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If You Read Nothing Else Today, Read How to Get a Music Gig: 6 Music Pro Tips

How to Get a Music Gig: 6 Music Pro Tips

Maybe your heavy metal band has been practicing in your mom's garage for three years and is finally ready to land its first music gig, maybe your bluegrass trio is ready to hit the road to music success, or maybe you are a talented solo pianist. 

No matter what style of music you play, achieving success in the competitive music business can seem daunting. One of the ways to gain music success is to book a music "gig" (or music engagement) for your band. A music gig is an excellent way to gain exposure, sell music "merch" (merchandise), sell cds, and network with other musicians interested in the same music that you are interested in. 


With the digital world making it harder to earn income, traveling music groups find a way to break through the digital divide and meet diehard fans that will buy music.

1. Put a Show Together
Called a "set", you want to link together songs that you and your music cohorts can not only play well, but also will entertain an audience and have a certain flow. You might want to include some familiar cover songs of a musician who influenced you, and be sure to have some music standards always available at your fingertips. You want to start and end with a bang (maybe not so much of a "bang" if you have a woodwind trio). Be sure to have a look that is appropriate to the occasion and the music style.


Have several sets of differing lengths ready to go. You may find that when you arrive, you have to cut out a song or find that you have to fill in an extra ten minutes of jazz music improvisation or that rap that you haven't quite polished yet when the next musician or band is running late. A music gig is not the place to test out that music number that you came up with last night at 3am. 

If you do have a new music number that has not been tested out, 
sandwich it between some of your more familiar songs and covers.

2. Find the Music Fans Where do your possible fans hang out? Are your possible music fans at the local coffee shop, dance club, museum, on the streets, a local park, the beach, cultural festival or song competition? Think about where you hang out and where you would like to hear music. Make a long list of possible music venues. Include music festivals in the region, music clubs, restaurants, churches (for a wedding or holiday gig), the local banquet hall, battle of the bands, music stores, coffee shops, and any other hot spots.

3. Make Contact Guaranteed you will not be the only band calling up the local jazz club about a music gig. Be professional. Rehearse what you are going to say before you even pick up the phone or go to the meeting. If your club contact is a friend, then you can be a little more relaxed when setting up a music gig date, but if you are trying to get your unknown reggae group into a nationally known music festival, be ready to hit some blockades on the way. Have a professional quality demo, EPK, or cd readily available, as well as promotional materials (photos, merch, band posters, etc.). You might want to have any press clippings with you, depending on the gig. Make sure that the venue you are trying to book is appropriate to your music style. You do not want to waste your time or your contact's time.

4. What to Ask There are many things you want to find out when you book a music gig. Naturally you want to find out things like the location and time of the gig. Find out what sound system is available, who else may be playing that night, if your band is the opener or the main act, lighting issues, where you will put your gear, any perks (like free drinks or food), where to sell your merchandise, ticket costs, and any other logistical question you may have. Find out about how the venue plans to promote the show. 

You want to ask about how much the band will get paid for the gig and how you will be paid. Depending on the music venue, your band's popularity, the number of people showing up, and the number of members in your band, you might find out that the money divided up may only cover gas. When your band starts out, expect to do several freebies just to get your name out there. Some clubs will offer the band a percentage of the cover charge. That usually works out best for the band if there is a large fan base in the area. Others just offer a flat rate, but you get additional sales through sales of merchandise or drinks.

5. The Gig No matter what, always, always, always arrive early for a music gig. There will always be some problem that will crop up at the last minute, whether it is rain at a wedding, a blown out speaker, or a change in band order. You do not want to show up at 9 pm for a music gig, only to find out that your band's time was moved up to 8 pm. Always arrive prepared and professional. Even if professional for your band means painted up like a bunch of zombies, be sure that your set is ready to go, your instruments are tuned and working properly, and that you have had a successful sound check. 


Despite all of the fun anecdotes and jokes and movie portrayals, your band will NOT perform better if you are under the influence of any alcohol or drugs. 

So stay off the booze and the drugs. Keep water bottles nearby to stay hydrated throughout, and be sure you are rested and fed before the performance, whether you are performing at Carnegie Hall or Zed's Hometown Saloon.

6. After the Gig
After your band or music group plays, be sure to go out there and meet the audience members and fans. Give out autographs, take photographs, and pass out business cards and free demos. Sell your band merchandise, and be sure to mingle and network as much as possible with other bands and the fans. Set up a website with fan pics or promote your My Space page. Have fans join a mailing list. Keep in contact with the venue for possible future gigs. If you brought in a lot of people (and a lot of money), played an amazing set, and remained professional throughout, the venue will most likely book you for another gig or even recommend you to other venues in the region.


Getting that first music gig is exciting and can be scary. However, by being professional, entertaining the fans, bringing in a large crowd, and promoting your band, you will find that over time your band will be able to expand past the local and perhaps get enough gigs to start a national, or even international, music tour.


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