How to Get Your First Gig
After having strived long and hard to develop a high level of skill as an instrumentalist or singer it would be nice to think that a world of work awaits just around the corner. Well, in a sense it does, but it won’t automatically find its way to you, at least not at first. You have to go out and find it for yourself.
How you go about getting your first gig depends to a certain extent on the type of gig you are looking for and what you have to offer. Having a professional image is a good starting point, and to this end there are a number of things you can do, such as:
- have a professional-looking website
- have a demo CD or DVD to give to potential clients
- have a business card
- have a good portfolio (ideally this would include photographs, testimonials, and places you have played, but if you are new, just having a professional photo is a good start).
Basically you have to convince people that you are worth doing business with, and start selling yourself or band.
Approach venues that have live music similar to what you have to offer. If different artists perform on a regular basis it might be possible to get your foot in the door by speaking to the right person and showing him or her what you have to offer.
Approach venues that don’t have but could benefit from live music. Be prepared to convince the manager or owner exactly how using your services could be beneficial for their business.
Approaching agents is another option, but there is no guarantee that they will start sending work your way for any number of reasons.
Use emails to introduce yourself to potential clients, but do your research first and be sure to email the right people. If your email is not addressed to a specific person it qualifies as spam, and will probably be treated as such. Your email should contain a brief introduction, with links to your website and possibly one or two other sites where visitors can see and hear you perform and read more about you (using links is better than sending file attachments).
In order to get your first gig, and any subsequent gigs for that matter, the most important thing is to be constantly proactive. Be persistent but also be aware that there is a fine line between persistence and becoming a nuisance. The latter will alienate the very people who you want to do business with.
When you finally secure a gig, if it’s a public gig (and not a private function) be prepared to do a lot of work to get people to come and support you. Begin by getting the word out to your friends, family, and social media contacts. Generating a good crowd is probably the best way to ensure a return booking if you’re performing at a bar, club, or restaurant. One band I know brought so many people along to their wine bar gig that they drank the bar dry. The manager was naturally delighted and the band was given further bookings.
It’s always a risk for anyone booking you for the first time, but by having a professional approach you are helping to take the risk out of the equation.
There are many more tips on how to get gigs, and other useful information for musicians in my book:
Breaking into the Music Business: An Essential Guide for Performers
If, after all your efforts, you still haven’t been able to get a gig, perhaps it’s time to think about organising your own! See the related article How to Organise a Concert.