How To Book A Gig Yourself…and Be Invited Back

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rich Nardo. Rich is a freelance writer and editor, and is the Director of Public Relations and Creative at NGAGE.]

No matter what anyone tells you, we have yet to figure out a digital musical experience that can equal the fan connections a band can conjure through their live show. There is something in our DNA that is profoundly impacted by live music. Maybe it’s the shared experience with those in attendance or the nostalgia a concert can create for a certain time in our lives.

Or maybe it’s something more primal; the process of syncing our natural rhythm to live drum and bass as it pulse through our bones. Either way, performing is still undoubtedly the best way to create loyal fans and combat the current “musical-flavor-of-the-week” culture we live in.

Still, developing a live following is no walk in the park. You’re going to need to dedicate hours-upon-hours of time to tightening your set and tirelessly promoting your shows. It’ll get tedious, and success won’t happen overnight, but if you work hard you’ll eventually graduate from dingy bars and VFWs to better rooms. On top of that, I can honestly say nothing can match the indescribable feeling you’ll get from performing in front of a room full of people and, if you’re lucky, the dedicated following you’ll gain from gigging out.

Here are some tips on how to book that first gig, and how to get invited back!

1. Be Professional In Your Pitch

Yes, the promoter knows that you’re self-booking. They still want the comfort of knowing you will take the night seriously. Keep in mind that they’ve probably gotten a few hundred other “booking inquiries” that week. Ask yourself what’s going to make them offer you a slot on one of their nights over those other bands? Some ways to be professional include:

  • A succinct, clear subject line (i.e: Booking Inquiry – The Beatles October Date @ MSG?).
  • Be informative in the body of the email. You should include a description of your music, where you’re from and any performance history. It is also necessary to include a link to where the talent buyer can listen to your music and check out your socials.
  • Don’t have typos!
  • Follow up approximately 3-5 days after reaching out if you don’t hear back. Also don’t hesitate to pick up the phone. Sometimes that’s the best way to cut through the clutter of acts hitting up a promoter.

2. Stay In Touch with The Promoter Ahead Of Your Show

Nothing makes promoters more nervous than booking a band and not hearing from them again until they show up at the venue night of. Give the promoter updates on what you’re doing to get people to come see your band. Also share any promotional assets such as Facebook events or flyers with the promoter as well. This way they can take comfort in the fact you’re promoting and maybe even help get the word out as well.

3. Promote On Socials and Ask Your Friends

Actually promote, don’t just show up! Be active on both yours and the band’s social media accounts. Also don’t discount the value of hanging flyers (particularly in the venue) and calling/texting your friends. Sometimes those IRL invites are more memorable than a Facebook invite.

4. Help Book The Bill

This isn’t as important as a lot of the other points on this list but it’s definitely a plus. Promoters are usually booking a bunch of dates at once. If you can book the rest of the band’s on your bill it takes the work off of the promoter’s plate and gives a better chance of the bill being cohesive.

5. Bring Your A-Game

Put in the work before the show to have a great performance. At the end of the day that’s what’s going to ensure people want to see you again and get your band invited back to play on better bills.

6. Communicate With The Promoter Night Of

Introduce yourself to the promoter when you get there and thank him/her for having you. Thank him/her again at the end of the night and let them know you’ll reach out about subsequent dates.

7. Follow Up After You Performance

Give it a couple of days after the show and then email the promoter. Thank him/her again for having you and then see what upcoming dates he/she has available. If you can get in this routine with a few different promoters, you can put a nice little circuit together for yourself.

8. Don’t Overbook

Space out your dates in any given market! If you play too much in the same area, you’re going to most likely divide your draw. Obviously when you first start playing, do as many low profile gigs as possible to find yourself as a performer, but once you’ve achieved a level of confidence in yourself that you care about draw, try not to play your own market more than once per month.

Promoters will not be happy if they find out you’re playing next door in a week. Neither will your friends and fans be as inclined to come out and support if you’re ALWAYS playing out.


Keep these eight things in mind and you’ll be well on your way to building your live career!

