Indie Artists Finding Paying Gigs – The Ultimate Challenge

indie artists looking and finding gigs

Anyone in the early phases of a music career knows how hard it can be to find paying gigs on a regular basis and it’s more difficult in small cities and towns. Moreover, the challenge is compounded by the fact that many independent artists find themselves spinning their wheels in an industry overwhelming dominated by the major record labels. Many new artists begin the search for gigs, to pay bills, make a name for themselves, and/or to further their careers. However, without name recognition and draw potential many agencies, promoters, and venue managers are not willing to book local talent. That’s the bad news.  The good new is that there are many ways to discover and secure paying gigs. With a little creativity and resourcefulness, one can greatly improve their chances of finding what’s available out there.

Here are few suggestions to help stir those creative juices:

  • Contact area high schools or surf the web for upcoming class reunions.
  • Contact companies and organizations for private party leads.
  • Tell everyone you meet that you, your band, artist, or group is for hire. This includes every cashier, store clerk, auto salesman, church member, community activist, bank teller, party-goer, store customer, theater patron, bowling teammate, waiter, waitress, fitness club member, and anyone else that will lend an ear.
  • Think about people you know from the past including co-workers, neighbors, business colleagues, high school and college classmates and teachers.
  • Post your contact information online. Find websites, forums, social networks, ezines, etc. that cater to indie talent looking for gigs. Post it all around the world. Go as far as using Google Translate to convert from English to another language. Try forming and managing an online marketing team, to constantly post news, bookings, and other artist-related information online everyday.
  • Diversify your show to do weddings, family reunions, outdoor city-sponsored events, birthday parties, etc.
  • Contact the venue manager for upcoming shows in your area, tell them who you are, ask for a contact number to the promoter, and talk your way on the show. In addition, contact your local/regional festival and music conference representatives. Organizations like NACA.org offer conference and convention events for artists to showcase their talent and solicit bookings.
  • Contact the local morning television or radio show for a free in-studio performance. Give out your contact information at the conclusion.
  • Ask booking agencies, who book indie artists, if it’s possible to get a listing on their site. Avoid signing long term exclusive booking contracts, unless there’s a comfortable amount of shows guaranteed during the length of contract, and a compensation to agent, a duration, and a termination clause.

The last thing you want to do is to contact a booking agency that only lists national recording artists on their roster. It takes the same amount of work to book an unknown artist as it does a well known artist. For example, negotiating terms, drafting a contract, receiving and sending out deposits, are just some of the common tasks. Why would a booking agency take less money to book an indie artist over a well known artist when it’s about the same amount of work? If you want to work with an agency, you will have to do the due diligence to find one who is willing to work with you, and that’s not going to be easy. So get ready to take a number and get in line because there are millions of new artists who are also looking for the same type of service. It can be done but the artist must be talented, have a buzz, a professional epk, a rehearsed show (a prior show uploaded on youtube or similar is even better), and possibly a technical rider.

Please note that the suggestions given are strictly my opinion. I am not a manager and I don’t book a lot of indie artists. The fact is, most of my clients want artists who can sell tickets and are getting some type of airplay in their market, so I have to become selective when working with new indie talent. In fact, if someone sends me a personal website, soundcloud, reverbnation, or similar link to their audio track, I don’t even listen to it. For me, the indie artist must have a youtube or vimeo video, to get my attention. From there I look for at least a top 75 hit on Billboard, BDS, SoundScan, Mediabase, or something comparable. If the song and video are both well produced, and I believe in the project, I have been known to make a few exceptions. I believe that there is an abundance of talent out there but look at it from an agent or promoter’s perspective. For them, it’s all about business.

Turning music into money takes effort and hard work. There are obstacles and struggles for an indie artist to overcome. I suggest taking time each day to build relationships with people who make the booking decisions. They are easy to find and become friends with them via social media sites. Get a contact phone number. Jot down some key points about yourself, your act, and your intentions. Then, start networking over the phone or in person. Ask for referrals and start making things happen locally, as you widen your network perimeter from there. Most importantly, if performing live is what you want to do deep in your heart, don’t give up.

by Kevin Morrison (on Google+)
A booking agent for eJams Entertainment (a licensed booking agency since 2005)

Copyright eJams Entertainment LLC. All rights reserved.


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