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How To Get Your First Gig: A Musicians Guide

Photograph of the blog post author, Georgia Carter

Georgia Carter

12.8.2022

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So, you have formed your band, maybe people have listened to your music and now you need to perform to an audience.

Playing live is such a buzz and nothing compares to looking out over the crowd and seeing them enjoying you play. You have the determination and passion to be in this industry and it is all about hard work, so be prepared for that. But if you love it, then it shouldn’t be too hard.

It isn’t always easy to get your music out there to be heard, but if you follow these simple tips, then you will be on your way and maybe gigging at one of the top venues in the country, world someday. 

Make A Demo

First, as a musician, if you want to get a gig as a solo artist, or want to know how to get your first gig as a dj, we will tell you exactly the same advice – make a demo of your work, so the booking agent/promoter will be able to listen to your work. Playing a gig is all about seeing if you fit in with their schedule and if you will work in their space, so the better the demo, the better chance you have at playing at the venue you chose to approach. Also, as a musician, you should have something like this prepared anyway, as you never know who you may meet. 

This can also include a music video, so the booking agent will be able to see how you move, what you look like as well to get a feeling of what you are like as a band / solo artist. Your performance style is what they need to see, and if you also have a website as a musician, then make sure that you share this as well. You need to be as visible as possible as an artist, so don’t be afraid to fully put yourself out there. A gig is not just a recording but a visual experience for your audience too, so what they will see makes a difference to whether you get booked or not.

Make Connections Or Use The Ones You Already Have

Now I am sure that you have plenty of people around you who are in the same industry as you, other musicians, other bands, maybe people who are booking agents or those who you know who work at a venue? This industry is all about networking and so you need to reach out to people who have the power and see if they can help you get your first gig. They will be able to give you first gig tips and how to prepare for your first gig, or at least they can give you some feedback on your demos, before you send them on to a booking agent / venue. Using these connections as a way of making your way through the industry and making a first impression is so important, because you never know who that one person could know. 

If you decide to reach out to artists you admire, but have never met, do this in the most professional manner and people who are on your same level as an artist are more likely going to be able to help you and give advice, until you perform a few more times. 

To get gigs as a solo musician, this may feel harder to do as you are just one person, however do not be disheartened as it can be done and there are plenty of communities online which support fellow musicians. You will be able to share ideas, resources, and contacts within the industry. You might even end up collaborating together someday. You need to be open to any opportunity. 

Reach Out To Venues And Pay Them A Visit

As an independent artist, you may not have all of those industry connections already at your fingertips, so you may have to do some research and find the local venues you want to perform at for your first gig.  For actors, there used to be a useful tool called Gig and Tell, which let other performers know if they should sign contracts with certain companies. In the case of musicians, there may not be exactly the same format online, however it is best to do your research and ask others to see where is best to perform your music live. There will always be online reviews of a venue and so if you have your demo, you have rehearsed and it is a well respected venue, then you need to reach out to them.  

In terms of gig music, especially for your first one, you would usually need about 12 songs per hour with bands. Original bands will usually play from 45 mins to 1hr 15 mins and cover bands will usually play 2hr – 4hr. So really showcase your best songs and know them inside out. Maybe play in front of a smaller audience before you perform at your first gig, so you know how it feels. Family and friends will be a great sounding board.

Rehearse 

This may sound really obvious, but you need to constantly be rehearsing your set, your music if you want to know how to get your first music gig. You need to be gig-ready before you start approaching venues, and practice makes perfect, so make time every week – every day if you have the time to really nail those harmonies, guitar riffs or solos! As I have mentioned before, you only get one chance to make that first impression, so make sure you are up to scratch. 

Be On Social Media

Having a social media presence these days is essential and people are constantly looking for new bands to listen to online. Just look at TikTok, there are plenty of new artists making their mark on this platform and they know they can reach a lot of followers at one time. So really think about the impact you want to have online and create a relevant, contemporary account that people can follow. Once you have followers, and you have a venue for your first gig, then you can invite them on social media and your fanbase will grow. 

You can also share your music online on social media, so you will get an idea of what your followers like or don’t like. Then you will also have a better idea of what songs to play at your first gig. 

Whether you are a solo artist or a band, social media is key, so if you haven’t thought about it until now, go and create your account right now. So if you want to know how to get our first dj gig, get online! 

Choose A Look For Your Band / Or As A Solo Musician 

As an artist, whether that is being part of a band, a solo musician, a DJ etc., you need to be able to really sell yourself and your image is important in promoting your music too. It is not an easy decision to make, and once you have chosen the look, you will more than likely be stuck with it forever. So really think about what you want to say with your music and you as the artist. Authenticity is what the public want nowadays and less of commercial churned out pop stars as it were. But as long as you feel comfortable and are staying true to who you are as a musician and your fanbase is on board with it, then that is all that matters.

Support Gigs Are Where It’s At

Being the support act to a bigger name is worth every second you are up on that stage, believe me. You will get your music heard by a live audience and people who have come to hear the main act will get to know you too. What could be better than that I ask you? Also, as the world is so much more digitized and ‘connected’ now, you will be able to reach out on social media to your favorite acts and see if they need a support act for their next show. See why social media is important now as a musician! 

Make sure that there is an easy way for them to listen to your music – maybe you have songs on Spotify or any other streaming service they can do this on. And then they may invite you to their show. You’re not risking anything by reaching out. I would just say make sure that you have everything ready before you do this. This is why it is vital to be gig-ready.  

Get Your Music On The Radio

Is there a local radio station that could play your songs that you know of? You need to start small and research into the hosts, the style of music they like to play and see if they take on music for their station – which I’m sure they will. Once again, have your demo, any music videos etc. ready to send to them. Promoters at gigs will see this as a very promising sign and they will take you more seriously. Once your music has been played on one local radio station, then you can reach out to others. Radio 1 at this stage is a hugo no no, so just keep plugging away and make those connections. 

Keep Working At It

This is a tough business, so you have to keep going and know that somewhere down the line, you will get your first gig as a musician. It is definitely possible, and the more committed, passionate and driven you are towards your goals, then you can only succeed. Have people around you who truly support you, especially if you are a solo artist, as you can’t rely on other bandmates to pull you through a tough time. 

Even if you approach venues and music professionals, there is going to be some rejection along the way, but you need to keep it up and remember why you do it. The harder you work, that is what is going to get you closer to your goals and being able to play plenty of gigs to thousands of audiences across the country or further afield.  The important thing to remember is to get that first gig and then keep moving from there. It will get easier I promise, you just need to get your foot in the door.

Final Thoughts 

So we have given you the basic steps to follow if you wanted to know how to get your first gig as an artist. I hope that it has been helpful and you book a gig soon. If you want to find out more about what is the ultimate checklist for gigs, how to be a musician in the industry right now etc., then please check out more of our blogs online and see you on stage! 

Are You A Musician Or Artist?Develop your brand with artist development and get your music heard in TV and film with sync licensing and collaborate globally with other musicians, songwriters, and producers. Finally, amplify your music to those that need to hear it with music marketing, promotion and Spotify. Try all of this out for yourself by joining Мusic Gateway.

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