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!

Is Touring Still Relevant In the Digital Age? Yes, Actually – More Than Ever.

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Patrick McGuire. Patrick is a writer, composer, and experienced touring musician based in Philadelphia.]

 

In 2017, there’s never been more ways to experience the world around us on our computers and smartphones through the omnipotent lens of the internet. The internet’s effect on how music is now being created, discovered and distributed is so profound that it’s hard to remember a time when listeners discovered new music from friends and record store clerks rather than music blogs and playlists.

For bands coming up in an era when seemingly everything can be done, seen and heard through the internet, it’s tempting to question the real value of something like touring. Is touring still relevant in the digital age? Yes, actually. More than ever before.

Where are you right now? Are you reading this article on your laptop at a coffeeshop? Or maybe you’re thumbing through it on your smartphone on the train home from work.

Look around you. Everyone’s eyes are constantly glued to some kind of a screen, and this is why the live music experience is more vital now than ever before. No amount of technology can replicate the experience of seeing a band performing their music right in front of your eyes in real time. Live music will always be a distinct and powerful experience because it’s something that can’t be translated to the world of screens.

Yes, at any given moment there’s thousands of bands live-streaming their performances from every corner of the globe that you could watch whenever you like, but that will never substitute the feeling of being there in the venue and experiencing it all for yourself in person. As our culture becomes increasingly reliant on the internet for everyday things, the need to experience nature, visual art and music right there in the moment will become more important than ever. And here’s where your band comes in.

If you make great music that you can pull off well in an engaging performance setting, people will go out of their way by rearranging their night and by paying to see you. Yes, touring is an experience filled with challenges, risk and even financial hardship for some bands, but if you’re viewing what you do as a sort of business, investing in the touring experience might be your best shot at actually earning money as a band.

Many of the fans who’ll jump at the chance to see you play live in their hometown won’t drop a dime on your new record. This is a difficult thing to accept, but it’s true whether we want to blame streaming services like Spotify, rampant music pirating or the shifting attitudes toward the value of media in the digital age. Yes, you’ll probably sell more music if you release your records on vinyl, but even with those increased sales, the days of small bands making a living purely from selling their music are pretty much over now. The live music experience will always be valuable because it can only be experienced in person, and if you’re able to present your music in a truly unique and thrilling way, there be a higher demand for your performances.

But the benefits of touring in 2017 are more than just financial. Hitting the road with your band not only builds tightness and more confidence musically, it can also give you priceless connections with other bands/artists, new fans and music industry folks that you simply couldn’t have established by releasing music and strictly playing shows in your hometown.

Yes, maintaining a social media presence can help with these things, but nothing can substitute the value of human interaction. Talking with a fan after you’ve just gotten off stage is an experience that can’t be matched with a tweet or Facebook comment. And maintaining a constant presence on the road tells press and industry people who might be interested your music know that you’re serious about what you’re doing.

Trends in music come and go every day it seems, but touring is here to stay. Unfortunately, this doesn’t change the fact that a band has to make huge sacrifices for their touring efforts to be worth it. Hitting the road for two weeks over the summer to play a few cities in your region might be fun, but it won’t make a significant difference in whether your band gains traction or not.

If you want to get the most out of hitting the road, you’ll have to book multiple tour routes a year through cities where you think you have the best shot at building a presence in. You and your bandmates will have to walk the thin line between obligations, like careers and relationships at home, and taking the time and energy to build a national presence by frequent touring.

It’s not easy, predictable or simple, but if you’ve been at this game for awhile, you probably already know that nothing in this industry is.

6 Things You Can Do To Get Your Fans to Take More Photos At Your Shows (And Why That Matters)

[Editors Note: This blog post was written by Hugh McIntyreHugh writes about music and the music industry and regularly contributes to Forbes, Sonicbids, and more.]

These days, everybody is taking photos…of everything. Now that cameras are everywhere and anyone can upload their latest capture to the world wide web in mere seconds, there is no stopping the deluge of images that continues to grow larger and larger by the hour. Some musicians are upset about this, as it distracts them when they are performing and they feel audiences aren’t paying the sort of attention they want, but none of that is going to stop how people act nowadays, so why not make the most of it?

