Booking shows for unsigned artists might seem like a challenge, but it’s actually not that difficult.
You just need to familiarize yourself with the process, which is the same for all types of gigs.
So if you’re ready to play live shows, keep reading – we’ll take you through all the steps on how to approach booking shows as an independent musician.
And we’ll provide you with useful tips on how to increase your chances of getting booked.
Follow these easy steps and you’ll book your first show before you know it!
How to Book a Show as an Unsigned Artist – 9 Steps
1. Find the right venue
First and foremost, you need to research the venues and make a list of all the places that you want to contact.
You can research venues online and in music magazines, reach out to people in the music industry, or meet fellow musicians at local shows and events and ask for advice.
Either way, finding the right venue is crucial, as this significantly boosts your chances of getting booked.
The thing is, some venues, bars, and clubs are focused on specific music genres.
So, think about your style and your target audience, and pick a venue that suits you best.
The size of the venue is also important – if you’re a new artist, don’t expect to play at a large venue right away.
You need to start small and work your way up.
That said, pick a venue that usually supports emerging artists and bands, and make sure you’re a good fit.
2. Search for contacts
Once you pick a venue that suits you best, it’s time to find the booking contact.
Most venues are rather easy to contact and they provide all contact information on their website.
So, check the website first.
If there’s no relevant contact info on their website, check other platforms like Facebook or Instagram – in any case, you can contact them there and ask for their email address.
Finding the right booking contact is normally not difficult, but in some cases, it will take you a while to find the right address.
If you’re not sure who to contact, you can ask fellow musician friends to help you out.
Plus, if you ask fellow musicians about the venue you’re about to contact, you can get valuable information on other things as well, such as financial details, the way they operate, and so on.
It’s always good to get some inside info upfront – this way, you’ll be ready for any potential obstacles and know how to overcome them.
3. Create a well-crafted booking email
And now comes the tricky part – crafting the booking email.
Although this might seem like a simple task, creating a good booking email shouldn’t be taken lightly.
The way you approach a venue or organizer will probably determine whether you’re going to get booked or not.
If you appear unprofessional, there’s a chance they won’t look into your music.
The thing is, if you’re a new artist, people don’t know your name yet – so you need to introduce yourself in the right way and convince them your music is worth checking out.
Generally, a good booking email should be:
Start your message with a simple introduction, state your request, and include the links to your music and social media.
You should also include your EPK.
EPK (electronic press kit) is a pre-packaged digital resume that allows managers, booking agents, venues, journalists, and promoters to access and review your work.
Your EPK should include your bio, photos, videos, press releases, upcoming gigs or tours (once you have them), and contact information.
Once your email is finished and ready to go, that’s it!
4. Follow up (if necessary)
Finding the right venue and contacting and sending an email to the venue or a booking person is the most important thing in booking shows as an unsigned artist.
But now comes the hard part – waiting for a response.
If you’ve stated a specific date you want to book a show, you’ll probably get a clear answer pretty soon.
But if the answer doesn’t arrive, you can do a follow-up.
Therefore, it’s always good to send an email upfront and not wait until the last minute.
In any case, if you don’t get a response within a week, don’t hesitate to follow up with them.
If nothing happens again, search for a different contact, or reach out to them on other platforms.
And make sure you have another similar venue as a backup plan.
5. Determine financial details
If you get a positive response from the venue and they’re ready to book your show, you can start discussing the details.
One of the things you have to determine is how much and how you’re going to get paid.
Many new artists get paid through door deals – meaning they’ll charge the fee at the door and split the revenue.
This is not an ideal solution because it all depends on the crowd you’re going to attract.
On the other hand, that’s how venues don’t risk too much.
But some venues like bars and clubs also have a set price for a live performance.
And in many cases, you’ll get free drinks, food, and perhaps even accommodation.
It all depends on a specific venue, so make sure you discuss the financial details before confirming anything.
As a new artist, you’re probably not going to earn a lot from your first shows.
But that’s normal; you’re an up-and-coming musician and it will take you a while to build a fan base, build a good reputation, and grow your audience.
And if you’re passionate, humble, and persistent, you’ll eventually start to play at bigger venues and earn more money.
6. Develop a promotion plan
Once you book a show, your effort shouldn’t stop there.
As an independent artist, you’re in charge of the promotion of your music.
Therefore, you should generally utilize effective music marketing strategies, but you should also think about the best way to promote your upcoming gig.
In this day and age, most people get information about events and concerts online.
Make sure you include the info on your website and social media accounts.
You can even use offline marketing strategies such as printing posters and flyers and leaving them in local bars, cafes, and venues.
When it comes to social media, just one post is not enough – keep reminding people through Instagram stories, for instance, especially the day before and the day of the show.
You can even run paid promotions if you believe that would help you gain more exposure.
Social media plays an important role in music marketing, and you should use it well.
But you also shouldn’t forget about other ways of promoting your music and letting people know about your shows.
For instance, you can reach out to local radio stations – student radios, smaller independent radio stations, or commercial radio stations that might host you as a guest or simply include the info about your show in their news program.
Either way, you need to spread the word, and it’s always best to start with smaller local media.
