How to Get Bigger and Better Gigs

© 2017 Vinny Ribas

Playing in larger, higher-profile rooms, getting the higher-paying private parties, being so in demand so you can name your price are all things that many indie artists aspire towards. The truth is that it takes more than just talent to reach these levels. It requires careful planning and teamwork.

Here are 10 specific and effective things you can do to move up the ladder of success as an indie artist:

  • Be mentally and professionally prepared for the move up. This is harder than it sounds. Playing bigger and better gigs puts you under much more scrutiny by the press, by fans and by other entertainment buyers. Years ago, a comedian that I worked with on a cruise ship was invited to be on the Johnny Carson Show. He thought about it seriously and then turned the gig down because, in his words, “I still fumble through some of my jokes and my timing isn’t 100% all of the time. You only get one chance to make a good impression on national TV, and I am not ready yet.” About 5 years later he was invited back, and he was a smash hit. Interestingly enough, he performed the exact same routine that I used to watch him fumble through!
  • Engage your fans. Word of mouth advertising is the best in the world. But don’t just assume that because they like you, they will shout it to the world. Teach your audiences how you want them to talk you up. Do you want them to rave about you on the social networks? Do you want them to wear one of your t-shirts at another nightclub that you want to perform at? Do you want them to sign up for your newsletter and then send it on to 5 of their friends? Create focused campaigns for maximum impact.
  • Refine your act. Get as tight as possible. Rehearse until all of the vocals are on pitch all of the time. Be sure that every note is hit with confidence. Get professional critiques from vocal coaches and performance experts. Take workshops that will give you more tools to put in your tool belt. Even the most popular performers in the world have coaches to help them get even better. Actors have coaches and directors.
  • Target market your gigs. Do your homework. Know which bands are most similar to you in audience appeal. In other words, whose music would your fans also buy? Find out where they are performing repeatedly. Those should be great venues for you. Also, find out what the venue requires of the acts they hire. For example, do they expect you to fill 10%, 50% or 100% of the seats? Can you meet their expectations? If so, you’ve found a prime place to approach about performing there.
  • Target market your audience. Have a newsletter that you send out to fans at least monthly. Include surveys in your newsletters to learn more about your fans likes and dislikes. Be sure that you know what age group and gender are the biggest buyers of your music and comprise the biggest portion of your audiences. Are your fans buying your music online, or are you only selling it after shows. Why? Compile and use these figures to sell show buyers how your fan demographics match those of the venue.
  • Build and protect your reputation. Don’t keep changing the name of your act every time someone comes up with something ‘cool’. Be sure your name and logo are on everything – CDs, merchandise, press kits, business cards, press releases, your website, all of the appropriate social networks etc. Also, set and maintain a minimum price for your performance, then gradually raise it as your popularity increases. If you constantly accept cheaper gigs just for the money, you get the reputation as a cheap act. Of course, there will always be occasional exceptions to this when there are other circumstances that make it worthwhile to lower your price.
  • Assemble a quality team behind you. No one can do it all alone. Depending on the level that you’re at, and where you want to be, this may include musicians, a booking agent, a manager, your street team, a marketing expert, business administration, your webmaster and more. Remember that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
  • Give buyers a reason to hire you besides “I’m really good!” You need to prove why your act is the best choice among the many acts vying for a few prime dates. Show references from other entertainment buyers. Show that you can fill a certain amount of seats (based on your following in that area). If it’s appropriate, tout your ability to get people to dance and stay longer, which means selling more drinks. Remember – buyers want to know “What’s in it for me?”
  • Follow in the footsteps of a similar act that is one step ahead of you. Watch and study other acts that are similar to yours but are playing the kinds of gigs that you want to play. Befriend them (truthfully, not selfishly). Invite them to come see you, then ask for their advice and input. If they see that you have taken their advice and input to heart, after a while may be more than willing to open doors for you. Then do the same for someone else who is one step behind you!
  • Ask for referrals. Get them from the owners of the venues you perform at, from satisfied private party clients, from fans and anyone else who is willing to recommend you. You never know who knows who until you ask! Get written endorsements as well and include them in your press kit!

Remember, success is a planned event. It is also learned and earned. Just following these simple steps will definitely increase your income. Taking them to heart and deliberately mastering each step will make a dramatic difference in your career.

About The Author

Vinny Ribas

Vinny Ribas is the founder and CEO of Indie Connect, an artist management, consulting and training company. The company also hosts networking and educational events and has published an app that connects people to the Nashville Music Industry. During his 40+ year career, Vinny has been a full time musician, artist manager, booking agent, songwriter, studio owner, producer and the Entertainment Director for the NV State Fair. He has also coached over 1000 artists and songwriters. He is a sought after speaker and has authored over 400 music industry articles. Vinny is also the CEO of Top 4M Entertainment, an independent film and television production company.