Wednesday Wisdom: How to Get Booked for Gigs

We kick off our Wednesday Wisdom series with Jeannie Jones. Jeannie is an award-winning journalist, media personality, actress, producer, director and brand architect. Jeannie’s Los Angeles-based multimedia firm, Ready Set Impact, specializes in music, film, and radio production; publishing; social media marketing, branding, and casting.

Jeannie is no stranger to the live music scene, and she dropped by here today to offer some insights on how you can book more shows, more often.

Booking a gig is always an exciting moment. The anticipation of an upcoming live performance is a huge motivator to finish songs and prepare to perform. There’s nothing more exhilarating than the in-the-moment feeling of playing live music. 

Now that venues are reopened after being paralyzed by the 2020 pandemic, promoters and managers are eager to work with talent that’s prepared to perform. That’s why you need a plan to book your next (or first) gig. After all, it’s your chance to be heard by fresh ears in a live environment.

Let’s look at a handful of tactics you can employ to book a gig, get on a great bill, and get invited back. 

  1. Reach out to your contacts in the community. 
    If you have friends or contacts in the music scene, you’ve already got a huge leg up. Whether you know venue owners and bookers, or have friends with their own musical projects, let them know you’re looking to book a gig. Brainstorm a list of people, and don’t be afraid to reach out to everyone on it. Your contacts are going to be your biggest asset when getting started.
  2. Build up your network by attending events. 
    Be social, be nice, have fun, and you’ll be making connections in the music scene with ease. If you don’t have many contacts in the music scene, start right in your local community. Plan on going to a lot of shows — at least one per week. Consider checking out artists you like (or other new artists) and invite your friends to come, too. Once you start showing up and become part of the community, it will be much easier to meet other new artists, promoters, and venue owners — all of whom may book you in the future.

    Also, be ready to show people what you’re working on. It helps to have your music live on streaming platforms, so it’s easy to share your songs with whomever you meet.
  3. Make a call out for booking on social media.
    If you don’t already, you should absolutely have a presence on social media. Social media continues to be a leading source for artists to meet, collaborate, and book each other for shows. There are many ways to make creative posts, but keep your audience in mind — venues, promoters, fellow musicians, and fans. Once you have a following, let them know that you’re looking for gigs. You never know who may be following you, or who may have a lead or suggestion.
  4. Check upcoming local shows and get in touch with the promoters. 
    Get to know promoters and venue managers who regularly book gigs for local and out-of-town artists in your city, and understand their requirements. For example, The Listening Room in Nashville requests that artists submit through their website with a video performance link to be considered. The music team at Republic of Pie, a popular open mic spot in Los Angeles, also requires a direct link of your live performance.

    Take a good look at the shows, concerts, and festivals coming up in your area, and you’ll have an idea of where you fit. Then, develop and send a detailed pitch — or even better, an EPK — for the promoter. Include high-quality images, videos, press, streaming links (of course), and any other important information.

    If you’re interested in opening for a touring artist in your area, remember that it’s not always the booking manager who makes the final decision about who opens. The touring artist’s management will often get the final say in who opens and who won’t. Keep that in mind when pitching for those opportunities.
  5. Book your own show.
    Here’s a slightly risky — but tried and true — way to get your first gig: book it yourself.

    You’ll need to be somewhat established in the community. That’s because you’ll be doing all the work of a promoter, including booking the venue, booking the artists, coordinating sound personnel and backline, paying everyone after the show and, depending on the scale of your event, satisfying artist riders. You’re also responsible for the safety and well-being of attendees during the course of your event. Depending on the size, you might even have to hire security.

    And that’s all before you actually go on stage to perform your set. Geesh!

    You’re also in charge of marketing the show. Remember, you need bodies in the door to cover the costs of the event. A successful event can be lucrative and springboard to bigger opportunities, but you can lose money if attendance is low. You’ll need to book acts with a draw that people want to see, and you’ll need to develop a promotional campaign to spread the word. That means staying on top of social media (and encouraging the artists to do the same), and it helps to have an email list full of people who support live music.

    It will be a lot of work, but the payoff will be immensely satisfying if everything goes to plan.

About the Author:

Jeannie Jones is an award-winning Journalist, media personality, actress, producer, director and brand architect. Jeannie’s Los Angeles-based multimedia firm, Ready Set Impact, specializes in Music/Film/Radio Production, Publishing, Social Media Marketing, Branding and Casting. RSI is also responsible for producing her syndicated entertainment report, 60 Seconds of Hollywood, and the PBS documentary Our Children Are In Pain.

The Washington Post called Jeannie “Oprah in Training” because of her versatility. Although covering entertainment has been constant in Jeannie’s career, she has proven to be skilled at handling more serious news issues for radio, television and newspapers. She was co-host on the Russ Parr Morning Show at Radio One, then continued to rock the airwaves in her hometown, Washington, D.C., hosting the #1 night show, Love Talk on WPGC 95.5 (CBS Radio). Jeannie was then the entertainment reporter on The Donnie Simpson Morning Show, before returning to Radio One to host her #1 rated midday show for more than a decade. You can also hear Jeannie on iHeartRadio.

Jeannie’s talents extend to doing voiceovers for the WNBA, and as a spokesperson for several major corporations, including Apple, Coca Cola, GMC, Anheuseur-Busch, MAC Cosmetics and L’OREAL Paris. She has served as co-host on WTTG-FOX 5 Morning News & The American Idol Chatter segment; as a music critic for BET, The Washington Post, and XM Satellite; and as a motivational speaker and community activist through The Jeannie Jones Position to Transition series. Jeannie has received numerous awards, including the NAACP Leadership Award for donating her time and resources to such organizations as The Boys And Girls Clubs, We Are Super Moms, The United Way Homewalk Los Angeles for the Homeless with Kobe Bryant, American Heart Association, The Good Shepherd Shelter For Battered Women With Children, The Humane Society, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Children’s National Medical Center, Miss USA Pageant, Urban Journalism Workshop for National Public Radio, BET’s RapItUp Tour for Education and Prevention of HIV/AIDS, and the Susan G.Komen Walk to End Breast Cancer. Jeannie is a member of the National Association for Female Executives, and vows to “always encourage youth to be the best they can be” and “elevate tomorrow’s leaders today” through her mentoring program and Grant My Wish Foundation.

Currently, Jeannie is starring in the Emmy-nominated series, This Eddie Murphy Role Is Mine, Not Yours (Season 2). Jeannie has also produced music for the soundtracks to films, First Comes Like and Stuck (LionsGate).

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