If the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, then you might say that your career as a musician begins with your first gig. But how do you get that gig? To help you answer that question, here are a few ideas that have worked for others and that are good strategies for getting your band its first public performance.
First, be honest. Do your band members have enough practice under their belts that they won't embarrass themselves with on-stage mistakes? Has your band mastered enough music that they can perform at a professional level to put on a show or recital? If the answer to both of these questions is "yes," congratulations! It is time to start looking for gigs.
As with so many areas of life that involve making business connections—and if you are reading this, chances are good that your band is a money-making enterprise—networking is going to be your most productive approach and where you should concentrate your efforts.
Here are a few suggestions for where to start networking: Are you taking lessons from a professional musician? He or she will have a good idea of where bands like yours are performing. Any schools in your area? Band directors and music instructors can also point you in the right direction. Of course you will want to let all your friends and family members know how serious you are about your musical aspirations. Someone in your circle will eventually be able to offer you a lead.
More networking ideas: Fellow musicians, even if they don't perform the kind of music that you do, may have more knowledge than you do about your local music scene and can be helpful to you. Be sure to return the favor whenever you can, if you want to keep that tap of information flowing. Every community has super music fans that you can meet at concerts, and once you get involved in your local music scene, you can start connecting with amateur and even professional promoters.
Where do performances of your style of music happen in your community? Parties? Recital halls? Bars and banquet halls? Battles of the bands? Open microphone nights? Talk to the managers at these venues and let them know that your band is available—even on short notice—to fill in for no-show bands. Go where the gigs are happening and start introducing yourself to the people who may be able to help your band and offer to help them solve their booking problems.
A useful approach is to inform venue managers and band promoters that your band is available as an opening act or as a last-minute replacement for acts that can't go on. A local bar or DJ might let your band come in to perform a set if they know that you are available.
You say that there is nowhere to perform in your town? How far do you have to go from your home base to find a town where there IS a demand for the music your band performs? Start making trips to those towns. This is a situation in which the Internet can be helpful. Check online for web sites of music venues in your region. Venues may also have their own Facebook or MySpace pages that will tell you a lot about what kinds of bands they are looking for.
You must make it easy for others to find your band. Both MySpace and Facebook offer you a place to post a promotional page for your band. Make sure that your band page gives complete information about your band's members and includes compelling pictures and sound clips that favorably showcase the band's music as well as accurate contact information.
You might be considering promoting your band on Craigslist. However, if you take that approach, you will have no control over who responds. You may get inundated with spam or be contacted by inappropriate responders. A better strategy would be to join some online music forums for musicians in your genre. Spend some time learning about the people who post there. Contribute to the discussions; develop relationships and only then start to promote your band. You want to be a good forum citizen who adds something to the conversation, not just a shameless self-promoter.
If you do contact people you meet on the forums directly by email be sure to keep your messages direct and don't just send out generic form emails. Let your email show your genuine interest in the person to whom you send it and their music or their band venue.
Over time you will probably find that offline promotion is more valuable in getting that first gig than using the Internet. Still, having a web page to which you can refer potential bookers should be part of your overall promotional strategy. The next part of offline promotion is having a business card for your band. Pass your business card out everywhere you go—you never know who will eventually receive it.
The card should have sufficient information about your group for the people who book acts for the audience you want to build to understand what you do and know how to contact you. Be sure to very clearly present your band's contact information—this is no time for fancy or tiny type.
Your offline efforts should be based on making it as easy as possible for people who are interested in your music to get in touch with you. Remember you are also trying to get people to WANT to listen to your music. Make all your promotional materials inviting, creative, and capable of standing out from the crowd—in a good way.
Here are a few more benefits of training your ear through singing: For that purpose, you will also want to create a promotional package for your band. Include band photos, a resume of band members' musical experience, band name, member's names, and styles of music that you perform. If some of the band members have already performed in public, be sure to mention those gigs.
This promotional package needs to be continually kept up-to-date and should contain a demo recording of the band. Each time your band gets a gig, you will add information about it to this promotional resume. You can also use this promo packet to refer people to your music online, but don't expect them to go there unless they like the music on the CD or USB drive that you include with your promotional materials. You did include one, right?
Before concluding, here's another strategy for getting a gig that too often gets overlooked: create your own venue and your own gig. Start having house parties at band members' homes and let your guests know that you will be performing. If your music is more formal, consider hiring a recital hall that you can afford and put on a concert.
When you finally connect with a manager or promoter who expresses interest in your band, designate one member of your band as the booking person. This will keep lines of communication direct and help avoid miscommunication and misunderstanding. Also be sure to post your performance dates and locations on your web site and on event calendars in local print media. Be sure to let everyone who helped you get that first gig know how much you appreciate what they did for you. You are on your way!