As a musician or band, there’s more to getting known in the local scene than simply being talented and writing good music. Before any of that even matters (which it absolutely does), you have to build a following, and the best way to do this is by playing shows. This may be obvious, but many musicians have a hard time figuring out how to get gigs at shows that are worth attending. Well, it’s not as complicated as it seems.
The most important piece to getting a gig that people will show up to is having connections. This means contacting other musicians in the area through social media or simply giving them support by becoming familiar with their music. Always support local music! Consistently attending local shows will give you opportunities to meet other artists. Bands like to help other bands, and going to gigs to show your support is key to gaining alliances. Once you have these connections, you shouldn’t shy away from asking for a little help. Musicians that are more known in the area have been in your place, therefore they know what it’s like. If they like your music, they usually would be more than glad to give you the opportunity to play a show with them, giving you exposure to their following.
If you struggle with finding other musicians in your area that really click with you (and even if you don’t), directly reaching out to a venue is a simple and independent approach to building up a fanbase. Again, attending shows in your area is the best way to determine which venues would best fit your style and comfort zone. It’s beneficial to know what kinds of musicians play there as well as the kinds of crowds it brings. Contacting a venue isn’t too difficult, especially if it has a website. In most cases, it will, and you’ll be able to pull up all the information you need. You can either send them an email, which is recommended in most cases, or you can call them. If you want to give them a more personal approach, you may be able to walk in during a time they aren’t busy and talk to the owner. First, you should properly establish who you are and the kind of music you play (even though the music scene is more “chill”, it’s still a business which means you must be professional). The owner of the venue will want to hear some of your material, so you should make sure you have something recorded; whether it’s something on Youtube, Bandcamp, SoundCloud, or even a CD you can lend to them.
Once they’ve accepted you to perform, you must be prepared and know when you’re able to play. They’ll usually give you a list of dates to choose from, and if you take too long to figure out when you’re available, you may lose your chance to play, and you could also lose your connection with the venue. You want to make sure the musicians on the lineup compliment your music style, even if they aren’t the same genre. Having a mix of genres playing a show together can be fun, but you want to avoid playing with bands that are too diverse (for example, if you’re in an indie band, playing a show with a metal band probably won’t work out in your favor; this will most likely result in a rather strange atmosphere). Usually, the owner of the venue will have an idea of who to book you with, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask.
After you’ve been booked to play a gig, the last thing you need to do is spread the word. You want people to come to the show (sometimes the amount of revenue can depend on the venue itself), and there are many ways to get people in the know. Social media is the most modern and effective way to let people know, so posting about it on as many platforms as possible is the best and easiest way to go (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.). Word of mouth is another way to get people to see you, especially since it’s a personal invitation. Having your friends come and support you (especially if they’re other musicians) makes for a more comfortable and supportive atmosphere. You can also hang up flyers (unfortunately, Millbrook has restrictions on what students can hang up on the walls). You should create fun, eye-catching posters that include the artists that are playing, where and when they are playing, and the cost to get in. You want the flyer to be seen by people who would be interested, so your go-to places to hang them would be coffee shops and other locally-run businesses (with their permission, of course).
Overall, getting gigs is the foundation to building a following, and it isn’t rocket science. These things will come easier to you as you become more familiar with them, but it also comes down to the quality of your performance. If people like what you do, you should expect more opportunities to come as you build your reputation. When it comes to playing shows, take every chance you get to play (as long as you’re ready) and keep a good faith effort.