As a working musician in a social media-focused world, you should always be on the hunt for great content. You will find yourself constantly needing something to post or to save for another day, and snaps from a concert can be the perfect filler. If you’re in the beginning stages of your career, keeping a photographer with you at all times (especially when touring) probably isn’t an option, so why not rely on your fans to supply you with the pics you’ve been looking for?

Here are a few ways to get your fans to take more photos of (and with) you, and then to share them in a way you can find them easily and repost them…with their permission and proper crediting, of course.

1. Pose!

Young people these days don’t always need to be told to take a photo—it’s in their nature by now. Most under the age of, say, 30, have extensive experience with smartphones, and the vast majority of them have become used to taking photos of almost everything in their day-to-day lives. This is the generation that has had to think of everything in terms of content, be it for Facebook, Twitter, or especially Instagram, and they have a mind for this sort of thing. If you do something fairly obvious that says “take my picture!,” chances are they will understand the message in no time.

Pose for a moment on stage, stop moving for a minute or so, put the spotlight on just you, stand with your bandmates before taking a bow at the end of the night…you can be as creative as you want with this idea, but it’s really, really easy, and you may be surprised how popular those few seconds will be in the photos you search for later.

2. Make A Special Moment

Every concert and every performance should be fun and special in its own way, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go out of your way to do something extra during at least some of your shows. What this might be differs for every band or artist and it should vary by staging, but if you do it right, you could wind up with plenty of photos and perhaps even some press.

Shoot confetti out of cannons, bring a fan up onstage and sing to them, gather two fans together and arrange a marriage proposal (this is always a crowd pleaser), use a funny prop during one of the songs, or bring out a special guest that those in the crowd might recognize, if that’s possible. Any one of these would likely end up being the highlight of that particular performance, and it just begs everybody in attendance to whip out their cameras.

3. Create a Photo Booth

This option might not yield any photos of you and your bandmates doing what you do best (performing), but it can supply you all with a different kind of picture, which can wind up being useful in its own way.

Work with the venue before you arrive to set up some sort of area specifically designed for photos. This can be a “photobooth” of sorts (though you might not want to shell out the money to rent an actual photobooth just yet), or perhaps something as simple as a backdrop. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to make this a reality, though it might cost your band a few dollars to have something printed with your band’s logo all across it, like what red carpets are lined with. If you’re meeting fans afterward, why not make sure to do so exactly where you want to, with this added bonus? It might help push a new song or album, or maybe just a hashtag you are trying to promote.

4. Suggest A Hashtag

Speaking of a hashtag, that is something else that younger music lovers are already familiar with, and once you’ve given it to them, they know exactly what to do with it (usually). You can print the hashtag, which should be easy to understand, make sense, and be as short as possible, and people will see it. Show flyers, event reminders online, and perhaps even posters placed throughout the venue can all feature the phrase, and you can even mention it while performing, but don’t be annoying here, because while most young people don’t mind being asked and reminded about a hashtag, especially if there is any incentive to go tweet it or Instagram it, they can very quickly become a nuisance, and once that has happened, nobody wants to be a part of the movement.

5. Post On Social Media

Since you are looking for pictures to share on social media later on, why not use the medium to influence more fans to start taking pictures in the first place? Start posting on your accounts telling everybody flat out that you are on the hunt for some really excellent snaps. This will let those who catch the missives know to go out of their way to do so when they are at your next show, and you never know what pics are already out there sitting on phones or in folders on computers, just waiting to be unearthed by those who are into your music who might not have realized anybody was interested in their digital souvenirs.

Also, once you begin posting pictures shot by concert attendees and tagging them (and thanking them in your tweet), it won’t take long for people to get the idea and start sharing openly. Who doesn’t want a little recognition for a well-framed picture and a thank you from a musician or band they like?

6. Ask Them

If all else fails, or if you’re feeling particularly lazy—or perhaps if you just want to be direct and honest with your fans—why not just ask them to take some photos and share them? While you’re on stage and chatting in between songs (if that’s your thing, which isn’t the case with every artist), casually mention that you love seeing pictures from your shows on social media.