5 Reasons It Pays To Collaborate

[Editors Note: This article was written by Suzanne Paulinksi, an artist consultant with over 10 years in the music industry and owner of The Rock/Star Advocate.]

 

They often say, “Teamwork makes the dream work,” but what does that actually mean? Sure, we all know the benefits of growing our own team to carry out our own vision, but what are the real benefits to working with others who don’t work for us?

In years past, as I tried to get former businesses off the ground, I had been approached many times to collaborate with other business owners. More often than not I said no, afraid someone else would cloud my overall vision or try to usurp whatever I was currently working on and take it for themselves. I also had bad flashbacks of school projects when group work meant me busting my ass and four or five others benefiting off of my all-nighters.

So I pushed ahead on my own.

After two businesses failed to reach their full potential, I realized it was time to get out of my own way and realize the potential of combining forces. It’s one thing to hire internally and have a team help execute your vision – in fact, it’s crucial – but it’s quiet another to work with someone else who is in your same position (the captain of their own ship), but who brings a different perspective or skill set to the table.

Whether you’re a business owner or a songwriter, when it comes to true collaboration, it’s no longer about making your vision work, it’s about doing what works, period.

You don’t have to abandon your vision, but you do have to be open to improving it.

If you can trust that it’s just as important to have people who work with you as it is to have people to work for you then you can profit (in more ways than one) from these five benefits of collaboration:

1. Opens you up to a new or larger fan base: If you’re an artist who is trying to build their fanbase, positioning yourself to be a featured artist on someone else’s track or reaching out to share a stage with an artist who has already established a tour can get you in front of others who may not be familiar with you, but who are already primed to be potential fans of yours. Don’t stay up on other musicians as a way to “keep an eye on the competition,” but stay informed on who’s making moves as a way to keep an eye out for collaboration.

2. Opens you up to more prominent industry attention: Especially if you’re in the songwriting business, collaborating with another writer who already has the ear of industry decision makers can elevate your chances of getting their ear as well. That’s not to say you should only work with people who have reached a certain recognition – working with someone else who is on your same level can be just as beneficial. Not only are two brains almost always better than one, but creating something from two different perspectives can give your project the unique spin needed to make others listen.

3. Gets you a life long partner in this industry who has your back: Creating art is a very vulnerable process. Creating art with someone else can create an almost immediate bond. In an industry that can be very unforgiving, forming a close relationship with someone who can 100% relate to your specific position in the industry can be invaluable as you grow together.

4. Makes you better creatively and professionally: As I said above about not needing to abandon your vision, but being open to improving it, collaboration causes you to reflect on what you bring to the table and push further. A strong collaboration will force you to dig deep and put it all on the table. Much like an accountability buddy when trying to finish a task, when there’s someone to answer to you’ll try harder. On a professional note, knowing how to work with other personalities and talents is never a skill you should let get rusty.

5. Gives you a great story: When you bio is all about you, it becomes a snoozefest. Everyone loves a good love story in the movies, and everyone loves to hear how a song or project came together from a successful collaboration, especially if it’s an unexpected one. It gives you plenty of content to share and drip out as part of your promotional campaign. It makes cross-promotion a no-brainer, once again getting your work in front of a larger audience.

A little bit of skepticism with who you choose to let into your creative world is healthy, but paranoia or being overly controlling has never served anyone in the long run. Remember that in the end, it’s all about presenting your fans with the best version of yourself and sometimes it takes others to bring that out of us.

Here’s to making the dream work!

From the Stage to the Studio: How To Adapt Vocals For Recording

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Sabrina Bucknole. Sabrina has been singing in musical theater for over eight years, and wrote this as a deep dive into how live and theatrical singers can adapt their vocals for the studio and offers five practical tips for singers recording in the studio.]

 

Singers who have a lot of experience performing live can often find difficulty in bringing the same level of performance to the studio. Whether this is because of the space itself, the lack of an audience, the different approaches to singing techniques, or the range of equipment found in the studio, singers must learn to adapt their vocals for the studio if they want to create the “right” sound.

