was adamant on that. Listen to them and do what they tell you. You can always hire people to sing for you and split the pay with them in the short term. It’s not ideal but it’s better than sitting at home and making nothing. It will probably feel very discouraging but hang in there and you’ll make a speedy recovery in no time, much like I did.

Psychological warfare:

Being a singer with vocal issues is super scary, especially if you depend on singing to pay your bills! Just know you aren’t alone. There are great musicians that can sing for you until you heal. I’m always here to chat about how the healing process went for me so don’t be shy to reach out. Feeling alone is the worse, and you aren’t alone so keep your head up and hang in there.

SO!:

Vocal cords problems range from polyps to full-on nodules. By avoiding the “don’t dos”, doing warm-ups/cool-downs, and by using proper technique you will seriously reduce your risk of damaging your vocals. If you’re concerned about potential vocal issues or have been inconsistent book an appointment or head to the walk-in clinic. You may need to see and ENT (Ear nose and Throat specialist). I hope all of this information will help you make beautiful music for many years to come! Please comment down below if you know other great warmup/cool down tricks for vocalists!

Please like and share this article so we can help promote proper vocal health for all the amazing singers we know and love!

All the best! 🙂

-Bradly

(Here I am, back at work and loving it!)

for instagram

 

 

Find Paying Gigs Pt. 2 – Finding “non-bar” gigs!

I’ve been getting some great feedback on my “How to Find Paid Gigs” post. Thanks for reading it and for taking the time to comment. One suggestion I received via Facebook was to talk a bit about finding gigs other than bar/pub/restaurant gigs. There’s many ways to “gig for a living” so I’d like to include some options to play shows that don’t involved playing in bars for hammered patrons. “Freeebird!”. When it comes to trying to find paid gigs you have several options.

I’ll cover a few different things here. If you think I’ve missed something then please free to comment below and leave your two cents!

I’m going to discuss:

  • Busking
  • Playing at the marketplace
  • Caterers/Private Parties
  • Cruise/Hotel/Casinos
  • Municipal Events
  • Further Diversifying
  • Final thoughts: Playing music for the less fortunate

Busking: The feature photo for this blog post was taken in Aug 2015 in Edinburgh during the International Festival. It is a picture of the first time I busked, ever.

Busking may be viewed kind of negatively (by some) but as my time in Edinburgh during the Edinburgh International Festival has taught me-it doesn’t have to. I’ve busked before here and there and it is a great way to make some quick money. It’s not my method of choice for making a living but it has it’s merits.

The secret to making the most of busking is to find a good location with lots of foot traffic being in a “touristy” part of town doesn’t hurt either. Check local laws regarding busking and amplification. Some places allow amps and others do not. Some cities also sell permits to busk so check with your city council to inquire about these (I know in Toronto you can apply for a busking permits to play in subway stations. If you have a good spot and everything is legal then I would say that the other secret to maximizing the potential of busking is to have CD’s available to sell, or a website containing your music that folks can purchase your music from. You can hand out business card with your website on it. You could also have a sign with your web address on it and a note “inviting people to take a picture with their phones”-to have your webpage and social media links saved in their phones.

This is music and performing in it’s most raw form so it is really about the connections you can make with those listening to you. Many people will walk by as people’s lives are happening feverishly around us as we know. Some will stop though, to listen and take part in what you’re offering. Encouraging further connection through social media/CD sales really depends on how you work it. The most successful buskers I’ve seen know how to command a crowd and often say things like “Please everybody move forward, get nice and close here. I don’t want you to be standing close to the traffic, let’s make a circle”. Another thing to keep in mind is the length you play for. If you find a killer spot and other buskers gather around waiting for their turn it’s generally understood that you’ll play for 45 minutes to an hour. After that you go look for another place to play. That’s how it was in Edinburgh.

If you can get one person to stop and pay attention odds are more will follow as it is basic human psychology to not want to be the first to commit to leaving the “comfort zone”.

