In this post I’m going to outline a step-by-step guide showing you how to book a gig for yourself or your band. Even if you’re an unsigned or independent artist, the truth is that you don’t always need a booking agent, or even a concert promoter, to land gigs at venues in your area. I’m going to show you how to go directly to these venues yourself and get them to book you.
But before we dive in, we need to make sure we understand what venues actually care about so that we can set ourselves up for success. When it comes to booking gigs, it’s not just about how good you or your band are. While being great at what you do is necessary, you also have to understand that venues are businesses. They depend on performers drawing a crowd that will buy tickets, drinks, and food.
In order to be successful at booking gigs for yourself, you need to demonstrate to venues that you and your band put on a great show and can bring people into their space. This post will show you how to research the opportunities in your area, come up with ideas to make yourself as appealing as possible to venues, and actually reach out and book some gigs for yourself.
Let’s get started.
Disclaimer: Everything we cover in this post will only work if you or your band are actually ready to book gigs. If you’re not at the level that venues are looking for, focus on honing your craft until you’re ready.
How to Book a Gig For Yourself
The process of booking gigs for unsigned artists or bands isn’t actually that complicated and this post is going to walk you through everything you need to know to get started.
Here’s the step-by-step process we’re going to cover in the rest of this post:
- Research Venues in Your Area
- Assemble Your Marketing Materials
- Reach Out To The Venue (Don’t worry, I’ve got an email script that you can use)
If you follow these steps, you’re going to be well on your way to booking gigs for yourself.
Research Venues In Your Area
What are the live music venues in your area?
Start by understanding what live music venues are in your area. A simple Google search like “music venues in *city*” will give you everything you need to get started. Don’t make this over-complicated. The goal here is to just get yourself familiar with the potential venues in your area.
What are their requirements or guidelines?
Many venues will outline specific requirements and information about how to book shows with them. Pay close attention to these when you do your research because you need to make sure you would even meet their requirements. You’re not going to make a good impression if you clearly haven’t done your research. Take a few minutes to really read through this documentation on venue websites.
This information can typically be found under the Contact or FAQ sections of a venue’s site.
What tier of venue are they?
You need to find the appropriate venues that host performers at your level. For example, if you’re just starting out, focus on smaller venues and don’t waste your time approaching the big venues in town. I like to think about rating venues on a tier system where larger, more established venues are a 1 while small bars or house concerts might be something like a 5.
Keep your research organized
In order to stay organized in your research, I recommend creating a spreadsheet of all the venues in your area with the following info included:
- Venue Name
- Person in charge of booking
- Contact email
- Specific instructions about bookings
You can use this template to manage all of your venue research. Just make a copy for yourself and you’ll be ready to research.
Once you’ve created your list of venues, pick a few to target. But before we do anything else, we need to make sure you’re ready for outreach.
Assemble Your Marketing Materials
The first things any venue is going to want to know is whether or not you can draw a crowd.
Remember that their entire business model is based on having live music that draws a crowd into the bar to buy tickets, food, and alcohol.
To illustrate this point, let’s look at a few quick examples from venues in Philadelphia.
“The best way to get a show at Union Transfer is to send your press pack to:1026 Spring Garden St / Philadelphia, PA 19123. Please list a show history (including where, when, ticket price and what they drew—be as specific as possible).”
Source: Union Transfer’s FAQ
“Please send your contact info including e-mail, links to your band’s website and social media, and/or press for your band. A history of where and how often you’ve played in Philly, how many people you can draw, and who you’ve played shows with in Philadelphia is helpful. If we’re interested, we will contact you.”
Source: Johnny Brenda’s Contact Page
Notice how both of these focus almost exclusively on how large of a crowd performers are able to bring into the venue. If you’re able to make a compelling case that your performance is going to bring them customers, you’re going to have a much easier time booking gigs.
Put together your EPK
By using the research you’ve already done about the local venues, start assembling your Electronic Press Kit (EPK). This will include all of the marketing materials that you’ll need when you start reaching out.
What to include in your EPK:
- Recordings of your music
- Music videos
- High resolution photographs
- Artist or band bio
- Album cover art
- Press clippings
- Your website
- Links to social media
You might not have all of these things and that’s okay.
The most important thing is that you send over the materials that demonstrate what your music sounds like and anything that proves you’re not going to totally bomb at their venue.