Introducing the Stage to the Studio

There are many elements about the studio that cannot be re-created on stage, but with technology advancing, this gap is closing, especially where vocals are concerned. For instance, loop pedals are becoming increasingly popular in live performances among the likes of famous artists including Ed Sheeran, Radiohead, and Imogen Heap. Loop pedals are used to create layers of sound and add texture to the performance, allowing a solo artist to become anything from a three-person band to an entire choir.

Vocals are recorded similarly to how they are recorded in a studio except they are recorded in the moment during live performance. It could be said that recording vocals in a studio is more intimate and requires more focus due to the enhanced sensitivity of the mics used in these spaces.

Both dynamic and condenser mics usually come with a specially designed acoustic foam windshield which absorbs the soundwaves coming from the voice. Duncan Geddes, MD of Technical Foam Services emphasises the importance of choosing the correct type of foam for the microphone windshield when recording in the studio. He explains that “having the right microphone windshield is essential to ensure an effective barrier against specific background noise while still allowing acoustic transparency. The critical aspect is the consistent pore size and density of the foam, to ensure complete sound transparency”.

To avoid picking up any unwanted sounds including plosives (“b” and “p” sounds created by a short blast of air from the mouth), acoustic windshields can be very effective. These air blasts strike the diaphragm of the mic and create a thump-like sound known as “popping”.

From Broadway to Booth: Vocal Differences

Singing in a recording studio can be daunting, especially for those who are used to singing live in a theatre. This could be because every tiny imperfection of the voice is picked up in the studio, including things that go unnoticed when performing live. Faced with these imperfections, some singers try to smooth out every little bump or crack in the voice in the pursuit of “perfection”.

Others embrace the “flaws” of the voice to create a sound unique to them. For instance, the well-known artist Sia embraces the natural cracks of her voice. This is apparent in most of her songs, especially in the song “Alive” on her 2016 album, This Is Acting. At 4 minutes 10 seconds you can hear her slide up to a higher note. To some, this might sound a little strained, but to others and Sia, this may simply be a natural and welcome part of her sound and performance.

Volume control can also be something to think about when entering the studio from the stage. Theatrical singers are taught to project their voices even in soft, quiet parts so they can still be heard. It could be argued that belting high and powerful notes becomes almost second nature to them, which is why they may find themselves having to reign it in slightly when adapting their voice for the studio.

For instance, according to multiplatinum songwriter and producer Xandy Barry, vocalists need to tone down their performance when recording in a studio. He reveals, “In certain quiet passages [singers] may need to bring it down, because in the studio a whisper can be clearly heard.”

It could also be argued that when performing live, the stage is a space where a certain type of energy is released, something that cannot be re-created in the studio. Playing to a crowd may bring something out of an artist. Some performers feel they can express themselves more on stage compared to in the studio. A live performance is ultimately, a performance after all.

This does not mean that the studio is restricting; instead it could be argued that other techniques are evoked when recording in this space. For instance, some singers display more finesse and subtlety in their work, something that cannot always be re-created on stage.

Five practical tips for singers recording in the studio:

1. Warm up

Studio time can be expensive which is why it’s best to warm up before entering the studio. As well as being prepared vocally, make sure you’re prepared with how you’re going to approach the piece. Some recommend knowing precisely how you’re going to sing every section, but this can come across as being over-rehearsed and may not sound natural. To avoid this, approach the piece differently each time and try experimenting with different sounds, textures, and volumes.

2. Record, record, record

Try and capture everything you can. If you vocalise something you like the sound of, but no one hit “record”, it can be frustrating for you as the singer, trying to re-create that same sound.

3. Keep cool and have fun

If you feel like you’re getting frustrated because a take isn’t going well or you’re not hitting the right notes, or you’re sounding rather flat, take a break. Take some time to clear your head and start afresh, so the next time you hit record, you’ll almost certainly get the results you were after!

4. Be emotional

Conjuring up emotions in the studio can be harder to do than on stage. This can be due to the lack of atmosphere, people, and the confined space. To avoid lyrics coming across bland or meaningless, try to focus on the lyrics themselves and decode them.

To stir the emotions you’re looking for, personalise the material by asking yourself “What is the meaning behind these words?”, “How are these lyrics making me feel?”, and “How can I relate these lyrics to my own life or the life of someone I care about?”. Like an actor and their script, discovering and analysing the intention of the words can have a great effect on the performance.

