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Booking Your First Gig

How to reach out to venues

· Music Business,Performing

This article is an excerpt from the book How To Get Started As A Singer-Songwriter, which available for purchase on Amazon (both paperback & kindle).

So you want to be a singer-songwriter. You’ve written some songs. You’re ready to start putting yourself out there, but where the heck do you start? Booking a real paying gig can seem scary, but I promise it's not rocket science!

Here’s how to go about booking your first gig:

Put Your Set List Together

Get a list of songs together that you can play. And practice them. A lot. I’d recommend 45 minutes of music minimum for the average gig, but many of them require 2-3 hours of music if it’s a restaurant-type gig.

Get your set list together BEFORE you start this process so you’ll have plenty of time to practice!

Make A Press Kit

You’ll need something to show potential venues that you don’t suck. That’s what a press kit is for. When you’re first starting out, you won’t have any “press” to put in your press kit, but you WILL have music, a bio, and some pictures, which is enough to show most venues that you’re serious.

Most press kits these days are electronic press kits (EPKs). You CAN get fancy and make physical press kits, but most venues prefer EPKs anyways.

You have two options for setting up your EPK:

  • You can use a service like Sonicbids or Reverbnation to upload all your information and send venues your unique link on their platform.
  • You can set up your own website page, which looks more professional if done well. Since you’ll need a website eventually, I’d recommend setting up an EPK on your own website now, and then you can go back and turn it into a fully functional website later. (See chapter 7 of How To Get Started As A Singer-Songwriter for more details on how to set up a website.)

Now it’s up to you how fancy you want to get with the content in your press kit:

  • Professional photos will make you look much more serious – you’d be surprised how many bands/artists don’t have them. They CAN be costly though, so if it’s not in your budget, just do the best with what you’ve got.
  • You’ll need a bio. There are some great articles out there on writing an artist bio if you do a google search. Just make sure you proofread you’re writing it yourself. :)
  • You’ll need recordings. If you have access to a professional studio, great. But don’t sweat it if you don’t. Use what you’ve got for now. Most smaller venues won’t be expecting radio-quality tracks, they just want to see that you’ve got talent.
  • Videos are great because they show that you can perform live (and haven’t auto-tuned the crap out of your tracks).  You can take pretty decent quality videos with smartphones, so take advantage of that!
  • Some artists put a section in the press kit called “Recommended if you like…” or “Sounds like…” If your friends are constantly comparing you to certain artists, it's nice to put a few artists in there so the venue bookers have a frame of reference.

Find Venues

Hopefully you have an idea of what venues in your city have live music, but there are TONS of resources you can use if you don’t have a clue where to look.

  • Google search “live music in [your city]”
  • Ask local bands if they have any venues they’d recommend.
  • Look on the “shows” page of local bands’ websites.
  • Look through databases such as Indie on the Move (free) and the Indie Bible (paid). (See chapter 15 of How To Get Started As A Singer-Songwriter for more details on these databases)

Contact Venues

Next you’ll need to find venues to contact. You’ll need to contact quite a few, because a lot of them won’t respond. Don’t take it personally – some venues only book higher profile artists or have a recurring list of bands that play there and aren’t looking for new acts.

Once you’ve found some venues, go to their website and try to find contact information for the person who does the booking. Often they’ll put information on their facebook page “about” section that’s not on their website, so make sure you check there.

Send an email to the venue with a SHORT (one sentence) description of your music, dates that you’re available, and a link to your press kit. Make sure you check their events calendar to make sure the dates you're requesting are open! Don’t attach any files, because unsolicited emails with files attached often go to spam.

(Here are a couple email templates to help you get started!)

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