You don’t need to beg or plead, and please don’t be obnoxious about it (nothing is worse than someone bugging you to snap an excessive number of pics of them), but if you’re doing a good job and entertaining those who paid to see you, and since some of them will already be taking photos on their phones anyway, nudge the rest of the audience to do the same, and you may be surprised to see how many come flowing in over the next few days.

A Hitchhiker’s Guide To Releasing an EP

[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.]

 

A Quick Look at the Assets Needed and Suggested Timeline for Releasing An EP as an Independent Artist

One of the hardest thing for an artist to do is wait. Good musicians will spend a year or more writing and recording five or six meticulously arranged tracks. They know when to subtly sneak a guitar solo or drum fill on stage and how many bars to spend vamping on it. But when the time comes to share the music they’ve poured their life’s blood into, release day can’t come soon enough.

Much like the journey shared by Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect, putting out music should be experienced in volumes. They had the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy to help them plan. The goal of this article is to provide something similar; albeit simpler. By taking these things into consideration, your music will be given the optimal chance to reach as many ears as possible with or without the assistance of a Babel Fish.

Stage 1: Life, The Universe and Everything…Gather Your Assets!

Okay, so after all this time writing and recording, your EP is ready. You’re just a few short steps away from sharing it with the world. Before you decide just when that date will be, let’s talk about what else you’re going to be doing to promote the record.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself at this point:

  1. What’s my budget?
    How much money am I able to spend on this record? Is there enough to hire any help or am I better off going at this alone? Knowing the answer to this question will help figure out an initial content plan. It will also give you an idea of how much time you should spread the release over. The more you’re handling yourself the more time you should give yourself to accomplish everything.
  2. Will There Be More Money Coming In Once The Release Cycle Starts?
    Are you going to be doing any touring? Have you had any luck, or is there any demand, for merch? Album sales are tough and streaming income is great, but the numbers dictate that a considerable number of streams are required to actually generate income. Since you can’t bank on that income, ignore it for now. Other more concrete opportunities for generating cash should be what you’re trying to estimate in this step. This will help you decide if it’s worth elongating your campaign a bit to allow for more content creation or additional help once the first single is out.
  3. What Content Will I Have?
    In addition to the music, will there be remixes, music videos, live content or behind the scenes stuff? Also on a related note, you will need artwork and social media “skins” and “copy” ready to roll at this point.

Stage 2: And Another Thing…Set The Timeline!

You should start pondering timeline once the music enters the mastering phase. However, dates for an independent artist shouldn’t be committed to until you have all assets in hand (or at a minimum deliverable dates). Once you’ve gotten to that point, though, it’s best to nail down when you want to release everything.

  1. First thing to consider are singles. If you have a five song EP, I generally recommend doing two singles ahead of the full release. This will allow you to start generating a buzz leading up to release week.
  2. If you did any videos, you need to decide if you want to do separate audio & video campaigns or premiere the song initially alongside the video. If you feel the video is so integrated into the song that people will appreciate the music best with the visual accompaniment then, by all means, put your best foot forward. If you want to save a few assets for after you put out the EP, it might be best to do them separately and release the video a little deeper into the campaign. Keep in mind that you can’t “premiere” a track from the EP after the whole release is out, so having a video or, depending on genre, even a remix gives you a bit of a longer tail on marketing post-release date.
  3. When coming up with a timeline, you should also consider how much time is needed by your distribution. For instance, if you’re using TuneCore three weeks advanced notice will be required to make use of their “Features Submission” form. There is usually an element of advanced deliverables requirement for most streaming and download services as well.

Stage 3: The Restaurant At The End Of The Galaxy…Time To Release!

Congratulations! You fought the urge to just throw your music up online all willy-nilly-like and, as a result, your release is doing well now that it’s finally out. What’s next? Here are a few things you can do to continue promoting your EP.

