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

Why many artists fail at being Music Entrepreneurs and have to go back to work: AVOID THIS!

Lack of talent is not why most artists fail. A bad attitude kills more music careers than anything.

Firstly I want to acknowledge that there are several reasons someone might have to quit music and get a job. I write this article without judgement. One BIG reason I’ve seen many people fail is that they had a bad work ethic or attitude.

When I talk about your work ethic and attitude. I’m talking about your outlook. I’m talking about Professionalism!

Lack of talent is not why most artists fail to succeed as music entrepreneurs! Your talent is responsible for maybe 33% of your success!

I’ve seen many artists come and go in this business (in Toronto and in Edinburgh). It always sucks to see a colleague (especially when they are talented) “hang up their gloves” because they couldn’t make it work. There are different reasons why someone might quite the music entrepreneur career. One big reason I’ve seen many people have to pack it in is a crappy attitude. For whatever reason, whether it’s ego, lack of awareness, or what, I’ve seen and heard of many artists in need of tuning their attitudes. I say tuning because you can fix it Much like tuning an instrument, it isn’t a permanent problem. It involves opening your mind to different ways of thinking, being professional, and giving people the benefit of the doubt.

We are offering services. People and organizations that hire us are our clients!

I’ll use the example of playing gigs. When we are hired by a venue to play a gig we are being hired to provide a service. The bar has chosen us (or a booking agent they trust-whom we are representing at the gig) to play music and create a vibe consistent with what they expect. Our job is to:

  1. Show up on time and with whatever equipment you need ( by on time I mean with plenty of time to spare to set up and be ready to go right away at the agreed start time),
  2. Be sober (Don’t show up high or drunk to gigs),
  3. Play music that matches the setting (Don’t play gangster rap of heavy metal to a crowd of 60-something year olds),
  4. Play music at whatever volume the venue determines to be reasonable,
  5. Be courteous (if someone asks for a request don’t tell them to “sit their ass down”, generally speaking just don’t be a dick to people-staff or guests),
  6. Not take crazy long breaks,
  7. Not drink as if we were at an open bar wedding,
  8. Be flexible and work with the venue wherever able in order to enhance the guests’ experience,
  9. Be reliable (We work for ourselves so your word means a lot. If you say you’ll be somewhere BE THERE, or people will stop asking you to be anywhere!),
  10. Not expect things we aren’t owed (Getting a free drink or two and a meal is great but if you don’t discuss what’s included for playing gig before performing than don’t expect anything. Anything you receive in that case is a bonus and you are playing in a cool venue my friend. Friendly tip: You can ask “…And are a meal or any beverages usually included as well?” when discussing your pricing),
  11. The most important thing: Our job is to realize that the performance isn’t for us. It is for venues’ guests. If the guests are happy then you are doing a great job. If the manager tells you to turn down the volume or play different materiel, then just do that! It may piss you off but PLEASE…exercise control, be professional. It isn’t about how much fun your having or how loud you like the volume. If people aren’t clapping or listening don’t get all pissy and bent out of shape, IT ISN’T ABOUT YOU! The guests are the star of your show. It doesn’t matter if you play the same songs all the time. You chose to be a performer and thats the job. You should NEVER take that out on the guests or staff.

It may all sound anal but in this business the devil is in the details! It’s the collective of little things you do right that add up to make you a super valuable asset that venues will want to hire again and again. On top of that venues are constantly being approached by musicians selling themselves for gigs so you have a lot to compete against. Having a great work ethic and attitude will set you apart and carry you so far in this business.

Don’t have an attitude problem or be a Diva

It doesn’t matter whether you’re booking agent, music teacher, or performer, or whatever else. You should generally be upbeat, friendly, and respectful to everyone. Being a diva and having an attitude problem gets old REAL soon. I’ve know great artists that I’ve booked in to play rooms that I was told to “never bring back” because they had a bad attitude. Issues that caused a venue to turn on an artist were that they gave the staff attitude when being asked to turn down the volume; they refused to turn down the volume (what’s with people and not turning down? It’s so simple, I really don’t get it); they turned up late habitually and didn’t seem worried about it; they were upset with people not listening or clapping and lashed out at the audience (man, that’s just awkward, never go down that path).

If people aren’t listening then just finish the gig, as annoying as it is, at least you got to play and get paid. I’ll usually experiment with my setlist in these occasions. Funny enough people will often start to pay attention to you because you’re having fun and doing your thing. A desperate person is usually pretty easy to spot (whether it’s dating or performing or whatever). Be chill and do you if they aren’t listening.

Having a backbone is ok (even necessary) but know how and when to show it!

Straight up, I’ve told guests to “fuck off” on a couple of occasions. People can definitely be assholes and I’ll be the first to admit it. Just pick your battles wisely. We are people and should never be subjected to abuse, so stand firm. Don’t be shy to let disorderly people know that if they can’t respect you and your space you will have them kicked out. You can be professional about it.

In one instance, for me, the same drunken costumer fell on me multiple times, knocking my mic stand over and killing the song. I warned him every time he danced into my mic stand to mind himself and then he barrelled right into me. I was so angry (getting a mic in the mouth makes me see red, lol). Just a couple weeks ago I remember this really annoying drunk girl that kept asking for the same song I don’t know and started grabbing my microphone. I told her “Get away from me, if I see you again I’m calling the bouncers and you’re outta here”. These times I snapped were at venues where people can get pretty rowdy and the management knows I have to sort out customers from time to time. I knew I had that “leash”, otherwise I would have called over a bouncer/the staff. I knew that the managers trusted me to use my own judgement because I always act professionally and these weren’t “family places”. That context created the difference in my reactions.

Basically you have to use your judgement, but try to be professional and usually the staff will throw that person out or intervene in some way.

We are pretty damn lucky to do what we do. Please don’t shoot yourself in the foot with unprofessional behaviour!

Being easy to work with and having a friendly personality is soooo very important. Don’t be a doormat and don’t take people’s abuse, but also don’t get into shouting matches with staff or customers. It’s all about your attitude and work ethic. Be a professional. Realize that the guest is the star of your show and give them a great night of music and not only will you have a great time too, but you’ll always get called to come back and will be successful!