How to Get Gigs and Make a Living Playing Music

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Pt. 1: Booking and touring tips to help turn your DIY tour into a lifestyle

Disclaimer: These touring tips are only for those independent bands who want to learn how to get gigs and make a living touring playing original music.

Many people have asked us how we transformed our band Marbin into a sustainable business, touring 250 days a year. We’ve created a series of videos to help explain what we’ve learned over the past few years in the hopes that it will help you learn how to get gigs and get more good bands out on the road.

In these videos and articles, we’ll explain how to:
• book music gigs that are well attended and pay guarantees
• promote your shows (not by begging your friends to come or wasting money on posters/flyers)
• make extra money on the road and save it
• build a following
• describe who wants to take your money and why you shouldn’t let them (booking agents, PR companies, managers)

How to get gigs and book shows

What venues to play
There are two types of shows:

1) Destination shows. These venues will be empty unless people are coming specifically to see you. If it’s your first time in a town and you’re not famous, you won’t bring anyone, nor will you make any money or new fans. Always a door deal.

2) Entertainment shows. These venues have a good house crowd, and the job of the band is to keep the people engaged and drinking. We’re usually talking about three to four hours of playing, so be prepared. These venues usually pay a guarantee – maybe $500 for a weekend and $300 for a weekday. Another deal these places will give you is bar-sale percentage. Thirty percent is the usual, and that’s okay for a weekday, but not for a weekend.

As a rule of thumb you should always get guarantees for Friday and Saturday. For the rest of the week, you can try getting guarantees, but it’s hard to avoid bad deals, especially in the beginning.

How to compile a good venue list
Finding the right venues. The most effective way is very simple. Look for venues where bands get paid to play and write them down. Bands that get one venue that pay tend to play other venues that pay.

Make a list. Excel works best. Open a new tab for every state (this will prove to be effective later on). What you need to have in your list is:
• venue name
• city
• phone number
• contact person
• email
• what days of the week they have shows
• notes

How to contact the venues
Phone is king, but you’ll have to email as well.

Phone. Call and ask to talk to the booking person. If he’s not there (they’re usually away, keep calling!) take his/her name, so the next time you call, you can ask for them specifically. Also, make sure to ask for their email and on what days of the week they have shows. Always update the list. When you get to talk to the booking person it’s all about the personal connection. Make them remember who you are, so when they look through their hundreds of emails your name pops out.

Email. Email with the date you’re hoping to book, a short biography, and a link to your music. If you have a following in the area let it be known, but don’t lie about it (it’s a terrible move). If your email is too long, nobody will read it.

Follow up. After a day or two, try calling to see if the booking person had a chance to look at your email. After a week or two you can email again.

See more videos about how to get gigs on Marbin’s YouTube page.

How to get gigs explainedMarbin is an instrumental rock band that first started in 2007 as an improvised music duo consisting of Israeli-American guitarist Dani Rabin and Israeli saxophonist Danny Markovitch. Since 2008, Marbin has been living in Chicago and performing all over the United States, playing over 250 shows a year with the accompaniment of drummer Justyn Lawrence and bassist Jae Gentile. Learn more and ask questions on Marbin’s Facebook page or email MarbinMusic@gmail.com.

Read More
Tips for Surviving and Thriving on Tour
Saving Money While Touring
Gigging and Touring as an Indie
How To Tour As An Indie: On The Road

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7 thoughts on “How to Get Gigs and Make a Living Playing Music

  1. Thanks For Your Info, I am a Pro Musician & Manager to My Teens Band Too. I’ve played These Venues Resturants & Bars All Around L.A.. I Apprciate Your Video.

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