More Gigs in 2021: A Challenge for Subscribers

Dear “Educate and Entertain” reader,

Yes, 202o was quite a bust for most of us, and the beginning of 2021 doesn’t look a whole lot different.

But the return to live performances and meaningful work IS on the horizon, and right now is the perfect time to get yourself all set up for success.

If you’re looking to do more of the kind of gig that you like the most, where you feel the most appreciated and earn a great wage in the process, I have an easy but powerful challenge for you…

how to get gigs as a musicianMore Good Gigs in 2021

We’ve got 361 days remaining in 2021 if you’re reading this on the day it was emailed to subscribers.

(Not subscribed yet? Just click here and we’ll take care of that.)

Your challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to add two people to your contact list every day this year.

Just two.


– By “people,” I mean booking contacts at places you’d like to perform

– Some days, you won’t have time to do this, so call it fourteen per week if that helps

– This will take some research, but just a little. (Where do you want to perform? Who is the decision maker there?)

– It will also take a bit of discipline for the first few weeks, until it just becomes habit (you might even end up enjoying the “hunt!”)

– I’d recommend finding the person’s name and email address online, reaching out with an initial email tailored to that particular venue, and then adding that person to your permanent email contact list for periodic follow up.

It’s Magic

By the end of this year, you’ll have your own database of over 700 fresh contacts who book artists at the exact venues you’d like to perform at.

And by the end of next year, it’ll be 1400+.

And so on.

This database is your single most valuable asset in maintaining a strong career as an independent performing artist.

Start today!

Questions? Are You In?

Let’s talk about it in the “Comments” section below.

Fingers crossed for a gradual return to normalcy (and gigs) in 2021!

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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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45 Responses to More Gigs in 2021: A Challenge for Subscribers

  1. Thanks for setting this up! Today’s challenge is a helpful — and probably achievable — way to focus time and energy.

  2. This is a great strategy, Dave! I’m going to take the challenge and update you here every 2 weeks to report my progress. As a full-time professional musician, I always need to be looking ahead for more opportunities and not get bogged down by rejection (which happens to me a lot). Thanks for the challenge and I wish you much success in this new year!!!

  3. I am completely new to the mass emailing. What systems are you all using for email? Mailer Lite? That seems to be the one that comes most highly recommended in my google searching.

    • Hi Gabriella – there are lots of comparable services out there, including Emma, Constant Contact, Mailchimp and others. Many of them offer free trials, and while there are some differences, they all do the basics very well.

  4. Dave,
    First of all, thank you for this along with all of your other invaluable music business articles!
    I really do appreciate all of your insights regarding the niche-marketing aspects (booking library gigs, etc).
    Secondly, I’d like to meet this challenge and — touche– raise you 5,000!

    But seriously, for the benefit of anyone who is struggling to find the time (believe me, I speak from experience) to add venue contacts for your list, I feel obligated to say that it can be done– efficiently, effectively, and affordably by OUTSOURCING. There are websites (such as Upwork) where you can hire all kinds freelancers from all over the world to work on any number of tasks that can be performed remotely — such as tele-marketing… The rates can be as low as about $3/hour and can obviously go up quite a bit.

    I have personally hired numerous freelancers on Upwork (and Fiverr) and would probably not have effectively booked and performed 100 gigs in 23 states last year without their help!
    (Currently aiming for 150 gigs/year, Lord-willing)

    My current struggle, however, is that as that list keeps growing (around 4,000 venues’ emails collected since fall of ’15 using the above method — hey, strength in numbers!) my current mass e-mail blasting method definitely has its shortcomings. I have been using my own customized Excel spreadsheet to manage the contact/database/’crm’ (not to mention document which venues are booked, when, how much they pay, when to follow up next, etc). For my email-blasts, I’ve been using YAMM (gmail app, $20/year), which basically imports your spreadsheet (via google sheets) and works wonders with that spreadsheet — anything that’s in the spreadsheet can be incorporated into the email (contact’s name, venue name & location, etc. — VERY helpful in keeping it all organized when a prospect replies…)

    Really my own major complaint is that this method (while customized, orderly, and somewhat personalized — it sends individual emails using your gmail account and does not have a spammy look to it) comes with a rather low sending limit of 400 emails per day(!)

    Other than that, this approach works VERY well for me. I’ve tried mailchimp and researched hosts of other mass e-mail tools, but (at least with mailchimp) that approach does not seem to be nearly as spreadsheet friendly, orderly and customization (regarding incorporating my spreadsheet/database info into the email). Also, most of those tools charge around $50/month just to do that — which doesn’t make much sense to someone sending only 3 big email blasts per year. (I am also researching tools that appear to be more affordable, such as Mail Jet…)

    Any suggestions?

