5 Tools I Use Every Day

My long-running Dell PC crashed and died a few years ago, as did the brand new PC I bought to replace it (!).

So, my conversion to Apple started in 2017, and now, I love my Mac!

But all of this data transfer and new-computer-wrestling got me thinking about the tools I rely on daily to keep my performing career afloat.

Here are five of the big ones…

how to book your own gigsLeaving aside my website, which is the obvious nucleus of all of my marketing, let’s take a look at five services that really help me to stay organized and get booked.

#1. Microsoft Office 365

Office 365 is a service that I pay $99 annually for, with the benefit that all of your data lives online (as opposed to just on your computer), and therefore can be accessed anywhere, anytime, on any device.

It also comes with a free terabyte (1TB) of storage for files and anything else you need to have access to.

I use three main programs within Office…


It’s called “Access,” and unfortunately it’s not Mac compatible!

Oh well. I’ve installed an app that can read my Access files on a Mac, so we’re good.

Regardless of what database you use, they are critical for keeping track of information on each contact who has either expressed interest in a booking, or actually booked you to perform.

How much did you quote?

How often do they hire performers?

How did the show go?

Personal info about the booker, like how many kids they have, and what ages?

(Seriously, I note things like this after I’ve worked for someone, and it really comes in handy when I hear from them again 18 months later.)

Word documents

Word is one of the universally accepted formats for text. I use it for thank you letters, formal price quotes, invoices, contracts and more.


The Microsoft spreadsheet software is called “Excel,” and this is where I keep track of payments due to me, weekly earnings, and yearly income.

Simple formulas allow me to tally earnings, compare them to last year at the same time, and lots more.

#2. Emma

For email marketing

We’ve talked lots on this blog about using email to generate gigs, and I’ve probably mentioned Emma before.

Emma is an email service provider (aka email marketing software) along the same lines as Constant Contact, MailChimp, etc.

email marketing for musiciansI’d be lost without an email service provider, which allows me to put great looking emails together (with no design chops) and tailor my booking emails any way I choose.

It also enables me to store all of my email contacts in as many different “categories” or groups as I want.

This is truly the heartbeat of all my “new gig getting.”

(For help with booking gigs through email marketing – click here)

#3. Zoom

Like Skype, but less clunky and with better features.


When I need to do a “FaceTime” or video call with anyone, I turn to Zoom. I can send the other person an invitation with a link to connect, schedule as many calls as I like, share my screen, record the session, and lots more.

Online concerts

As detailed in a previous article about online performing, this has become a great way for me to reach audiences I could never otherwise be with, and a really strong revenue source for my school concerts as well.

Zoom’s webinar platform (at $40/month) makes the technology part super easy, and I keep 100% of all earnings.

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#4. Facebook

How do I love Facebook? Let me count the ways…

  • gig promotion
  • engaging with fans
  • engaging with venues
  • engaging with other performers
  • keeping tabs on what’s happening in my industry
  • running targeted ads to reach just the right people (See the article “Facebook Ads: 6 Wins for Performers”)

I’ve recently done another post on some of the best uses of Facebook for people who make their living as performers.

(If you’re not a regular subscriber, you can jump in right here for free and get these delivered to you.)

#5. SurveyMonkey

Yes, SurveyMonkey. You’ve probably filled out one of their surveys in the past.

2017-03-30_11-16-48-minI have to say that, as someone who does their own booking, signing up with this service is one of the smarter things I’ve done.

But what use could a musician possibly have for a survey tool?

Asking questions of your audience is the very best way to inform your future marketing, allowing you to hear – in their own words – what your clients liked and didn’t like about your performance (or other shows they’ve booked).

…and what is important to them when hiring a performer

…and how likely they’d be to recommend you

…and anything else you want to ask them

Send a survey out to the booker after each performance. Send one after each time you nail down a booking (“what helped you decide to book us?,” “what hesitations did you have?”).

Send one to your fans to find out what they’d like to see next, and where else you should be performing.

These answers are gold.

BonusAs you start to receive even a small number of replies, you’ll begin seeing trends in the words people use to describe their goals and your work. These may not be the same words you’re using in your interactions with bookers and your marketing, but they should be.

What Are YOU Using?