Marketplace Performer:

Farmer’s markets and other types of marketplaces are a great opportunity to play music for people, make some money, and make some great connections. In Edinburgh I would often play at the outdoor markets on weekends-the Leith Market on Saturdays and Sundays at Stockbridge. I love playing the markets as it is a vibrant setting where you meet tons of people. I love being outside and being around people. I made friends with amazing people from different walks of life by performing at the market.  I also love the energy and atmosphere of vendors interacting with shoppers looking for great food, products, and services. It’s different from a typical bar gig as there isn’t the pressure to play songs you may not like to play. It’s always wise to play mostly upbeat music, but you do have a lot more leeway here than when performing in a pub or restaurant.

Another difference between bar gigs and playing at markets is that typically the markets don’t pay you a fee to play. If you get into this scene and manage to get a fee then good for you, but I always played for tips. It is essentially busking, but on steroids. You play for tips but you are the one scheduled to be there, almost like a featured artist. I prefer this to street busking as it is seen as a bit more “legit” to people. This helps sell more music and to convert more social media followers.

I became a marketplace performer by visiting the market and asking for the manager. I chatted with her about the idea of having me come and play some guitar to enhance the atmosphere further and she loved the idea. It was an easy sell as I did not require a fee and would play for people’s generosity.

Hint: After playing a few songs and getting a few tips I always thank everyone “for their generosity” in tipping me. I don’t know if my gratitude is endearing to them or if I make them feel bad (not my intent lol) but it always works like a charm. I’ll say this a few times throughout the day as there’s a high turnover of people at the market, but try not to overuse it!

Oh and the food at the market is my guilty pleasure and often the vendors are very generous are give you stuff at a discount or free even. Mmmmm paella!

 Learning to make Spanish Paella with my friends over at the Paella tent in the Grassmarket Saturday Market in Edinburgh, 2016. Great people, great food, great fun!

paella

Go visit you local farmer’s markets, flea markets, etc and inquire about providing live music for tips. It’s a great way to make money during the day while meeting amazing people, enjoying great food, and supporting locals venders!

Events/Caterers/Private Parties:

You can contact caterers and offer you musical services. Many caterers have clients that are interested in live music so you are an asset to a caterer. You can allow a caterer to easily reply “I have a guy/girl for that” any time they have a potential client asking about music.  From employee appreciation days for office workers, to Christmas parties, art gallery events, weddings, and tons of other possible events, this is one great way to find work that doesn’t require you to play in bars.

Handing out business cards at live shows (in bars, marketplaces, wherever really) is a great way to book private parties (such as birthdays, weddings, summer BBQ parties, holiday parties, etc). Playing private parties feels very rewarding and flattering as the client chose you specifically for their special event. If you’re friendly, work hard, and care about your clients and their event than you will often be handing out more business cards at these events as well. By nurturing these values it’s just a matter of time until you are receiving frequent calls out of the blue to play more private parties!

Cruises, Hotels, and Casinos:

I’ve never really gone this route but I know a few performers that have. There are agencies that book performers to play on cruise ships and in hotels/casinos (domestically or abroad). I Googled “talent bookings for cruises and hotels” and found a bunch of companies in the industry. Always make sure to do a bit of research on any companies you’re thinking of working with (there are scams out there so beware). This type of overseas work can be great though depending on your circumstances.

If you like to travel, are single, and want to make money and have very little living costs, this opportunity might be right for you. From what I’ve hear you generally play 6 days a week so this is a great way to really improve your playing. From what I’ve heard there’s no rent to pay or food costs and you can make around $3,500.00 a month. Speak with musicians in your music scene (At open mics or on Facebook local music scene pages) and ask for some advice.

Play for the city (Municipal Events):

Visit your city hall/council to inquire about city organized events/festivals. Perhaps the town is planning a Rib Fest in the near future and could use a band. Most towns and cities have a department of recreation and culture. You can offer your services for consideration for upcoming municipal events.

Further Diversifying:

Besides the things I’ve mentioned in this post, you can use your imagination and entrepreneurial flare to think of other places to perform. Schools often put on concerts, why not call around to the different school boards to find out more?

Some daycare centres offer musical stimulation as part of the package to make their daycare centre more alluring to parents. Call around and offer this type of service to day care centres.

You can advertise to groups of parents to hire you to play music for all of their children for an hour.