You can also reach out to music bloggers and content creators – anyone who might be willing to share the news.
7. Check in
When the date of the show starts getting closer, you should check in with the promoter and the venue and get more details.
This way, you’ll make sure everything runs smoothly when the time comes.
Make sure to check the starting time of the show, confirm the load-in and soundcheck time, and other info that will help you create a schedule.
Don’t wait until the last minute to do this – you need to arrive prepared.
Besides, knowing how everything works will make you feel more relaxed and confident and allow you to focus on your performance.
So, check in with the venue a week before the show and make a list of all the questions beforehand.
8. Put on a memorable show
And now comes the most exciting part of booking shows for unsigned artists – it’s show time.
Make sure to arrive at the time you’re supposed to and be professional, but also try to make friends with people at the venue.
If you leave a good impression, there’s a chance you will get booked again.
Plus, you never know who you’re going to meet – networking and meeting industry professionals is important for every aspiring musician and it can open many doors.
Finally, it’s time to put on a great show.
If you’re playing with your band, do whatever is necessary to prepare well.
And when you get on that stage, focus on your music and the people around you – and don’t forget to savor the moment.
Performing in front of a larger audience for the first time can be scary.
But it’s also amazing – you can see the reactions, hear the support, and connect with your band in a way you never did before.
Moreover, performing live is arguably the best (and probably the only) way to improve your performance skills.
Even if things don’t go exactly as planned, you’ll get valuable experience and learn a thing or two about how to behave on stage.
That said, at the beginning of your career, you should try to perform live as much as you can.
As soon as you’re done with your first show, keep moving – book your next show, get ready for the festival season, and keep networking and working on your music.
The more you play, the easier it gets.
9. Grow your audience
And the more you play, the more your audience grows.
Playing gigs is hands down the best way to promote your music.
So, book your next show in another city and keep an eye out for music festivals that fit your genre and style.
Playing at festivals is great for independent musicians because it allows you to ‘steal’ other artists’ audience and get your music heard by people who are generally interested in your type of music.
Plus, you might get noticed by someone important, and you might even land a record deal – if that’s what you want, of course.
Either way, you need to be active and persistent, and you need to keep pushing forward.
And this means you also need to find other ways to find new listeners.
For example, you should build a strong online presence, and that involves:
- Creating a website
- Creating a YouTube channel
- Being active on social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud, Bandcamp…)
- Promoting music on large streaming platforms (Spotify, Apple Music…)
- Using email marketing
- Getting your music played on the radio
- Reaching out to playlist curators, influencers, and bloggers
There are many ways you can promote your music as an unsigned artist, and therefore get more people to visit your live shows.
Try to be active and consistent, create effective release strategies, and check what other musicians are doing to keep the momentum.
Take advantage of all the online music promotion tools you have at your disposal, and stay up to date with the latest trends.
If you want to make it in the music industry, you need to build and maintain your brand, and you need to keep finding ways to reach out to your fans.
But the most important thing is to make good music.
Work on your skills and your songs, develop your unique sound, and stay true to who you are as an artist.
All of this will ultimately help you put on great shows.
And you’ll start booking bigger and bigger shows over time.
Tips for Starting Out as a Musician
Yes, booking your first live performance is a huge step in your career – and you should definitely be proud of yourself.
But there are many other things you need to think about when starting out as a musician.
Music has a reputation for being one of the more difficult industries to break into – but you’ve probably heard that before.
It’s true, competition is high, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get your chance to get noticed.
Making great music and working on your playing and songwriting skills is the first step.
And making sure your tracks are polished and well-produced is the next one.
But don’t stop there – it takes a lot of bad or mediocre songs to get to the really good ones, so make sure you’ve produced tracks you’re really proud of before sending them to anyone.
And once you do, do it the right way – explore different options for distributing music and find a way that suits you best.
If you don’t want to contact a music distribution platform, you can upload music to music streaming services by yourself; just don’t forget to promote it properly.
Thankfully, distributing and promoting music online is rather easy these days.
You just need an Internet connection and the right platform to submit or upload your music to.
As you grow your audience and build your reputation, you can think about contacting a record label or a music manager or think about the ways you want to advance your career.
And of course, playing live is a big part of your music promotion.
In any case, don’t be afraid to share your music with the world, whether it’s live or online.
It’s perfectly normal to feel a bit insecure in the beginning – that’s just a part of being an artist.
Fear of criticism and negative comments shouldn’t stop you from creating and sharing your vision.
After all, there’s always gonna be someone who won’t like your work – and that’s the way it should be.
There’s a saying: you can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.
So, keep making the music you like and keep performing – if you’re honest and persistent, there’s no doubt that you’ll eventually find your crowd.
Booking Shows for Unsigned Artists – Final Thoughts
Becoming a musician is not easy, and booking your first live performance might seem a bit scary.
However, booking shows for unsigned artists is not as difficult as it may sound, and it’s just the first step toward building a successful career in music.
You need to take some time to research the venues, find the right contact, and write a good booking email.
Once you get booked, make sure to discuss all the details and then focus on your performance.
The more you perform, the more attention your music gets – and you’ll be playing on the big stage in no time.
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