So there’s five of my top tools. It’s crazy how much we rely on this stuff.

But I’m curious – what are YOU using that I (or others) should know about.

I’d love to hear about it in the “Comments” section below.


About The Blog

The Largest Online Gathering of K-5 Classrooms for Connected Educator MonthSince leaving a white-collar marketing job in 1992, Dave Ruch has been educating and entertaining full-time in schools, historical societies and museums, folk music and concert venues, libraries, and online via distance learning programs.

Along the way, he’s learned a great deal about supporting a family of four as a musician.

The Educate and Entertain blog provides articles, tips, encouragements, and how-to’s for regional performers (in any region) interested in making a great full-time living in the arts.

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18 Responses to 5 Tools I Use Every Day

  1. Hi Dave!
    I am new to the booking world. I was asked to help my guitarist/vocalist friend book gigs at local restaurants now that they are beginning to have live music again. Is there a standard form/template letter that exists for an email introducing myself as the booking agent that is powerful and hits all of the booking action points? If not I will just try to compose what I think is best but I wanted to check with the expert first. Thank you!

  2. Hello Dave,

    I kept this article in a folder for the longest time and just read it.


    I have a question. I want to use access which is not in the package with my Microsoft Office for my Mac. Which app did you use to make it possible to read on Mac? And can you continue to add to the access database on your Mac? This has been a burning question for me for the longest time, have asked several knowledgeable people and no one knows!

    Thank you if you can help me

    • Hi Lenore – the software I’m using on the Mac is called MDB ACCDB and yes I you can add to the database on the Mac. It’s a little clunky but it works.

  3. Hi, thanks for the great article. As luck would have it, a very timely find for me as I’m currently looking at converting my Excel spreadsheet “gig tracker” to a database, since I already have Access. I’m having trouble finding a good template, though. Are there starter-templates out there for those of us who are just learning Access that you’ve found or did you have to create yours from scratch? Can you share any helpful Access-for-Bands type resources (forums, articles, videos) that you found that helped you learn and set it up?


    • Sorry Jeff, I don’t have any further resources to point you to. Hopefully some other readers will chime in as they see this. Good luck with it!

    • Hi Nancee – I use Vimeo for embedding videos on my website, and I use SproutVideo for video hosting with the arts in education videos I rent to schools.

  4. Some good tips, many of which I am already using (but Survey Monkey – deffo going to start using that one !)

    For accounts / finance I use waveapps. It’s totes free and I can do everything you would expect from a full accounts system including track spend by customer, do regular and annual taxes, create and send invoices (tip, always go to advanced and check the attach pdf and send to me boxes).

    For sharing stuff I use Dropbox. I pay for an annual account for heaps of storage and it’s what many recipients (eg. radio stations) use and expect.

    To keep track of customers and opportunities and send out sales emails, I use Insightly. Annual subs just over $100 for a fully featured CRM that also runs on iPhone and iPad and integrates really well with gmail etc (you can even automatically add your email to Insightly and it will pick up any new contacts and add them).

    For email marketing, I use Mailchimp. It’s the best.

  5. Emma is a bit expensive at $90/mth. What do you recommend for a band just starting their email list?

    Thanks – Nina

    • Hi Nina – most of the ESPs have a free level to get started – take a look at MailChimp or Constant Contact. I thought Emma did too, but maybe not.

  6. I have a string band with my two daughters… ages 14 and 12. We started playing out in 2017. Played 46 shows mostly at nursing homes. I keep everything on my iPhone. I use Invoice Simple for invoicing and keeping track of clients and I use Hurdlr to track all income and some expenses.

  7. Like you, I rely heavily on email marketing to keep my audience informed, engage my fan base and to promote my business, as a storyteller. I recently switched email marketing companies from Constant Contact to Mail Chimp largely because of pricing.

    My other tool is Google environment (Google Docs, Google Sheets), which allows me to, not only store items online, but share seamlessly with others. This sharing feature comes in handy when multiple people need to see and comment on a document.

    Finally, Survey Monkey is the tool I use to query clients after a gig. I have gotten some priceless testimonies using this tool. I am starting to use Google Survey a bit too, and will compare and contrast to see which is better.

    Thank you for another informative blog.

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