How to Get Gigs as a Musician

This post is geared towards people who haven’t gigged very much. If you play 30+ shows a year, this information will probably be review for you. If you’ve only performed a handful of times (or a handful of times each year), and the whole process of setting up a concert or gig still mystifies, baffles, or intimidates- this article was made for you.

First things first: Getting a gig is easy.  All you need to do is ask for one. It’s really that simple. Expect a lot of rejection, refine your “pitch” as you go along, be confident, nice, and persistent. Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you. Seek out places to perform, ask your friends to host a show, or even better: organize a show yourself! This is how musicians get started.

As you probably know, there are many different kinds of live performance opportunities. Some pay, some don’t. If you’re just getting going, don’t be picky. Performing at a friend’s backyard party, farmers market, public library, restaurant, community center, nursing home, or casual free festival are great ways to gain performance experience and begin building your reputation as an artist.

If you’re looking for a regular gig (say a weekly or monthly 2-3hr slot at a bar or restaurant), try walking into the establishment when they’re slow (in between meal hours) and offer to audition for the manager on the spot. Also offer to do the first gig free- if they like you, you can arrange compensation for future performances. If they don’t like you, life goes on.

Remember to be gracious even when you get rejected, be kind to people even when they are rude to you, and always maintain a positive attitude. Business owners hire entertainers based on more than just musical ability, so being upbeat, smart, and easy to work with will help you stand out from the crowd, and get the gigs you’re after.

“Booking” is a nuanced topic and a lot of great things have already been written about it. If you’re looking for additional reading (each with varying levels of complexity and depth), I recommend these articles:

Feel free to drop by The Guitar Trader in Asheville, NC to discuss your booking ideas with our staff. Most of the shop guys here perform in town regularly, or have toured extensively in the past. We’d be happy to chat with you anytime. Come on down.

This article was written by Asheville based musician, songwriter, and shophand, Jackson Emmer.

Photo by Olive & West Photography.