    (and sorry about the rambling length)

    • Hey Gladius – thanks for sharing what you’re up to with your email marketing. I too have used UPWORK for targeted list building and been very happy with the results. I’m using emma ( for my email marketing, which is in the same general category as MailChimp and Constant Contact, and there is no issue with sending limits. You can add all kinds of customized fields to keep as much additional info on each contact as you like, personalize with that info, etc. Hope that helps.

  5. Can anyone give a list of other places to look for venues. My list so far is schools, senior centers, restaurants, language clubs, women’s clubs, museums, churches, art centers, historical societies. What am I missing? Thanks!!!

    • I guess that depends a lot on what you do and the types of gigs you like to do. Based on your list, how about libraries and colleges?

  6. Count me in. Not sure how,I will make the time but maybe publicly declaring myself will get me going. Thank you for the great challenge!!

  7. Hi Dave,

    I just subscribed to your blog and thank you for your efforts. I have also been at this a long time basically using your approach. I still find that having a personal contact is by far the best way into a venue. Presenters are so flooded with material from so many artists that they usually don’t have time to sort through and pick the wheat from the chaff. Still it is worth doing even if there is only a 1 or 2% success rate. Best Wishes for 2017! Gerard

    • Very true in my experience as well, Gerard. It’s great to have you here as part of the community – please feel free to chime in whenever you see fit!

  8. Dave, I enjoy reading your posts as they are aimed at what we can easily do in this day and age to stay busy as a working musician. I do have a question, is there a specific tool (software) you use to manage all those thousands of contacts once you’ve contacted them?

    Knowing the dates involved would be important for followup and reminders of when they have a specific event that your show would work well with.

    I’ve explored several but would be interested hearing what you’d recommend. L.V.

    • L.V. – I wish I did! Right now, it’s all in my head in terms of when I sent my last email to school contacts, for instance, or arts centers. I can always go back into my email software to see the exact date, the contents of the email, who opened, clicked, etc,

      In terms of any interactions I have with potential bookers, I do make notes in my database, schedule follow-up calls on my calendar, and keep their emails in my “inbox” with a flagging system so I am reminded to continue the conversation.,

      What I (and you) really need is CRM (Customer relationship management) software. Let me know what you find.

  9. Great, I’m in,

    Contacts for me would include networking contacts of people I should meet, since I am also an ensemble, chamber, musicals, jazz and orchestral player.

    I can also do this for teaching I believe.

  10. Hmmmm. 1400 contacts in a year. Let’s say we have some off weeks – you know, vacations, holidays – that sort of thing. So, we only get 1200 new contacts. If 10% of these hire you just once per year, you’re doing 120 gigs a year. I’m thinking that most musicians (especially if they’ve read the posts here on pricing) could say good-bye to their day jobs with that kind of schedule. Nice.

    • In addition to being all about relationships, it truly is a numbers game, Jim. The more contacts, the more opportunities.

    • Dear Jim,
      When I was trying to decide how many shows per year I thought, hmm…20 shows a month would be great–that’s one show per day in each month. So i tried that and it was too much, although I still use 20 shows per month as the point at which I sell out for a month. 10 shows was not enough so somewhere between 10 and 20 would be good. I hit on it 15 shows per month which breaks to 140 per year. This number is for me, is not related to anything–I don’t have to do another show at all in order to survive, but 140 is my goal. It’s doable, it doesn’t tire me out overly and I’m busy. And yes it IS my day job and yes I make a comfortable living doing it. Just thought you might like to know.

  11. I work at doing this to book my bands, I lack consistency, there are days when I am out most of the day and don’t do this research. The other factor is contacting these new contacts on a regular basis without being annoying.

    • I heard you Dana – consistency and follow up are definitely challenges. Because I’m a full-time musician, I’ve gotten used to treating is as a nine-to-five job (actually, more like 8am-5:30pm), so when I’m not out performing, I’m in my office doing my best to keep on top of all of this stuff.

  12. Great gig, I’m absolutely in! Should I contact them on the same days I’ll save them in my contact list?

    Thanks a lot

    • Flavia – great! Sure, why not send an initial email the day you get their contact info, just to touch base and introduce yourself. If at all possible, try to get a conversation going (“what types of things work well for your audiences?” “how far ahead do you like to book performers?”, etc).:

  13. Sounds like a great challenge! Do you use a mail client, like Mac Mail? If so, do you have recommendations for how to organize these contacts? My problem is the “periodically following up” part.

