How to Get Your First Gig as a Musician
Below, we’ve compiled a list of 10 things you can do to help you and your band land your first gig. Unfortunately, none of these tips are secret hacks. Getting booked for live gigs takes a lot of hard work and dedication. So, if you’re willing to put the hours in and work towards getting booked for your first gig, let’s get started.
10 steps to get your first music gig as an artist
It might seem obvious but too often artists approach bookers before they’re gig-ready. It’s imperative that whether you’re making music as part of a band or as a solo artist, performing covers or your own material, that you hone your craft before even thinking about getting on stage.
Remember, you only get one chance to make a good first impression, and the only way to do that is through practice.
PIRATE.COM offers affordable, 24hr rehearsal studios across the UK, US and Germany where you can write songs, practice and record. Plus, once you’ve gotten started, you can refer a friend or bandmate to get money off your next practice session.
2. Make A Demo
Once you’re sounding great in the studio it’s time to make a demo. It’s worth noting that the music industry has moved beyond demo tapes and CDs. Some artists still prefer plugging their new music this way, but if you’re trying to get someone to listen to you for the first time, they’re much more likely to click a link than they are to get their CD or tape player out of the attic.
It’s in your best interest to make it as easy as possible for people to listen to your demo. Upload it to SoundCloud and it will even be listenable on the go.
When it comes to sending your demo to industry figures, other artists or even friends, it’s important to remember that they’re helping you out by listening to it. Try not to chase anyone for feedback too aggressively, and take constructive criticism graciously, this is how you will improve.
3. Get Social
Before you’ve even played your first gig, it’s a good idea to set up social media accounts for your band. The same goes for if you’re a solo artist. This will help distinguish you from your artist persona.
Even if you’re not into social media, it’s worth putting in the effort. Once you set up pages on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and SoundCloud, you’re immediately in a much better position to start interacting with other artists, promoters, labels and venues.
If you or someone you know has some photography or design experience, you might consider getting some press pictures taken or a logo designed. This is not only useful for populating your social media accounts, high quality photos and design work will help sell your artist brand to promoters and venues further down the line.
4. Make A Music Video
Making a music video is a great way to drum up some attention for your band online. More importantly, it’s a great way for promoters to get a sense of your performance style. After all, a gig is a visual experience as well as a sonic one.
5. Build A Network
If you don’t ask, you don’t get - that’s where networking comes in. A huge part of being an artist is getting to know and building up a network of other artists and industry professionals.
You might want to check out what music networking events are on in your city. Alternatively, you can build your creative network organically. Reach out to artists you admire and ask for feedback on your demos. You can also speak to people when you’re in the studio or out at live music events - you never know who you’ll meet.
When networking, it’s best to target artists and figures who operate in a similar sonic sphere to you as they’ll be able to give you more relevant advice. Similarly, don’t go after unreachable figures - Beyonce probably won’t reply to your Instagram DM but the band who you saw perform in your local pub last week probably will.
6. Ask For Support Gigs
A great way to start gigging is to get a support act slot. Go to gigs and message the acts that you love on social media, because sometimes landing a support gig is as simple as asking for it.
Last year, Caroline Kingsbury reached out to The War On Drugs via Instagram, checking if they were looking for support acts for their upcoming tour. Once the War On Drugs had listened to Caroline Kingsbury on Spotify, they invited her to support them on a show. If that anecdote doesn’t convince you to start asking for support slots, I don’t know what will.
7. Be A Promoter
One way to guarantee your band’s place on a billing is to become a promoter. The best new live music events have a clear identity and niche, once you’ve decided on that, you’re ready to start programming the rest of your lineup and pitching to venues.
It’s worth noting that venues will often charge a hire fee which you'll have to earn back through ticket sales. If that financial risk sounds daunting, you might consider teaming up with another band to split the costs, work and rewards.
8. Submit Tracks For Radio Play
If your music is already being supported by radio DJs, this will help you stand out to a promoter booking shows.
Do some research and get to know your local independent radio stations and hosts. Again, don’t attempt to get your first ever track played on Radio 1 as it’s unlikely to work, but if you get to know local broadcasters and send them your music they might just give you a shot.
9. Enter Competitions
If you keep your ear to the ground, you’ll find competitions running all year round, accepting applications for music festivals and gig slots. For example, PIRATE.COM releases new artist opportunities monthly.
All of these competitions will generally ask for links to your music and your social media profiles which is another reason to keep those updated.
10. Keep The Faith
Lastly, the most important thing you need to do to reach any musical goal is to be resilient and keep going - getting gigs is no different.
While reaching out to promoters and venues, it’s very likely that you’re going to face rejections and even worse, be ignored. And no matter how many competitions you enter, you’re going to lose way more times than you win, no matter how good you are.
The artists that get gigs are the ones that keep working towards their goals, even when they hit a wall. If you want to get your first gig, be one of those artists and don’t let anything put you off trying.
Once you start gigging, you’ll develop a reputation as a performing artist and booking gigs will become easier and easier, until someone is doing it for you! Put in the hard work now, following the steps above and it will pay off.
Want the latest Unsigned Advice?
Subscribe to our mailing list to get tips, tricks and hacks straight to your inbox!