  1. Play Shows! –  I can’t stress how important playing live is when you’re trying to establish yourself. There will be thousands of artists putting out new music ON THE SAME DAY that you do. Developing a personal relationship with an audience in a live setting will help you establish loyalty with fans and bring them back to your digital presence.
  2. Continue to Reach Out – Your music is out now, so premieres and “first looks” are off the table. That doesn’t mean that you can’t keep looking for new press. Keep digging for contacts and find people writing about music that may be into your sound. If you’ve had a couple of good press clips at this point, you now have quotes from other tastemakers in your toolbelt to convince this new wave of writers to cover you. Same principal applies to Spotify playlisting.
  3. Get Social – You can always use social media to promote your records and attract new fans. Just because your music is out doesn’t mean you have to stop posting about it. I never recommend coming off as sales-y with your digital presence, but if somebody writes about your music, post it and thank them. Do some live videos you can get up on Facebook and Instagram. If nothing else, keep posting to show your personality. Every little bit helps.

Hope you found this little guide useful as you prepare to put your new music out. Until next month, So Long And Thanks for All The Fish!

Performing In a New City? Tips For the Traveling Indie Musician

[Editors NoteThis blog post was written by Michelle Aguilar, a writer and digital artist based in Los Angeles.]

When I’m not studying, freaking out during mid-terms or in the mountains, there’s a high chance that I’m at a concert seeing/dancing to one of my favorite musicians or serendipitously coming across a fascinating artist. After getting to know several indie artists and hearing their stories, I thought it’d be a great idea to write an article specifically aimed for the traveling or touring musician…and assuming that you’re an artist since you’re reading this: Hello! I hope you find the following mini-guide for the next journey.

1. Health

But First: Your Health

I never thought I’d be the one saying this– it’s what my mother would say to me each time I’d skip out on doctor appointments—but “your health comes first.” A few things you can do to keep your health on check:

  • Party in moderation. Although there’s much to celebrate about, touring is not a vacation. You know yourself best so whatever that means to you, do it. Also, be sure to sleep as much as you can, your brain, body and everyone else will thank you!
  • Eat right. This may be difficult, especially when you’re on the road. Great news is that you can always buy a cheap cooler (use freezy- paks not ice) and fill it in with fruits, nuts, veggies and other healthy snacks. Buy lunch meat and other food from a near-by market.
  • Stay sanitized. Bring hand sanitizer and wipes and use them. Wipe door knobs, shower handles and other objects if you’re staying at a motel. The constant moving between different places, restaurants and meet-and-greets are easy ways to get sick.

2. Planning

Always Plan for Worst Case Scenario

They say “hope for the best and expect the worst”, you say “%$!*, we should have done that.” Don’t worry, it happens to all of us, but when it comes to traveling to play gigs, the consequences are no joke. A few things you can do to prepare:

  • Try to have extras of everything: cellphones, laptop, amplifiers, guitars, mic’s, cables, xlr’s, stands, extension cords, batteries, picks, stings, straps, and snare drums.
  • Know what’s around the venue, specifically hotels and their availability. Even if you already have a place to lodge, it’s always good to have alternative options at hand.
  • If you’re traveling by land, make sure that your vehicle is thoroughly checked and cleared of any issues.

3. Booking

Avoid Over-Booking

It can be tempting to get a little too adventurous or fill your schedule up for x needs..but if you stretch yourself too much, it may have a negative effect on your overall performance and motivation.

  • Know yourself. How many hours of sleep do you need? Do you get tired easily or are you naturally on-the-go? Keep all of these in mind to give yourself space to recharge and perform your best.
  • Read up online forums specifically for indie artists as yourself that may have a venue database. A great platform is Indie On the Move. This can help you sort out venues and efficiently narrow down your options to avoid over-booking.

4. Promotion

Be Ahead of the Game With Your Promo

With so many business elements becoming more and more digitalized, it’s easy to get comfortable with social media and be satisfied with simply posting your events. However, we must not forget the fundamentals! Also, if you do use Facebook, do more than just post:

  • Send a press release about your tour to the local radio stations, newspapers, and weeklies at least 6 weeks before your appearance.
  • Build relationships with established bands in the city you’ll be playing at. Start by befriending them on social media and reach out. You may even land another gig with them that same weekend or in the near future. Swap offers such as opening for each other in each other’s towns.
  • Use Facebook Ads effectively. Target these adds for people living in or around the zip codes for the venues you’re going to perform at. You can even limit them to people who are interested in your genre.

5. Networking

Stay a While

Regardless of where you are in your music career, there is always room for an after-show meet and greet with those that supported your performance. After all, being an artist is never a one-way street. You are here because of your hard work and you are also here because of your fans’ dedication and appreciation towards your music.

