Posted tagged ‘gigs’

Where Has All The Funding Gone?

October 20, 2010

Funding is fading! At least that’s what it feels like.

Funding for the arts has always paled in comparison to funding for other things; but I’ve noticed even more of a decline in the last year. I especially can’t believe how many “sorry our budget is much smaller this year” conversations I’ve had in the last few months.  I’m finding that I have to be more creative and sometimes less creative (read on, you’ll see what I mean) to get paid gigs.

Here’s one of those less creative options.  Sometimes we get not because we ask not. I’ve found that when I’m asked to do a pro-bono weekend gig, it’s not always possible. Just like for a waiter or waitress, Fridays and Saturdays are the best gig times – more customers (audience), more tips (sales).  This post was pretty popular when we put it up over a year ago. Check it out:  Money: Ask and You Shall Recieve…Sometimes.

It’s weird how this works, but the more options you have, the more money you make.  Having more options guarantees that there’s an alternative for the hard-to-please customer and that you can always do bundle discounts for folks who choose to buy both albums (a perk that really does work). More often than not they’ll by both if its a good deal.

House shows will make you solid fans and they will also give you an intimate venue where you don’t have to split the cover with a doorman. Read this post for more details: What Are Your Thoughts on House Shows?

Brainstorm some unconventional ways to do what you do.  Chances are, if everyone is doing it, there’s less money in it. Think of your ideas like inventions. If you create something that’s completely unique, you can patent it, put it on the market and make 100% of the profits.

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How Do You Know if a Show Will Be Worth It?

October 11, 2010

So you’ve been asked to do a few shows but you don’t which ones you should take. I think we’ve all run into this. DON’T take every gig because some really aren’t worth it and who has time to waste. Choose wisely. Weigh you options and base your show on how it will further you in your goals. Here are a few questions to ask yourself…

How far is it and will they be paying you?
If you have to drive a distance and you’re not sure if you’ll even be able to cover your gas, you should think twice about playing this show. Sometimes a show isnt worth your time+gas+tolls. Guestimate what those three will be and weigh it with the financial+fan+experiential return of the show.

Is it an easy show?
I really love those occasional “golden” shows where I don’t have to work for an audience because I can count on a built-in crowd. Sometimes you just need an “easy” show so you can take a break from the constant hustle.  Gigs like this are often worth it even if the monetary take home isn’t all that great.

What Kind of Experience Will You Have?
It’s often hard to gauge this. An experience can depend on a number of things – other artists on the bill, the space, and who decides to come. Don’t always equate experience with turnout. Some of my best shows personally have been for groups of 10 or 20.

Does this show have potential?
Potential to put you in front of a brand new fanbase? Potential to expose you to “important” decision makers. Potential to open new opportunities for you? Maybe the show will serve as a resume builder instead of a great paying opportunity. Shows like this are great.

Do You Want to Do it?
It’s a simple question that I sometimes forget to ask myself. Remember, if the emails are landing in your inbox, you have the power to decide if you want to play it or not. Don’t find yourself at a gig you don’t care for.  If you don’t care about it, you shouldn’t play it. That’s no fun for anyone.

The Best Way to Book a Tour

May 10, 2010

Booking is hard. Here are some valuable tips on how to hopefully make things a bit less stressful. If you have other tips, post them in the comments section.

1. Start with the Weekend
Where do you want to spend your weekend? Book your Friday and Saturday gigs first? Its likely that these will be your money-making gigs since you’ll probably get more folks out. Book the weekend gigs in cities with your biggest following.

2. Have One Anchor Gig
This is the gig that pays the bills and funds your trip. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a weekend gig. Maybe a college is bringing you in to do something on a Wednesday night. Or maybe you’re doing a wedding in one of the cities and they are paying you upfront. Knowing you have some financial backing will give you confidence to book other gigs even if there is no guarantee in how much you’ll make at the others.

3. Fill in the blanks
After you’ve booked your weekend gigs and your anchor gig, focus on your weeknights.  Thursday nights are probably the next most important day for a musician. There’s alot happening on Thursdays- not as busy as a Friday or Saturday, but usually busier than other weeknights.

4. Save the Big Venues for an Off-night
Getting into a  major venue like Philly’s World Cafe, can be hard…especially on a Friday or Saturday.  Shoot for a weeknight.  You’ll have a better chance…especially if you contact them with advance notice.  BUT, if you can land a major venue on a weekend, then go for it!

5. Sunday House Show
House Shows are laid back and perfect for a Sunday evening (or afternoon) potluck. It’s the perfect type of show when you can’t seem to fill in that last date. Sunday’s (and weekends in general) are especially good for this.  But it doesn’t have to be. See: House Shows – Small Crowd, Big Return

6. Be part of something that already exists
Maybe you’ve missed the boat. Your trip is 6 weeks away and you only have 2 gigs booked on your 5-day tour.  Look into local happenings. Maybe there’s a community day you can be a part off. There’s less stress of trying to create a gig from scratch, and you don’t have to promote. See: Why Won’t People Come to My Shows?

7. Check the venues online calendar before emailing them about a date that could already be taken
Don’t go asking a venue if you can play on June 5th if June 5th is already booked with two other bands. That shows them you didn’t care enough to stop by their website. It also means you haven’t read their booking policy or any other need-to-know facts.

8. Don’t be afriad to do an Open Mic
For some reason, it always seems like Tuesday’s are the night when nothing is going on. Not as many venues booking shows. Not as many events going on in a city.  How about doing an Open Mic? Contact the host and ask if they have featured performers. You’ll find that some open mics give guest artists a longer set.

