It’s great when you get a call out of the blue from someone who’s already interested in booking you, isn’t it?
They’ve heard great things from someone they trust, they already have some understanding of what you do and how it fits their needs, and they’re essentially “presold” on the idea of hiring you.
I love it when that happens.
Unfortunately, I can’t fill my calendar with those kinds of “word of mouth” gigs alone. Maybe some day…
I’ve also discovered that I can’t really sit around and wait for people to discover me online, or elsewhere – it just doesn’t happen often enough to keep me fully employed.
If the same is true for you, then I guess we’re both left with this unfortunate truth…
It’s the only way.
What’s the hard work? Well, there’s lots of it, but I can pretty much guarantee that if you do the following two things, you’ll get more gigs:
Step #1 – Find Them
(They probably won’t find you)
It’s a sad but true fact that unless you are a) on the decision maker’s radar already, and b) top of mind at the moment they’re doing the booking, you’re not going to get called for the gig.
The good news is that you probably already have a good idea of the kinds of places you’d like to be playing or performing at.
- Break your desired venues down by category or type of gig (school, club, theater, arts center, library, community event, etc.)
- Open a spreadsheet, or grab a piece of paper, and create a list of known venues for each category
- Start compiling contact information for each of them
- Reach out to each venue to make initial contact, and be sure to add them to your email database for future contact and follow-up
- Rinse and repeat
Remember that your list is never complete. Strive to add to it constantly.
Further reference: See the article What Do You Do When You’re Not Performing?
Step #2 – Connect the Dots For Them
This is a big one.
Because it’s so easy to get caught up in trying to make ourselves look and sound “great” in our promotional materials, we often lose sight of what’s most important to the decision maker in that moment they’re reviewing our booking request.
(Hint: it’s not our latest recording, our new promo pictures, or who we’ve opened for.)
What’s Most Important?
Unless you’re approaching a club or other commercial venue with no built-in audience of their own (in which case putting butts in seats and selling drinks/food is mostly what matters), the most important factor is relevance.
What does your act/performance/show/concert have to do with them?
If you’re a Cajun storyteller and you’re approaching a Cajun storytelling festival for a gig, then there are no dots to connect.
Same for an acoustic blues musician looking for a gig at an acoustic blues concert series.
But if you want to make a good full-time living doing this, you’ve probably discovered that you need to reach beyond these very obvious fits and be looking at other opportunities for good paying work.
(The “Educate and Entertain” blog is full of free resources to help you do that – you can subscribe right here.)
In those cases, connecting the dots for the potential buyer is critical.
Give the people who book those venues something to latch onto.
Don’t make them connect the dots or look for a match between their mission and what you do. It just won’t happen most of the time.
Here Are Some Examples:
The blues band looking to get out of the bars
There are lots of public venues outside of bars that would love to hire your blues band, and often for very good money. Give them the connection that will make it work – call it “America’s” music (they may be having a Fourth of July event, or an “American Heritage celebration”), or “American roots music,” or mention the migration of the music from the rural south to the urban north if either of those two geographies are relevant to what the venue does.
The storyteller looking to book more shows for adults
Let’s say you’ve got the “kids circuit” wired, and you’re looking to do more telling for adults. There’s a huge market out there – libraries, literary events, speakers series, historical societies, community events, etc. – but if you just approach them as “a storyteller with 30 years experience,” they’ll have no idea what to do with that. Tell them very clearly how your show relates to what they’re doing, or to a current event that would be relevant to their patrons/audience.
The classical music trio looking for more public audience concerts
Maybe you’ve noticed that some communities in your area tend to have outdoor concerts in the park throughout the summer. Those could be great gigs for a classical trio! Listening audiences, good hours, etc. So, what do the people who book those concerts need or want? They want their audience to be happy (tell or show them how you accomplish that), they want to provide variety (that’s you), they may wish to bring some new audience into the fold (you’ll do your best), or offer something that appeals to a wide range of ages (do you? can you?).
Make It A No-Brainer
In every case, tell them why it’s relevant to them. Give them things to latch onto.
You want them to think “hey, this sounds perfect for us,” rather than “this sounds like a talented group….now, back to the other stuff I was doing.”
Further reference: See the article Want Better Gigs? It’s Not About You
So, the two steps again:
- Find them (most likely they won’t find you)
- Connect the dots for them – explain how they can use you to accomplish their goals
I’d love to hear about your experiences with either of these steps, or any others you care to share. The Comments section is below.
About The Blog
Since 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.