5. Manage the microphone

Singers with experience behind a mic know how to handle one. Skilled singers know where and how to move their head to create different volumes and sounds. For instance, by moving closer to the mic as they get softer, and further as they get louder they can manipulate the volume of their vocals, reducing the amount of compression required in editing later.

Singing into a mic when recording can be different from singing into a mic on stage. The positioning, mounting, angle of the mic, and distance from the singer, can all effect the captured vocal sound. Live singers usually hold the mic close to their mouth especially for softer parts, but in a studio, the mic is usually more sensitive to sound. This is why it’s best to keep more distance between yourself and the mic, especially for louder sections.

Early Music Marketing Tips For Indie Artists

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Janelle Rogers, the founder of  Green Light Go Publicity, a music PR firm which helps up-and-coming musicians reach their audience.]

 

You’ve probably heard all the standard things on how to promote your band. This may include ideas like ‘play more live shows’, ‘go on tour’, ‘post on social media’, ‘invite all your friends on Facebook’, ‘have a release show’, ‘get covered on blogs’, or ‘get radio airplay’. Some may even tell you to buy ‘likes’ or streams, (which I never advise).

Rather than tell you all the ideas you’ve heard ad nauseum, we’re going to move outside the proverbial box into areas that aren’t as obvious. Below are a few ideas to get you started.

1. Regularly Engage on Social Media with People You Admire

This is social media with a spin. You probably know by now to post your single release or upcoming show. But what if you don’t see any engagement with your following outside of a like or two from the same few fans?

If you’ve hit a plateau where you aren’t moving beyond your existing fan base, you should start looking at how you can begin expanding your following through less traditional means. How much are you engaging with the people you admire? This can be as simple as a local venue or band, or as big as your favorite blog, writer or national record label.

By posting insightful and supportive comments you have the opportunity to engage others who are interested in hearing what you’re about.  Engagement is a two-way street and if you are simply posting about your band without engaging with anyone else, you’ll only make it so far. By engaging with people you admire, you’ll have an opportunity to build a relationship with someone who wouldn’t normally be accessible to you.

2. Create a Spotify Playlist

A lot of bands come to us because they are interested in having us pitch curators for inclusion Spotify playlists. Curators are often looking at your social media engagement, band accomplishments, and how engaged you are on the Spotify platform.

If you’re lacking in any of these department, you can start by creating your own playlist to include your song as well as other bands you admire. The added benefit is that it gives you an opportunity to engage with those bands as mentioned above while showing your support for them.

3. Go to Live Shows in Your Market

The common advice is simply to ‘play more live shows.’ What if you’re struggling to be booked in the first place or you simply don’t have a following for a booker to consider you? In addition to playing live shows you should also look at how you can support the shows in the market.

This gives you the chance to get to know the booker person-to-person and also network with other bands while showing your support. If you want to be considered for shows, you need to look at how you can build the relationships to be asked when the opportunities come up.

4. Stay in Contact Once You’ve Built Relationships

Once you’ve begun building these relationships, the worst thing you can do is to let them go. You shouldn’t just build the relationship until you get what you want, whether it’s getting your song on a Spotify playlist, getting booked for a show, or being covered by a blog.

A great relationship isn’t built when you only come around when you want something. Create a schedule for yourself to stay in touch if you struggle with staying on top of relationships.


You may have noticed all four tips were based on community, giving back and networking. You may see success without one of these elements, but the chances of establishing ‘staying power’ are slim. If you really want to move forward and reach a larger audience, employ all four and see where it takes you.

Creating a Content Pipeline: How To Be Prepared For Anything

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Kendra Gaines. Kendra is a digital music marketing fiend. ‘Like’ her Facebook page, Easy Music Promo for more.]

 

“Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation.” – Zig Ziglar

The above quote is cool and all, but I don’t think it means what we think it means. A lot of motivational speakers and Twitter gurus like to use this quote. To them, it’s a way to get you moving. They tend to believe that you must be prepared. You must train. You must get everything right first, and then, once the universe is satisfied with your amount of preparation, you’ll unlock a golden opportunity.

