How to Get a Gig
By Ben Blakesley
You strum a thunderous final chord and the crowd goes wild!You hear your name being chanted as you depart the stage and you're greeted in the wings by throngs of adoring fans asking for your autograph. The gig of a lifetime!But then you open your eyes and you're back in your bedroom, playing to the mirror just wishing you could get your music and your performance in front of some real live people...Well guess what? You can!! Here are a few tips to help you get that gig of a lifetime.
The first place you may want to look when trying to book a gig is the corner bar/coffee house/restaurant. Many of these establishments have live music programs and depending on the extent of their promotion, aren't terribly picky about who plays there. Just give them a call or walk in and ask to talk to whoever is in charge of live music. There's nothing to it but to do it. You may be nervous or uncomfortable at first, but in the pursuit of stardom (worldwide or just town-wide) it's those who take the initiative that achieve the greatest stature.The number one thing to keep in mind when presenting yourself as a candidate for playing a food/beverage establishment is that they are rarely looking for the most talented musician, but are interested in bringing in additional business. They may not even ask for a demo! So sell yourself as someone who is able to pack the house, and don't be afraid to use statistics like your number of MySpace or Facebook friends to let them know the kind of driving force your music could be.But don't forget, you've got to back it up. Make sure you bring people to the gig if you ever want to get a second slot!
But maybe you don't happen to have a music-friendly establishment right down the road...What now? Scope out your competition. I don't mean competition in the pejorative sense, but simply those musicians playing locally who are of your similar style or instrumentation. Check out their websites and MySpace pages to see where they're playing and contact those venues that clearly are already supporting local musicians. This can be a great place to start to make contacts in the local live music scene.There are also many online and printed resources that list music-friendly venues for each geographic location. Check out www.indievenuebible.com
to get your feet wet.
The (dreaded) Agent
His shirt is open revealing a chest full of manly hair and a gold chain that glimmers like the greasy hair on his head. This may be the stereotypical view of the music agent, but put those thoughts out of your head. An agent is simply someone acting on the behalf of a band or artist to further their exposure.If you know someone who is outgoing and not afraid of talking to new people, maybe they'd make a good ad hoc agent for you. Have them call or visit local venues for you. This can give your act an air of professionalism that will impress some venues.Another possibility is to get hooked up with a working agent or booking company. The benefit here being that they will likely already have all the contacts necessary to get you into places that would otherwise be closed to you.
If All Else Fails...
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, the cards just aren't falling in your favor and you come up empty handed on all fronts. That's when it's time to get creative. If you can't find a gig, make your own! This is especially easy when the weather's nice and you can play outside 'venues' like your friend's weekend barbecue.The great thing here is that the performance can be as formal or informal as you'd like because you're in charge! Even better, if you know other musicians, invite them to create your own mini-festival to showcase your music.
The bottom line is, for those with the desire to play for an audience, the opportunities abound. And once you get one gig under your belt, #2, #3, and #4 are easy. :-)
Ben Blakesley is in charge of Marketing and Technology at George's Music and plays in the Philadelphia and Reading, PA regions as a solo acoustic act and with his band The Dark Sides