For a lot of new music acts, booking that first gig can feel like a Catch-22.
You get gigs when you prove you can capture a room’s attention. But you can’t do THAT unless you’ve… gotten a gig.
Well, I spoke with Jeff Tuohy, the talent buyer for Cisco Brewers, and asked what advice he has for newer musicians trying to book themselves at good venues.
(“Talent buyer” — by the way — is just a fancy term for someone that hires music acts for venues.)
Here’s what he recommends for brand new acts:
1. Know who you are as an artist
What sets you apart? What’s your sound? Who’s your music for?
Doing the work to understand yourself as an artist, your goals, and your ideal audience, can help you communicate more effectively with talent buyers.
2. Rehearse (alot)
Your show isn’t gonna be awesome just because you’ve got big dreams. So don’t be in a rush to book yourself a gig.
You have to prepare.
In fact, there will be a lot of unknown variables at your first show. Butterflies, nervousness about attendance, a new stage environment, etc.
So you’ll want to be extra prepared. As Jeff says, “don’t show your gold too early.”
3. Shoot a quality live video
A good live video does the heavy-lifting when you contact venues. Talent buyers can tell pretty quickly whether they want to hire you or not.
Of course you probably don’t have a video that’s “live” in front of an audience yet, since you haven’t played that first show. But you can still capture live footage in your rehearsal space. Even an iPhone video can work, as long as it’s not sitting on top of a buzzing bass amp.
A talent buyer can usually see a low-budget live video and be able to tell if your songs are interesting, your voice is in tune, and you’re in the pocket. If you’re not sure if you’re meeting those criteria, keep rehearsing and try another live video a few weeks or months later.
4. Think about where you’ll be welcome
Not every venue is for every artist. Same goes for crowds, set lengths, and community expectations.
Where do you fit? What venue matches your vibe? Reach out to THOSE places.
When you do…
5. Keep your email pitches short
First, do your research. Read the venue FAQs and concert calendar. Use Google.
Then write an email that can say in a paragraph or less:
- Who you are
- What you sound like
- What you want (and be specific about dates)
- How you’ll help make the night a success
- Link to live video on YouTube
- Quick thanks and goodbye
Bonus booking advice:
Find an opening slot
If you’re not ready to headline a 60 minute slot of your own, be on the lookout for opening gigs.
Not only does this help you access an existing music community, but it also gives you stage experience without the pressure of being the main draw.
Be prepared to take the next step
When you DO play your first show, you want to be ready to leave the venue with actual results. That means contact info of audience members and open communication with the venue or talent buyer.
Have a website, a social presence, an email or SMS signup list, even a business card.
Make it easy to get hired again. When you are, to tell your growing audience where you’re playing next.
For more booking advice, watch or listen to the DIY Musician Podcast episode below:
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