    • Hi Rob – glad you’re jumping in. I use “Emma” as my email service provider, but there are dozens to choose from. I organize my contacts in groups that can receive a similar message from me, so, for instance, I have libraries as one group, school contacts as a separate group, arts centers as another group, etc.

      • Thanks for the ideas of how to organize the contacts. My problem is always extra hard for me to stay organized so all these tips are great that might seem silly.

  14. I already have a list of over 700 venues where I would like to perform. What I want to know is how to get more of the ones who have never asked me to perform there to do so. Some of these retirement homes I’ve been soliciting for over 5 years. When a new activities director comes in, I have to start all over again and they may never hire me again. This year I will be writing thank you notes to everyone and new people are getting performance contracts. I’m going into this year with 19 venues already booked, my goal being 140 but it would be nice to jump start those where I have never performed. I only do libraries, senior centers and retirement homes.

    • Hi Rochelle,
      I play at quite a few retirement homes in my region, along with libraries, schools, listening rooms, etc.
      When I find a retirement home that seems reluctant to book me for whatever reason, I’ll offer to come in and do a free 30 minute concert for their residents. Most people won’t turn down free music and this gives me a chance to do what I do and let the AD see me in action and see how their folks respond to my music. I have enough confidence in what I do that I feel if I can just get my foot in the door the rest will work out. Honestly, I’ve gotten paid gigs out of this probably 99% of the time that I’ve done it. The other one percent I just wrote off as not working out. You win some, you lose some.
      I don’t travel a long distance to do a free concert unless I can tie it in with paid gigs I’ve already got in that area.
      I feel sometimes you have to give away “free samples” to gain new customers and fans for your business.
      Obviously this isn’t something that would work with libraries and other types of venues but it works for me for the retirement home gigs.

      • Tom – thanks for jumping in here to share your experiences. For those who can afford to do a short “freebie,” this sounds like a great way to open some doors.

      • Tom, something else that I am trying is relatives using me as a gift for their loved one in the home, I set up the concert, get paid by the relative and get the residents to request me back after hearing me. This gets me in the door and a good contact with the activity director since I am not asking them for money that time.

      • I also do mostly retirement homes, but this may work differently here in Ontario, I find MOST EXPECT to fly with volunteer musicians, so are VERY reluctant to hire a pro. I am in a very rural area so the distance between communities and facilities is a big factor in promotions. This past summer I recorded myself onto an Audition CD in my home office, packaged them nicely with a picture of me on the cover and my contact info inside, as well as the list of 7 songs I included that covered the genres I perform. I took 3 days and drove to the different communities that I wanted to work in. At each facility I left a promo package at the reception desk. Most facilities around here do NOT have paid recreation staff in house every day. Again, the reliance on volunteers. My package included a brochure I had made up, describing my perfomance options and outlining how what I do is different and desirable for their programming. The picture on the brochure matched the CD cover to help make the connection. I also included a copy of the CD, my business card and a letter to the Recreation Director honing in on the particulars of bookings I have done for these types of venues. I placed it all in a half page size envelope addressed to the Recreation Director. Within 3 days I had 3 new venues, 2 of which have booked me more than once already. I have also struggled with the turnover of staff, as was mentioned in a post. When I notice a fall in the number of facilities calling me I go around again with a NEW letter of introduction, my flyer and biz card. They already have a CD now to know how I sound. The new letter includes my website addy so they can hear tracks of me on my website where I have posted some songs that I wrote. The CD seems to be doing well for my audition for their facilities. I have even had 2 of the RDs tell me they played the CD in the dining room during a meal leading up to the booking to get people excited and wanting to attend. Now THAT is small-town marketing!

        • Love it Valerie, thanks for posting. It sounds like I’m the only one around here who DOESN’T play retirement homes!

          • Sadly the retirement homes (nursing homes) around me also seem to want excellent work, for free or very low pay. It is very concerning. After seeing firsthand how much these places cost, I don’t know why they cannot afford a decent wage to provide for something really Fresh and Interesting for their residents. Sigh.

    • Rochelle – have you tried various “touchpoints,” i.e. phone vs. email vs. snail mail? Different people have different methods they prefer. Also, I like to vary the format of what I send considerably from one time to the next – one email full of glowing reviews, another focused on one particular program I do, another with some kind of offer or sale, etc.

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