Also check out

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Jumping the Gun – Booking for the Spring and Summer

February 23, 2009


The Powdered Kegs (busking on a street corner)

The Powder Kegs (busking on a street corner)

It’s the end of February…the perfect time to begin booking for the Spring.  February has always been a busy month for me as this is the time I start planning my April shows.  And April has always been the busiest performance month for me b/c bookers are finally taking advantage of the good weather and trying to set up as many outside events as possible. Here are some tips for making sure you have a successful Spring/Summer season.

Set a Goal…

Try to get as many outside gigs this year as possible.  Spring and Summer are really the best times to get exposure for the simple reason that your audience is easily doubled/tripled/quadrupled by the fact that a show is outside.

Using resources to find good outside gigs
As mentioned in the Stay Informed: Read, Watch, Listen, Go post, it is so important to visit local community sites and read local papers to see what’s around the corner. Its easy to find out about upcoming arts festivals if you’re subscribed to various local newsletters or listening to local radio. Its definitely worth visiting the myspace pages of your music peers to see what gigs they’ve scored.

Creating Your Own Outside Event
This is one of my favorite things to do.  All you need is a sound system, a couple artists and space (a good central spot).  Suppose there’s a restaurant with a nice outside patio or a mall with a huge walkway. Find out who’s in charge and find out what you need to do to make it happen.  If you have to prove that you’re professional enough to make it work, prove it.

Doing events on a College campus are a plus!  A University usually wont let you use their facilities unless its in conjunction with one of their organizations. Soooo…find an student organization and ask them if they’d be interested in working with you to put on an event for the students – maybe a benefit or an end of the semester type thing.  Sky is the limit.

The great thing about creating your own outside event is that you don’t have to spend as much time promoting. You can almost always count on drawing people in with musuc.

Farmers  Markets
Do not underestimate the Farmers Market crowd. You can make an unexpected amout of income at a Farmers Market. People are there specifically to shop and buy produce so they’re already in a buying mood. If you provide a tip jar and CDs, they will come through.  Farmers Market attendees are generally artsy people who like to support.  So start looking into local farmers market. If they regularly book musicians ask them how you can get on the list.  If they don’t have music, ask if they would consider it. Offer to bring your amp, mic and stand and reassure them that they don’t have to put any effort into it.   Also, make sure to setup in a prime spot

Busking many times gets a bad rap. But if you sound good, busking is a really great way to make money while playing for tons of random people. Pick a quality street corner, open your guitar case and play your heart out.  Bring a small card table and display your CDs, business cards, and newsletter sign-up form.  You’ll look less like a person who wants quick cash and mor like a distinguished musician.  If you ask a business if they will allow you to perform in front of their storefront, they might say yes.  And if you need power, they’ll probably let you use their outlets as well.

Revisit old gigs
Did you play a really great outside gig last year?  Ok, so contact the booker from that event and ask if they will consider having you back.


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Cutting Costs Without Cutting Corners #1

February 2, 2009



Let me preface this post by saying…If you have any better or additional suggestions, please comment below.  Who doesn’t need ideas on saving $$$?

Finding cheap recording rates is a very difficult thing. Studios can charge anywhere from $25 to $100 an hour (or even more).  When you’re looking to record a project, make sure to ask other musicians who they used and if that person/studio was any good. Many studios offer tours and/or trial period…where you can record a free song and decide if you’d like to stick with them for the full project.  Definitely take advantage of this. Don’t jump into any type of “contract” just because you wanna have a CD in the next 3 months. 

Take advantage of craigslist and a starving college kid 🙂  It’s not too hard to find a music production student in need of a senior project.  What better way to get a cost-effective quality recording for a great price.  Keep in mind that the University’s equiptment is probably top notch.  But of course this is not the best option for everyone…especially if you’re looking for someone with years experience.

Posters and Flyers
Did you know that if you’re a member of BMI (Broadcast Music Inc) you get discounts on copies at Kinkos?  I love this perk!  Why would you want to be a part of BMI? Well here’s a thorough, simply explanation.

Club Flyers is used widely by musicians.  Club Flyers prints free 4×6 postcards for your event.  1000 postcards for free (as long as they can include their website on the card).  All you do is pay for shipping.  You create custom artowork, send them the file, and they do the rest.  There are tons of other similar websites and services.

Again check out  There are local printing companies in your area that probably have fees at a fraction of a larger company’s cost.  And suppose you’re not good at designing flyers.  Find someone on craigslist who can do the work for you at a really great price. College students are soooo great for this.
Gigs & Gas
Carpool. duh!  And if a gig is not paying  you, don’t be afraid to ask them to at least compensate you for gas. It never hurts to ask.
Keeping Records
If you plan to include you music income in your taxes, make sure to keep track of the $ you spend on music-related things because its all deductible.  I wrote about this in my “The Things You’ll Hate To Do…But Should Do Anyways” post.  MusicBizAcademy also has really great tips on how to do this. While you might not be saving money initially, you will be in the long term.

Craigslist is Your Best Friend!
Craigslist really is a musicians best friend.  I’ve found musicians to accompany me at my shows in a last minute bind. I’ve found a PA system for a fraction of the cost. I’ve found photographers who want to do free photo shoots just to build up their portfolio.

The Best thing is to spend some time online reading up on all the resources that are literally at your fingertips.
Hope the above helped. If you have suggestions, please leave them as a comment. Thanks!

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