  • Depending on the venue that you’re in, try to squeeze in at least 20 minutes of meet and greet time. This shows you appreciate you fans and it will most likely increases fan loyalty. Also, you never know what you can learn by meeting a fan; they may be in the industry and have some advice, they may be that drummer you’ve been looking to fill in—you never know!
  • Hang out near your (if you have one) merchandise booth to show appreciation to those buying more than just the concert tickets.
  • Be initiative and take pics/videos with your fans, upload them on your social media. Humility stands out.

I hope these tips have been helpful in preparing you for your next show. Of course there are probably a lot more other things to keep in mind when preparing to perform in a new city, so I definitely encourage you to primarily rely on your own experience as well as consult with management or fellow musicians.

Do you have any other tips or suggestions you’d like to share? What is something you’ve learned about traveling as an artist? Please, feel free to let us know in the comments.

5 Reasons Teaming Up With Another Band Means a Mutual Boost on Tour

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Jhoni Jackson, a music journalist and Puerto Rico-based venue owner.]

 

Heading out on tour with your band has the potential to bring everyone in it closer together. Co-existing and constantly collaborating, playing together night after night—becoming a tight-knit troupe in the process is almost inevitable. But why not double the bonds you could solidify by bringing another group into the picture? Organizing a joint tour means you’ll connect with even more fellow musicians—and that’s not the only benefit, either.

The notion that there’s strength in numbers is inarguably true for independent and DIY bands. Touring is one of the toughest parts of the gig; in that effort especially, you’ll accomplish more working together.

1. You’re sharing fans

Even if you hail from the same city, chances are you don’t share the exact same fanbase with any other band. That means pairing up in any capacity is an opportunity for exposure to new listeners; touring together is a maximized version of that.

Whenever possible, tag your tour-mates in related promo and other posts—and they should do the same, of course. Collaborate as much as you can: Both bands should be reflected in promo material like tour posters, promo videos announcing dates, Facebook events, and so forth. Every time you promote together is another chance to appeal to each other’s fans.

One result of two separate camps collectively pushing the promo could be increased show attendance, and there’s some strategy within that for increased effectiveness. If either group has toured before, include spots in your schedule that one has played and the other hasn’t; the band visiting for a second time can help carry the newcomer in terms of pull. Even if both bands are embarking on first-ever tours, though, you can also use Insights on your Facebook page to learn about the demographics of your fans. Their locations could help you choose which cities you visit, or what kind of marketing effort will work best based on your existing (or yet-to-be-built) audiences.

2. You can pool resources

Lug around less by sharing gear, particularly the bulkier items like amps and drums. Go in on groceries together to save money, and share the burden of cooking and preparing meals by rotating responsibilities. Depending on how big your group is, you might even travel together in a single vehicle, so there’s only one gas tank to fill to be split among all of you. And when you’re reaching out to friends and acquaintances as you line up places to crash on tour, more musicians in the mix means a greater potential number of generous hosts.

3. Two networks are better than one

Maybe one of you knows a booking agent in a particular city and the other doesn’t, or perhaps you’ve established a rapport with certain outlets that your touring mates haven’t. Knowing the right people in any given city can be a boon to a DIY tour. Whatever the effort, your connections combined are obviously doubly powerful.

4. Collaborating sparks creativity

Working together on any type of creative strategy, the sharing of influences and obscure discoveries, even casual conversations about art and music—something special happens when separate imaginations meet. New ideas pop up seemingly from nowhere; you gain fresh perspectives about other people’s work and your own.

Creativity fuels creativity, and in the close quarters of tour life, there’s no doubt you’ll find inspiration in collaborating—and practically living together—throughout the trip.

5. Through the camaraderie, you strengthen community bonds

Touring together is one of those shared experiences that facilitates deep connections and meaningful, lifelong friendships. The struggles, triumphs, exhaustion—incredible shows, bad turnouts, strategizing for press, the perpetual uphill battle of financial sustainment—are all collectively endured or celebrated.

Camaraderie develops naturally, and that, in turn, helps you strengthen your overall ties to your scene, whether that community is local or built around a genre and spread throughout different cities.