Do your best to gather what you can and start with that. You’ll continue building up your EPK as you get more opportunities, but don’t let a lack of marketing materials deter you from reaching out to venues. If you’re really serious about getting gigs, come up with a marketing plan on your own that you can use to help promote your show.
Venues are constantly getting hit up by musicians that want to perform in their space and almost none of them are coming in with a plan already outlined of how they’re going to promote the show. By doing this, you will instantly stand out from everyone else because you’ll be appealing to what the venue wants.
If you’re thinking “I don’t know anything about marketing,” that’s fine. This isn’t about being a great marketer. Your goal here is to demonstrate to the venue that you’re going to be a partner with them to help make a potential gig a success. With this in mind, let’s look at some ways you could promote a gig.
Simple ways to market a gig
Pitch local music bloggers and press about the concert
Google local music blogs or websites and invite them to the performance. There is a whole world of music bloggers out there that love going to shows. Invite them and see if they’d be interested in attending the show. This is good for both you and venue because it helps you establish connections in your area with members of the media and it potentially gets some additional attention for the venue.
Partner with another group in town with an established following
If you’re just starting out, reach out to established bands in your city and see if they would be interested in splitting a show. Existing groups will have an existing fan base that you can tap into by partnering with them. If you don’t have these connections, start attending the gigs of other bands and introduce yourself. This is totally free and could help expand your own following by partnering with other groups.
Create a Facebook event and invite all of your friends
A simple Facebook event shared with your friends can be a great way to raise awareness when you book a gig. Invite your friends and then personally reach out to them to let them know about the show. Individual invitations will be much more effective than just adding a ton of people to the event. This is more work, but when you’re just getting started, it could be the difference of having a few close friends show up and having a large enough crowd that the venue will want to invite you back again.
Reach Out To The Promoter or Owner of The Venue
Alright, it’s time to put all of the research you’ve done to work and start reaching out to venues! To make this really simple for you, I’ve created an email script that you can use for your outreach. All you have to do is update the underlined portions to adapt this script for your situation.
My name is YOUR NAME and I’m a member of a band called BAND.
We are interested in performing at your venue and would love to opportunity to discuss some potential dates.
BAND has performed at other venues including VENUE and VENUE and we’d love the opportunity to work together.
You can hear our music here or learn more about us on our website and social channels.
Thanks for your time and I hope to hear from you soon!
PS — If you are interested, we would love to discuss some ideas for marketing our show. We want to make sure it’s a success for both of us!
Use your research to customize your outreach, but this template is a good jumping off point.
How to write emails that will get results
Here’s a quick outline and why this template works:
- Friendly intro: Tell them exactly who you are and the name of your band.
- Let them know you’re interested: Remember, the entire business model of a venue is having acts perform to draw in a crowd to buy food and alcohol. They need groups to perform and it’s your job to show them that you can bring a crowd.
- Social proof: Listing other venues you’ve performed at lends credibility to you and your band. If you have a ballpark number of how many people attend your shows, include that as well.
- Make it easy for them to learn more: Give them everything they need in one place and add links to each of the resources. If they’re interested, make it really easy for them to check out your materials.
- Thank them for their time: People are busy and NOBODY wants more email. Make sure to thank them for their time and give a little nudge that you would like to connect.
- Tease your marketing ideas: Almost no band is going to proactively discuss ideas for marketing their shows with a venue. Always let people know that you want to be a partner with them in making the show a success. If you’re appealing to what they really care about you’ll get a much better response rate.
Using the Google doc you created, reach out to all of the venues in your area using this email script. Again, you should make updates to the script as needed but this general outline should work for most situations. Outreach is a numbers game so don’t get discouraged about emails that don’t get answered.
Just keep researching opportunities and continue to be proactive when you’re trying to book a gig for yourself.
Repeat This Process
Okay, you can probably guess that booking a gig isn’t always as simple as emailing a few people and getting hired.
Everything we’ve covered will help you land some gigs, but it’s up to you to do the hard work. You will need to push through the inevitable rejections and countless ignored emails. The more you go through this process, the more success you’re going to have.
As you start to book more gigs, you’ll be able to improve this process and continue to land more opportunities. Once you start landing gigs at smaller venues and can build a following, you can start approaching larger venues. More gigs means more opportunity to gather better marketing materials. Repeat this process and you’ll be well on your way to creating more opportunities for yourself.
Do you have any questions about booking more gigs?
Leave a comment below and I’ll answer every single one.