Do you see where I’m going with this? This is why we must be music entrepreneurs. It’s not enough to take the mould of the status quo and apply it to our lives as musicians. You are far better off always trying to expand the services you offer and the connections you are making with people in different industries. The “box” of playing pub gigs exists and you can play within and outside the rules of this “box”. You’re the boss, do what works for you! Good luck applying these methods to your life. Be in touch on the “TME Community” page to let us know how everything is going for you.

Final Thought:

Like bar gigs, success here depends on hustling hard and being active in finding work. With everything mentioned above you should be able to find some paying work! I want to finish with this last thought. Music is a powerful thing. It creates memories, happiness, and has even shown powers of healing. If you are in a position where you’re working hard at it and making good money, please consider the notion of playing music for the less fortunate. Old person’s homes and hospitals are always looking for volunteers to give the gift of music. I know not everyone is in a position to do this. So as to set the example and encourage you, I am enrolling to perform in an old age home and I will write a post to talk about the experience at some point down the road.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and if you’ve found it useful than would you do me a huge favour and PLEASE share it! Also, please sign up for my mailing list to receive notices when I upload new content. I really want you to succeed with music and enjoy what you do! Cheers.

How to find paying gigs!

Heya there!

People are often surprised when they find out I perform gigs to make my living. For many musicians gigs are the main source of income as the pay can be pretty decent and it’s fun. Generally speaking there’s a lot of work available if you work hard to find gigs. Once you have the gig it’s up to you to do the right things to keep getting booked in by that venue. Finding gigs can seem like a daunting task, though. You may feel like a door-to-door vacuum salesman. This isn’t a natural feeling for many of us, after all, we are musicians! I’ll walk you through the method that I have used to be booked up to play 5-10 shows a week. This is a guide based on things that have worked for me to find paying gigs.

One thing to keep in mind is that live music has value! Not just intrinsically (that feel-good fist-pumpy feeling). Yes, everyone loves and cherishes music but I’m talking dollar bills. If a venue hires a musician who has taken time to perfect his or her craft (learned good songs, doesn’t take long pauses between songs, takes short breaks, engages the crowd when appropriate, can sing and play well…that sorta stuff) then customers are more likely to stay longer, call their friends to join them, and consume more. By doing this consistently the venue can create a buzz and become known as a great place to check out the local talent, or at minimum they can sell more food and drinks. You should never feel as if you are being done a favour by being hired to play live music. It is a service! Showing gratitude towards venues that hire you is still important and you do this with thanks, being an easy person to deal with, and by working hard for them. Still though, don’t consider being hired to play “a favour”. You took years to learn your craft, you bought equipment, and you took the time to offer your services. You’re a pro. You deserve to be here and to be paid for working hard and being good at what you do. PERIOD.

Now with that in mind, the most effective way that I have managed to book my gigs has been by visiting venues in person. I recommend having business cards (Vista print all the way baby-cheap, great designs, delivered to your door) and a website which should of course be shown on your biz cards. WordPress.com has free websites available. There are also other very user friendly web building sites such as wix.com and bandzoogle.com. Some of these will cost a bit of money but it is well worth it at about $100.00/year (for hosting and use of great web building platforms). I’ll have a helpful guide on making a website coming along shortly. With these two things in your arsenal you’re ready to enter venues to try to find paying work.

The best time of day to enter a bar for a gig pitch depends on the venue. You get better at judging it over time, but generally you’re going to want to go in for a chat with venues on their off-peak hours. Don’t bother them when they are busy, don’t be “that guy/girl”. They don’t have time for you then and you won’t get the chance you need to make what I’m sure is an awesome killer pitch for your awesome killer performance. Now assuming you’re at a venue and it’s off-peak hours, and you have biz cards and a cool website with info and photos, and vids of you playing, and maybe a calendar showing your upcoming shows… then what? The person to talk to is the bartender! (I like the bartender (Ooh, if you’re lookin’ for me) I’m at the bar with her (Uh huh, okay)….sorry Tpain fans (do they still exist?), but moving right along lol).