It’s a great thought, and while I believe it to be true, I like to think of it slightly differently. See, in the quote, the opportunity happens first, then that opportunity meets the preparation. In the quote, there are no indications about when and how the opportunity comes about. You can prepare, easily, but you can’t really fabricate an opportunity, especially in the music business.

The Internet is crazy and it never sleeps. While you’re awake reading this right now, someone from across the world is laying their head down to sleep right now, and the cycle turns continuously. As artists, we don’t get to pick and choose what listeners latch onto and how they share it; we just hope they will.

Let me give you an example. Long ago I worked with a friend who’s a singer. He worked long nights and spent a lot of money putting together a fantastic project that was received pretty well. He and I did what we thought was our due diligence and sent out press releases, contacted blogs and radio, and made sure the fan base had enough to keep them busy and entertained for a while. It did well for the moment, but eventually the buzz wore off.

Do you know what went viral weeks later?

An old-ass video of he and a group of friends singing in a Waffle House. Someone whipped out their video phone and got a snippet of them singing.

Thousands of dollars doing the right thing for a project and a potato-quality video is what catches on. Geez.

And to make matters worse, we had nothing else. An opportunity arose and we had no new content to keep newcomers engaged. We weren’t prepared.

So, how do we combat this?

The way a lot of independent artists work is they put music out and hope for the best. Sometimes they’ll plan a release, but they still generally put the music out, do a cool thing or two and then move on to the next project.

While not wrong, it’s just not enough. That’s why artists should be building pipelines.

No matter what industry you’re in right now, content is king. And if you don’t have enough content to get attention, then you’re falling behind.

Guess what? One album every nine months isn’t enough. You’ve got to do more.

Before I tell you how to create a pipeline, I’m going to give you two great reasons why pipelines work.

1. Motivation.​ I have no clue what it is with creative types, but we’ll have an idea and be really into it. But maybe two weeks later, we’ve moved on from that idea with nothing to show for. There’s a theory out there that we only have so much motivation and will power, and when we get the feeling to do something, we just need to do it. The problem happens when we do stuff and want to release it right away. The idea of creating a pipeline encourages you to wait for the right time, while taking advantage of your wave of creativity.

2. Time.​ If you’re an independent artist and you have a small team or no team at all, you’re probably doing a lot of the work yourself. That leaves very little time to do anything else. However, the pipeline theory works like a blitz — you take two or three weeks out of the month to make month’s worth of content. Then as your content is being released in phases, you can just chill, create more or have something in your back pocket for when an opportunity arises.

Creating a Pipeline for Success

It’s important to know beforehand, that you’re going to need to be committed to creating content for the allotted amount of time needed to create. When I mention content creation, I’m not just talking about making songs, though that is away at it. I also mean bite sized pieces of content for social media, whether that be photos, graphics, contests, etc.

To get yourself acclimated to the idea, I suggest taking one to two weeks to create four to six weeks worth of content. ​You want to create so you can release one to two things a week. So, a six-week pipeline, as six to 12 good pieces of content to be released. Make sense?

1. Get a calendar and abide by it. Before you start making the content, you need to essentially create a release schedule. What days and times and what kind of content do you want to release? Do you want to release a new song Tuesday at 6PM? Is it behind-the-scenes studio footage that you release Wednesday at noon? For contests and deals, you want to also consider how the particulars will work. Put it all on an ideal schedule of how things will be phased out (or dripped).

2. Start setting deadlines. This part is super hard, especially if you have a team or outsource some of your work. It’s tough to ask people to give you things by a certain time, but try to build extra time into your deadlines. Ideally, you’re telling your team what you want and when you want it by. If you’re working along, these are just rubrics for when you want to have final products ready to go.

3. Create! There are so many things you can create for content that range from entire new songs or cover songs to footage. Don’t think this all has to be expensive. Something I’ve learned is finished is better than perfect — it’s ok to shoot a couple videos on your iPhone. It’s ok to use a free beat you’ve found online every so often. Most of your pipeline work is just to keep you relevant. When you have specific, original content, you’ll start making campaigns for that. Create stuff that works in-between time.

