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On a Songwriter's Mind This Week #12: Getting the Gig

Heya folkies! I'd like to share with you a few thoughts on the best ways to get gigs, based on my experiences these past few months. Although I'm a singer-songwriter, this advice is equally applicable to bands also looking to perform live. I've managed to get regular gigs since I started performing a few months ago out and around in Kent and London. Here are my top tips for how to get gigs:

1) Be nice

it's what you hear the people at the top say all the time, from Gary Barlow to Ed Sheeran. If you are polite to the landlord/lady/owner/promoter then they are more likely to want to deal with you. This is a people business as much as it's entertainment. If you are good to them and treat them well they will remember you and treat you well in return.

2) Don't harass with emails/phone calls

My general process goes as follows: Send an email/Facebook message. Wait two weeks. If no reply, send a polite reminder. Business owners are busy people, and they don't appreciate being chased and chased into submission - in fact they are probably more likely to turn around and tell you to get lost!

3) Put yourself about

Although I've mentioned one way to make initial contact is by email or Facebook message, you should also consider physically going to the venues themselves and speaking to the manager in person. Again I'll stress, it's a people business: if you make the effort they are more likely to remember you, since a) they now have a face to put to the music and b) they will appreciate you making the effort to come and see them.

4) Get an online presence

Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Audiomack, iTunes, Spotify, personal website. Some or all of these (and more!) will all come in handy. I recently went into a local pub looking for a gig and the landlord immediately asked if I had anything on Facebook. Thankfully I do: we spent the next five minutes going through a few of my videos. He then asked for my business card....

5) Get some business cards

This makes you look professional: if you aren't taking your music career seriously, why on earth should you expect a venue owner to do the same?

6) Make good music

This kind of goes without saying, but I had to put it down. Of course the only real way to find out whether your music is any good is to get people to listen to it, and one way to do that is live performance. But you could and should try it out in front of friends and family first, then put a few things online, pop along to a few open mic nights and see what goes down.

7) Are you ready? Following on from point 6) but more geared towards your performance skills. Are you truly ready for a 30/60/120 minute set in front of a group of people you don't know? If you are completely new to gigging you should certainly consider going along to those open mic nights I mentioned. This will help build your confidence and also help you choose which of your songs/covers are the most popular, so you know what to keep in the setlist.

8) Find a niche

Here's the heartbreaking news I'm afraid: your music won't be liked by everyone. Conversely, if you try to please everyone with your music you'll fail. This deserves more than a few sentences (I'll go into more detail in an upcoming blog post) but you should be able to describe your music in a sentence or two. What genre/sub-genre is it? Who are your key influences? What is your target audience? If you can't answer these questions (and your friends/family can't either) you are heading for trouble.

9) Build the relationship

Okay so you got the gig. Well done, that was tough enough as it is. However now the real work begins. You need to still be polite to the host, play a great set, keep to the terms of the original agreement (play for as long as needed!). If you are to be invited back to play again the host needs to have liked you and remember you. If the owner isn't there perhaps you'll need to impress the bar staff. I'm not talking handstands but you might consider having a little chat to find out about the place and them personally. Patience Monty, climb the ladder.

So that's the end of my list. Do you agree? Would you add anything else? Share you experiences of getting gigs in the comments, I'd love to know!


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