Getting Gigs: What To Do Before You Start Looking

Gigs-beforeBy Yannick Ilunga from the The Jazz Spotlight.

Some do it for the thrill of being on stage. Some do it to see the world, while for others it is one way to make money as a musician.

Live performances are among the best aspects of being a musician. However, for independent artists, who don’t necessarily have the support of an agent or manager, looking for gigs can be quite overwhelming.

What some artists don’t realize, and is the one thing that can bring in frustration, is that “gig hunting” is a marathon, not a sprint.

This 3-part article series shows you what to do before start looking for gigs, what to do while seeking for shows and what should be done once concert dates have been confirmed.

This first part focuses on what musicians should do before start “gig hunting”.


1. Have Your Music in Digital Format

This is kind of a no-brainer, but you want to have your music in digital format. Have your best songs available in high-quality audio files, ideally in a popular format like mp3.

2. Have an Active Online Presence

The second thing to do before start looking for gigs is having an active online presence. A website should be the cornerstone of your online activity. With platforms such as WordPress, SquareSpace, Bandzoogle and Weebly it is easy to craft a killer site, even without being a coding wizard.

In order to appear more professional, opt for a domain like www.yourbandname.com and avoid domains such as www.yourbandename.wordpress.com. Keep your domain short, sweet and, most importantly, easy to remember.

In terms of features, your website should have:

  • an Homepage
  • an email list
  • an about page
  • a shows page
  • a photo and video gallery section
  • a media or EPK (Electronic Press Kit) page
  • a contact page

You want to have an appealing homepage, which is easy for users to navigate and that invites them to sign up for your newsletter. An email list is a very powerful tool (and in the second part of this series you will learn how you can leverage it when approaching promoters, festivals and venues) and it is something every musician should have.

And don’t forget to have links to your social media pages visible on your homepage!

As the name suggests, your ‘About‘ page should be about you. Here’s where storytelling comes into play.

This is where you tell visitors your story.

When it comes to the gallery (like for many other things in life), you should go for quality over quantity. Avoid uploading low-quality videos and pictures, you want to promote yourself in the best possible way. This goes for all the media content of your site, photos, videos and audio files, craft the best presentation possible.

Your ‘Shows‘ page is where you inform fans about upcoming gigs, while the EPK (Electronic Press Kit) is where you have a promotion kit that targets the media and promoters (according to booking expert Jeri Goldstein, not targeting promoters is a mistake many musicians make on their website).

The EPK page should feature:

  • a couple of high-resolution pictures (link to pics article). Since your pictures may be used for different purposes, try and have both photos with portrait and landscape orientation
  • a short description. This should be a short bio of your band and it should feature the list of additional “services” you can provide in addition to playing, such as teaching, helding workshops and masterclasses
  • an audio sample (for example an embedded Soundcloud music player)
  • a few reviews (if you are thinking about how to get a review for your record, check out What to Pitch for a Review with Anthony Dean-Harris.) and/or quotes, and a list of achievements (for example awards won and performances at important venues or festivals)
  • yours and/or your agent’s contact information and the links to your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Soundcloud pages
  • a downloadable pdf version of your EPK

On your contact page, you want to include your contact information (email and phone number) and that of your agent or manager.

Once you have your website set up, it is time to start promoting yourself on social media. There’s plenty of platforms out there, but these are the one I recommend you start from: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and Soundcloud.

Facebook remains a very popular social media, so you should definitely be on it. I am not going much in depth into the dos and don’ts (I discussed those in Effective Online Promotion with Bobby Owsinski), but you want to create a Facebook band page that features high-quality profile and cover pictures.

If you are not Photoshop savvy, you can still easily edit your photos using free tools such as Canva and PicMonkey.

Twitter is a great social media for interacting with fans and networking with musicians and other people in the music industry. Again, Canva and PicMonkey come in handy to adjust your images for Twitter.

While on Facebook you can’t reach all of your followers for free, you can do that on Twitter (quick advice: organize you Twitter contacts in lists like “musicians”, “venues”, etc.).

In terms of users growth, Google+ is growing much faster than Facebook. However, they main reason why you should start using it are Hangouts on Air. In fact, through Hangouts, you can stream your gigs for free.

YouTube is the #2 search engine and the #1 platform used for music search. Same as for your site’s gallery, on YouTube you want to have videos of the highest quality possible.

In addition to your videos, you may want to consider uploading also audio tracks that feature an image. After all, as Dave Cool said on the podcast, “Your music is likely to end up on YouTube anyway, so you may want to upload it on your official YouTube channel“.

For videos you may want to consider Vimeo as well.

Soundcloud, on the other hand, is a popular platform for music promotion, especially among independent musicians. At the moment, it has over 250 million users. This alone should push you into signing up for it (if you want to learn more about Soundcloud, you can read this guide and listen to this interview with Budi Voogt, the author of The Soundcloud Bible).

These are the platforms I recommend you start from, before signing up for other popular services likes of Spotify, Pinterest and Instagram.


3. Build a Fanbase & Connect

Now it’s time to start connecting with people in the music business and build a fanbase.

There are different ways to build and grow a fanbase, but the bottom line is build real connections.

Try to get to know other musicians and people in the music business. You can do this both by attending music conferences (don’t forget to get some business cards done, so that you can end these out), festivals and concerts and online – on social media and forums for example.

This is what you want to avoid doing: don’t be spammy! One of the biggest mistake musicians make when promoting themselves online is being spammy.


4. Different Kinds of Gigs: What Do You Want to Achieve?

Before you start looking for gigs, you should spend some time to think about what you want to achieve with your shows. Do you want to gain experience? Do you want to build a loyal fanbase? Do you want to make money?

Time and places are also something to consider before embarking on gig hunting. Do you prefer to play house shows, open-air festivals, at clubs or music halls? And what about the time of your concert? Would you rather perform late a night, in the afternoon?

If you’re planning a tour, you should also think about how you want your tour(s) to be. Would you like to be on the road for several months or you would rather travel for a few weeks and then head home, before hitting the road again? And don’t forget weather conditions of the cities you would like to perform in.

Thinking about these things is really important, because it will help you understand what you want to achieve with your gigs.

If you want to learn more about different types of gigs, you should listen to the podcast episode with Nicola Milan. Here below is Nicola’s Gig Matrix, which gives an overview of the kinds of gigs:


So, to recap, here’s what you should do before you start looking for gigs:

  • have your music available on digital format
  • have an active online presence (with a website, email list and social media)
  • build a fanbase and connect with other people in music
  • think about what you want to achieve with your shows and your “touring preferences”

The next step is starting the actual research of gigs.


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