How to get more gigs for your unsigned band
April 22, 2016
As an independent artist or unsigned band, playing gigs is by far one of the best ways to get noticed and reach new fans. But how do you get more gigs for your unsigned band? Before we get into that, here are a few things to remember.
- Whether you’re playing to less than 10 disinterested people in a dimly lit pub or hundreds of enthusiastic revellers on a festival stage for unsigned bands – it’s all experience.
- The more gigs you play the more you’ll improve, so take every opportunity that comes your way.
- There are lots of small venues and open mic nights out there looking to showcase new, unsigned talent, especially if you’re based in a major city.
- No two gigs are the same and over the course of your career you’ll play a wide range of very different venues – some good, some not so good!
Make a demo and create a press kit
The first and perhaps most important step when trying to get a gig for your unsigned band is to find a way to sell yourselves. This will involve putting together a demo of your music and bio for your band designed to make venues and event organisers want to book you.
This doesn’t mean you’ll have to spend hours in the studio, spending big money to create the perfect mix of your song! If you’re just starting out, chances are you won’t have a studio recording of your tracks, so simply creating a YouTube channel or similar with a few live performances and an introduction to you and your music will be enough to land your first gig.
Setting up a YouTube channel for your band offers an easy and effective way to showcase your music
Contact venues and show you have fans
While some venue owners will have a genuine passion for helping unsigned musicians get a gig, in the end – like most things – it often comes down to money. Bars and clubs want to bring in customers, sell alcohol and turn a nice profit, and if your music helps them do that then they’re much more likely to give your band a chance to play live.
One of the quickest ways to land a booking for your band is by sending an individual email to each potential venue in your area, with a link to your music and a paragraph or two about you. If you can bring a large following with you – say so! That's exactly what venues want to hear.
Ten to twenty unsolicited emails to venues can often return a couple of good opportunities, but there are also a number of websites created especially to match bands with venues across the country. Be sure to sign up to these sites to receive updates on potential gigs opportunities in your area.
Whatever you do, don’t CC every venue in the same email - get in touch with each one individually!
Introduce yourself in person
While email is a great way to mass-market yourself, for a more personal touch, why not head to a local venue and introduce yourself in person? Meeting face to face with an important contact is a fantastic way to start a mutually beneficial relationship, show your commitment and land a great gig for your band – plus people much are less likely to say no in person!
Get to know other local bands
Supporting a more established band is a great way to get better gigs. By playing in the support slot of a similar genre band, you’ll have the chance to perform for a crowd with an interest in your genre of music, creating a whole bunch of brand-new fans in the process!
Venues will receive demos and pitches from bands all the time, but bands are likely to receive very few. They will probably be flattered by your approach and perhaps offer you the chance to support them at one of their upcoming gigs. And voila – another gig for your band with minimal effort and maximum exposure!
Supporting a more established band helps you reach new fans and play bigger venues
Take every gig you can (at least at first)
When it comes to playing your first gigs, you can’t afford to be too fussy. Supply is vastly greater than demand and there are countless other bands in your area looking to play shows, so take every opportunity you get.
It’s important never to make false promises when booking your first gig as an independent artist. Don’t say you have two hours worth of material if you only have one just to secure a place on the bill, or apply to play a heavy metal night with a set-list full of upbeat indie-pop tunes – it will only burn bridges.
By playing more and more gigs, over time, you’ll begin to build up your reputation and credibility as you make more connections and get to know more venue owners and promoters in your area and further afield. Eventually, when local venues are looking for a reliable band to play their next big event, your name will come straight to mind.
We'd love to hear about your experiences getting gigs as an unsigned artist. If you have any tips, advice or interesting stories to offer other artists please share them in the comments below!
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