4. The create some more. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of getting a fluctuation of interest and no way to engage or monetize off that. Even if it’s not on the schedule, get in the habit of recording more, taking more photos, recording more songs, etc.

5. Release your content. Easily. It’s hard to remember when to release stuff all the time. It slips your mind and that’s cool. Use a service like TuneCore Social to drip your content out amongst your social medial channels. This makes it easier for you, as you get to set it and forget it.

6. Reap the benefits. Now, you’ve got content for the next few weeks! That’s great. You can kick your feet up, or, as I’d recommend, get right back into creating. Perhaps your next piece of work is for a campaign around a single or project. You can use the same idea to put something together for it, just make sure it’s all related and has the same feeling behind it.

When it opportunity comes, you want to be prepared to handle it. Making sure you have something to keep people engaged is so important as an independent artist. Try out the pipeline theory and see how it works toward growing your fanbase.

7 Great Ways to Accelerate Your Songwriting Skills

[Editors Note: This was written by Zac Green. Zac is a regular contributor to the Zing Instruments Blog.]

 

There’s nothing more intimidating than a blank piece of paper. Starting the process of writing a new song can take just as long as finishing it. So here’s seven tips to help you speed up your songwriting.

1. Work in a group, then alone

Having a few people to bounce ideas around with helps the creative process get started. After you’ve got your song started, the democratic process is more likely to slow you down. If you’re writing songs as part of a band, it can be better to go and complete your parts individually once you’ve gotten the overall idea in place.

2. Drink alcohol, then coffee

Research has shown that drinking alcohol boosts your creativity, but makes it hard to focus. Coffee, and other drinks containing caffeine, has the opposite effect. For your brainstorming session, loosen up with a few drinks. This works especially well if combined with the first tip, but be careful not to get carried away and turn it into a drinking session. Once you’ve sat down to start writing the ideas you have onto paper, fire up the kettle.

3. Give chance a chance

After a long music career, you might find that all of your songs are starting to sound the same. There’s nothing wrong with having a recognisable sound, but you don’t want to get stale. Shake things up by writing different elements of songs onto pieces of paper, such as keys, lyrical themes, and so on. Place them into a hat and draw five at random. Force yourself to use these, no matter how badly they seem to go together. The results can be surprisingly good – and more importantly they help you to think outside of your usual boundaries.

4. Write somewhere different

Creativity doesn’t exist in a void. If you want to be inspired, go for a long walk somewhere far away from your usual haunts. The change of scenery, fresh air and act of walking itself can be great for generating new ideas. If nothing else, it gives you a chance to let yourself relax. Stress is a major impediment to creativity.

5. Learn your music theory

I don’t care how unappealing this seems. You might think that learning theory chokes your freedom or that it’s boring. However, if you don’t know what the rules around music are, it’s impossible to break them in a way which is both purposeful and well-executed. This applies no matter what genre you’re in. For example, my own personal foray into EDM was vastly improved when I started learning about cadence, a concept from choral music.

6. Steal from other songs

Now let me just clarify something before we go any further. I am absolutely not telling you to copy somebody else’s song in it’s entirety and try to pass it off as your own. That’s not songwriting, and you’re unlikely to get away with it for very long.

What you can do, is jot down interesting chord progressions, licks and lyrics. Playing around with these later, such as using inverted versions of the chords, trying it in a different key or modulating can lead to something brand new as the changes you’ve made will lead to a naturally different conclusion.

7. Use good notation software

Writing music by hand can take quite a while, and you can’t always check to see if it sounds right straight away. By using notation software, such as Sibelius, or if you can’t read music, just programming the notes into a digital audio workstation (DAW) can transform your songwriting process completely, as it’s quite easy to quickly change sections of your music without having to rewrite every single note.

Armed with these tricks, your songwriting skills will change practically overnight. It doesn’t matter if you apply all of them at once (although that isn’t entirely practical) or try them out a few at a time. Your own process is going to be a factor in this, so perhaps some of them won’t be entirely applicable. Don’t fret about this, just do the ones that feel ‘right’ to you.