Many musicians head into the new year scared of the gigs they will not get. Don't let that happen to you
Resolutions begin flying around this time like newly emerging fireflies, illuminating their hopeful intentions with the goal of keeping the light going throughout the year. Resolutions are determined by one thing: being resolute. You have to be determined, driven, diabolically destined to stick to your goals you set during the first month.This can be hard because for the majority of the population, the new year simply indicates the perpetuation of the cycle; return to work, go to the gym, eat kale, etc.
For musicians, the beginning of the year looks like a huge blank. This is because most musicians do not have a label to get them shows or publicists to advertise for them. Musicians have to work hard for every show that they get.
I played over 180 shows in 2017 and I loved every single one. That’s almost 1 show for every 2 days which is insane now that I look back on it. Even though I played so many shows last year, I still looked at the calendar in January, 2017 with fear asking myself “How am I going to survive this year?” Here is what I’ve learned.
1. Always send professional e-mails
Booking is primarily done online and venues receive hundreds of e-mails weekly so it is important to make sure your e-mail stands out. One of the first e-mails I ever sent was one of the worst e-mails a venue could ever receive:
My name is Josh and I am in a band called Fierce Kelly, a 6 piece soul ban. I was wondering if you had any openings in the next couple of months. Here is a link to me singing on YouTube. Thanks and I hope to hear from you soon!
This e-mail has spelling errors, says nothing about the draw a venue would be expected to receive from hiring me, or provides any relevant information about me as a person or my quality as a musician. Presentation is key; if you want to be treated like a professional then write professionally.
2. Provide venues with high quality recordings and media
Let’s say you’re taking a trip to New Zealand and you want to book a house through Airbnb. You’re flipping through the options in your price range and you come across a house that looks stunning. The pictures are DSLR quality, the furniture is nicely arranged, there is a lovely hipster poster on the wall that says “Adventure is awaiting” with arrows above and below. The house is a little further away from the town center and there are slightly less amenities but you want to book it. Why? Because it looks like a place you would pay money for. The argument also holds for musicians. Present yourself as a product that people would want to pay money to see and hear play.
3. Be a nice person
I cannot emphasize this enough. If a venue owner has a choice between working with a jerk who someone who is not a jerk, the owner will work with the non-jerk. Why? Because owning a business is hard. The owner has to worry about taxes, overhead, employees, employee benefits, late nights, violence (especially if you are playing in bars), and market volatility. Musicians are privy to some of these issues but not all. Just think about playing music in May as opposed to January, more gigs fall during times when weather is good and more people are out. In an industry where the majority of musicians are vastly underpaid and venue owners and employees are also underpaid, both sides need each other to survive. This symbiotic relationship can work towards its fullest potential if you are simply courteous and grateful towards the venue (be careful though, as sometimes being too nice can get people to walk over you but that is a whole other post).
So if the venue doesn’t e-mail you back, or the owner doesn’t gush over your set, or the manager wants you to take less breaks, or play more upbeat music, just know that most of the time, it’s not about you. He/she is just trying to make ends meet just like you. Put a smile on your face, be happy you get to play music for money and know that the show must go on.