Ask the bartender if there is a manager in at the moment that you could speak with about live music. Often the person behind the bar is the manager so perfect, otherwise the bartender will go and get that person for you or take your contact deets in their absence. A great tactic for starting your pitch is to ask the manager: “Do you offer live music to your guests?”. First off it sounds more professional. I’m also making it about them, which changes the playing field mentally. I prefer this then to flat out say “I’m looking for gigs”. It frames “offering live music to guests” as a thing of value. “Guests would enjoy if we offered that” the manager might think to him or herself. This can have the effect of making a venue feel like they should be offering live music. Also, this opening line is not pushy at all, which makes a good first impression. The venue will either;

  1. not be interested in any way, shape, or form in having live music,
  2. does offer guests live music,
  3. has been thinking about doing live music.

Unfortunately with option one there’s not much you can do except for maybe leaving a card in case anything changes. Option 2 is what you really want to hear. Your real pitch can begin. Mine usually sounds something like this:

“I’m a performer looking for new venues to perform in. What would I need to do to have a chance to come in and play for you guys?”

It’s simple and to the point. I won’t walk you through every word because I’m sure you can handle chatting with the manager. Keep in mind that you will want to know what to tell them when they ask “what kind of stuff do you do?“. Another thing for your consideration is if you have a following or not. You can always mention your local following which may sway the venues decision in your favour. I never reference this though. I play 5-9 shows a week on average currently. I can’t expect my friends or family to have that level of commitment at this point, mayyyybe in the beginning but not even really for me. Also, being from Toronto, which is massive in size, means I travelled all over to play, sometimes going as far as one or two hours drive away. I don’t have pull in those areas as I’m not local so I’m very upfront if I’m asked about “bringing a crowd with me”. That’s not the service I offer. I bring myself and my music and a great time for guests and staff. Trying to sell more than that may complicate your life beyond what you should, especially in the beginning. That’s my two cents, just know I have your interest at heart and that I’m trying to reduce your learning curve!

If the venue seems interested but unsure then you can suggest that they give it a try. Offer your services as a one off paid performance with the possibility of booking more shows if their guests and staff team enjoy the experience. There’s little risk in giving you a try, especially if they know you sound good from being able to hear you on your website. What have they got to lose?

After having this chat with a couple of venues you will learn to know what to expect,  what to say, and what not to say. You’ll learn what works and what doesn’t. Experience is the best teacher so get out there! When I moved to Edinburgh, Scotland to be with my girlfriend (fiancé now WOO!) I had no gigs booked and I knew no one. I had £800.00 to my name and HAD to make it work so I hustled my ass off. I had business cards made with my UK phone number and my website on it and I went door-to-door for two weeks straight. It was my full-time job to find work. If you’re serious about playing shows then act like a stranger in your city. Chose a place in town to start and walk/drive through every street stopping in every bar, club, restaurant, or venue. It took me two long weeks of walking all day but I managed to book enough gigs to pay all my bills and save money too. When you think about it, two weeks, it’s not that bad. Decide you will find gigs and make it happen.

When you’re chatting with someone about live music in a prospective venue you can always ask if there are any venues nearby that offer live music. Even if the place isn’t interested in hiring you they are usually very open to helping however they can. Some venues use booking agents and visiting many venues is a great way to find out who the music bookers are, wherever you are located. You can always try and google bars in your town, add them to Facebook and chat to them through there. Phoning in is another option but it’s less personal. I just think being face-to-face is the most effective.

So that’s it for now, it may seem like a lot but the good news is if you have music equipment, biz cards, and a website you can start doing this TODAY! Otherwise you can start setting these goals and working towards getting there. But know this, it isn’t this big impossible thing. You CAN do it! The last piece of advice I want to leave you with for now is to log everything. After every meeting, phone call, whatever, LOG IT. After speaking with someone I would jot down the:

  • Venue name
  • Who I spoke with
  • Brief summary of what was said

If you have any questions I’m here to help you, as always! Click the “Contact” tab and get in touch! I’m out for now, it’s my day off today and it’s a gorgeous spring day in Edinburgh. I’m going to hang with my lovely lady! 🙂

…if I could only get that Tpain song out of my head! Me and my pop culture references. HAHA Peace!

For my article about finding paying gigs outside of the pub/restaurant scene, click here!

To be inspired by my Music Entrepreneur Video (a day in my life), click here!

Your stage awaits!

how to find gigs
Finding gigs is very doable – your stage awaits!